Tag Archives: Wilshere

Welbeck celebrates Switzerland goal with Arsenal teammates

Welbeck snubs Rooney, embraces Arsenal teammates

There was a brilliant moment in the second half of England’s 2-0 win over Switzerland where Raheem Sterling played in a long cross to Rooney, it was the wrong ball and Johan Djourou should have dealt with it easily, but the Swiss defender misjudged the header, Rooney pounced, headed the ball into the 18 yard box, and sprinted to catch up to what amounted to a pass to himself. Yet, in a moment that Rooney has probably never experienced before in his life, Danny Welbeck swept in from the right side, beat Wayne Rooney to the ball, and took the shot. Djourou had recovered enough by then to get in a block and as Welbeck and Djourou picked themselves up off the ground Welbeck slapped Djourou on the back, one Arsenal man to another, and congratulated him on the tackle.

That passage of play made me smile. First, there was Sterling’s pass. Welbeck made a great run to the right of Sterling, which is where he should have played the ball, but instead he clipped a terrible pass to Rooney who was covered by two men. Djourou, the former Arsenal man, did what Djourou did when he was at Arsenal; make a hash of a simple ball. Then Rooney did what he always does and seized on the opportunity. But in swept Welbeck, belly full but hungry, nipped the ball from an exasperated Rooney and took a shot. Rooney was credited with a key pass (would he have gotten an assist if he shot it himself and scored?) but Welbeck never thanked Rooney for the pass. It was understood between the two, that ball wasn’t meant for him.

Minutes earlier, Welbeck opened the scoring when Sterling put in a decent ball and found Welbeck’s blistering run at the far post. The Arsenal forward spurned Rooney and Sterling and instead ran over to where his new teammates were warming up on the sideline. Choosing to celebrate with Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain instead of former teammate Wayne Rooney. Symbolically, Welbeck was turning his back on familiarity and embracing the unknown, opportunity.

Welbeck celebrates Switzerland goal with Arsenal teammates

At Arsenal, Welbeck is going to get that opportunity because that is what Arsene Wenger does: he gives chances to young men who show the right attitude.

Fortunately, throughout his career, Welbeck has consistently shown the proper attitude. Not blessed with the natural talent of a player like Rooney, Welbeck couldn’t afford to take it easy at training sessions. Instead he had to impress the boss every week with his hard work and willingness to play any role that his manager asked of him. Fergie spoke glowingly of his attitude and future two years ago saying,

Last year he had 12 goals, this year he’s only got two, so that’s a big drop, but that drop doesn’t concern us because he still applies himself really well and still looks to score, still looks to get a chance and with that kind of courage he will eventually become a regular goalscorer.

Maybe he doesn’t appreciate us moving him around in various positions and we’ve maybe overused that because he is young, but his value to the club is there because I know he can do a job for me in any of those positions. It’s a fantastic asset when you have a player who is as adaptable as that. But I think he will find his role through the middle once he gets that maturity and gets into a more consistent way of scoring.

His hard work and adaptability has paid off in the international arena as well. At 23 years old Welbeck already has 28 caps for England playing in a variety of positions. But his best position is clearly through the middle. He is the modern interpretation of a traditional British number 9. If you watch the Switzerland highlights again (link at the top of the page) you can see everything that Naveen wrote about in his last two pieces: Welbeck is a big athletic fellow, able to drop deep, collect the ball, beat a marker (tbf it was only Behrami) and play his teammates in¹. The highlights also show that he is blessed with speed and a desire to get in behind the defense and work the defenders.

Wenger is big on giving players opportunity: he is giving a chance to Wilshere, he is giving a chance to Ramsey, to Ox, to Welbeck, to Gnabry, and he is giving a chance to Calum Chambers. It doesn’t always work out but Cesc Fabregas wouldn’t have the career in football he has if Wenger didn’t take a chance on him as a 16 year old. All Wenger asks in return is that they repay his faith with a little of their own, the one lesson Cesc didn’t learn²

Fabregas debate

Even better, with Giroud out and Arsenal needing a player who can be the focal point of the attack Welbeck is going to get his chances in his preferred position. And playing with guys like Özil, Ramsey, and Sanchez, players who know where to deliver the caviar, there are going to be ample spoonfuls for Welbeck to gobble up.

If he can continue to apply himself, if he can turn his back on familiarity and embrace the unknown, Wenger will give him the chances to prove himself. And at just £16m I suspect that Welbeck will not only score more goals than Falcao but also be the signing of the season.

Qq

¹Welbeck’s pass to Sterling has been criticized as being behind the player but what I saw was Sterling making too eager a run. Midfielders often do that when they aren’t used to scoring, they run at or near full tilt when there is space in the 18 yard box. Instead, Sterling needed to check his run a bit to create time and space for the forward to get him the ball.
²Cesc was given his chance by Arsene and he worked hard to become the best player he could be. I enjoyed watching Cesc as an Arsenal player and while he was using Arsenal as a stepping stone, he was rewarded with wealthy contracts and with a playing career which would take him back to his dream job at Barcelona and win him 6 trophies in 3 years. That was then, this is now: now Fabregas is a Chelsea player, I wish him nothing but the worst of luck. This debate over whether Arsenal should have bought Cesc is over for me.

Chambers2

Would the non-divisive Arsenal player please stand up?

We often hear about how a certain player is divisive. His relative talents left in the trash heap of history and his relative faults brought out and polished for some blogger to earn a few bucks off clicks. But the truth is that I can’t think of a single player at Arsenal who doesn’t divide opinion right now. Even venerated players like Thierry Henry get put under the microscope and examined by Arsenal fans eager to find fault with the gods of the game.

Why? There’s not really one reason. With 60,000 Arsenal bloggers and twice as many people on twitter who want to make you aware of their opinion there is a rush to be the first with some “insight”. This often leads to hyperbolic criticism of players after one or two poor matches, or even a poor first half. But there are also just some people who are always going to be harshly critical (and harshly optimistic!) of everything and call it “being realistic” or folks who just want Arsenal to buy all the players at every other team. Whatever the reason, we all know that they are there and what they have to say but let’s look a little closer at some recent criticisms.

Alexis Sanchez

Removed at half-time against Everton and already some folks are questioning whether he was worth the money Arsenal paid for him. Wenger linked his current fitness levels to his confidence but I’m not entirely convinced it was a fitness issue. Against Everton, Alexis made runs which had the local commentators gushing but Arsenal struggled to get him the ball: he only received 17 total passes in 45 minutes and only one pass in the 18 yard box, on the edge of the box, hardly a dangerous position.

Meanwhile, Giroud’s first touch was a big diagonal placed a yard away from goal and from there almost all of his passes received were in and around the box. He received just 18 passes himself, hardly setting the world on fire.

I suspect that more than lack of fitness was a lack of understanding. Arsenal and Alexis seem just a step off at the moment. When Ramsey expects Alexis to zig, he zags. While Giroud has two seasons at Arsenal and his movements are now predictable to his teammates. I’m not at all worried about Alexis Sanchez and his ability to fit in at Arsenal. He’s a fantastic footballer, with a great first touch, the ability to take on defenders, and who will shine once he learns his teammates.

Giroud

It doesn’t get much more divisive than opinion on the big Frenchman. He’s wasteful. His first shot against Everton should have been a goal. Sometimes seems more comfortable trying a cutsey little flick pass than a basic 5 yard square ball. Unable to face up to an opponent and take him on.

But he’s also big and strong and willing to put in a shift against meaty defenders as Arsenal’s version of Kevin Cyril Davies and yet still score 16-20 goals in a season. Industrious player who can pluck a ball out of the sky with his foot like it’s cotton candy, who wins headers in the middle of the park, and who holds the ball up so well that he has to be credited at least partially for Ramsey’s scoring renaissance.

Ramsey

Before last season was completely written off by many Arsenal fans. The same fans who are writing off Wilshere now. Some of the criticism was warranted, he had an annoying tendency to hold on to the ball too much and that resulted in numerous turnovers.

But his workrate and the fact that he never shied away from the ball saved him. He’s Arsenal’s leading passer, leading tackler, and now he’s a goal scoring midfielder who wins games with his late runs in the box. Cited by Wenger as the main reason why Arsenal didn’t buy Cesc Fabregas.

Wilshere

This 22 year old central midfielder is Arsenal’s new enfant terrible and judging by the heap of articles in the British press this morning, his young career is over. Has an annoying habit of holding on to the ball too much and trying to dribble too much. Often caught in possession and targeted by opposition midfielders for tackles (leads Arsenal in fouls drawn, and those are just the ones the officials call). He was even tackled (harshly, I thought) by Thierry Henry in the friendly against the Red Bulls. Perhaps Henry was trying to say “son, you dribble too much, pass the ball.”

But he’s only 22 years old and he’s had a career plagued with injuries. Hasn’t started more than 20 League games for Arsenal since his breakout season, 2010/2011 — when he was just 19 years old. He has to learn to pass and move rather than trying to dribble the entire opposition team. And defensively he needs to learn better positioning and tackling. The talent is there, though, and like Ramsey before him I expect Wilshere to shine this season.

Podolski, Özil, Sanogo, Arteta… I could keep going

You already know the criticisms of these players. Podolski is lazy, Özil is nicking a living, Sanogo is not Mario Ballotelli, Arteta isn’t beast, etc. But rather than break down every player let’s end with some positives.

Per Mertesacker: who has anything bad to say about Per? A gentle giant, makes Arsenal’s set play defense better simply with his presence. Organizes the defense and a natural leader on the pitch.

Laurent Koscielny: (to the tune of Crazy by Willie Nelson) I’m crazy… I’m crazy for Laurent Koscielny… I’m crazy for Laurent’s kung fu. I knew, Koscielny won’t leave me like van Persie. Or Cashley, who left me for somebody blue. Worry? Why do I let myself worry? Wondering, what we would do without you? I’m crazy… for thinking that red card could hold you. I’m crazy… for crying. I’m crazy for buying. I’m crazy for loving you. (special thanks to Brian from 11 Cannons for collaborating on this).

Calum Chambers: I feel sad for Chambers. Koscielny and Mertesacker are both going to be healthy soon and he’s going to be put back on the bench and left to fight his way back into first team contention either as a center back, a right back, or in his eventual position as defensive midfielder. He’s made a few mistakes but the fact that he’s been universally praised by all across England, with many hoping for an England call-up, is as positive a review as possible for a 19 year old. Really, just perfect. The same way that everyone praised Jack Wilshere when he was 19 and begged him to be selected for the national team. Oh wait…

Have your say below. Are there players beyond reproach for you? Ones you feel you need to defend?

Qq

Trod upon

Jack down, I’m out

The club announced today that Jack Wilshere suffered a hairline fracture after a bad tackle in England’s friendly win over Denmark. Wilshere will be sidelined for six weeks, at least, and may struggle to regain fitness ahead of the World Cup placing his hopes for a berth with England in Brazil in jeopardy. Needless to say, this is terrible news for Jack, Arsenal, and England.

Arsenal have been in a bit of slump lately so it’s normal for people to forget how important Jack is to this team when he’s on form. His goal of the season candidate against Norwich is the perfect example of his directness and ability to break through the opposition’s midfield. In the video, Wilshere picks the ball up from defense, dribbles around his markers, passes, moves, passes, moves, and then shows great touch to finish the attack. Wilshere brings a directness to Arsenal that’s refreshing on a team with so many midfielders who prefer to drop back in the final phase and create for others.

Jack has been struggling with form these last few weeks and that is in no small part due to him being the target of opposition midfielders. Wilshere is Arsenal’s most fouled player with 2.1 per game last season and 1.9 per game this season. Remember, those are the fouls that the referees bother to call and also remember that Opta doesn’t count it when the referee waves play on. I suspect many of us feel as if Jack is fouled 4 or more times a game, at least.

As much as I would like someone in the midfield who can protect Jack, Arsenal are not at fault for this treatment that Wilshere receives. The referees need to have a look at themselves and every England supporter who also supports a club like Stoke, who fouled Wilshere 4 times (that were called), should be ashamed of themselves for glorifying Wilshere’s rough treatment. When England are missing someone to drive their midfield forward in Brazil this summer, you can thank Charlie Adam and Glen Wheelan for Wilshere’s absence as much as you can thank Danny Agger for breaking his foot in their “friendly”.

The fact that Daniel Agger broke Wilshere’s foot should be the issue here, not whether Arsenal “played him in the red zone”. This isn’t a soft-tissue injury. This isn’t a muscle strain. This was a horrible tackle by Agger, which had shades of Shawcross on Ramsey. Agger lost control of the ball (like Shawcross) and seeing the Arsenal man coming, lunged in with a sweeping leg to try to win the ball. Agger doesn’t even win the ball until he takes the man. A bit ironic that Liverpool and Arsenal are locked in a title race and a Liverpool player takes out an important Arsenal player with an horrific tackle.

If there’s a silver lining to all this it’s that Arsene has sort of packed the team full of center mids who can take Wilshere’s place. Assuming that Arsenal get knocked out by Bayern, if the Gunners go all the way to the FA Cup final, they will only have 14 total games from today until the end of the season and at least three players who can play in Jack’s position.

Aaron Ramsey has another week or so before he returns but he’s the natural replacement for Jack in the midfield. In fact, if Ramsey recovers his early season form, he is a huge upgrade in terms of overall workrate, passing, defense, and offense.

While Arsenal are waiting for Ramsey, Arsene has plenty of options owing to the fact that he essentially has 11 center mids when everyone is healthy. The list of Arsenal midfielders who are available (or soon to be available) to Arsene is pretty incredible, really: Cazorla, Podolski, Flamini, Arteta, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Ramsey, Özil, Ox, and Gnabry.

Here are some options for lineups, including the two “wing” positions at Arsenal:

Cazorla – Flamini – Rosicky – Ox – Özil
Podolski – Arteta – Cazorla – Rosicky – Ox
Cazorla – Arteta – Özil – Ramsey – Gnabry
Gibbs – Kallstrom – Arteta – Flamini – Bendtner*

The key question with all of these is chemistry and balance. For example, the Flamini-Arteta experiment has been poor at times and I would be very concerned if Arsenal started those two against a slick dribbler like Everton’s Ross Barkley. For Saturday, I suspect that Arsene will play Cazorla – Arteta – Rosicky – Özil – Ox or some variation of that with Rosicky the main midfield runner and first line of defense, Arteta the cleanup guy, Özil free to roam, Cazorla cutting in on the wing and Ox doing what he did in his cameo against Stoke — kicking ass and chewing gum. And he’s all out of gum.

Losing Jack at this time is going to put more pressure on the remaining players at Arsenal to push the team forward. His injury also means one less body for rotation. It’s not the kind of news that we wanted to hear coming out of the International “break” but Arsenal will just have to deal with it the best they can. Arsene, luckily (?), has plenty of options.

I’m all packed and ready to go

I leave for London tonight and because of the way the earth rotates and the direction I’m flying, I won’t be landing there until tomorrow 11:20 GMT. I will publish a Les Crang piece on Ray Parlor while I’m in the air (magic) and after that you won’t hear from me again until Sunday, probably. I will do a stats preview over on Arseblog News while drinking my 4:30 am coffee on Saturday but no post-match post until Sunday. I will do a similar post before and after the Bayern match. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this week and I am going to breathe deep the air of London and Munich rather than spend the whole time in front of the laptop.

For those who wonder about this sort of stuff, here’s my packing list:

7amkickoff’s Traveling Arsenal Fan Pre-Match Packing List

1 Flamini sleeveless short sleeve shirt
5 Other shirts for the Flamini shirt to yell at and tell where to be positionally on defense
4 Bags of Magic of the Cup coffee beans
6 Pairs of Bendtner’s dropped trousers
8 Pairs of Northern Monkey socks
8 Pairs of Flamini v. Wilshere boxer shorts
1 Package of Stoke’s finest flushable wipes
1 Passport to choose your own adventure, oops you die on page 16
1 Bottle of Never in Doubt anti-anxiety pills
2 You should read more, books
1 Arsene Wenger didn’t see it digital camera obscura
1 Spend your entire vacation on it laptop
1 Wad of spend some ******* money
1 Bottle of Agger’s tackle left a Maker’s Mark whiskey

I recon a feller could have a pretty good time in London Munich with that.

Qq

*Personal favorite — I call it “31 Flavors of Disaster”