Showing posts with label Tomas Rosický. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tomas Rosický. Show all posts

05 April 2013

Arsenal Vs. West Brom Preview

After yesterday's drama in the Europa, we sit and wait to hear the results of the scan on Gareth Bale's ankle injury. He'll probably miss at least two weeks, according to Andre Villas-Boas. The match report at the Tottenham site is upbeat, mentioning only that Bale "joined Lennon in limping out of the action." We'll have to keep an eye on that and wish him well. Closer to home, we look ahead to our own tricky match with West Brom. They started the season on a fine run, climbing as high as 3rd in the table at one point, but have since settled into 8th place. When we hosted back in December, we needed two Arteta penalty kicks, the first after a bit of a dive from Cazorla to ensure victory. At the time, we sat in 6th place behind West Brom, who were in 5th. Since then, however, we've been on a fine run of form, with five wins and one loss in our last six matches while West Brom have labored a bit more, with three wins, one draw, and two losses. That first match gave us the epic photo of Jack Wilshere going forehead-to-chin with Jack Olsson. Sadly, with Wilshere out, we won't get a replay of that little scene. Instead, I'll settle for a replay of the score.

29 March 2013

Arsenal Vs. Reading: Preview and Predictions

Well, we won't have Marouane Chamakh's heroics to count on against Reading this time around, leaving us to wonder where the goals will  come—oh, wait. Never mind. I was briefly lost in an alternate universe in which the Moroccan regularly delivers braces for us. Silly, silly me. On to more serious news and assessments of our prospects for tomorrow's match, not to mention closing the gap on 4th place with Spurs traveling to Swansea...

18 March 2013

Stuck in the Middle

So much attention has been paid to our offense and defense that it seems we're simply assuming that the midfield will be fine--a middle-child syndrome if ever there was one. While we fret and moan about how we defend and score (or don't do enough of either), the midfielders just quietly go about their business (unless it's Cazorla or Wilshere making some noise) without drawing much attention. That's a shame, not just because of how important the midfield is in general, but to Arsenal's style in particular.

I confess to being partial to midfield. Having played there for most of my own career, I've come to look down a bit on the other positions. You can only cover half the field? Pfft. Even in a total football-esque approach such as Arsenal's, one in which all players are expected to cover more ground, defenders pressing forward on attack and forwards tracking back on defense, it's the midfielders who play endline to endline game in, game out. An energetic midfielder might run up to 10 miles in a game, or so it's been said. Whatever the true number is, our midfielders do a lot of work for precious little gratitude.

The real problem, though, is who we have and how they play. In the current formation, essentially a 4-2-3-1, there are five midfield positions to fill and nine players to fill them. This feels like a bit much, or at least a whole lot of quantity in place of quality:
  1. Arteta
  2. Cazorla
  3. Coquelin
  4. Diaby
  5. Podolski
  6. Oxlade-Chamberlain
  7. Ramsey
  8. Rosický
  9. Wilshere
What's more, I look at the list and, although I do like many of these players, I really only see two who are game-changers or could be game-changers: Cazorla and Wilshere. Cazorla's performance against Swansea, for example, was masterful. We so far have not missed Wilshere much, and although he has had fewer goals, his impact on matches has been invaluable. Beyond this, though, we have a longer list of players who are solid or decent or reliable at best. That might be good enough for a holding midfielder or defensive midfielder; Arteta, for example, excels in such a role. What seems to be lacking then, is the kind of electricity and transcendence we've come to expect from our midfielders. From this list, how many of them can generate that electricity or achieve something transcendent? 

I know that looking back at past players--Vieira, Pirès, Brady, Ljungberg, etc.--gives them an unfair advantage. Many of them played during some truly historic years (and those years are historic precisely because of how rare they are). In the time that has passed, the facts have evolved into legend, and current players like Cazorla or Wilshere have achieved moments that, as they marinate over time, will become similarly epic in our hearts and minds.

However, even they struggle to manufacture something out of thin air in ways that announce once and for all that opposing teams simply must plan around our players out of desperate fear for what could happen. In time, Wilshere can grow into that role. So too may Oxlade-Chamberlain or Diaby, for that matter. I'm not saying we should dump the rest and rebuild. Maybe I am. I don't know what I want. With time, the players we have just might grow into the kind of players we remember fondly a decade from now and memorialize with a statue or two. Heck, in the nine games we have left, maybe one of them will pull a goal out of thin-air, a game-changing and season-defining goal that elbows its way into a "Ten Best Arsenal Goals of All Time" list, and I will happily eat my words. In fact, I'm looking forward to having to do exactly that.

13 March 2013

Eating Crow Never Tasted So Good

So it's already 1-0 to Arsenal. Sure, it's not quite ten minutes in, but Oliver Giroud has scored a delicious goal in the third. After all of my kvetching and tut-tutting about we shouldn't make a big deal of this, we have a bit of a ballgame on our hands. While there's still plenty of time on the clock, our boys are playing with some fluidity and energy while it's Bayern looking rather toothless. If this stands, I will gladly suffer the taunts of the die-hards who insisted that we had to have this game. Even if it doesn't stand, we're showing mettle enough to restore some of our pride.

Giroud in particular is looking sharper than he has in a while and has snapped out of his slump, not only in scoring but in form. With Walcott back out wide again, the team is creating chances. If not for a missed touch from Rosický and some nices saves by Neuer, I daresay we could have had two by now. Defense is bending but not breaking to this point.
A quick look at the stats would convince a casual fan to assume that Bayern is in control of the game--nine shots (two on frame) to our one, 58% possession, two corners, three offsides...however, the one stat that matters is only one we need. We'll never know if Bayern had planned to sit back because of how quickly Giroud scored. The goal was a veritable comedy of errors--one defender spins himself to the ground, Walcott nutmegs a defender on his pass, and Giroud sends it home so quickly that that the ball has bounced back out of the net before Neuer can even try to dive for a block. I know that Walcott wants to play more centrally, but this goal, and so many others, show that he might be best-placed on the wing, not only to take advantage of his speed, but also because his connection to a central striker seems to bring out Walcott's best as well. This assist reminds me of so many more that he has tallied, and if he and Giroud can settle on roles, their relationship could become very productive indeed.

Well, before we get ahead of ourselves and make too many grand plans for the future, there's a second half to be played. Gibbs has picked up a yellow, so he'll have to mind his manners. God forbid we pick up a second goal--that third "goal" that Mandzukic scored in the first leg, one of the ugliest goals I've ever seen, could also become one of the most painful we've conceded. Game's back on. Come on, Gooners...

12 March 2013

UPDATE: Wilshere Out Three Weeks

In further evidence that I'm less intelligent than I think I am, an interesting paradox to say the least, news is out that Jack Wilshere's ankle injury is serious enough to knock him out for three weeks, meaning he'll miss the match against Bayern as well as against Swansea. I don't mind much at all that he'll miss Bayern; in fact, I'd prefer that he rest even if he was 100%. Missing Swansea is the bigger hit, as it makes an already-tricky match that much trickier. If there's good news in the announcement, it's that the injury is to his other ankle, i.e., not the one he had surgery on last year. I hope we see Tomas Rosický come on against Bayern, if only to give him some match-time to prep for Swansea. His drive, determination, and energy are similar to Wilshere's, even if they're not on the same level.

Before we despair too mightily, I want to make a quick comparison that feels apt to me. In Michael Jordan's second season with the Chicago Bulls, he broke his foot and missed most of the season, and they won a woeful 30 out of 82 games. More importantly, he went on to become one of the world's most-famous and most-accomplished athletes, leading the Bulls to six championships in eight years. A similar parallel might be the Bulls' Derrick Rose who injured his knee during last year's playoffs and hasn't played a minute this year. The team has performed admirably in his absence, but it's essentially a lost cause--a full season in which we know the Bulls will not achieve anything significant. However, when he does return, the team will likely become odds-on favorites to vie for a championship next year. I'm not suggesting that Wilshere is ready to achieve similar feats. All I'm suggesting is that nothing is ever as final as it initially feels. Yes, it's depressing to learn that Wilshere will be out for a while, and it certainly damages the team's prospects for this year. In and of itself, it does not shut the door on a top-four finish. I'll trade that top-four finish for a Jack Wilshere who is fit and healthy for next year, in fact. It might be heresy to admit that dropping out of the top four is acceptable, but it's just one season. I look forward to a decade or more of Jack Wilshere in an Arsenal jersey, though, and imagine that he will bring the club back to glory, if not this year but for years to come.

02 March 2013

Spurs-Arsenal: T-minus 22 hours...21.5...

Rosický makes the founds after scoring last February. Adebayor watches and wonders what could've been...
This game just cannot arrive soon enough. I'm pacing, drumming my fingers, checking my watch. It's worse than that syndrome when you're hungry and check the fridge, then the pantry, and then the fridge hoping that something has magically changed. Such is the magic of expectation. I had to try to sate myself on today's matches, but nothing all that great happened from an Arsenal point of view. Everton defeated Reading handily, Liverpool looks ready to defeat Wigan (up 2-0 30 minutes in), and Chelsea, despite their increasingly shambolic situation, eked out a win over West Brom thanks to a goal from some chap we barely deigned to bid for in January. So it goes.

How to stop Bale? That is the question on everyone's minds. Like many, I'll admit to worrying about Bale's form. With Sagna out, our right flank is that much more vulnerable. There's an outside chance that Koscielny will be available. However, the player who fills in at right back is not the Alpha or the Omega of the plan to stop Bale. Instead, the key (in my mind) is midfield, and the key to that key is Tomas Rosický -not that he's some kind of defensive dynamo, but his pace, motion, and doggedness might be just enough to disrupt Spurs' midfield and push them further back on their heels so that he, Wilshere, Cazorla, and Arteta can control possession. The longer it takes for attacks to develop, the more impatient Spurs' fans will get, and the more the pressure on them will grow.

For all of the talk of the form Bale is in, the flip-side to this coin is that it intensifies the pressure he will face to deliver on the talk. It's not at a level of Joe Dimaggio's hitting streak, or the Invincible's undefeated streak (always worth a quick mention), but each time Bale takes the field, everyone expects a goal. If he doesn't score, talk takes a turn--maybe he's not as great as his recent form suggests and so on. Therefore, we should deter him and harass Parker and the rest. The more ragged and impatient they start to feel, the more their nerves may start to fray, and they will press and end up doing something reckless or irresponsible, hopefully creating openings that we can exploit. At the risk of sounding crazy, if we can pilfer a goal before Spurs can...well, a boy can dream, can't he?

It may be 'beneath' our position in this derby to point out that we come in as underdogs, but this reflects the fact that all of the pressure is on them to perform. They're at home, they're undefeated in the Prem since December, they apparently possess a Ronaldo-esque scorer, and we're stumbling from fixture to fixture, mere shadows of our former selves. In the words of Gimli, "certainty of death? Small chance of success? what we are waiting for?" Oh yeah--Spurs are the Orcs. We're the guardians of goodness and nobility and all of that. Sure, it feels like there are a lot of factors working against us. Maybe that's an unfamiliar position to be in, especially against Tottenham. However, I like this. There are few things I enjoy more than to waltz into a rival's house, elbow him to the ground, and take what's mine. I certainly be on the field on Sunday, but I'll be channeling each ounce of determination and passion and love of this game towards our boys, and I know full-well that each of you will as well. Game on.