Last night witnessed less Gunners than from over the weekend being involved in some more football on the international front as qualifying matches for next year’s European Championships at Poland and Ukraine continued.
At Moscow, Russia captain Andrey Arshavin had a good game but saw his and his compatriots dominance come to nothing as visiting Republic of Ireland held on for a crucial goalless draw.
At Wembley, Theo Walcott was rested as England edged Wales, captained by Aaron Ramsey, by a lone goal to move six points clear atop their qualifying group.
Elsewhere, it was no where near their record 11-0 win on Saturday but Robin van Persie’s Holland moved to within a point of sealing qualification to Euro 2012 with a 2-0 win at Finland.
Bacary Sagna’s France earned a goalless draw at Romania to extend Les Blues unbeaten run to 13 matches.
And at Asia’s third round of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup, Chu Young Park’s South Korea played out a 1-1 draw at Kuwait.
In other news, young midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong pledged his allegiance to Ghana’s national team, the Black Stars.
Frimpong, who is eligible to play for Ghana and England, has impressed for what has been a below par Arsenal so far.
Focus now will return to getting the campaign on good track following a poor start when we host newly promoted Swansea with eyes surely to be on who among the new players at the club will feature.
Stay the cause, repping for the Cannon!
With league football worldwide taking a breather over the weekend, we kept an eye on our players on international duty, aiming to help their countries qualify for respective continental cups.
First out the tunnel was new signing Chu Young Park in faraway Seoul. The South Korea captain was imperious in the 6-0 win over visiting Lebanon in a qualifier for the Asian Championships, finishing the encounter with a well taken hattrick to further endear himself with Gooners itching to see him play in Arsenal colours.
Also in ruthless form in front of goal was Arsenal captain Robin van Persie who went one better with four goals for Holland against hapless San Marino. He opened the scoring in the Group E Euro 2012 qualifier before hitting a second half hattrick as the Oranje Boys annihilated their visitors 11-0 at Eindhoven.
Still with the captains, new loan signing Yossi Benayoun could not help third placed Israel from losing 1-0 at Group F leaders Greece while Tomas Rosicky played well as Czech Republic managed a dramatic 2-2 draw at Scotland thanks to a stoppage time Kadlec penalty.
Welsh captain Aaron Ramsey scored the second for his country in a 2-1 win over Montenegro at Cardiff in a Group G qualifier and help England go three points clear atop that group following their 3-0 win at Bulgaria where Theo Walcott played a part in the third goal.
Per Mertesacker was on the bench as he secured a place at Euro 2012 with his Germany from Group A of the European qualifying section following a 6-2 win at home to neighbours Austria with Thomas Vermaelen and his Belgium in third place chasing Turkey for Group A’s play-off spot after a disappointing 1-1 with Azerbaijan. Vermaelen however missed that encounter through injury.
There were also wins for Andrey Arshavin and Bacary Sagna with Russia securing a lone goal victory and France coming away from Tirana with a hard fought 2-1 success over Albania. Sagna however remained on the bench through the match.
And former Lille forward Gervinho was the creative force for the Ivory Coast in a 5-0 win at Rwanda, scoring the fifth late on after assisting with a couple of the goals before. The win was inconsequential for the Ivorians who have already booked their place at next years Africa Cup of Nations.
It has been quite a summer for Arsenal with the Gunners without doubt being the champions of transfer speculations all through. Can Arsène Wenger and his charges end a run of seasons without a competitive trophy at the seventh attempt?
An answer to that largely depends on the club’s mental approach going into matches and this is in two aspects. Firstly, we must kill games when leading and in the inability to do so, be able to hold onto such advantage till after the final whistle as evident from both legs of last season’s north London derby and home matches against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Bromwich-Albion as well as the infamous implosion at Newcastle where we ironically open this season’s campaign.
The other aspect of our mental approach to games is how we fare in the months of February and March, months that have proved the Achilles Heel in the leap towards a trophy in the last four seasons.
Last season’s episode proved the most painful, we suffered defeat to Birmingham City (now of the Championship) in the League Cup final on the last day of February, before enduring a mediocre run of form in March that pretty much ended all other title ambitions on other fronts.
And there’s the additional mental jabs dealt the team now no thanks to speculations surrounding the future of Samir Nasri & Fabregas who has reportedly agreed to a deal to return to his boyhood club. Which means a new era is about to start, one without the club’s best player. But no one man or player is greater than the club.
Meanwhile the latter is once more reportedly close to completing a £22m move to oil rich Manchester City, some reports even suggesting he may do so before the protracted tug for Fàbregas finally ends.
Arsenal’s hopes of ending the trophy drought will now rest on 20 year old Jack Wilshere(albeit not solely) as it was the English international who flourished – when Fàbregas was mostly half fit or out injured last season – with consistent and assured performances. While possessing admirable mental and physical strength, the rest of the team will determine just how much impact Wilshere will have this season.
With Laurent Koscielny apparently being the notable addition to the team last season, the Gunners actually did well until those dreaded months. This term, Ivorian forward Gervinho has joined and impressed so far with his quick feet and good composure.
Other than him, Wenger has (annoyingly) kept to his policy with a roll call of highly rated youngsters such as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi. The transfer window however is still over a fortnight from closing so some much needed experienced players may yet arrive at the Emirates.
While awaiting those, Gooners will be banking on Robin van Persie to pick up from the fiery form of the second half of last season that saw the Dutchman finally show us his potential with a high return on goals per game. Having him fit for a whole season on such form leaves the heights attainable by the team optimistically imagined.
In the event of him being out injured as he is sadly prone to, Theo Walcott gets my nod to spearhead the front ahead of the overly disappointing Marouane Chamakh and the England international has publicly stated his desire to play upfront rather than on the wings.
Last season, he posed a real threat to defences with his raw speed that was, unlike previous seasons, complemented with much technique. This sort of form gives promise of this season being perhaps a breakthrough season for the 21 year old.
Those other than the above players that could contribute to a successful league campaign, and perhaps success in any of the other competitions, are Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Koscielny and goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Woijcech Sczeszny just as I’m personally looking forward to how Aaron Ramsey fares with Abou Diaby’s injury presenting the Welsh midfielder a chance to impress.
Vermaelen on his part was out virtually all of last season injured and Squillaci failed woefully as partner to Koscielny. Consequently, the efficiency of our physios this season actually comes in just behind the team’s mental maturity as deciding factors on how this season will pan out.
Arsenal’s campaign begins at St. James’ Park in Saturday’s evening kick-off having survived getting postponed due to the violent scenes that besieged streets in London and Birmingham.
That match is then followed in quick sequence by games against title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Champions League qualifier against Italian side Udinese buttered between those red encounters.
In all honesty, Arsenal are strong contenders for the title and hopefully we avoid burning out at those times aforementioned!
That said, enjoy the season ahead, it’s great to finally be getting underway!
C’mon You Smokin’ Gunners!!!