Some rather tame media buildup to the Riverside match today.
Starting with the manager per usual: Wenger has doused the media’s labeling of this team as ‘the New Invincibles’, saying it is far too early to be using such hyperbole yet. The manager has highlighted the quality in the team on a more realistic tone, saying:
“We will try to go as far as we can but we have only played fifteen games. What I see is the hunger and the togetherness, the desire to do well. Mentally they are strong. We are not as strong as [the Invincibles] were but we are more mobile and technically different.“
There needs to be far more caution emphasized in the lead up to matches, these days, given our injuries. We’ve all enjoyed the Indian Summer Arsenal have had in the early part of the season. The hard work really does start now, if it has not already.
Ray Parlour has told
ManUtd.com Setanta Sports that Wenger would leave should Alisher Usmanov attempt to influence team dynamics and selection himself. Bit early to talk about such things that have stalled for a good month or so (much to many bloggers’ relief), and the board have done enough to stave Usmanov off for the rest of the season, at least.
Other news (and there’s not much, today) sees reports that Arsenal have an increasing intent to sign Luca Modric, with scouts and club officials all having watched him personally as Dinamo look to slink out of the UEFA Cup. With Ajax and Chelsea all interested, it’s not going to be easy to sign Modric – whose increasing relevancy to Arsenal, in spite of their wealth of midfielders is apt given how three particular players are being missed so badly.
There’s the usual song and dance about ‘England’s Mailaise’ – and if you want a fitting example of why so many English kids are not cutting it in Wenger’s high standards, look no further as to why these kids would never make it, no matter how much money you could throw at them. Nationality is irrelevant, in this case.
It’s to Middlesbrough that we turn our attentions to, and everyone’s favourite crisis club are looking to take the game to Arsenal today, no doubt. Newcastle showed everyone that backs-to-the-wall can work for one off matches, and even spur on the team to win the following fixture later. Middlesbrough need some luck coming their way soon – I can think of three more deserving teams to get relegated – Derby, Wigan and Tottenham, in case you were wondering – and Middlesbrough, I would hope, will find the resources from somewhere at some point.
Hopefully that does not come at Arsenal’s expense, though. The 4-4-2 should be employed in as much as it suits Arsenal better than any other formation, as well as to possibly intimidate Middlesbrough. Intimidation has its drawbacks – will they sit back and defend in front of their own fans? Reading did so, and to their peril.
Will it be a time for Gallas and Toure to step up to the plate once more? Will Rosicky find a partner in crime to link up where Hleb usually would? Which Adebayor will turn up – the scoring-and-awesome Emmanuel, or the scoring-but-inconsistent Adebayor?
Will the lacklustre Eduardo find his feet? Or will Wenger favour the young Nicklas Bendtner to provide two tall strikers up front to trouble the Boro defence? Or will all this niggling talk about England give a little limelight to one Theo Walcott? Far be it from me to say Wenger will give in to any kind of media-pressure, but football, being the funny thing it is, sometimes gives moments of glory to those befitting of a place in a well-crafted script.
Which is why I have gone for Walcott. Call it superstitious or call it brainless – I have some untenable, mystical belief that Walcott will have a say in tonight’s game. Am I gearing myself up for embarrassment when Walcott fails to even come off the bench?
All I know is that for all the ‘rational’ arguments excusing Wenger from any cause as to England’s ‘meltdown’, the knives are out in many quarters in the media – with the Englishman Southgate as his opponent, the supposedly English-propelled Chelsea and Manchester United closing the gap – have the Martin Tylers, Andy Grays and John Motsons of the world rehearsed one particular line: that of Walcott ‘of all people’ playing a decisive part in tonight’s match?
Whatever happens, one has to say a vibe of inhibition is eminating from the current squad at the moment. Even if it is ‘merely’ Middlesbrough, a draw at the Riverside looks on the cards at the moment – the foundations of a 1-1 have perhaps been set for this match. I will say that Middlesbrough do not look to have two goals in them – which means the team should know what to do.
Tricky, testing times indeed. The defence, at least, remains intact. My faith in this team remains just as intact, though I am sure we could all use a boost after the Newcastle match. A full match report coming your way tomorrow. Wonder what the odds on Walcott scoring are?