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The Pre-Season Tour – what we learned so far

By Walter Broeckx

Okay forget all the transfer rumours, forget all the gossip, forget it all. As from today the only thing that really matters in football has restarted: the game on the pitch.

I am fully aware that you don’t win anything in pre-season games.  Apart from the Emirates Cup maybe.  But after sitting here watching at my TV or PC with no Arsenal football to be seen I must confess that even a game between Arsenal U10 (the real boys that play on the field) and the U10 of Leyton Orient would be enough to get me excited.  Okay, I do admit this is a bit exaggerated. But only slightly.  The latest odds on Arsenal for the 2011 season can be checked at  http://bwinbetting.com/, and fingers are now well and duly crossed.

Who we play doesn’t matter the most important part for me is that we play. And this promises to be an interesting period for most of us. Several questions are waiting to be answered in the next month (as it is just one month before the start of the EPL) as we play our first pre-season games. So I will try to give my views on what we know now and not based on the rumours from some rubbish newspaper. And I will leave Gervinho alone for the moment as he is still in London to sign a few things. Well all the better so I will have the privilege to see him live for the first time in an Arsenal shirt when we play at Cologne.

The goal keeper question? I think Szczesny will start in goal this season. He didn’t do much wrong in my opinion last season and showed that he is a cool keeper who is not afraid to risk his bones at times to prevent danger. I know he still has a few things to learn but he looks to be a bit intelligent or at least smart enough to learn things. And he also has that little bit of crazy goal keeper bit in him which every good goalkeeper needs.  And if Fabianski (who is not completely recovered from his shoulder operation in January) comes in goal I will not be frightened.  This season Fabianski has shown that he can be reliable and important for us. I can only remember one mistake during the many games he has done but for the rest he also was very good in goal.

And then we have Mannone who will maybe get a chance and who had a good season at Hull before he got injured and I have seen some good games from him late at night on the BBC. So I think with those 3 young keepers we have enough quality to get us through the season. And if all get injured we could get Martinez from the youth to fill in somewhere. People say he is very talented but I must admit I haven’t seen him play a complete game so I cant comment on him.

In defence we lost Clichy. People have been slating him for a few seasons and said he was the weakest link. I kind of liked him in fact because I thought he was a player that gives it all and, well, I know people can make mistakes. So it looks as if Wenger allowed him to go as he surely didn’t go to much trouble in order to keep him.

Who will replace him is still to be seen. In my two articles I talked about Botelho but he seems to be going on loan again together with Wellington. And this leaves us with Gibbs, Traore and Vermaelen. Going for the latter will mean that we have to buy another centre back. Or change the system and revert to just 3 defenders like someone suggested? Where Vermaelen covers as the left defender, Djourou in the middle and Koscielny on the right?

And then Gibbs or Sagna could be free more to support the attack? It sure does sounds exciting to me and maybe we will see some experiments in that way later in pre-season, but for the first game we had Gibbs at full back.

I also would like to point at the fact that compared to last season we already have one more defender in our team. The return of Vermaelen is important and he has vowed to make up for the lost season. So Vermaelen, the captain yesterday, looks like a new signing, but one we already know and thus making less headlines. So one out for the moment and one in. If we add another one and we think of players like Bartley and Miguel who can move up the ladder it should be enough I think.

And we also have brought in Jenkinson who started in the first pre-season game. Now I don’t know how good he will be but I think it is fair to think that he will be one playing his heart out when on the pitch for the team he loves not as a player but most of all as a supporter. I bet there will be an excited dad somewhere in the Emirates this season. Let’s hope his son can make him very proud with his performance.

If we look at our midfielders I want to point at Ramsey. Another new old signing for me. With the old and for him his returning season behind him he can now have a proper pre-season with the rest of the team.  If we think back at the Ramsey we have seen in the games before his leg was broken we have seen a great player coming above water. In the game against Manchester United where he scored the winning goal but was also very prominent in midfield we have seen the old Ramsey back. But as this was a bit of a stop and go season for him it will be vital for him to making progress. If he can do this he will be great.

And just imagine that combination of Aaron and Jack a few seasons ago when as 16-17 year old young boys they trashed a few teams in the Carling Cup. Now the boys have grown up and if they can produce performances like in those days but now in the EPL in the coming years. There is a lot of water in my mouth just by thinking of this happening.

So once again Ramsey is in fact a new old signing and it will be interesting to see how he develops further.

Another new old signing we welcome back is Frimpong who played yesterday in the second half. Last pre-season he was great and he stunned us with some great and strong performances. It was a real blow for him and for us that he then got his terrible knee injury which made him lose a year. Once again we are at the same point now and we just hope that he can reproduce his firm form of last pre-season and give us an extra option in midfield. So Ramsey and Frimpong are in fact two new signing in midfield for us this summer.

So plenty to look forward to in this Asia tour I think. Let the ref blow the whistle to start the game please.

Arsenal’s opening team for the first pre-season game was…

Wojciech Szczesny

Carl Jenkinson, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen (c) Kieran Gibbs

Alex Song

Jack Wilshere,  Aaron Ramsey

Ryo Miyaichi,  Marouane Chamakh, Theo Walcott

And in the second half…

Vito Mannone

Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Johan Djourou, Armand Traore

Emmanuel Frimpong

Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky

Carlos Vela,  Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin

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Financial Fair Play.  Where now?   Where next?

The Malaysian Story; the scene the game

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Untold Arsenal media Watch – the other side of the sun

On the Arsenal History Site: The review of the Wenger years continues with 2002/3: Little transfer activity and Pires returns

And there’s always “Making the Arsenal”

13 comments to The Pre-Season Tour – what we learned so far

  • Gooneraside

    Good pre-season to you, Walter (along with Tony et al).
    What joy to see the boys on the field again – if only after ArsenalPlayer “teething problems”.
    I felt very pleased with them, almost confident, regardless of their minor teething problems. I do get the feeling that the team might just gel together really well this season. This could be our year – there, I’ve said it!

  • walter

    Yes the most annoying thing yesterday was that the player didn’t play. 😉 I must say that in the previous seasons when it was still arsenal TV online I cant remember any problems to see the preseason games. Maybe I have a short memory.

    But on the other hand I must say that once it worked the quality was very well. And as a person who has seen a few games via stream in his Arsenal supporting days I know when I recognize a good stream. Ah well some minor start up problems I guess. But the club has apologized on arsenal.com and have promised to do better next Saturday.

  • AnonymousGun

    Dont blame the stream too much for yesterday’s match.. It definitely goes through our single monopoly ISP.. which are officially called Streamyx .. But we are nicknaming them as sCReamyx most of the time.

    Guess why? No pancakes for correct answer.

  • walter

    We also learned that the pitch was not that good.
    In fact I think a Malaysian player got injured because of the pitch in the first half when he lost his footing in their own half and had to be carried off. The ball bouncing up and down at times. A pass to Myachi over the floor suddenly went up in the air…
    So the grass is green in Malaysia but not the best quality pitch I have seen so far. But this is something we also face in the EPL when we go away at times…

  • aditya

    I thought traore was quite good actually. Definitely better than gibbs on the night.
    So i think if we don’t change formations, it would be traore at left-back. Also, if we play a 3-5-2, we’ll need at least one new centre back, maybe even two. Or maybe wenger might play sagna at rcb.

  • Dark Prince

    I think its too early to judge anything. Miyachi’s work permit is still left to be decided, Some other players are supposed to be comin in, hopefully, a centre back. I guess we also need an experienced creative midfielder bcoz Cesc’s fitness is always an issue.

  • Richard B

    @Walter – I think it was me that suggested that we might go with three at the back but, on the evidence of yesterdays match, it looks like Wenger has ignored me again! However its early days and its still possible to play differently against different types of opposition.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    @Walter
    I have no idea who first suggested three at the backs. I made a case for three CBs a la Marcelo Bielsa. My problem with that formation is as follows:
    Three centrebacks requires that we have three fit and healthy CBs with good on-the-ball skills.

    Perhaps we’d be better off abandoning the concept of a formation and picking the team to suit the general areas of the pitch they have to cover? People might have suggested taking on Barcelona without a genuine holding midfielder was suicide, we managed it okay.

  • walter

    About 3 at the back: I sure will give the credit to anyone who came up with the idea. It wasn’t me that is for sure.

    At first I thought: no. But on second thought, why not. maybe not against all and everyone but surely in some games we could go that way in order to support the attack.

  • Shard

    I don’t think the formation will change. If Miyaichi doesn’t get his work permit, I hope a LB is brought in and Traore plays in midfield. He is super super quick and would cause trouble to the opposition full backs. I couldn’t judge how his defending is because Malaysia didn’t attack in the second half really, but I’m not sure we can rely on him. At least yet.

    Jenkinson was good. He was up against some good pace on his flank in the first half but did well with his positioning. I would like to see what he offers in attack too.

    Walter, in all of this I keep worrying what our squad will be like because I still don’t know how we are in regards to the 25 man squad rule. Not just that, we’ll be looking ahead 1 or 2 years to see which players will have to be registered then, and who all are expected to make the grade from our youth, and then buy accordingly. Is there any chance that there will be an article on this?

  • Jas777

    Just my opinion but I think we lack the 2 or 3 players who you put in against the likes of Blackburn, Stoke etc. These players can protect the more creative players from damage in these games and fight fire with fire so to speak.

    I especially see this as the case in the congested fixtures portion of the season, cold weather months and games played just before or after a important champions league fixture.

  • steww

    Great write up Walter – a joy to be watching the wonderful pass and move Wengerball after a desert of transfer bullshit and no footy.
    Joy to see Ramsay firing and especially great to see Frimpong back after yet another untimely injury. Frimpong Wilshere Ramsay could dominate the mid for a decade.
    Why anyone watches any other team is beyond me. I’d happily go another 10 years without trophy just to enjoy watching our beautiful brand of the beautiful game. I adore seeing our youth/ Carling Cup players develop into first teamers and on our day the sheer entertainment of watching our side play with freedom, panache, improvisation and style makes any minor setbacks bearable.

  • bob

    Walter,
    Yes, it’s good to have grounds for hope, and I share them. But I won’t call them “new signings” and will say, and then drop it hereafter, that if Vermaelen is a new signing now, then, as many others at the time cried out for depth, we needed a new signing then. The doctors screwed up and/or it was a terrible blunder not to have purchased another defense man because we needed one – for depth – even if V. did come back – why? Because we were fighting a four-front war with game after game because of a merciless schedule. And so, if we are going to repeat the four-front war project, we may have bodies, but, in my opinion, we still don’t have enough quality depth on defense. That said, I can only pray that the Traore/Gibbs initiative is something more than an educated prayer.