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Category Archives: Manager and staff info and opinions

Theo Walcott – The ‘Striker’ within

 

Theo Walcott signed for Arsenal from Southampton in January, 2006. He was seen as the man who would eventually replace Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. Throughout his career he has had to bear the burden of high expectations; expectations of his countrymen, of becoming the next best thing to wear the English jersey; expectations of Gunner’s fan, of becoming the next ‘Titi’.

Shadow of Henry

 People have inevitably compared him with Henry due to the apparent similarity they possess. Like Henry, he is blessed with Gazelle feet. In fact, Walcott has broken Henry’s 40-metre sprint time as he confirmed himself as the quickest player at the club. Their style of finishing has also been compared over and over again. He was even handed out the famous No.14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry.

The only thing that he is criticized for at times is his consistency and final delivery. That will come with more experience; the most positive aspect of his game is that he improved massively last season. He was far more consistence and if not for his injury, he could have been Arsenal’s top scorer last season.

“I want to play up front”

During his early days in Newbury,Swindon Town and Southampton has played mainly as a striker. After switching to Arsenal, he has mostly played as a winger.

Recently Walcott has admitted he wants to play in a more central role next season. He was quoted saying

“I was signed as a striker and I want to play up front,”

“I think I have done my trade out on the wing. I think a lot of people forget that I’m not a winger. I see myself as a striker, although if I get played up front, it will take me a few games to get used to playing there again because I haven’t played there for about five years now.

“I think I have done a fairly good job on the wing for Arsenal and I will play anywhere for this team but, hopefully, the fans will start seeing me a bit more up front.”

Henry, like Walcott, started out as a winger as well. At Juventus, Henry was deployed on the wings. It was only after Arsene Wenger brought him to Highbury that he started to play as a striker. He transformed from a winger into one of the best forward of his times. Walcott seemingly wants to follow his footsteps.

What others have to say?

This not the first time that Walcott has urged his manager to play him through the middle, as a striker. In fact there are lots of people who think similarly.

Harry Redknapp his previous mentor, once said

“I think Theo will be better through the middle, as a striker. He can be like Thierry Henry, who started out wide but was far better as a central striker and became world class.

“A few years ago, Henry was the best player in the Premier League by a mile. He had great pace and I can see Theo one day becoming a world-class striker.

Former Arsenal winger Perry Groves has backed Walcott as well.

He’ll be better as a striker because when he plays upfront he’ll play instinctively,” Groves said. “He’s a player who is better playing off his instinct, and if you look at him he’s better when he hasn’t got time to think about his finishing.

“Playing out wide sometimes when he gets one-on-one with the full back and the full back stands him up he hasn’t got a trick. He’s not that sort of jinky player; he relies a lot on his pace. He’s learning his trade.

“His final ball has got better but I can see him ending up as a striker, maybe not next season because Robin Van Persie will play as the pivotal striker and you’ve got [Marouane] Chamakh coming in but if he’s still at Arsenal the season after I can see him ending up as a central striker.”

Wenger’s point of view

Even Wenger himself has backed him to play that role in media. A year ago he was quoted saying “He is very, very close to playing that striker role.  He is more of a natural striker [than winger] as he likes to put the ball into the net himself. Theo is 21, give two more years to Theo and imagine what he will be.

“And don’t forget that when Thierry came here, he was a winger. When I first played him as a central striker, he said to me, ‘I can’t score goals’. In England, you are very impatient. Theo can be a prolific goal scorer as once he is a yard in front of the defender nobody can catch him.”

 The Obstacle of 4-3-3

The main obstacle with playing Walcott through is middle is Arsenal’s current formation. During the days of Henry and Bergkamp, Wenger deployed a 4-4-2 formation. Nowadays, he uses a 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 formation. In this formation, the lone striker who plays up front should have a physical presence and be good in the air. Walcott sadly doesn’t fit the bill here. If Robin Van Persie and Chamakh remain fit, they will always be preferred in that role. Walcott would fit in perfectly as a supporting striker in a 4-4-2 formation, but for that Wenger has to change his tactics, which seems very unlikely. Walcott would most likely switch to a central role to boost his side’s counter-attacking options when they were ahead in a game, with a taller and more physical starting striker preferred.

My Opinion

I think Walcott can add a different dimension to Arsenal if he plays through the middle. He might never fulfill his potential playing as a winger. Once he plays as a striker, his game will rise to another level, and for all of this to happen, Arsene will have to change his tactics. I believe Van Persie and Walcott can form a deadly partnership. Imagining them together, reminds me of the by-gone era of Henry-Bergkamp partnership and the joys of watching it.

The Professor has to decide now, to bring back the 4-4-2, to unleash Theo as a striker. That will let a player do justice to his talents, a player who he himself believed, was destined to be special. Its time for another transformation. Its time to put the No.14, where it belongs to – at the top.

By Amlan Majumdar

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Guardiola: ‘Arsenal Have Agreed To Negotiate Fabregas Deal’

Straight talking: Pep Guardiola will not be rushed as he continues to chase Fabregas

Pep Guardiola has claimed Arsenal have agreed to negotiate an offer made for Cesc Fabregas. They have already failed with a 27 million pound bid, but the Barcalona manager is still hopeful of securing the 24 year old’s services and is convinced Fabregas is determined to move to Barca this season. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, he said,

“This year Arsenal has agreed to negotiate and we are working on it,”

” Barcelona has made an offer, Arsenal another and we have time until August 31 and we’ll try to reach an agreement.

“It is easier for Cesc in this way because he fits the template, but I know these things cannot always be done.”

He added that the club have enough money to sign both Fabregas and Sanchez.

“The club has saved money to try to sign him,”

“We will try until the end try to bring him. I hope that eventually everything can be arranged. But sometimes things cannot be done.

“We will fight to the end to try to get Cesc because we believe he will improve the team and the squad.”

The Arsenal captain did not travel to the pre season tour of Asia due to a hamstring injury and is a doubt for the trip to Germany on saturday against Cologne, which has left some fans doubting whether he really is injured. However Guardiola has rubished this claim, saying

“Cesc has to do what Arsenal ask of him, I do not like this insinuation that he has told them he will not play. When he is well then Wenger will play him.”

Talk over the lack of finances available to Guardiola have also been dismissed, saying they have money for both Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas, although Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta insists Sanchez is a priority signing.

“Alexis has a lot of potential and I’m told he’s a very good boy and that is close to the profile you want,” he said.

He also admitted negotiations are “in a final process” and said: “We expect a happy ending and that Alexis is here with us soon.”

But should Cesc, our captain, leave? Leave you answer in comments.

 

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Injury News: Fabregas out of Asia Tour, Eboue Doubtful, Miyachi In Squad

Wenger, speaking to arsenal.com has said Cesc Fabregas will not be travelling with the Arsenal squad to Asia due to a muscular problem. Emmanuel Eboue is a doubt for the trip after injuring his calf. He said,

“We will take the strongest possible squad, Fabregas will not travel because he still has a small muscular problem. He will stay and practice here. There is a doubt about Eboue who has done his calf.”

Wenger has also said Ryo Miyachi will be in the squad for the tour. The Japanese forward enjoyed a impressive half season on loan for Dutch club Fenyoord, and has impressed Arsene Wenger so far in pre season training, which started on Monday. He said,

“He is on the plane because he is quality, We want to give him a chance to show his quality and I think everybody will be curious to see him play in Asia.

“I rate him personally [and] it’s a good opportunity for him to show that he has the talent to play for Arsenal Football Club. He has an opportunity to show that [he is good enough for the first team].

“He has done extremely well at Feyenoord and we have so many good reports. It will be interesting to see him play.”

 

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Wenger to ‘bring in one or two more additions of top quality’

Arsene Wenger has said he wants to bring in more quality to a trophyless Arsenal team. After another season without a trophy for the gunners, Wenger has admitted that players need to be brought into the squad, however, has told fans to be patient over signings.

Speaking to Arsenal.com, he said, “We are working very hard on it, For me, the best thing is not to talk too much about it. The more you speak about things, the less chance you have to achieve them. The only thing that I can promise you is that we will work very hard and we have had some long nights to achieve what we want to achieve.

“I can understand [the impatience among the fans]. Believe me, I know all the clubs in the world and everybody needs the same players for the same positions. If there were an obvious choice, people would have already made their decisions. We are at the top level and therefore need exceptional quality to strengthen our side. I can understand that people say ‘you have money, just go out and buy’. But it’s not only that, we want to find the quality we need.

“I have said many times that we were very close to winning things last season, despite the disappointment we had at the end. I hope that provokes a response from my players. We were so close this time we want to come back and achieve it.

“My responsibility is first of all not to lose players and then to add and make us stronger.

“Let’s hope we can bring in one or two more additions of top quality.”

 

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Is Pat Rice set to leave, who would replace him?

Arsenal fans may be saying a goodbye to a true arsenal legend, Pat Rice. The current arsenal assistant manager has been part of the football club as a coach since 1984. Arséne Wenger and Pat have formed a terrific partnership together. However, the understudy to Arséne is considering retiring from his role at the end of this season due to a chronic knee injury. There are also reports that Rice’s wife is ill, and he would like to spend more time looking after her, rather than focusing on Arsenal. The impact he has had on the club has been oustanding. He nurtured the youth team to FA youth cup wins as a youth coach before winning numerous trophies as assistant manager alongside Wenger, including being part of the incredible unbeaten season of 2003/4. Wenger, since the possibility of Rice retiring was announced, has spoken highly of Pat’s work, saying what an inspiration he is to Arsenal Football Club, and that he hopes Rice will stay. However, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Rice will stay even one more season.

If Rice is to go, who would be the one to replace him? Highly-rated coach Steve Bould could be an internal promotion. However, there are other, arguably better people to appoint. Patrick Viera has also been mentioned as a possible successor. Viera has hinted that he is considering retiring Manchester City at the end of the season, already admitting he would love to go back to his former club Arsenal. His qualities are obvious. He a strong leader, which is what the team has been missing this season and the last few trophy less seasons. His winning mentality would undoubtedly inspire the team and would be crucial especially in pressurised time, such as a cup final or the title run in. Wenger has also spoken glowingly about coach Dragan Stojkovic, who currently manages at Wengers old club, Grampus Eight. Stojkovic also played under Wenger, so will have gained some experience from his style of coaching. Someone with the same mentality as Wenger could be a good and bad thing for arsenal fans. Some fans have become frustrated with being unable to win a trophy for six years, therefore asking Wenger to be sacked. If Stojkovic was to come in, even as manager after Wenger, he may bring the same footballing mentality as Wenger. However, it has been successful in the past, so why can’t it work again? The final strong candidate for the job is Arsenal legend Tony Adams. Adams, who is currently assistant manager at Portsmouth, would bring many leadership skills and a winning mentality, just like Viera. Something Adams has which Viera doesn’t however, is experience in working as an assistant manager. Adams is also an avid follower of Arsenal, and that’s why I think out of these three coaches, I feel he is the best suited to the job, if Pat Rice is to leave.

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