Wigan boss Roberto Martinez stated before Saturday’s Premier League game that he wanted his team to play football like Arsenal or Barcelona, an ambitious statement clearly, this might be what he wants but Wigan need to win games by any means necessary. In the end Wigan played…well, like Wigan. There was only one team on the day playing like Arsenal or Barcelona and they were in fine form, although the visitors did allow Arsenal far too much space and time to knock the ball around in but it will still be a boost to the Gunners after their recent problems.
With Wigan heading back to the north with their heads down after being handed a serious lesson in the beautiful game, Arsene’s thoughts have turned to the Carling Cup tie with perennial yo-yo team West Brom. Wenger will be hoping for a similar performance from his younger players to help build the confidence further with another showcase of the exciting talent waiting in the wings. Arsenal’s Carling Cup team has made the competition’s earlier rounds a lot more exciting in recent years as fans are treated to something of a future showcase of some potentially world-class players such as Jack Wilshere but who else should Arsenal fans look out for on Tuesday night? Starting in goal and in doing so completing a remarkable recovery, will be 19-year old Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (just call him Dave) who in October 2008 broke both of his arms after an accident in the gym. Alongside the Pole will be the familiar faces of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carlos Vela and a certain Phillipe Senderos.
The return of Senderos to Arsenal’s starting XI marks the end of a torrid time for the Swiss defender, loaned out to A.C Milan after some less than impressive performances for the Gunners he played just 15 times in an injury hit season. Many, including this writer, were surprised when the transfer window came and went without any move being concluded for the defender but perhaps he still has a job to do at Arsenal. Senderos is certainly a talented young defender but unfortunately he does occasionally make some woeful errors for which some fans name him ‘Blunderos’. With any luck the season in Milan could be just the thing he needed. Training with Alessandro Nesta and Paulo Maldini can only have improved his defending and hopefully his concentration too. Watching talented, older players is a technique used by many youngsters when learning about the game and there is no shame in Senderos, who is now 24 and a full 10 months older than Vermaelen, trying to learn from these two great Italians. A strong performance on Tuesday night, alongside the experienced Mikael Silvestre could see him force his way back into Wenger’s first team-plans.
Another loan-returnee who will be playing on the night is Armand Traore, a player who the jury is still very much out on, is he a left-back or a left-winger. Some fans will remember him as not being great defensively and not threatening enough when going forward he has been replaced by Gibbs in the left back pecking order, but his loan spell at Pompey will have done him a world of good. He certainly has time on his side as he is still only 19 and if anyone can turn a rough-diamond of a player into the finished article it is Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.
While Ramsey, Wilshere and Vela will probably be the ones to grab the headlines should Arsenal come out on top, it will be interesting to note the performances of the other three mentioned here, it will give a very clear signal to both fans and management alike of what lies in store for them, for Szczesny it is all about announcing himself to the Emirates and building on great potential, for the other two players it is a case of convincing us that they deserve to be alongside so many talented players and that they are part of the team. Certainly Traore spoke about being more in love with the club after his loan spell at Pompey but Senderos seemed a bit less decisive about where his future lies, Tuesday night will be his chance to really answer that question with a performance that lives up to the potential he has previously shown.
Arsenal Club Focus
Pre-season preparations take a few hits – July 29
Gunners as prepared as they can be for Everton – August 12
Gunners gear up for vital ‘Battle of Britain’ clash – August 18
Fortuitous Gunners revel in Glasgow win – August 21
Electric Arsenal improve on success with a formidable win – August 25
Gunners undone by terrible errors – September 1
No international break for injured Gunners – September 4
Wenger and Fergie in war of words – September 8
Gunners crave a leader – September 15
Gunners buoyed by late siege in Liege – September 18