Understanding the development of Theo Walcott – Positioning and technique: Analysis and Discussion

Theo Walcott has been subject to a rollercoaster of criticism and praise in the five years since signing for Arsenal in January 2006. Here we attempt to understand the evolution of his game. Before signing Theo, Arsene Wenger highlighted some of the key attributes of his game which are all running themes in his development as a player – pace, positioning, and decisions:

“I like the timing of his runs, his determined attitude, the fact that he can play in different positions up front and that he is calm in front of goal…The composure he shows in decisive moments doesn’t change, whether it’s in division one or the Premiership – you have that or you don’t have that. He has determination as well as electric pace.”

That Theo’s pace would be his main attribute in striking fear into defences was apparent from his debut for Southampton against Wolves in 2005, and the use of pace was clear in many of his early goals at Southampton. However, positioning is key in bringing the best out of players, and Walcott needed to be placed carefully to allow his game further to become effective at the top level.

Continue reading “Understanding the development of Theo Walcott – Positioning and technique: Analysis and Discussion”

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Messi gets very drunk

Messi and the Barca players seem to have had a few drinks too many when celebrating their amazing treble in Barcelona.

Depressing result but I’m still proud of the Arsenal

Last night was not a great experience for any Arsenal fan. Two early goals and the tie was most definitely over. It was disappointing to see so many fans leaving so early, but I have to say that for the first ten minutes the atmosphere was fantastic.

Nevertheless you have to look at things in perspective. We have been blighted by injuries this season and in November you wouldn’t have thought that we would have made two semi finals and managed to qualify for the Champions League next year. The way we were playing then was awful and the team has improved a lot.

There is still a lot of work to do on this team, but considering this is the hardest season Wenger has had at Arsenal I think we have come out of it well.

Tonight I’m supporting Barca, I would hate to see another Chelsea – Man U final, either winning it would be a disaster. I don’t want Chelsea to win it before Arsenal, and I don’t want Fergie to have back to back CL titles.

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Hleb tips Arshavin to shine as Derby Day looms

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

Alexander Hleb – remember him? The one time Arsenal man – who moved to Barcelona in the summer – has found time to speak about his former club. In particular, he has had words of praise for new signing Andrei Arshavin.

Shouldn’t he be concentrating on all things Barcelona, I hear you ask! Well, he would do, but to put it politely, he isn’t getting a look in at the Nou Camp. Since moving from Arsenal last year he hasn’t played nearly as much football as he would have liked. Many Gunners may find the following phrase appropriate – ‘I told you so.’

In my opinion, Hleb should never have left Arsenal. He was playing regular football, was part of a team that suited his style of play and most importantly he seemed settled. Despite this, he jumped shipped to Barcelona and if his latest comments are anything to go by – he is regretting it.

Hleb says that he is desperate ‘for more time on the pitch’ and will do all he can do ‘fight for a place in the team’ between now and the end of the season. The problem being that Barcelona are top of the league by a mile and are playing some excellent football at present. Thus decreasing Hleb’s first team chances in the next couple of months.

So, what does the future hold for him? Well, he has admitted that he will ‘see what might happen in the summer’ because he isn’t willing to sit on the sidelines for two seasons on the trot. Maybe you should have stayed at the Emirates then Mr Hleb? I’d be interested to see if he would consider a move back. Would you take him?

Anyway, onto more immediate matters that Hleb has been discussing. He says that Arsenal’s new signing Andrei Arshavin will suit the ‘style of the team’ and that the Russian will prove to be ‘a success’ in the Premier League. Overall, Hleb strongly believes that Arshavin will ‘enjoy his time at Arsenal’.

Speaking of Arshavin, he is all set to make his debut for the club in this weekend’s game with Tottenham. Let’s talk a bit about this eagerly anticipated 144th North London Derby.

First things first – it is a must win for Arsene Wenger’s men. In terms of points to secure a 4th placed finish, in terms of confidence for the rest of the season and in terms of condemning Spurs deeper into the relegation mire – this is a must win game.

Nothing other than three points will do. Some people may consider a draw to be a decent result, but not for me. A similar performance as the wins over Manchester United and Chelsea please Arsenal. Let’s make sure that Arshavin gets off to a winning start so that the team can finish the season strongly.

As far as team news is concerned, Arshavin is included in the squad and could well start the game. Elsewhere, Emmanuel Eboue is fit but Abou Diaby is banned. For Tottenham, Robbie Keane is set to captain the side on his return from Liverpool.

Whatever players are in an Arsenal shirt on Sunday though, they must show the fans how much they care about this game and they must prove that they have what it takes to claw back Aston Villa in the race for 4th place.

Wenger’s European heartbreak: Two European Campaigns with AS Monaco

Arsene Wenger is a fantastic manager, and he has a great record at Arsenal, but one constant in his career is underachieving in European competition. This doesn’t sit well with Wenger, and I can see why, he clearly deserves a European trophy and he has come close on several occasions, not least in 2006 when we were 10 minutes away from winning the Champions League.

This article is a bit of Wenger history. It’s interesting to try to look at some of the more distant past to understand what Wenger has been through in his career, and why he is the man he is today.

His first major managerial post was at AS Monaco from 1987 – 1995. He won Ligue 1 in 1987/88, his first season, got his first taste of the European Cup the following year, reaching the Quarter Finals, but losing to Galatasaray 2-1 on aggregate, the team who were to beat Wenger’s Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final.

The matchday programme, from Estadio de Luz, Porto
The CWC 1992 Final programme

Wenger then won the French Cup in 1991. This led to his first European final the following season in the 1991/1992 Cup Winner’s Cup. His Monaco side played well beating teams such as Swansea City, Feyenoord and AS Roma, who we are facing in this season’s Champions League. Monaco faced Werder Bremen in the Final.

The Final was marred by news of the collapse of a temporary stand in Bastia’s French Cup semifinal with Marseille which left 13 dead and hundreds injured.

Otto Rehhagel, who later led Greece to their 2004 European Championship win, was the Bremen manager, and his side won by 2 goals, even though Monaco dominated possession. Wenger had players such as Petit, Djourkaeff, Thuram and George Weah in his side that day.

Wenger went on to a UEFA Cup Final with Arsenal against Galatasary in 2000, which we lost on penalties (I was crying) and a Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006, which could have been so different.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Wenger has had a great career, but until he puts his name on a European trophy he will not feel like he has achieved his potential. He has had the chances and come close, and this must be frustrating, I’m sure he still remembers these times.

Wenger is a competitive guy, and this season he will want to put right his awful record in European finals and bring the Champions League to Arsenal.

References:

UEFA CWC 1992 Final Page

European Cup 1988/1988 Campaign

Cup Winner’s Cup Campaign 1991/1992 Wikipedia

Sidebar image from N. Macca, under Creative Commons Licence

Transfer Rumours: Eboue, Yaya, plus Adebayor gives Gallas his backing

Inter Milan have been linked with a bid for Emmanuel Eboue, this is a transfer rumour many of you won’t have been expecting! It seems pretty unfounded – we don’t need to sell players during this window, our squad is threadbare enough already.

The same goes for the rumour that Barca are bidding £45 million for Cesc and Van Persie this summer. Fabregas will be linked with Barcelona as long as he is at Arsenal. The club cannot realistically sell him or RVP and this is just another tactic to unsettle him. If we don’t finish 4th this season things could look rather different though.

Yaya Toure’s agent has told the press that he is going nowhere:

‘Toure is happy at Barca, currently the best team in Europe and he has no intention of moving,’

I wouldn’t disagree with him, if anything it is more likely that Man City will sign him. If Arsenal do sign a holding midfielder then I doubt he will be such a big name.

Adebayor has backed Gallas’ comments earlier this season about our form:

“Gallas has always been like that – he has experience, he has won titles, played in a World Cup final. He doesn’t throw these thoughts around lightly. He said something because it was necessary to do it. “He is indispensable to the team. He is Arsenal’s rock – his behaviour since the armband was taken off him proves that.”

Update: Gallas is now out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury, as well as Silvestre, so Toure will get his chance.

Ade went on to explain our recent form:

“At the moment, when we take the lead, we are scared. We tremble until the final whistle because the team is young and we have conceded several goals in the last few minutes of matches.

I think he is right there, but with results will come confidence. We have looked shaky after taking leads in games, and this is a problem that began last season, at the beginning of 2008 when we lost our lead at the top of the table. If we can regain our confidence we can definitely perform better in the second half of this season.

With injured players like Walcott, Eddy and maybe ??Rosicky?? returning in the next few weeks we should be able to maintain some consistency. As long as we get 4th place this season I’ll be happy, but serious investment is needed for next season.

Ahead of the Cardiff City 4th Round tie Arsenal have been allocated 4000 seats at Ninian Park.

Why has Thierry Henry not delivered the goods in Spain?

With the international break in full swing, it can be a time to discuss alternative issues to that involving the Premier League. So, I wanted to take a look at Thierry Henry’s career since leaving Arsenal for Spanish giants Barcelona. The 31-year-old has just started his second season at the club, but according to their sporting director, Txiki Beguiristain, he has ‘not looked convincing’ in a Barcelona shirt as yet.

Considering how influential and successful he was in Arsenal colours, this seems rather hard to believe. However, Beguiristain goes on. He says that Henry doesn’t look like he fits in the team at times and that his time in Spain has been dogged by ‘personal problems’.

Any fans in England will be wondering if Beguiristain is talking about the same player that scored 226 goals for Arsenal? Henry could do no wrong in England and was so often the match winner for Arsene Wenger’s side. In July 2008, the Frenchman was even voted the greatest Arsenal player of all time. So what has happened to him in Spain?

Well, it has to be down to a number of factors. First up, everyone connected with Barcelona possibly expected too much. When he arrived for just over £16m, there were thousands of fans ready to welcome him at the Nou Camp. They had pursued the striker for quite some time and now they eventually had their man – they wanted instant results. However, he didn’t grab his first goal until September and unlike Arsenal fans – who would rarely criticise Henry – the Barcelona fans were straight on his back.

In all honesty though, Henry’s first season in Spain was a poor one for everyone involved at Barcelona. There were no trophies won and finishing a rather staggering 18 points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid didn’t help proceedings. Perhaps as the club’s major new signing, Henry was made a scapegoat for their problems. In all fairness though, he still managed to score 19 goals to be the club’s leading scorer.

So, in terms of goals scored, Henry wasn’t too far off the pace. However, he simply hadn’t won the fans over. At Arsenal, everytime he touched the ball there was a buzz about the place and more often than not Henry delivered the goods. Quite simply, this hasn’t happened at Barcelona. Some sections of the media have even said that the Frenchman ‘lacks commitment’, something he had in abundance during his time in England.

I suppose part of the problem could be that he was played out of position a lot of the time. Barcelona’s boss last season, Frank Rijkaard, often played him on the left wing leaving him with numerous defensive duties. This isn’t the way to go with Henry. Yes, he hugs the left wing a lot when playing up front, but it is done without the need to track back.

The new season though has brought renewed hope for Barcelona and Henry. New boss Pep Guardiola even stated at the beginning of the new campaign that Henry would be his ‘main man’ as he looked to guide the club towards various honours.

So, has this been the case? Well, judging by the comments previously mentioned by the club’s sporting director – it would appear not. However, it has been said by the same man that Henry is ‘improving’. He is becoming a central part of the team and having much more of an impact on how Barcelona are playing. They have won their last four games and although Henry has only found the net twice – he is starting to stamp his authority on the team like many expected him to last season.

Barcelona fans will want trophies though and if they fail to deliver them, it is the likes of Henry that will unfairly get blamed again – no matter how well they may be playing.

By Thomas Rooney

Read more player analysis in our the Player section, or check out Analysis & Comment for more features.

The Arsenal Curse – back in action? – David Bentley, Flamini, Hleb..

Bentley needs to eat something
Bentley needs to eat something

Arsenal Insider runs a nice piece here, basically saying – lets all laugh at David Bentley.

The guy has become a hated figure at Arsenal with all his bitter comments about the club and Wenger since he left. After signing for Spurs this summer for about £15 million he is now part of Spurs worst ever start to a season.

They are bottom of the league – of course we have only played 3 games, but it’s still funny!

It is even sweeter because Bentley has made a lot of comments about how we don’t bring through English talent, that’s why he moved. But Theo just scored a hattrick for England, maybe Bentley’s failure at Arsenal is more because of his lack of talent than Arsenal’s policies!

The Spolier also lists some more unfortunate Arsenal leavers – Hleb was injured on his home debut for Barca – out for 4 weeks, they drew 1-1 against Santander.

Flamini isn’t doing great at AC Milan either – 100% loss rate in their games so far, and no Champions League this week, just a UEFA Cup tie on Thrusday!!

Click here to read the latest Arsenal news on ArseSpeak!

Hleb has gone, that pays for Nasri and makes some room

Arsenal and Barcelona have confirmed that Alex Hleb has signed for Barca for a fee around £11.8 million. This covers Nasri’s fee so we are looking good financially this summer. Just need one or two more signings and we should be confident about next season.

Hleb had a medical for Barca at about 7 pm last night and the transfer was then announced.

Wenger was gracious and confident about Alex’s departure:

“We must firstly thank Alex for his contribution towards Arsenal Football Club during his time with us. Alex played a significant role in the three seasons he was with the Club. We are comfortable with our decision to let him go and we are all looking forward to continuing our preparations for the new season ahead.”

A positive comment, he sounds calm enough about Hleb leaving. I said before that lack of goals from midfield was a major problem for us last season, and although Hleb is good, he isn’t irreplaceable, and he didn’t contribute goals.

We now have Nasri to take his position and we will probably sign another midfielder if Gilberto leaves. The other good thing is that now Barca and Milan (Ronaldinho) have spent their cash we don’t need to worry so much about losing Adebayor, who although unpopular, is a key goalscorer for us.

Gilberto leaving, Diaby in pole position, or a new signing?

Gilberto may be leaving Arsenal for Panathanikos this summer. There has been a lot of speculation over Bert, mainly due to the fact that the whole season he was sidelined in favour of Mathieu Flamini.

Gilberto decided to stay and didn’t kick up a fuss, but acted professionally. He may be offered a new deal by Wenger, but it seems likely that he is going to leave for a fresh start.
Gilberto is reported to have said:

“I am very happy to come to Greece…Panathinaikos is a big club and if an agreement is reached with Arsenal I will be very happy to join you”

I think Gilberto has been a fantastic player for Arsenal, he’s had some ups and downs, but he has been very consistent, and professional in his conduct.

I respect him and if he does leave then good luck to him.

The question is who will fill the hole. The main candidates already at the club are Diaby and Song. Diaby has more experience and is more versatile, although Wenger has already hinted that Song will be used as a centre back next season.

There is always the option of bringing a player in, names such as Yaya Toure of Barcelona have been bartered around, but it seems more likely to me that Wenger will bring one of the younger players up. His transfer dealings may have peaked with the capture of Nasri.

That won’t be popular, but it might pay off.