Welcome to another edition of Gooners' View where Arsenal fans debate current events surrounding the football club.
Q: Andrey Arshavin was our single signature during the transfer window. What do you make of the Russian's start to his Arsenal career and was Arsene Wenger right in making him our record buy?
Ankush: Arshavin has started his career in exactly the way Arsenal fans dreamed he would. He adapted to individual matches as he played them, and he played under pressure without looking like it.
But now he’s going to have to evolve a little bit as opposition managers can study the way he’s playing at Arsenal.
He’s really mature, and by that I mean that he doesn’t need four or five chances to take one of them. Even when he gets one good chance in the whole 90 minutes, he’s been likely to come very close to creating or scoring a goal. This is what Arsenal lacked in attack this season—albeit mainly due to injuries.
He's been especially impressive at being in the right place at the right time.
I strongly believe that Arshavin’s next great challenge lies in the FA Cup game against Chelsea; not only will he be playing against arguably the most physical team in the EPL, he’ll also be playing against a manager who knows him very, very well.
In a way, buying Arshavin proved that Wenger was worried about participation in next season’s Champions League.
In any case, let’s describe him: a hard-working, skillful player, capable of playing in any offensive position, a great passer, great goalscorer, and an inspiration to his teammates. He’s worth it.
Zip: After Messi, Arshavin is probably the most effective player in the world in creating an end-product, whether a pass, successful dribble or a shot. Give him the ball outside the area, and he will find a pass. That’s how good he is.
Right now we still have not seen the best of Arshavin as he needs to acclimatise to the Premiership and, more importantly, the way Arsenal play. His future looks to be wide left and could be the replacement to Pires we have been looking for.
Khalid: I think Arshavin has made the kind of start that was expected of a record signing. He has been able to inspire with his individual ability on the ball, and he has shown that he is not shy of taking on defenders and shooting the ball.
I think Arsenel had probably decided during Euro 2008 that Arshavin fits in with the Arsenal kind of game. However, at the time Zenit was probably asking for too much.
Arshavin is a player who commands respect of all his peers at Arsenal, it seems, mainly because of his skills on the pitch, and also the fact that his attitude is also good.
In short, I think he is the sort of inspiration that Arsenal needed to lift themselves out of that dull scoreless run. And next season he'll even be available to play in the Champions League.
Q: Arsenal plays Villareal in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. How do you see this game panning out? Will it be a tight, tactical affair or will the two sides play the open football we are used to seeing them play? Most importantly will Arsenal have enough to overcome the Spanish side to reach the last four?
Ankush: In the first round, I expect an open game until the first goal is scored. After that, I’m not too sure.
Villareal will have examined the Roma games and realised that it’s a lot easier to score against Arsenal at home, while Arsenal will create chances both away and at home.
That’s why Villareal will want to score quickly—when Arsenal are probably at their weakest defensively—and then make sure they remain sturdy in defence.
Wenger will undoubtedly worry about Arsenal legend Robert Pires. It won’t surprise me—or anyone else—to see Eboue start on the right wing during the first leg to try and help Sagna nullify his left-sided threat.
Depending on the result of the first leg, Walcott may be given a start at the Emirates, having had time to fully recover from his injury, especially considering the fact that Pires has never played at Arsenal’s current home ground.
Other worries include Senna, who will do his best to keep the Arsenal central midfielders from settling down as he did so brilliantly against some of the best defences in the world at Euro 2008 last summer.
The in-form Rossi will also provide a stern test to Arsenal's defence with his quick feet and growing ability to finish from various positions.
A very hard game to call, but Arsenal should be able to score more goals than their opponents.
Zip: Crucially, the first match is away, meaning the issue will have to be forced at the Emirates rather than Villarreal coming to Arsenal in the first leg and looking to sit back. Of course the Spaniards may come with the advantage, but this way should see a more open tie. The smaller pitch at "El Madrigal" should mean an end-to-end game.
Champions League matches are games of chess where the manager must make the right move; Villarreal are not the best defensively when they have to attack while Arsenal have Fabregas back which could make all the difference.
Khalid: I believe it should be an open affair, as both teams know each other quite well after having squared off during the 2006 semifinals.
I think Arsenal will try to attack, because in essence that is the best way that they keep pressure off their defenders.
The most important players for Arsenal, i.e. Fabregas, Walcott, and maybe Eduardo will also probably be returning for these two legs. And with the second leg at the Emirates, an away goal at El Madrigal should put Arsenal in pole position.
I think this time we'll probably see more goals than the 2006 semi finals where only one was scored over two legs. I pick Arsenal to advance 4-2 on aggregate.
Q: After an unstable start to the season, Arsene Wenger seems to have steadied the ship somewhat and the club have moved back up the league table. Is their any particular reasons you can point too for this recovery?
Ankush: Firstly, harmony in the defensive aspect of the game, with Arsenal winning more midfield battles and forcing the opposition to work harder to keep the ball.
Those four consecutive draws were important because of the clean sheets, whether fans or even the players like to admit it or not. Denilson’s improvement this season, specifically in his positional sense and physical ability, played a big part.
Secondly, with Arshavin coming in and Eduardo and Walcott making convincing cameo appearances to prove to everybody that the creative aspect of Arsenal is not far from returning.
It lifted the fans, which also helped lift the players. Suddenly, Eboue scored three goals in a week.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news: a digression, but this is important to consider.
Between April 4 and May 30, Arsenal is going to play no less than 16 games, if they continue to make progress in the FA cup and Champions League. Out of 16, eight are league games, three of those eight being against the big-four teams. Out of the five other league games, three are away. The rest are very difficult CL and FA Cup encounters.
Guess how many games Aston Villa have to play in the same amount of time? Eight. Guess how many of those eight are against “big four” clubs? One…
I haven’t checked out Everton’s fixtures, but comparing Arsenal’s situation to Aston Villa’s is scary enough. Arsenal fans can only hope that both Arsenal and Aston Villa maintain the momentum they have gained and lost respectively.
A big factor will be whether or not the returning Arsenal stars continue to get those small but frequent injuries. If they come back fine, Arsenal will have the freshest team in the PL as well as the CL. Let’s hope that’s the case.
Zip: The young players have learned a lot and so has Wenger about his team.
There are number of reasons for the recovery but the most, the biggest, has been to make the fullbacks more cautious. Arsenal were being attacked in the space vacated by Clichy and Sagna while at the same time putting too much strain on Denilson and the centrebacks, who had to push up to hence playing with a line higher than Arjen Robben’s.
Creatively, we have missed Fabregas, but Wenger has reacted by making us more direct and quicker in our distribution.
Khalid: I think during the initial part of the season, it seemed that Arsenal were leaking goals too easily, especially on set pieces. So Arsene managed to work on the defensive frailties and get those fixed by pairing Gallas and Toure in the middle consistently.
But then the goals dried up as the likes of Walcott, Adebayor, and Fabregas were injured. So in order to keep the team from losing self-belief that they could still score, he needed some inspiration. This, firstly, came in the way of Eduardo's return and, secondly, in the form of Arshavin's signing.
I think the way Arsene has stuck with Bendtner is finally starting to pay off, as it is quite evident that he is probably that tall striker that Arsenal need on set pieces and for long ball flick-ons as well.
Arsene's ability to inspire has probably never been in question. It's more so with the average age of the team as well, which is quite low, which probably makes them more fragile emotionally.
Another thing that springs to my mind is that Arsene is not shy of changing things around when he sees something not working.
Samir Nasri now has a much freer role in midfield. He can switch from flank to flank, but I think it's best when Wenger puts him down the middle because he also has the ability to create that telling pass. When someone comes with the tag of being the next "Zidane," he must be something special.
Q: Finally, changes in the Arsenal boardroom recently saw American Stan Kroenke buy 5,000 shares from Danny Fiszman to increase his stake in the club to 20 percent. Is this a sign of Kroenke strengthening his hand to complete a takeover, or is it a ploy by the board members to join together and keep the unpopular Alisher Usmanov from getting his hands on the club?
Zip: Well, the most curious point to come out of this is that for Kroenke or Usmanov to buy Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith's shares they must make an offer for the club as they will go over the 29.9 percent threshold.
I’m not an expert on these kind of matters but Lady Nina was first pushed off the board, and it seems to stop her from selling because of sour grapes, Fiszman sold his which will also strengthen Kroenke’s place on the board.
Khalid: I don't think it's a sign that Kroenke wants to complete a takeover. I think it's more to balance things in favour of the board to keep Alisher Usmanov from completing a takeover of the club.
Arsenal's board knows that if the board starts dictating the type of players the club needs a la Roman Abramovich, Wenger will just leave. And the fallout will be huge as some key players may also depart.
Arsenal's business model seems to suit Wenger and vice versa, as Wenger has not been known to splash the cash, allowing the club time to recover from its stadium-related debts especially as the fate of the Highbury housing development is still uncertain.
In short, Arsenal don't need a one-man show at board level, since it would just be a clash of heads with Wenger.
Gooners's View would like to thank Zip, Khalid and Ankush for their time. Until next time, keep it Goonerish!!