As Arsene Wenger and his men are diverting their attention to the Premier League with a home tie against West Brom, the men at the back line have been saying a thing or two. The club was labeled as a ''crisis outfit'' after suffering that humiliating defeat at the hands of Manchester United, but the tides have turned for the men from North London.
Starting with the last line of defense, Wojciech Szczesny has declared that Arsenal can win everything thanks to the club's current form but he also expressed his disgust as the red-hot Robin van Persie missed out on the 23-man FIFA Golden Ball list that was dominated with those aliens from Planet Catalunya.
I can understand Szczesny's confidence in the team but I'll keep my fingers crossed on such an issue untill the business end of the season (March/April/May). As for van Persie's omission, I'm quite bewildered and perplexed that a striker who scored 33 goals in 37 games in this calendar year could be overlooked when the pictures he painted in 2011 were too glaring to see. I believe that this won't faze Arsenal's talisman who marked his 50th Champions League appearance for the club in Tuesday's draw against Marseille.
English football is indeed very different but I’m adapting well, I’m getting used to playing more at the back and reading the game better. But I will still go forward if I have the opportunity.
I think all our new signings integrated really well into the team, the squad is of high quality and I hope to make a difference to Arsenal’s campaign.
The top four is where Arsenal deserves to be. It’s an excellent club, one that has been home to many great players, with an outstanding manager and a great squad.
I hope we can improve with every round to climb the table and keep pushing forward.
Andre Santos has made the gooners forget about Gael Clichy and the fact that Kieran Gibbs has matured as a player clearly means that Santos can't afford to become complacent. Arsene Wenger also had some nice words to say about his new signing:
I am happy when he has the ball. I feel personally he is much better defensively than many people think.
He is getting stronger in every game. He is a very intelligent boy who learns very quickly and obviously he has to adapt to the pace of the English game. That is not easy, to play game after game.
There was so much talk about his defensive frailties when he joined the club from Fenerbahce, but the Brazilian has made some inch-perfect tackles that helped the cause of most of the games he has played this season. His performance in the match against Chelsea in Stamford Bridge was top-notch and with Kieran Gibbs still having fun with Arsenal's physios, Andre Santos will maraud the left flank week in week out.
To the center-back position, Laurent Koscielny has promised to work very hard to win a place on the French team because the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine are just around the corner. Koscielny has been very impressive in Thomas Vermaelen's absence and he has even overshadowed Arsenal's newbie Per Mertesacker at the back.
However, he's living the dream of a place in Laurent Blanc's XI:
Like all the French players, I dream of the 2012 European Championship.
I know that I need to keep being good to keep being called up. I have been in the squad a few times which shows that I'm on the good path. Now I need to work harder because I haven't had my first cap yet.
If it comes one day, it's because I would have deserved.
Thomas Vermaelen is another defender whose return to first-team action has been a breath of fresh air to everyone concerned about Arsenal. He has told the media Vultures that he’s feeling great and he has dismissed claims of Arsenal being a one-man club by saying that the team can score goals without the lethal hit man called Robin van Persie.
Arsenal played without the striker for an hour when they hosted Marseille and the fans cried out to the manager to unleash the beast but Marseille’s resolute defending was enough for both sides to share the spoils.
Vermaelen is regarded as Arsenal’s star defender and is guaranteed his first-team place with either Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miquel or Sebastien Squillaci (*gulps*) but the Belgian commander has said that all centre backs must gel together:
You have to pair with everybody. It doesn’t matter for me who is playing or who I am playing with, we know each other’s qualities and we know that because we are training every day with each other.
It is up to the boss because he makes the selection of who is going to play. It was the first time for me and I haven’t been training with him a lot – maybe once for a few minutes. For me, it is not a problem.
I watched him play alongside Koscielny and I have a good idea of his qualities and what he is like as a player. You have to be professional enough to cope with that.
You can’t fault Vermaelen’s professionalism in his approach to who he intends to play with, but it seems as if Mertesacker might get the nod above Kos to partner Vermaelen, and I’m positive that this will be good for Arsenal’s defense because every player in that department will have to be on their toes.
Andrey Arshavin was a creative force alongside Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal last season but his form has waned badly this season. The Little Russian was quick to admit that he has been ‘'average'’ this season:
Speaking honestly, I think my performances for Arsenal have been average, I've done some good things, but I don't assess my game on goals or assists. I look at the whole picture.
Normally when I'm on the pitch I take control of the game but I haven't really done that here.”
I'm an extra tool in the team rather than the main one, so it's been difficult.
That last sentence paints the picture vividly for everybody to see. Arshavin has been reduced from a regular starter to an impact sub and it was caused by no one else but the diminutive forward. In his early Arsenal career, Arshavin was never afraid to take on a player or two as well as shoot the ball from impossible angles but his confidence has been dented a bit since the arrival of Gervinho.
He has already gotten on the score sheet twice this season and the Arsenal faithful are hoping that he’ll step his game up pretty soon. Tales are emerging that a new contract is on the cards for Arshavin and that might just be the lift he needs to propel his Arsenal career.
Let’s not forget that this was the same Arshavin that banged in four at Anfield two years ago, slammed in that belter in Old Trafford last year as well as other great strikes in the two-and-half years he has spent in Arsenal. Form is temporary but class is permanent.
In other news, Gervinho has tipped the (Bio)Hazard of Eden to be a big hit in the Premier League and he has also appealed for his former teammate to join him at Arsenal. I’ve seen that bloke play and my word, he’s some player. Arsene Wenger needs to put his money where his mouth is if he really needs Eden Hazard because the young Belgian is in very high demand from the juggernauts of Europe.
Another Arsenal target, Yann M’ Vila, proclaims that he’s determined to impress Arsene Wenger with the hope of securing a move to North London this winter. M’ Vila has been a regular name in Laurent Blanc’s French squad and he’ll certainly add some steel to Arsenal’s midfield.
Pairing up a player like M’ Vila with Alex Song in the middle of the park will be disastrous to most opposing sides but Arsene Wenger has the final say on this matter. FC Cologne has dismissed reports linking their star man Lukas Podolski to Arsenal.
That's a wrap for now.
I want to express my gratitude to the readers that participated in the voting sequence. I'll publish the poll results tomorrow.