Arsenal are sat in 3rd place in the Premier League with a point over the chasers of Newcastle and Tottenham. I don’t think Chelsea are competitors for 3rd spot despite playing Liverpool and Blackburn in their last two games and I’m confident that Arsenal will not be fighting for 4th spot. Arsenal have been in this situation before, a couple of games to go and not guaranteed Champions League football but the crucial difference between 05/06 and this year is that it is in our hands.
Two wins guarantee us 3rd spot and with Newcastle having two difficult fixtures and Tottenham having at least one difficult fixture compared to Arsenals, on paper, easy two we might not even need 6 points but we shouldn’t rely on other teams dropping points. If they do it’s a Brucie but the teams main focus must be a win against Norwich followed by a bitter farewell for the new England boss away at West Brom.
I am certain that we will do the business so am already looking forward to next season.
Next season I think will be a good one. I’m looking forward to our 10-cum-9 striker slotting in goals with his sweet left foot, drifting in from the left using his intelligence and superb first touch to compensate for his lack of pace, although he is still quite pacy, to make a mockery of opposition defences.
I’m sure I’ll bear witness to a few excellent right-footed goals and headers too. I’m hoping he does well at the Euros, stays fit and comes back in good form. If I’m lucky I might see him partnering Robin Van Persie too.
Hold on. Wait a second. Did you think I was waxing lyrical about Captain VanTastic? No silly. I was talking about Lukas Podolski.
When just describing their effect on the pitch it is very easy to confuse the two and it has led to many Gooners understandably being worried that Lukas is a direct replacement for Robin Van Persie. I blogged earlier this year about why I think Robin will stay and I haven’t changed my mind on that.
The similarity in player should not worry Arsenal fans, it should excite them. Imagine two Robin Van Persies. Or at the very least imagine RVP at his best and an RVP almost at his best. Podolski is that player. I don’t think he is as good as Robin but he certainly has the potential to be as potent for Arsenal.
Their similarity in playing style could lead many to think they are brothers. I wouldn’t be surprised (along the Star Wars theme) if Robin turned out to be Lukas’ dad!
When you have a player like Van Persie and you play the system Arsenal plays you cannot sign a player in the same position unless you plan to change your system, keep your new signing on the bench or upset your existing star by dropping them to the bench too regularly.
Wenger is not going to change his system and he certainly isn’t going to keep a player of Podolski’s talents on the bench. No. What Wenger has shrewdly done is sign a player that has the ability and emotional disposition to play in a variety of positions.
This bodes well for Arsenal on many levels because although we have some fantastically talented players we have very few versatile players and regardless of the versatility of your players you need them to have the emotional disposition to play where they are asked. A great example of this is Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin.
Theo Walcott is much maligned for his end product which is deceivingly good although the boo-boys will stick their fingers in their ears and shout LALALALALALA until they are blue in the face when you put forward the hard facts about Theo, our second most productive player this season in terms of goals and assists.
Theo, as we all know, is not a natural winger but he gets on with it and does the best he can as a right forward (he doesn’t really even play in a natural wing position but the point is valid) and he tries hard for the team. He has the emotional disposition to play to the best of his ability in a position that he feels doesn’t get the best out of him or one that he doesn’t like.
Andrey on the other hand is a natural number 10. He is designed to play in the hole and pull all of the strings and dictate play. He plays as a left forward in the main for Arsenal and you can see by his body language that he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to track back or ping in crosses, he wants to be arriving in the box to score goals or threading through balls and he became despondent when forced to play out wide.
Arshavin does not have the emotional disposition to play for the team. Don’t get me wrong, he is a fabulous player and a great team player, not too selfish but not too giving but only on his terms.
Lukas Podolski is someone who is just as happy, confident and effective on the left wing or on the left of a front three as he is as the number 10 or the number 9. This is crucial for Arsenal because we’ve potentially solved the problem of just relying on RVP for goals without creating any new problems with RVP going into the last year of his contract.
Lukas can play through the middle when needed so can give RVP a rest or allow us to substitute him more when we are winning comfortably. He can score goals from any of the left-sided positions he can play alleviating the pressure on Robin to be the goalscorer and gives our other players another pass option rather than just looking for Van Persie.
The amount of times Gervinho has been in a decent scoring position but the ball has been passed to Robin because the player knows Robin has a better chance of tucking it away from the middle of a crowd than Gervinho does in front of an open goal cannot be counted.
Van Persie will still be the main man and doesn’t need to worry about competition for his place and we have someone who can replace Robin when he is tired or not fit. Chamakh and Park were never going to be those players.
Looking forward to next season and all other transfer targets aside because I think in Podolski we have the solution to our main problem. Our first choice defence is pretty decent, Mertesacker is a great player to have battling with Koscielny so I’m not as desperate to see Vertonghen join as much as I would have been this time last year.
Our midfield is very good with some excellent young prospects that will try to break through next year as well as the return of Jack so I see no need to spend £20m+ on M’Vila who may be a good player but still does not dominate an inferior league, is a defensive(!) midfielder, likes to assault people and gets mugged off by prostitutes.
That sort of off the field record at only 21 years of age coupled with his inability to dominate Ligue 1 doesn’t inspire me to will Wenger to spend a reported £20-25m on him. I’d much rather have a player like Dempsey or Cabaye for £10m.
So looking forward I think our big challenge next year is going to be staying as close to City and United as we can moving into the latter stages of 2012/13. I think we’ll do well in the cups but the league has to be our main aim and not just finishing in the champions league spots.
I actually think finishing in the top 4 next season will be easier than this year because I don’t see us in a battle for 3rd or 4th as I think Liverpool and Chelsea will make big strides to strengthen as will Spurs, and Newcastle will sign a couple more gems (they’ve been my stand out team this season). All of those teams will have to re-gel and that will take its toll.
I personally think whoever out of those teams finish above Newcastle next season will take 4th. So our job is to make sure we are challenging to force the Mancs to finish 3rd and hopefully 2nd behind us.
City are going to spend big again this summer because they will not want to go through the type of season they are having now again and if they miss out on the league which I still think they will then they will double their efforts to strengthen again.
Our battle with City next season is going to be like that of the rebels versus the evil Galactic Empire. The Empire has vastly more resources than us rebels and have easily turned our players to the dark side in the past (Na$ri, Clichy, Toure, Adebayor) but we have the players to tip the balance Anakin Van Persie and his son Lukas Podolskywalker, Chewbacary Sagna, C3Theo, Ben-ayoun Kenobi (possibly, he did die in the first(4th) film) and Lando CalWilsheran to name a few.
The Empires reach may be great and their power immeasurable but it is not absolute. The rebel alliance has sympathisers all over the galaxy and there are many who would like to join our cause. Our dissent will be a cause of annoyance to the Empire to start with and as the season enters its 2nd third and final third we will be of great concern to the Empire.
The Empire will strike back and will try to squash our attempt to overthrow them (January transfer window) but we will remain strong and will penetrate their defences and expose their weaknesses.
I’ve seen enough this season to think we can compete again with a strong start and more goal threat options and with just the addition of Podolski I am certain that can be the case.
May the Fourth not be with us but may the force be strong in us in the final two games against Norwich and WBA and for next season.
Written by Daniel Cowan
Follow me on Twitter @thedanielcowan
Check out his excellent blog, North London Is Red
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