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It's Going to be a Big Season For....

The final focus in the It`s Going to be a Big Season For… series concentrates on an area of the pitch subject to intense scrutiny for Arsenal. When conducting his diagnosis for last season, Wenger glibly outlined, "We conceded 41 goals last season. That is too much if you want to win the championship." Though I`m not convinced the defence itself is the root cause as such; the whole team`s commitment to the darker arts is questionable at best. Even in the Celtic game on Sunday, despite holding a slender one goal advantage, Celtic players still regularly outnumbered red shirts in our own penalty area. The problem is more of a collective one; the midfield`s commitment to helping out the back four verges on disgrace at times- Steven Pienaar`s goal at the Grove in January comes to mind when he was the only outfield player in our half of the pitch. The team needs to take a pride in clean sheets even when games are won; in short, if they don`t start gulping down their vegetables, there will be no creamy peppercorn steak come May.

Arsenal`s defence undergoes a facelift this summer, with experienced campaigners Gallas, Silvestre and Campbell riding off into the sunset, along with the forgotten man Philippe Senderos. The goalkeeper situation also seems destined to alter in one way or another, but so far the only acquisition has been Laurent Koscielny, whilst Johan Djourou has returned to fitness and Harvard Nordtveit returns from loan. With the back line shorn of numbers and experience and new faces still set to arrive we are reliably informed, the burden of responsibility at the back will fall with Thomas Vermaelen. A year after arriving in England, he now finds himself as our most senior centre half. He certainly impressed last year with his all action displays, though that is not to say there isn`t room for improvement. For a start, he could probably do with learning that, since we play with three strikers already, we don`t really need nor want him bombing into the opposition area every minute of the game. (I am minded of the Liverpool home game in February, where he stupidly decided to career into Liverpool`s six yard area in injury time whilst Arsenal protected a slender lead).

That sort of discipline will be particularly important against the likes of Chelsea and United. Drogba and Rooney are incredibly efficient strikers and both gave Vermaelen a torrid time last season. I find it utterly amazing that Gooners were so willing to gleefully single out Senderos as the only defender ever to get a hard time from Drogba, when Tommy saw Drogba celebrate four goals against him last season, whilst he also scored an own goal trying to prevent Drogba. Vermaelen had the luxury last season of being given an easy time by supporters for such indiscretion because he was new and an expensive signing, that honeymoon period will start to end now and supporters will be unlikely to forgive him so easily this season. (See Arshavin, Andrey for details). Vermaelen also had a habit sometimes of getting too tight to attackers, which sometimes saw him concede unnecessary fouls.

However, largely Vermaelen`s first season was very impressive and he will need to build on that this term by making the relevant improvements. But now he will also be required to show something more. He will need to lead and cajole at the back and step into the role Gallas was filling last season; he goes from junior partner to senior executive. That he has experience as captain of Ajax suggests he has the cajouns to do it. There was much to suggest in his robust play last year that he shows signs of leadership and solidarity; as someone you can go to war with. Now he will be required to bring those qualities to the fore and I am sure that the manager will have already had this discussion with him. Indeed, the amount of times Vermaelen has appeared with the captain`s armband strapped to his arm in pre season is an indication that the manager is looking to stretch his responsibilities, it`s up to the Verminator to show he can handle them.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday August 3 2010

Time: 11:02AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Nice read Tim. I thought TV5 was outstanding last year and was worth every penny of his transfer fee. At the start of the season he treated every goal conceded as a personal insult, and seemed to launch into a tirade with himself. As the season wore on, and we conceded 'stupid' goals at an alarming rate, he just shrugged his shoulders in acceptance of the mistakes being made by people around him. I think he will be even better this year as we ask more of him and add to his ' job spec '. It is imperative that he stays fit, as we are just not as solid without him.
Cockney Rich
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03/08/2010 11:29:00

The Verminator is going to be an absolutely key figure in our team this time around. A lot of responsibility indeed is on him. If another experienced and good CB signing is made some of the pressure can be delegated from TV's shoulders.
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03/08/2010 11:32:00

He's going to have to be at his very best if we're to do well this season. He's going to have a lot more responsibility on his shoulders, but that said, he seems to have that steely look about him that suggests he will relish the challenge. Agree with you as well about him bombing forward. Although I know it's wrong, it still brings a smile to my face (until we concede from it of course).
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03/08/2010 11:32:00

For the 3 guys in the series; I am backing Nasri to the absolute hilt to really turn it on this season, I'm confident in Vermaelen but not so sure about Vela.
Little Dutch
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03/08/2010 11:42:00

I'd say Vermaelen, Nasri then Vela. But my guess is based soley on one season. Vermaelen never gives up, even when he isn't playing well he still gives 110%, Sami can sometimes go missing. I hope he resolves this, but as of right now I'll say our own nutcase will be the big shot of the three. That said I still have high hopes for them all and really think Vela will play a decent part this season.
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03/08/2010 11:46:00

LD, I have it on VERY good authority that Vela will be STARTING at Anfield. He will play up top with Chamakh, with Theo and Nasri as the wide boys. The bench is where you will find AA23 come sunday 15th August.
Cockney Rich
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03/08/2010 11:47:00

41 goals is a lot to concede but we've ended higher having conceded more and lower having conceded less. Wenger is clearly looking for different qualities in defenders than the general perception of a huge dominating centre back heading and belting every ball into the box over the halfway line. For us it seems defenders have to be able to keep possession as well as clean sheets. The way we play we are always likely to concede a goal but its about controlling the game at key stages. We don't yet do that well enough and those are the decisions in reading the pattern, and changes in the pattern of play that TV and others have to learn to call correctly. But someone has to take the responsibility to organise it during a game. Gallas lost the motivation to do it Sol had the authority but no longer the legs. Maybe TV has the character - if he also has the nous then he'll find the authority.
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03/08/2010 12:17:00

In a nutshell
Little Dutch
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03/08/2010 13:24:00

My fellow Arsenal fans keep overlooking the absolute champion we have at our disposal, yes Vela has some cheeky chips and looked like he grew a pair for the world cup, Nasri might be on the verge of becoming the guy pundits use when they label a prospect 'the next...' and what if vermaelen is the guy from terminator salvation? I sit here in my number 27 shirt asking who danced after scoring against bolton? who speaks korean? who moonlights as gunnersaurus for some extra giggles before a game? WE ONLY CAME TO SEE EBOUE!
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03/08/2010 15:09:00

"Who speaks Korean?" - I still laugh everytime I see that video!!
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03/08/2010 17:32:00

I think hes a good player, but im not sure hes in the class of Gallas, Ferdinand, Vidic or even Terry and Carvalho in their prime. If Wenger doesnt buy a top Centre half or 3 then i'd be amazed, you're weak at the back as it is and possibly in net. An injury to Song your only protector then your season is gone
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03/08/2010 22:59:00

I think it would be a big mistake to have Arshavin on the bench at Anfield. Come on, it's Arshavin at Anfield.
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04/08/2010 01:43:00

Yep - a lot of defending to be done seeing as usual you have bought nobody and are in danger of slipping out of the Top 4 now that Spurs and City are pretty sure to be in there.
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04/08/2010 12:13:00

HuddersfieldYiddo ...Ferdinand and Terry? Boring McSlowfarts at the back. They are both very average and over-rated defenders. Gallas and Vidic are good and i see Verm becoming as good, if not better.
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05/08/2010 07:44:00

tough read...a lot of over analysis there. Problem is Vermaelen at times looks as if he ain't come to terms with the prem. Ferd & Terry are getting slow, but there knowledge in the prem makes them great organiser - in the Prem (How much would you love to have a paceless Adams or Keown back FuiKaka?). Look at the difference Campbell made when he came in and it was all down to him organising he back four better. A smart buy would be the likes of Hangeland, Dawson, Yobo, Cahill... but these days Wenger doesn't make too many smart buys!
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05/08/2010 08:35:00

pancake, you are not a supporter of this club and nobody is forcing you to read. Although being a bloghead you cant help reading anything related to our club.
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05/08/2010 10:20:00

It will be interesting to see how TV5 will hold up considering now for all intents and purposes, he is our most senior CB and our defensive leader (I dont count Djourou because of his injury record and lack of playing time). I think he will do yet another stellar job for us at the back this season and I just hope that Koscielny is the right kind of defensive partner to complement TV5's defensive capabilities.
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05/08/2010 12:26:00

Pancake has a point. Individually Vermaelen is a very good defender, however he lacks the ability to organise a defence. Every defence needs a defender who organises it and/or a goalkeeper that can command it. At the moment Arsenal have neither.
Jimmy the Saint
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05/08/2010 12:31:00

After 4 years of playing at the Emirates Stadium why do you still refer to it as "the Grove". Selling the naming rights to fund new stadiums is a modern reality and is nothing to be ashamed of. Get over it !!!
Jimmy the Saint
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05/08/2010 12:47:00

Sorry i know ENglish players are on the whole overrated, but certainly 2 years ago Terry and Ferdinand were as good as anybody at the back, they are still excellent players
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05/08/2010 16:20:00

Jimmy, that airline doesn't pay me to advertise its wares, so I won't give it free advertising.
Little Dutch
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05/08/2010 21:14:00

Huddersfield - I feel Feridand has never been an 'excellent' players, always found him over-rated. Vermaelen is still young and i think his 'commanding' presence will (like it does for everyone else) come in time. He is a very talented and very skilled young defender and if someone offered to swap him for Ferdinand or Terry i'd say be saying something along the lines of 'get fkd' and i am English. I think it's good to see defenders pushing forwards from time to time. So sick of the boringness and uncreativness of English defenders. They give nothing going forward.
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09/08/2010 05:44:00


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