Sunday, 10 August 2014

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Match Preview + Vermaelen thoughts


The FA Community Shield tends to be overrated. It doesn't equal to the glories of lifting the Premier League, or even the Capital One Cup. But for a club like Arsenal, one on the verge of becoming an English elite, this trophy remains important.

In all honesty, we presently aren't a big club. Sure, we have a proud history, a fantastic stadium, global reach and Champions League (let's face it, Besiktas is ideal); but we aren't there yet. We're severely lacking in trophies and still have issues to sort before having a crack at the Premier League. We're still backed with terrible odds despite having a better squad on paper and critics still back us for a third place finish.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Since winning the FA Cup we've made really good progress. Wenger has bought replacements nice and early and added the peeling pace and the fine finishing of Alexis. From what I hear, Shad Forsythe is given space on the training ground, which would mean lesser rigorous training sessions, and lesser injuries. We have a quality team that only lacks quantity in defence and one decent, if not excellent DM. We're knocking on the door.

Currently, we're not in the bracket of 'best', but we're on the way. Winning the FA Community Shield would only further that cause.

We've had a rather good few months. There's the obvious beginning at Wembley, when we came over Hull. Then there was the good proactive business. Adding to that were some backroom changes which could only help the club, since the likes of Colbert were doing a bang-up job. There have been improvements on and off the pitch, and the word is understandably increasing that winning the Cup was the sort of 'beginning of an era' moments everyone longed for. Capping that with a trophy will lift spirits really high.

We have a good chance of doing that as well. Arsenal may be missing their German contingent, but Manchester City are missing seven first teamers. Like Arsenal, they too will be facing a defensive shape-up. Crucially, they won't be taking this match seriously.

We need to take this match seriously. Not because it is our only realistic chance of winning a trophy this season, but because it would be the end of the beginning of a new era. This Shield under our belts won't be one to brag about, but it might give us a psychological edge since signing Ozil.

Come on Arsenal.

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I always thought Vermaelen was remarkably professional throughout his dry spell at Arsenal. However, even though the Mertesacker-Koscielny axis were undoubtedly better than him, I still feel that Vermaelen was treated rather harshly by the club. Instead of rotating Vermaelen with Mertesacker and Koscielny from time to time, Wenger made the wrong decision of overplaying both of them until one of them (Koscielny) got injured, and then just slotted Vermie in his place. It's this kind of man managing that makes people feel unwanted at the club. Him being the skipper just added insult to injury.

I don't think many realize how close Podolski was to leaving Arsenal. In Wenger's mind Podolski was a second choice left winger, so he always played Santi Cazorla above Lukas. He chose to overplay Santi and make Podolski unhappy than to rotate both of them and leave both relatively content. Podolski ultimately decided to stay because Walcott and Chamberlain got injured and the German was given a slot on the left wing, and Cazorla shifted to the right.

The game goes with Fabianski, and may apply to Ospina in the future. My point is, that all of us want quality in depth, and Wenger finally has that. But what's the virtue in having depth if the manager doesn't use it? The reason for depth isn't only so that we'd have good backup if a player gets injured. It's so that players are rested, the team gets new dimensions and the squad as a whole can survive the rigours of a 50+ game campaign.

Wenger has always praised his egalitarian squad. However, he needs to use his players more often, so that they don't leave out of unhappiness. Lack of playing time is why Vermaelen and Fabianski left, and why Podolski, Ospina or Monreal may leave in the future.

Play your best players for the best matches, but use your depth for less important matches. Everybody wins.

P.S. Apologies for the sparse blogging, but I fear it will continue over the course of a few months. Instead, you could check out my upcoming articles on Crazy About EPL, Arse Talks, Brangled Minds, Soccer Fanbase and Arsenal Banter.

For all my English readers, have a great day at Wembley!

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]