The Rebuild v.1
One goal was all we would see against Swansea, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t enough.
We’ve had a hard time of it in the last number of weeks and for a while it seemed that all was doom and gloom for Arsenal. We came out of pre-season missing Jack Wilshere to injury and many more would follow leaving us down men as we started in the league. Then there were the suspensions of players Alex Song, Emmanuel Frimpong and Gervinho, each conspired it seemed to keep us from getting a foothold early on. What these injuries and suspensions meant was that we had to play with a significantly weakened first team for our first three matches (and I don’t have to tell you what the results of those matches are, but will say they proved something had to change at Arsenal).
The Rebuild began late in the transfer window and saw some talented players make the move to join our ranks. Due to the international break, yesterday was the first time either of them would have a chance to play for us and show what they can add to the team. I must admit I was a bit worried. The team we have now is quite different than the one we had at United a couple of weeks ago and change isn’t always the easiest thing to come to terms with, but in retrospect I think it the team we fielded worked well: it’s experienced (or a large part of it is), it has more of a defensive backbone even with Vermaelen missing the next month and a half to injury, and it seems to have some guts. Perhaps the new faces have everyone in an Arsenal shirt excited for the future.
As I watched, I began to realize that Mikel Arteta may have come to us late from Everton, but perhaps at just the right time. From the moment the whistle blew he was impressive in his possession of the ball, as well as his keen eye for a pass. I didn’t see him take any real risks in his first game, but he’s still learning how to gel with everyone out on the pitch. He is a set-piece specialist and though his attempts weren’t effective against Swansea, he did at least hit the wall with one free kick (I would have put money on Robin blasting it far overhead). I’d like to see him continue in this role in future games.
Per Mertesacker was a monster at the back. His height is an obvious advantage to his defending, but that’s not what I found most impressive: the German has an amazing positional awareness and knows where he needs to be at all times, which means he’s likely to be a great marker of his man, too. On more than one occasion he stuck incredibly close to his attacker, making a clear shot on goal practically impossible. Late in the game Swansea had us on the ropes for a short period and he could sense each time when a ball was going to be lobbed over the defense. You could actually see him watching and being ready to block the target man, which he did successfully. I wouldn’t have the same faith in Squillaci or Djourou to do this consistently, even though I do like both.
Though Arshavin scored the only goal of the game from a terrible error by the Swansea keeper (and it was a fine finish), he was taken off to give Benayoun his debut in an Arsenal shirt. Benayoun was everywhere on the pitch and seems to have quite a bit of energy to burn. When in possession he is fast and aggressive, looking to make a killer pass and get his teammates into scoring position. I look forward to seeing more from him in the coming weeks as well.
The Rebuild of the Arsenal squad is now in Version 1, the players are still adjusting to each other and have a lot to learn, but it does give hope for supporters. We’ve won one out of four games thus far and the one win we have comes after the new players have been signed and added to the roster. It’s early, but things do seem to be looking up.