This season, we’ve been treated to Arsène Wenger reborn, a Mk.II if you will. Somewhere along the road between the Invincibles season and the end of last, we’ve seen an Arsène who’s more conservative, measured and withdrawn from the media. This year, we get to see and experience more of the boss, as he’s much more open-ended with the fans, and has shown a willingness to change. With a promising preseason, shrewd business and a solid season kickoff, things are looking up as the Arsenal are on the up. The only thing lurking in the distance is le Boss’ contract, which is set to expire in the summer of 2014.
“I have two years to go,” he said. “What is important for me is Southampton [on Saturday] and I think I’ve shown my commitment to this club in the past.
“I’m an Arsenal man and I think I’ve always shown that. I have to consider if I do well or not. If I don’t do well, I have to consider my future.
“I’ve been at the club long enough to have confidence in the people I work with. But I will assess my own performances and then make a decision. At the moment we are not there.
“Two years are a long time in my job. I just want to do well for the club as long as I can and accept all the rest.
“At the moment I am not in the mood to think about the long-term future. We want to do well this season, that’s all.”
For me, this reads as quiet optimism with a hint of humility. He realizes that everyone needs to take a step back and analyze themselves, regardless of how good you are at what you do. Maybe it’s not Arsène who’s the right man for the job in two years, maybe he’s got ten left in the tank. Football is a funny thing, and what seems relevant now may not be in 6 months. The way I see it is Arsène’s here until he’s gone, and until push comes to shove, we shouldn’t worry. The board know he’s one of the best around, so it could all fall to him in terms of what his future holds. He’s been our manager for 16 years, and is pushing 63, so the time may be right. To get an idea of the managers we could be looking at should Arsène take his leave, click here.
Moving onto current events, we take a look at how the international break takes its toll on our roster going into Saturday’s clash with the Saints.
Abou Diaby’s injury is less of a problem than it first seemed, but the club are taking a very cautious approach with his fitness. The magnitude of his potential long-term absence is greater similar to what losing Arteta meant last season. For now, we have the Ox and Francis Coquelin to start in his place, but considering Alex played midweek, it looks as though Coquelin will finally get his chance this season. I can’t say I’m too enthused about having two primarily defensive midfielders in our 2 man midfield pivot, but perhaps Coquelin’s introduction will give Arteta some creative freedom, more like what he did for Everton. Alongside Cazorla, dismantling the opposition’s defense should be a relatively simple task.
Wojciech Szczesny is fit for selection again, but part of me thinks we should stick with Vito Mannone, at least for this match. He’s been solid for us so far, and deserves a fair chance to impress. He’s earned his stripes on loan, but has never been in the first team picture all too regularly. It’s often the quiet ones that surprise you, and Mannone has done just that, with his calm, composed figure in goal. Besides, I don’t think Szczesny has been on the best of form. Couple that with the fact that he’s coming off of an injury means he lacks sharpness, and we all know his concentration levels aren’t great at the best of times. Everybody needs luck to turn in their favor at some point. Szczesny has had his moment in the sun, it’s time to share the opportunities with his teammates.
Theo Walcott will miss the match with an undisclosed virus, while Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna are edging closer to rejoining the first team in training. Emmanuel Frimpong makes his return to full first team training early next week, after recovering from his second cruciate ligament injury.
That’s about it for this post, make sure to revisit the site for AFG’s match preview from our man stationed in Southampton, Zaheer Shah.