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8

“I don’t think I played well enough. I wasn’t very good but it’s always nice to get a hat-trick. I thought I should have kept the ball better.”

Most players would be satisfied at scoring a hat-trick, but Dan Crowley, speaking after Arsenal’s 4-3 defeat against Anderlecht in the UEFA Youth League this week, was adamant that there is room for improvement in his game.

That is the very nature of Crowley. The diminutive midfielder, despite being one of the club’s most promising players, is always looking to develop further.

Just four days prior to the Anderlecht game, Crowley had delivered a virtuoso performance, particularly in the second-half, as Arsenal U21s were held to a goalless draw by Blackburn Rovers. Crowley did everything in his power to attempt to score and came perilously close to making the breakthrough on several occasions.

Unlike some of his team-mates at youth level, Crowley is yet to be called up for the first-team, even for a friendly, and doesn’t regularly train with Arsene Wenger’s squad.

However, particularly if he keeps his humble attitude intact, he will get to the top eventually. His game intelligence and ability to pick a pass is far superior to many of the other players playing at U21 level, for Arsenal or other clubs.

Most at home as a playmaker in the number ten position, Crowley has tended to be deployed on the left flank for Arsenal U21s this season. Although it is not his best position, the 17-year-old has still delivered some excellent performances, frequently roaming inside to devastating effect.

Crowley enjoyed a stellar pre-season that was saw him score several goals. That proved to be a pre-cursor for when the real action got underway, with the former Aston Villa player having scored five times so far this campaign.

One element of concern regarding Crowley is the regularity with which opponents are quick to lunge in on him with rather dangerous challenges when they are unable to rob him of possession.

Crowley has drawn comparisons to Jack Wilshere owing to his style of play, but the similarities do not end there. As Wilshere has a tendency to do, Crowley is also unafraid to offer his opinions on matters to team-mates and referees alike and is certainly one of the more vocal Arsenal youngsters on the pitch.

Off the pitch, however, to judge from the aforementioned quote, Crowley is very much aware that hard work and dedication are needed to achieve success. At Crowley’s age, Wilshere was already a regular fixture in the first-team. There is no rush, though, for Crowley to follow in Wilshere’s footsteps. He will get there eventually and, to judge from his performances in the opening months of the campaign, it would be preferable to allow him to develop and learn in the youth teams this season rather than rushing him into the senior squad.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

 

 

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46

If you’re not already sitting down, Arseblog News suggests you assume the position and brace yourself.

Why? Well, it seems that some ruffian punched Robert Pires in the face. Yes, his beautiful face.

As you know, Pires is playing in the Indian Super League for Goa, and in a game against Atletico de Kolkata,  as the teams went down the tunnel for half-time, their coach, Antonio Lopez Habasas, jabbed Bobby right in the mush.

Goa coach Zico said, “One of our players said that he was beaten by the coach of the other team Pires said he was punched on the face by the Atletico coach and it is very shameful.

“I am telling you what my players told me and I didn’t see that myself but I don’t think that Pires will lie and say something that didn’t happen.”

What an absolute rotter this Antonio Lopez Habasas character is. The kind of man who wouldn’t enjoy being snorfled by a puppy, we bet.

What kind of sick world are we living in when people try to destroy all that is beautiful? We need to lie down.

#pray4bobbysface

Arsene Wenger says he can only admire Abou Diaby’s professionalism in light of the horrific injuries that have plagued his career at Arsenal.

Revealing the 28-year-old is currently ruled out with a calf problem, the boss lamented the knock on effects of the broken ankle inflicted on his compatriot by Sunderland’s Dan Jones in May 2006.

“He is not in the squad because he has a small calf problem,” explained Wenger ahead of another trip to the Stadium of Light.

“He has little injuries at the moment, never anything bad, but he has been out for such a long time that when he plays it takes him a long time to recover.

“It’s much worse for Abou compared to Theo [Walcott] who has not gone through so many injuries. You wonder where Abou gets the strength to come back and work harder and harder and harder.

“When you come in in the morning he’s already in the gym to prepare. He has done extremely well – you cannot fault his attitude at all. You can only admire him for that. He is always in my mind. His first injury at Sunderland in the last minute – that was a huge blow in his career.”

The boss also took time to praise another of Arsenal’s ACL survivors, Theo Walcott, as the England man closes in on a first team action for the first time since 4 January.

After missing the Gunners FA Cup success and the World Cup, as well having off field issues ot contend with, the boss said of the winger.

“He had a very difficult time. He’s a very polite and social guy, but behind that, he’s mentally strong as well.

“For what he has gone through in the last nine months, you gain even more respect for him, because he had some difficult times and always responded very positively. He’s got a young baby, where they had some problems, but he has done extremely well.”

Walcott isn’t expected to take part this weekend, but the boss did suggest he could get game time next week.

Laurent Koscielny’s chronic ankle tendinitis means he’s likely to spend another month on the sidelines.

The French international hasn’t featured for the Gunners since the defeat at Chelsea on 5 October and Arsene Wenger says he’s not expecting to see the centre-back back in action until late November.

The Gunners face Sunderland, Burnley, Anderlecht and Swansea City in that time before taking on Manchester United on 22 November after the international break.

Speaking at his weekly press conference ahead of the trip to the Stadium of Light, the boss revealed:

“I cannot give you any date because we go day by day with him. He may be available after the next international break.”

Given the nature of the problem Arsenal aren’t considering surgery at this point – we’d probably amputate his arms by accident – but it’s clear this is going to be an ongoing problem that could well have long-term implications for the Mertescielny ‘axis of awesome’.

Nacho Monreal has been selected to play in the centre of the defence for the last two games and it’s pretty obvious he’s not comfortable there. Calum Chambers is the other viable option, except that means playing Hector Bellerin at right-back. Two teenagers in an already shaky backline is a obviously a risk.

We’re in a pickle. A pickle that was oh so predictable…

Theo Walcott training

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news and Jack Wilshere will miss the trip to Sunderland through suspension, having picked up five yellow cards. Aside from that, there are no fresh problems from the midweek trip to Anderlecht.

The manager also revealed he’s considering a return for Theo Walcott, although he seems inclined to give him a bit more time, saying, “I’m not sure about involving Theo. Certainly next week. He has to get used to contact again. It takes time to get used to being kicked again.”

Walcott joked last week about being booted around the training pitch by Mathieu Flamini, but given the Frenchman’s recent form he probably missed him anyway.

The England winger has been out of action since January after rupturing his cruciate ligament, but after a good period in full training and 45 minutes for the U21s against Blackburn last week, he’s on the cusp of a first team action

Meanwhile, there are still concerns of the seriousness of Laurent Koscielny’s injury, leaving Arsene Wenger with a decision to make about who plays alongside Per Mertesacker at centre-half.

Nacho Monreal has started the last two games, but struggled in an unfamiliar role, so the manager may consider using Calum Chambers and handing another start to Hector Bellerin.

Per Mertesacker says he is struggling to kick-start his season after the drama of winning the World Cup this summer.

Pleased that he’s managed to stay fit so far, despite a dearth of pre-season playing time, the 30-year-old said he’s fighting hard to stay motivated as he comes to terms with the achievements of the German national team.

Speaking to the Evening Standard after last night’s fortunate 2-1 victory over Anderlecht the Gunners vice-captain, who retired from international duty after his exploits in Brazil, gave a brutal assessment of his own form claiming something is ‘missing’.

“For me, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year and to come back from that World Cup and get the motivation back… I am nearly back but you can feel there is something missing.

“With those games, the belief and the mentality is there but the motivation will come back. We didn’t even have time to celebrate (the World Cup win) properly, that was the first thing. But you realise month after month what happened. Maybe in five or 10 years you can really realise what was going on there. We came back to Berlin, got on the stage, waved our hands, showed the World Cup and then everyone disappeared to their families to get some holidays, some rest, calm.

“That was really difficult, to get into a proper holiday. The restart is more in your head than anything else. That was really a problem. But I am happy not to have picked up an injury yet and I am confident that I have already been through the dangerous period. I am really happy that I am fit and ready for the proper fight during the winter period.

“It is harder mentally because I  started literally when the season started. I have never experienced that. It is at least two or three weeks before the season started, usually, but we had already won a cup, the Community Shield, and I wasn’t there at that time, I was still on holiday. That was something really strange for us to think about.”

Accepting that Arsenal’s erratic form has not been good enough this season, Mertesacker insisted that only harder work on the training ground can put things right.

“Everyone knows that it was a difficult start for us and our confidence is not that much how we wanted it. The character is good, the mentality is good but football-wise, we lack a few things. Our passing game is not as efficient as last year. We are not at our best. We have to admit that, be honest with ourselves and train harder.”

Per isn’t the first player to struggle for form and motivation off the back of a World Cup triumph. While we hoped winning the game’s top honour might see him return in high spirits it appears the ‘come down’ on a mental level is proving somewhat more difficult to overcome. As he says, at least he’s still fit…although the fact he sounds surprised is certainly a cause for concern given our lack of options should he pick up a knock.

Fingers crossed the BFG can recover from his funk to find the quality in his game that saw him earn plaudits last term.

Arsene Wenger admits that Lukas Podolski has been frustrated by his lack of game time but insists the German international has an important role to play as the fixtures pile up ahead of Christmas.

The 29-year-old came off the bench to grab a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Anderlecht last night and the boss underlined that his strike wasn’t a coincidence but a demonstration of the player’s qualities.

“He is frustrated and I understand that of course, but he is important and he showed that,” Wenger told press after the game. “He will also be important in the coming months.

“It took him a while to get back to a good physical level [after the World Cup] and now he is nearly there.

“He was never close to leaving. He has 115 caps for Germany. This goal is not a coincidence, that shows you his quality.

“I think he is a guy you want to have the ball in the box. His shot is fantastic, his accuracy is great and he has very short back lift. He nearly scored before and I know when he comes on he can score.”

Obviously delighted with his first goal of the season, and very timely it was too given the abject nature of Arsenal’s performance in Brussels, Podolski stressed that he’ll always back himself to score, especially if the ball falls on his favoured left foot.

“Sometimes you have to be a little bit lucky and today was the day. When the ball is on my left foot I score 99 per cent of the time. It was a good moment for me and the fans because they support me all of the time.”

Eager to stress that it was better to hop home on the Eurostar with a good result, rather than a decent performance, he reflected:

“It was a dramatic game for the fans and for us as well but at the end we have the three points.

“If we lost today it would have been difficult. It was important that we won and went back to London with the three points.

“I hope [we can gain momentum]. We had 25 shots on target against Hull City and we drew. Today was not the best game but it’s important that at the end you get the points and we have the points.

 

“We still have three games left and nothing is certain yet. We have an important game against Anderlecht at home and if we win that then I think we can go through.”

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Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal 2014
6.49

Martinez

7.12

Gibbs

4.22

Monreal

5.30

Mertesacker

4.35

Chambers

3.82

Flamini

3.54

Wilshere

3.57

Ramsey

4.51

Cazorla

8.02

Alexis

4.65

Welbeck

6.5

Martinez

7

Gibbs

4

Monreal

6

Mertesacker

4

Chambers

4

Flamini

3

Wilshere

4

Ramsey

5

Cazorla

7

Alexis

4

Welbeck

We don’t quite know how to react to that one. A terrible Arsenal performance, but in the end a very important three points so we can go on in this competition and lose to somebody good.

Here’s how the players rated. Feel free to add your own ratings and comments below.

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26: Emiliano Martinez

6.5
arseblog
6.5
Readers
Vote:
43

Was mostly untroubled but made a very good save to keep it 1-0, didn't get the protection a young keeper needed but can be ultimately happy enough with his European debut.

24627
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54.204.249.184

3: Kieran Gibbs

7
arseblog
7
Readers
Vote:
23

What a cracking finish for the goal – so good I thought it was Podolski.

24627
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18: Nacho Monreal

4
arseblog
4
Readers
Vote:
14

Poor for their goal, a slip almost cost us another late on, but the reality is he's not a centre-half and he's being asked to do a job he's not comfortable with and play in a position he doesn't understand properly.

24627
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4: Per Mertesacker

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
3

Worked hard to make up for Monreal's shortcomings and those of Calum Chambers who was all over the place tonight. Very switched on from their set-pieces in particular.

24627
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21: Calum Chambers

4
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
35

Ok, the cross for the goal was brilliant but defensively he had a shocker. At times he was nowhere to be seen, others too easily beaten. Not unusual for a young player, of course, but still not his best day.

24627
okbtivgr2lat07fsv77906bpt5
54.204.249.184

20: Mathieu Flamini

4
arseblog
4
Readers
Vote:
16

"Hey midfield enforcer, why don't you do a dummy to nobody and give them back the ball?! Yay!" Can only think the only reason he's starting is because Arteta isn't close to being 100% fit yet, his form is in the toilet and thet toilet is the one from Trainspotting.

24627
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10: Jack Wilshere

3
arseblog
3.5
Readers
Vote:
9

If there was a player to dribble into, he did. If there was an easy pass or an impossible pass, he chose the latter. If there was a chance to overrun the ball, he did that too. A bad night, compounded by him watching their man run past him and then hit the bar just after they'd got their goal.

24627
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54.204.249.184

16: Aaron Ramsey

4
arseblog
3.5
Readers
Vote:
13

"There's only one Aaron Ramsey", went the song last year. But what if there are actually two? One who's great at football and one who's a bit average and the pair of them are taking it in turns to play a season as some piece of elaborate performance art which is going to be released as a film by Joaquin Phoenix? Worth considering.

24627
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19: Santi Cazorla

5
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
15

Had two decent chances, one in the first half that he blazed high, the other in the second when set up by Alexis, but couldn't finish either. We need him to take those chances.

24627
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17: Alexis Alexis

7
arseblog
8
Readers
Vote:
38

He has the fitness of 10 men. Never stops, works hard when he loses it, he might be a bit of a physical freak with his stamina and endurance, but he's an example to the rest of them.

24627
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23: Danny Welbeck

4
arseblog
4.5
Readers
Vote:
39

Not his best night, had a good chance late in the first half but his first touch let him down.

24627
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15: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
12

Not on that long really but played a part in the winning goal.

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28: Joel Campbell

6
arseblog
5.5
Readers
Vote:
33

Looked peripheral really but that was as much down to us as anything else.

24627
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9: Lukas Podolski

7
arseblog
7.5
Readers
Vote:
8

Look at the replays and you'll see what a cracking first touch it was before he smashed the ball home. Was brought on to make an impact, did just that.

Bonus rating: Arsene Wenger's birthday 10/10 - he asked for something jammy and that's exactly what he got.

After watching his side cap his 65th birthday with one of the luckiest wins of his career, Arsene Wenger faced the Sky Sports cameras to discuss the last-gasp 2-1 victory over Anderlecht.

Unsurprisingly, the boss’ focus was more on his squad’s spirit and determination than praise for their technical quality over 90 minutes.

“We looked to control the game in the first half and to control their counter-attacks as well. Slowly in the second half we opened ourselves up, were less cautious defensively and got caught.

“After that the crucial point was, when we were one-nil down, that Anderlecht couldn’t take advantage of their chance to score the second goal.

“We kept going and managed to score two good goals because we had spirit and refused to lose the game. Anderlecht played well tonight and you see that this country [Belgium] produces top class players.

“It was vital [to win] for us to have a chance to qualify [from the group]. We are in a strong position now because Anderlecht and Galatasaray have only one point and we have six and Dortmund nine. It’s down to us now to win our home games and we are through.”

Asked if he was frustrated by the fact his side had to leave it to the last moment to beat opponents, who on paper should have been swatted away with ease, the boss continued:

“Frustration is part of our job. To fight until the last second [is important], we know from experience in the Champions League many goals are scored in the last five minutes. We took advantage of that tonight. We would like to have everybody available, but it’s not always the case.

“When you have the ball, the ball, the ball, the ball and you don’t score and you lose the game, sometimes the confidence drops. It was important for us tonight, after the disappointing result on Saturday [against Hull] to win tonight.

“It’s in our hands [to win the group]. Dortmund will be a tough opponent but you never know. Next they play Galatasaray at home, we play Anderlecht at home. Let’s first qualify then we’ll see how far we can go.”