Following on from my post last week about the Carling Cup, Arsenal’s latest teen tyro, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, repaid a more significant chunk of his summer transfer fee with an expertly taken goal on his left foot following a good out-to-in run after exchanging 40 yard passes with makeshift centre-half Alex Song. This made him the youngest ever English champion’s league scorer. After a wonderful first twenty minutes, he drifted out of the game following the Olympiakos goal, and his naivety was exposed by the Greek champions on occasions, but he did keep his full-back honest with the occasional run from deep, and a couple of lovely crosses, before tiring and being replaced by Aaron Ramsey.
Certainly on the evidence of his first two performances, an injury free period of solid development should have him as a first team regular and a potential England player in 12-18 months, as his decision making with the ball is very good, and he is strong, fit and quick for his age. His first two starts for the gunners, on the back of two game changing substitute appearances for England U21s, bode very well for the future.
Which cannot be said for Arsenal’s new zonal marking system at set pieces. Not for the first time this season, an opposition goal has been scored despite Arsenal having almost every player back, leaving 9 men in red shirts to look utterly confused. On this occasion it was a run from deep off the back of the ever disinterested Arshavin, but not one player went to challenge for the ball. The problem with having such great numbers positioned within a strict zonal marking system is that too many individuals will pass on responsibility if the ball is within the ‘wrong zone’. Its a level of not-my-job award-ness only secondary to local authority refuse collectors and politicians at a parliamentary enquiry. In all 3 cases, someone needs to take responsibility.
Speaking if responsibility…the fall-out between Roberto Mancini’s scarf policy and Carlos Tevez’s snood addiction has continued. Tevez is a bit of throwback footballer, in that he works his arse off in every game, and cares far more for the affection of the fans than the manager or the people who pay his wages. He also clearly thinks mancini is an arse. Which is view held by pretty much everyone in Italy bar Samp and Inter fans. This is a man so disliked, that an opposition goalkeeper punched him and got suspended for the European Cup final in the 80s, despite being a couple of goals up in the last minute of the semi-final. He’s managed to build a great reputation as a manager, despite only enjoying success at teams where he has had 3 times as much money to spend as every other club in the league. So despite the fact that Tevez is clearly in the wrong in this instance, I really hope City’s reluctance to sell him for a loss in the summer (despite basically having an infinite amount of oil dollars, and having given Craig Bellamy a free after spending £15m on him 2 1/2 years ago) seriously backfires on them.
In other news, Barcelona are still almost invincible, with Messi now their second all-time scorer at the age of 24, Kaka is back for Real Madrid, and Man U’s media sponsored sense of invincibility took a bit of a hit against Basel – though their capacity for last minute goals when they need them remains undiminished. In true french contradictory style, Lille are going well in the league but are dropping easy points in Europe and Marseilles have 2 wins in 2 in Europe despite awful league form.