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Messi praise highlights Wenger's dilemma
Messi praise highlights Wenger's dilemma
Monday, 5th Jul 2010 20:46

The best player in the world has given Theo Walcott a surprisingly glowing tribute while criticising Capello’s decision to omit him from the England squad.

Barca’s star man said: "I must say that at the time I thought it was a bad decision to leave Theo Walcott at home and I think that has been proved right. I can only speak from experience but he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against.

"Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us. When we were playing Arsenal at the Emirates we were so in control of the game at 2-0, with all respect Arsenal were not even in the game. Then Theo came on and changed the game. He pretty much single-handedly salvaged a draw against Barcelona that night.

"Even in the return leg our manager Pep Guardiola was telling us he was the player to watch out for and the best players in the world like Xavi and Gerard Pique were telling us to watch out for him. The truth is that he really rattled him.

"If he could do that against Barcelona, think what he could have done against Germany and Algeria. Even if he didn't start, he would still have been very important for England.”

Although it would have been a difficult decision for our young winger to accept, his unplanned holiday this summer can only benefit him and the Arse.

He has struggled to maintain fitness since arriving from Southampton over four years ago and hardly featured at all last season. We suffer more than most with injuries for reasons which still appear to be a mystery to our medical team but the combination of the speed of our play and the aggression of other teams must be a factor. Theo is the perfect example of this as he frequently reaches the ball a fraction of a second before the opponent and will end up in a heap on the floor in most matches he plays. However, it is this pace which causes the fear in opponents that Messi describes as it puts teams on the back foot and gives us more space to play. Unfortunately the rest of his game has not improved to the extent that Wenger would have been hoping, leaving his career on a knife edge. It is a situation replicated by many other players in the squad. They have shown both periods of brilliance and maddening mediocrity. Arguments could be made for wielding the axe through swathes of our squad but equally, arguments could be made for the same players still being capable of establishing themselves as part of a very successful side.

It is hard not to feel optimistic following Messi’s comments as we have a player who caused fear in the best team in the world despite their obvious superiority. Theo has built this aura despite a very hit and miss career to date but it proves his potential. Similarly Andrei Arshavin has had some world class moments but he had a disappointing season. We have potentially world class players throughout the team but for various reasons, usually fitness related, they have not been able to perform to their full capability. The signs ahead of the new campaign are promising as only Robin van Persie has had significant game time at this world cup and he missed most of last season through injury so it could even be beneficial to his health although he looks vulnerable to snapping something irreparably whenever he winds up one of his impossibly powerful strikes.

The improving injury situation and the potential of our squad means that Wenger will be reluctant to spend where it is not necessary but another season marred by injuries or players struggling for form will derail our challenge again. The signs are that the manager will largely maintain his faith in the squad and only invest where it is definitely necessary. Unfortunately we could still be relying on luck as the season progresses even though the manager has the opportunity to stack the odds more heavily in his favour by investing surplus cash this summer. It is a precarious situation but comments like Messi’s can push you closer to Wenger’s utopian world where the Arse are on the verge of unprecedented domination.

However, if Campbell, Gallas and Silvestre are only replaced by £10 million target Koscielny, the new season will start with an audible uncertainty in the stands.

Photo: Action Images



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