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Monday, 23 July 2012

Interview with U18 star Kris Olsson | Part II

(If you missed part one, just keep calm and click here). 

RL: You've represented Sweden on numerous occasions. First of all, what is it like playing for your country? Do you feel a different sort of pressure than when you represent Arsenal?

KO: It is great to play for your country. I mean, you represent your own country and it's a big thing every time!

Yes I feel a different sort of pressure. I mean, in Sweden I'm the 'star' - I play for Arsenal whereas everyone else plays for a club in Sweden, apart from two. So it's a different sort of pressure but I love to play for the national team and feel proud every time.

RL: Do you feel you thrive under the pressure of being the 'star' man, or do you sometimes feel it is too much of a burden/responsibility? 

KO: No I like that pressure - I usually play well when I'm under it. Generally, I play quite well for Sweden, so I like it!

RL: Secondly, how different are the philosophies of your Swedish side to that of Arsenal? 

KO: Sweden is not a big footballing country, so we're (the U17s) usually not the best team so it's different. We have some decent players to be fair, but our coach wants me to have the ball a lot and go forward quickly, whereas at Arsenal we should keep the ball etc.

RL: What did you make of Sweden's failings at Euro 2012?

KO: I think the first match was the thing, I mean if you lose to Ukraine, you shouldn't be there. But they played quite well against England and France, I just think they need some new players; some good wingers and centre mids.

RL: That's where you come in! 

Having played for Fulham and Brentford youth teams myself, plus Sunday League, I soon realised that as long as you were big, aggressive and physically imposing, you could get into even the best of sides. Is this similar to youth football in Sweden? Or is there more emphasis on the technical side of the game? 

KO: Yes, that is true, if you are big enough and strong enough you can play for most sides. I was often overlooked for this reason, until I was 15.

RL: Is it true you rejected an offer from Chelsea when you were 13? Legend already!

KO: Haha, no. They wanted me to go on trial but then the boss of youth football at Chelsea said no to all trials at that time - it was something to do with Abramovich's money.

RL: So Chelsea asked you on trial but then their own youth boss said no because of Abramovich's money? 

KO: Yes, exactly. The scout who saw me was Swedish and he sent me all the papers and we were ready to go, but then he said no, the Chelsea youth boss said no because Abramovich said no to all youth trials and tournaments and those kind of things.

RL: That is a quite shocking disregard for youth football. 

Who were the toughest opposition team you've faced?

KO: Southampton in the Marcus Liebherr Cup with the first team. Youth sides - probably the French national team and Chelsea.

RL: Have you had much interaction with Arsene? 

KO: I've talked to him a few times, but we've only ever had one serious conversation!

RL: Who is first to let you know if you've had a bad game, or offer words of advice? 

KO: It used to be Steve Bould, or Liam Brady.

RL: I hear from a reliable source *cough cough Chuba* that Bould once "went mad" at you for pulling out of a challenge in training. (Sorry to embarrass you!)

What are your thoughts on Bould as a coach, and his promotion to assistant manager? 

KO: Haha, yeah! But I really like him, as a coach and outside the pitch. It's a bit sad that he is now in the first team as he was great, but at the same time he knows us all so that is good for the future.

RL: You once went to America to improve your running under the tuition of Michael Johnson. What was that like? Did you feel you improved? 

KO: It was good. A bit different and really challenging! I felt I improved my strength and also got quicker, so yes it helped me.

RL: Last season you were not selected to play any matches for the reserves, while teammates such as Toral, Bellerin and Gnabry were. Do you understand the reasons for your omission? Do you think this year the new reserve team boss Terry Burton will pick you? 

KO: To be fair no, not really, but I mean I didn't play that well in the spring and I was ill and got injured, so that's a reason. But also I think Neil (Banfield) thought I wasn't good enough. I really hope Terry will pick me - that's my target for this year!

(Since speaking to me, Kris made his debut for the reserves in the 3-1 victory over Boreham Wood, scoring a goal in the process). 

RL: Tell me about your experience with the first team at the Marcus Liebherr Cup; how did you feel when you were told the news? 

KO: I was surprised and a bit nervous, but then just happy and of course very proud. Everything happened so quickly, it was just unreal.

RL: Was it a different kind of atmosphere travelling with the first team rather than the U18s? 

KO: No not really! Perhaps it's slightly quieter with the first team, and more computers!

RL: Did you feel confident when stepping up to take your penalty against Southampton? Even though it was a friendly, you must have felt pretty nervous!

KO: No I wasn't nervous at all. I mean, I had no pressure, everything was a bonus. So yes I was quite confident!

RL: Fellow Swede Seb Larsson failed to make his mark at Arsenal despite being highly regarded as a youngster. Do you feel this will be different for you? Why?

KO: Yes he failed here but that was when Arsenal had one of their best ever squads, so it was very difficult to break through. He plays for the Swedish national team and is a good Premier League player now, so I wouldn't say that he failed as a footballer though.

I hope it will be different for me. But it's difficult to make it all the way. I'll just work the hardest I can and with a bit of luck and a bit of quality, you never know! I have the ambition and the determination, plus I'm humble, so I really hope so, but we'll see.

RL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

KO: I hope I'm playing in the first team for Arsenal and Sweden!

RL: You said that Seb Larsson will call you up one day and offer some advice, has he fulfilled his promise?

KO: No not yet!

RL: What are your views on the NextGen series? Of course Arsenal are participating this year, in the same group as Athletic Bilbao, Marseilles and Olympiacos. 

KO: Yes I am looking forward to it. It's going to be brilliant. To play against the best teams and players from your age group is always good and it develops you as a footballer. To get an experience to play in front of a crowd and maybe TV is also good, so yes I am really looking forward to it!

RL: Alban Bunjaku, who Chuba Akpom recently described to me as 'the best' in the team, recently left Arsenal to join Seville. You had a good understanding with each other, and your link up play was excellent at times. What are your thoughts on his departure and his ability in general?

KO: I don't know why he left. He was a good player but played a bit too much for himself. I disagree with Chuba that he was the best - it is Gnabry and Gedion (Zelalem) in my opinion. But he was a nice guy although maybe a bit too quiet! I wish him good luck!

RL: You were signed as a 16 year old for almost £300,000. Does that ever affect you or add pressure for you to perform?

KO: No not really. Well I already feel a bit of pressure by playing for Arsenal, but that's good. As I said earlier, I play better when under pressure!

RL: And finally: It's 2018, and you're playing for the first team against Spurs. It is the last minute, Chuba receives the ball edge of the box, lays it off and you curl it into the top corner. What is your celebration?! 

KO: I'd run to the corner flag where the Arsenal fans are and kiss the badge on my chest, then point my finger to Chuba! (in appreciation)

That sounds like a pretty good celebration, and a good way to end this interview!

Thanks for reading and remember to Follow me on Twitter. It's my birthday tomorrow, so think of it as an early present. 

You can follow Kris, too.

'Till next time. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Report: Arsenal XI vs Boreham Wood - with insight from the players

Akpom scoring his penalty

There were terraces. There were goals. There was a poznan. Yes, you read correctly. The day's conclusion? I'm going again next year.

It was a good day out in sunny Hertfordshire, and it made somewhat of a pleasant change standing on the terraces of the charming Meadow Park, the home of non-league outfit Boreham Wood. It's more up-close and personal - it feels more...real than sitting in the bowl in N5. And more importantly, it was an opportunity for the youngsters who fielded the Arsenal XI to showcase their skills.

I can't say much happened in the opening 45 minutes, other than a very good save from the highly regarded Damian Martinez in goal. It seemed a simple tap-in for the opposition striker, but the keeper spread his body and the ball cannoned off his knee, and out of imminent danger. This was after Boreham Wood took the lead, when Omar Riza - coincidentally a former Gunner - capitalised on some slack defending to head home.

Arsenal XI failed to lodge any sustained periods of pressure, and posed little threat to the Boreham Wood goal. Perhaps they were put off by the Bolo Zenden look-a-like at left back. Kris Olsson was unlucky with a left footed half-volley and Chuba Akpom struck the post on the brink of half time, after cutting inside from the left.

The second half was a different story - the team played with a higher tempo and were generally more composed on the ball. Sanchez Watt - who I thought was disappointing overall - failed to hit the target with a free header, while the impressive Akpom began posing a more serious threat to the Boreham Wood defence. By this point he was playing in a more central position, having played left-wing in the first half. From what I saw today, Akpom is more effective when deployed as a centre forward.

It was he who fell victim to a clumsy tackle in the box, which led to our equaliser. Sanchez Watt stepped up and buried it, and the whole team relaxed and played more coherently together thereafter.

Another penalty followed shortly and Akpom, who was making his debut for the reserves, stepped up and dispatched confidently. His jubilation was evident in his celebration, as he wheeled away into the corner flag. It was a great moment for him and cemented his solid, industrious performance.

The third came thanks to a nonchalant lob over the keeper from Swede Kris Olsson, whose celebration was somewhat muted, as if he was thinking 'whatevs, I do this every day in training'. On the balance of things, I'd say he handled himself pretty well today. Whenever he receives the ball, he's always looking to instigate an attack - he possesses the traits that would make a top playmaker in abundance. At times, though, he was either muscled off the ball or caught in possession, but this is only natural for a 17 year old making his reserve team debut (after making his debut for the first team the week before, against Southampton. Not many can say the same!) The important thing is that the technical skill is there - the physical side will come.

Akpom in action
Anthony Jeffrey came on for the final half an hour or so, and gave a very promising cameo performance. He isn't very tall, but is extremely robust and quick off his feet. I was particularly impressed by his directness and ability to run at opponents with pace from the left wing. The last move of the game was excellent; Akpom played a one-two with Watt, then found Jeffrey with a great through ball, who was only denied by the post. He certainly stood out.

Conor Henderson was the fulcrum in the side, dictating the play from his central midfield position, as you may expect from a man who has already featured in the first team. Kyle Ebecilio, hitherto played in midfield, was deployed at right back today, and had a solid game.

Jeffrey and Akpom were the two that stood out most. The latter, at the age of 16, played the full 90 minutes on his reserve team debut, and should be proud of his performance. When you see him, it is fair to say the physical side of his game is there; he is very tall and strong - almost gangly - and certainly put himself about, with some good pieces of hold up play in the second half. His work rate is excellent, too. Late in the game, he chased the Boreham Wood right back down and made a great sliding tackle near the opposition corner flag, showing the tenacious aspect of his game.

With an attitude like this, he could go a long way. As Ajax academy coach Bryan Roy says,
"as long as you enjoy doing it and you are motivated and have passion, then you will make it, without a doubt. There is a reason why boys with less talent and more willpower make it more than boys with more talent, but a little more lazy."

And that's not to say Chuba lacks talent.

Anyway, to fulfil one of my favourite quotes; 'It is better to under-promise and over-deliver, than to over-promise and under-deliver', I got hold of a couple of the star performers from the Arsenal XI, just to spice up this report.

What the players thought

Kris Olsson: 

(On the team's performance) I think we played alright, but in the first half we didn't move the ball quickly so were unable to create many chances. In the second half we played with a higher tempo, and did well.

(On his individual performance) I played OK, but I know I can do much better. I could have played further forward and been on the ball even more, but it is pre season and we have the games to get fit and find our tempo, so overall it was quite a good game!

Anthony Jeffrey: 

(On the game in general) It was a tough game, they worked hard and we had to graft to get the victory. It was great to play with the reserves, alongside players such as Sanchez Watt.

(On his individual performance) I thought I did OK in patches. It would have been nice to have scored at the end, but I was unlucky.

(When asked what he felt he could have done better) I could have worked slightly harder on tracking back, but that will come with fitness I think.

(When asked if he coped physically) Yes, we've worked very hard during pre-season, and I don't want to get ahead of myself but I think we can achieve a lot this year if we apply ourselves. 

Anyway, that's all for now. I hope this provided you with a bit of insight into the youth of Arsenal, and I'm sure you'll hear more from me on this subject in the future. Remember to Follow me on Twitter and leave any thoughts/feedback in the comment section below.

'Till next time.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My interview with Arsenal U18 star Kristoffer Olsson | Part I

The second instalment in my series of interviews with rising stars is Swede Kris Olsson. Kris signed for Arsenal two years ago from Swedish side Norrkoping, and has made a name for himself in the U18s for his tremendous playmaking ability. He was recently called up to the first team to play in the Marcus Liebherr Cup, where he scored a penalty against Southampton. Enjoy! 

RL: You were scouted while playing in Sweden by Liam Brady. When a man of this stature picks you out, it must be pretty overwhelming. How did you feel when you learned of the club's interest in you? 

KO: When they said they wanted me it felt unreal. I mean I played for a club in Sweden, and such a big club wanted me so that was just unreal in the beginning. But after a while I was just happy and proud.

RL: Describe your passage into Arsenal, after they stated their interest. Was it simple or were there complications? 

KO: It went quite quick - my family came over and then Arsenal said I should move over in July (2011), but then we didn't hear from them for a while and I was a bit nervous that it wouldn't come to anything. However in the beginning of July 2011 they sent me the flight details and everything! It was unreal!

RL: It was rumoured that there was interest in you from the likes of Juventus and Man Utd. What made you choose Arsenal?

KO: I didn't know that to be fair, I just knew that Ajax were interested in me. Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in the world, and when I was on trial everything felt so good and professional. I knew that Arsenal's youth system is one of the best in the world as well. You get the chance if you are good enough - it's not like Man City... I mean they'll buy a player in your position even if you are a great player.. it was an easy choice signing for Arsenal!

RL: Was it hard leaving your home and moving to a foreign country?

KO: Yes of course it was very hard! But I think I expected it to be even harder so it was alright, but to leave all my friends at home and my family it was tough, it's still hard to leave them now like after the summer break and the winter break!

RL: Tell us about your encounter with Woj Szczesny! 

KO: The table tennis thing? That was a misunderstanding! 

(Rumours that Kris beat Wojiech in a game of table tennis and the keeper blanked him and walked away sulking!)

RL: How does youth football in Sweden differ from that in England? In terms of standard of players & coaches, balance between training and education, ball work and gym work, etc. 

KO: It's totally different! The standard of the football is a big difference, and also coaches and coaching staff (at Arsenal) are always around the team and players. Also in Sweden where I use to play it was basically just a nice warm up and then games! We didn't do any gym work either and here we do it 3 or 4 times a week.

RL: Clearly there is more emphasis on the physical aspect of the game at Arsenal. 
Do you think your time in Sweden has helped you as a footballer? I.e their different coaching techniques, training methods etc

KO: Yes of course. I've always had good coaches and when when I was 11 I moved to IFK Norrköping (which is a big club in Sweden) and we did a lot of technique stuff and we had 4 or 5 trainings sessions a week, more than any other team in my age group at that time, so I would say yes.

RL: Did your former club have a philosophy of passing football, meaning you could adapt easier at Arsenal? Or was it quite a change?

KO: No not really, but we always had some good players in our team so we had the ball most of the time. It was a huge change at Arsenal! I mean here you have to keep the ball and can't take too many risks and things like that, but it feels like I have gotten used to it now, but it took a while!

RL: I asked Chuba Akpom who the best player in the U18s was. Guess who he picked? 
Who would you say is your most talented teammate? (Apart from Chuba of course)

KO: He picked me?! Haha. I'm so boring so I wouldn't choose one but if I have to....Gnabry is very good, and also Gedion (Zelalem) as well, he's born in 1997 and plays centre mid, he's quality! Calm with the ball, his touch is brilliant, good passer - will be a top player. 

(15 year old Gedion Zelalem got the highest score in a fitness test which included members of the first team)

RL: You have a slender build. Did you find the step up from Swedish to English football, physically, very difficult? 

KO: Yes in the beginning it was extremely difficult, but as with everything else, I'm getting use to it and I'm much stronger now.

RL: You have been compared with Tomas Rosicky, or 'The Little Mozart'. How do you feel about this? Do you think it is a valid comparison?

KO: It's unreal to be compared with him, but yes we have the same style of play and we both are midfielders, but I haven't got long hair any more so I dont know!

RL: Fair enough, maybe you'll start a trend and he will cut his hair too!
Your tremendous progress last year was stifled by injury. How difficult was this for you? 

KO: Exactly, he wants to be like me! Yeah it was hard, as it was my first real injury and I was a bit stressed because I missed a lot of games and I was in a hurry to get fit in time for the Euros with the national team. I was also ill during the season and missed a lot of games, and that is the time when you miss home a lot and your family and friends. But I'm glad to be fit now. 

RL: You told that you played as a defensive midfielder in Sweden. I wrote an article highlighting the change in requirements for a modern day defensive mid; they dont have to be powerful enforcers, but rather great readers of the game with great ball retention and distribution. As a more technical player yourself, how far would you agree with this? 

KO: I would agree 100 per cent! 

RL: Great minds think alike, eh?! 
You now play as a no.10, behind the striker. Chuba tells me that you are 'a dream' to play with - do you feel you've made this position your own, after transforming from a DM?

KO: I still prefer to play as a defensive mid, but I would have to improve my defensive side and my strength. But I mean to play as a no. 10 is better for me I think because then I do what I'm good at. I play where the coach wants me to play but still, I prefer playing as a DM.

RL: Oh so you actually wanted to continue as a defensive mid? And by 'better for me', do you mean you perform better as a no.10 than you do as a DM?
KO: Well I don't really mind to be fair...but I mean I scored two goals last year and both when I played as a DM, but I made 8 assists when I played as a no.10.

RL: Ok, so you'd say you can offer more to the team as a no.10 than if you were a DM?
KO: No not really but it's a difficult question because I don't really mind -  I just want to be in the team. But I think in the future I'll be a no. 10.

RL: Good attitude! You said after signing for us that you might dye your hair red like Freddie Ljungberg. Although this was a lighthearted comment, how far would you say Swedes like Freddie influenced you? Did he inspire you to succeed at Arsenal? 

KO: Yes of course, many people say: 'oh come on be the new Freddie!', and I know he's one of the biggest players that has played for Arsenal. But we don't have the same style of play so it will be different! However if I make the first team one day, I might be dying my hair as he did!

RL: That would be an interesting sight! 
I'm sure the ladies would like you to follow in Freddie's footsteps, and model Calvin Klein boxers!
KO: Haha exactly! Not my girlfriend, mind!

Well, that's that for part one of this interview! Stay tuned in the coming days as I'll be publishing the second - and more revealing part - which includes something fairly shocking about Chelsea. 
Thanks for reading, and remember to Follow me on Twitter
If you're not already following Kris, you can do so now
'Til next time.

Friday, 6 July 2012

My interview with Arsenal U18 star Chuba Akpom

I had the idea of conducting a series of interviews with Arsenal youth players. First off is Chuba Akpom, Arsenal's exciting 16 year old striker who has established himself in the U18 squad. Enjoy! 

RL: What was your route like into Arsenal? 

CA: I was scouted playing Sunday league when I was 6 years old, and have been here ever since.

RL: How quickly did you adapt from Sunday League standard to that of Arsenal academy? 

CA: At first it was hard, yeah, big step up obviously. But I got used to it really, got used to the Arsenal way of playing; passing football, quick tempo, running etc.

RL: My experience of Sunday League football was if you were big, physical and aggressive, you could get into even the best of teams. There must be a massive difference between this and what is expected of you at Arsenal?

CA: Yeah, when you are playing Sunday League it’s more physical and aggressive. Everyone is technically better here, so you have to adapt.

RL: The facilities at Arsenal must be incredible. I'm sure many readers would like to hear about them, so go ahead! 

CA: Shenley? Nice changing rooms, great pitches, everything is good really!

RL: Describe an average day of training

CA: Gym, training session, shower, lunch, train again then go home.

RL: What are the coaches like? 

CA: They are all good experienced coaches, they know what they’re doing and are always there to help you.

RL: How much emphasis is put on the psychological aspect of the game by the coaching staff? 

CA: A lot, training is full time every day, so you have to be mentally strong. It’s a man's game and you have to be ready for knocks etc.

RL: You've been called up to play for England's youth team as well - what was your first taste of international football like? Must have been quite overwhelming! 

CA: Yeah, it was great. My first game was against Slovenia. I played the full game, and it ended 0-0. I sung the national anthem! I felt privileged, and it was a great experience to represent my country.

RL: How much importance do Arsenal place on education for their youth players? I understand that teams such as Man City and Ajax place massive emphasis on this, which I think is great. 

CA: A lot, you have to go to college, where all aspects of education are taught to us.

RL: Good to hear, it’s important to have an education to fall back on.
Does the boss himself often speak to you and your teammates, check your progress, offer words of advice etc? 

Yeah, when he has time he watches our training sessions.

RL: As a forward, it must have been pretty incredible when Henry returned. What was it like playing/speaking with him? 

CA: I never trained with Henry, just watched him. We had several conversations and I became quite familiar with him.

RL: What professional player(s) is your biggest inspiration? 

CA: Ronaldo (Brazilian one). Maybe Zidane too.

RL: Alban Bunjaku recently moved to Seville - what was he like to play with? By all accounts he was a terrific player. 

CA: He was technically better than everyone; had an amazing touch – the best. Very good dribbling ability, great awareness, could drop a shoulder and shoot, very skillful.

RL: Do players from the first team ever spend time with you guys and teach you things? 

CA: Not really, when we speak it’s normally just brief conversations.

RL: Who would you say is your most talented team mate?

CA: Kris Olsson – love the way he plays. Operates in the no.10 position behind me, great link up player, brilliant vision and technique. Up there with Bunjaku.

RL: You played as a 15 year old for Arsenal's U18 team. Did you find it physically demanding? 

CA: I was quite big so it was easier to adapt, but was still hard playing against 18/19 year olds. I got used to it though.

 RL: What is the best side you have played against? 

CA: The best club I’ve faced is probably Chelsea. For England, Spain were the best team I played against – we lost 4-0. I played decent though!

RL: At Ajax, the academy players train in positions all over the pitch in order to appreciate the different roles. Do the coaches at Arsenal ever do something similar? 

CA: Yeah, definitely. You have to be versatile. In training you’ll often be playing in a different position.  

RL: What club did you grow up supporting? 

CA: Arsenal!

RL: What are your strengths?

CA: Dribbling, goalscoring. I’m very direct, too.

RL: What are your best positions?

CA: I’m strongest playing as a no. 9. I can also play in the no.10 role, behind the striker.

 RL: What are Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, the ex-Barca boys, like as players? Are they technically superior?

CA: They are superb technically, much like the whole team.

RL: Finally: Alban Bunjaku has joined Seville, Ben Glasgow has gone to Stoke, Rhys Murphy has joined Dutch club Telstar and Jeffrey Monakana has joined Preston North End. Where do you feel your future lies? 

CA: Arsenal’s 1st team.

RL: Good answer! 

Thanks for reading and hopefully several more interviews with rising stars will follow. Many thanks to Chuba for agreeing to do this too!
Remember to Follow me on Twitter and feel free to share any thoughts in the comment section below. Up the Arse!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Is Michael Carrick the answer for Arsenal?

Amidst the unrelenting speculation surrounding Yann M'Vila's potential move to Arsenal, I contemplated the acquisition of someone else, or at least someone of a similar mould. 

Michael Carrick has, since his move from Sp*rs to Manchester United, been one of the most underrated players in the Premiership. Perhaps because his role has been carried out with no thrills or spills; no 25 yard screamers or horror tackles, just comfortably sitting in his deep central midfield position, dictating the game in a similar fashion to what we have seen from Andrea Pirlo at Euro 2012. 

In my opinion, should the deal for M'Vila fall through, or perhaps regardless, it is Michael Carrick we should go for, or at least a player of a similar style. Indeed, M'Vila is not a too dissimilar player, and is by all accounts a terrific talent with even better potential. It is public knowledge that we want him. Gilles Grimandi even told a group of us last year in our Champions League qualifier in Udinese that M'Vila was our main target. 

M'Vila's strengths are varied; he has the technical ability to slot in perfectly at Arsenal, namely with his passing and through balls. And, perhaps more importantly as a defensive midfielder, is robust in his tackling and has the ability to maintain concentration for the full 90 minutes - something we could use at Arsenal. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for us signing M'Vila, but there's an alternative. Indeed, my Carrick suggestion is hypothetical and somewhat academic as I would be surprised if United sold him, but hear me out.

Carrick would be a more short-term investment and certainly cheaper than M'Vila. In many ways he encapsulates the "new breed" of defensive midfielders; his game is not based on power and brute force, but on breaking up the play and releasing the ball, acting as a catalyst for Man Utd attacks. Arsenal fans have seen the same sort of thing with Arteta, and the importance of this role, in our system especially, was evident after our loss of form following the Spaniard's injury. In any counter-attacking system, this role is vital. 

Last season, Carrick played 27 times for United, averaging 3.1 tackles per game. To put this into perspective, it is higher than the likes of Marouane Fellaini and our very own Alex Song. He displayed his tremendous reading of the game by averaging 2.5 interceptions every match - a figure many defenders would be proud of. This is emphasised by the fact he received just 4 yellow cards in 27 appearances - rarely does he dive in or commit himself. Instead, he judges the situation and carefully retrieves possession, aided by his acute positional sense. His lack of pace is more than compensated by his footballing intelligence and reading of the game. 

A sign of a good player is when they receive praise from fellow professionals or managers, and Martin Jol had this to say:
"Michael's biggest quality is to move play from defence to attack and win the ball. Because of him, other players play better.''
This is an extremely valuable asset, and the transition from defence to attack would be greatly improved with the addition of Carrick, especially considering Arsenal's pace in attacking positions. This is what Man Utd have done so successfully over the years. 

Now, onto what I believe to be Carrick's strongest attribute; ball retention. Last season he averaged 72.4 passes per game with an astonishing completion rate of 90% - a figure only bettered by Toure of the Yaya variety and of course Mikel Arteta. Imagine having Michael and Mikel at Arsenal; two of the best midfielders in the league at what they do - we'd keep the ball for fun. Additionally, as they are similar players, Arsène would be able to rotate them both, easing some of the burden Arteta faced last year. The fact Carrick made more passes and more tackles than any other player on the pitch when Arsenal were defeated 2-1 at home to United last season tells a story on its own. 

Turning 31 this July would, as aforementioned, make Carrick a more short term investment than M'Vila. (Again, I'd like to reiterate that this is hypothetical). This would allow him to act as a foil for our young midfielders; Frimpong, Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshere etc all need time to develop before being thrown into the proverbial deep end. We tend to find ourselves in a situation at Arsenal where we are forced to rely upon our most inexperienced players, step forward Carl Jenkinson. More experience and composure in the middle is required, and Carrick certainly fits the bill. And of course there's the wonderfully gifted yet horrendously unlucky Abou Diaby. Ever since Dan Smith smashed his ankle to bits, the Frenchman has spent more time on the injury table than on the pitch. That scumbag Smith has a lot to answer for. 

Well, he does actually, seeing as he now works in a call centre. Karma's a bitch. 

I think the main aim of this post was to highlight the often overlooked ability of Michael Carrick, and what a great acquisition he'd be at The Arsenal. There's no doubt M'Vila would be a fantastic signing, however at the age of 22 with just three or so years of Ligue 1 experience, there's no guarantee he'd adapt to the demands of the Premiership immediately. Carrick, on the other hand, has over 330 Premier League appearances and has played in over 50 Champions League matches. Having won 4 league titles with United, plus a European Cup, he would without doubt add an extra bit of 'winning mentality' to the squad.

In my opinion, it is this kind of experience we need right now to not only aid the development of our younger midfielders without 'killing' their careers, but also add composure and 'know how' to the team instantly. 

Indeed, Carrick is no Pirlo, and most would chose M'Vila over him in a heartbeat. But if that deal goes tits up, he'd be the man I'd pick. 

Thanks for reading and remember to Follow me on Twitter. Oh, and leave your thoughts about Carrick, M'Vila or whoever else you think Arsenal should buy in the comments section below.

Up The Arse!