I don`t usually bother watching the preamble to televised games and on most occasions will only tune in at kick off. Most of the studio pundits are pretty predictable and usually trot out whatever guff they think is current. Too much beautiful football, can`t handle the physical side, youth project, blah- blah-blah. Before kickoff it`s often ‘gonna be a real test` and if we`ve won comfortably ‘was never gonna to be a real test`. With the possible exception of Graeme Souness there`s little new of interest ever said before a game. But I caught sight of Jens Lehmann in the studio while channel hopping prior to the game and paused to see what he had to say.
He was pretty understanding and supportive of the whole Arsenal project which you can`t take for granted from all past players, other than those employed in some capacity by the club, least of all those actively pursuing a career in the meedja. I rather expected him to be less understanding for some reason I can`t explain. Maybe he just seems a bit of a renegade by nature and not one concerned if he upsets any sensitivities when he speaks out.
I didn`t catch everything he had to say but he made a couple of interesting observations. Referring to the differences between the invincible side that he joined and the team he left he said that the playing style changed when Fabregas came into the side as Vieira moved on. Previously they had moved the ball around with more one touch passing but he feels Cesc is a player that takes two or three touches and those around him also play in a similar style so that they`re more likely to dribble and run with the ball, check back and then find a penetrating pass. Cesc he feels is a superb passer of the ball and particularly adept at doing this but while on the whole it is still very effective our game is slightly slower as a consequence. He also feels that the forwards find it harder to anticipate or predict the pass that`s coming their way now than in the past because it can come at almost any time from any position.
Naturally enough he was pressed on the goalkeeping situation at the club and despite Keys best endeavours to get him to rubbish Almunia and Fabianski he was insistent that both were good enough keepers to enable the club to win trophies. He was adamant that both possessed a very high level of technical skills but it was really all about how they dealt with mistakes, that it was the mental side of their game that they needed to improve. He reasoned that genuine mistakes were rare from either keeper but most important was the opportunity to put it right. If an outfield player makes a mistake and loses his place as a consequence then he can be pretty sure in a normal squad that he`ll get another chance in some capacity fairly soon after. Keepers could find themselves missing a whole season which he feels puts greater pressure on young keepers like Fabianski looking to make that step up than more mature keepers. It also needs a level of ruthlessness towards your fellow keepers whose interests you can`t look to serve if your aim is to deprive them of their place in the team perhaps looking to explain his attitude towards Almunia during his last season.
In watching Fabianski since he has had a bit of a run in the side I am not sure whether the impression I have that he catches and holds a lot more shots and crosses than I`m used to seeing in modern keeping is justified or not but Jens suggested this is a difficult skill with modern footballs. At one time the keeper could accurately predict the trajectory of a shot from 30 yards out from about 30 yards out, he claimed. Now, with the tendency for balls to move so unpredictably so late, that is down to about 7 or 8 yards which is why Jens said that you`ll see many keepers electing to punch rather than catch. I’m interested to see in upcoming games whether my impression that Fabianski punches less frequently than most can be confirmed.
I`m not sure that Jens has a great career as a football pundit but he came across as far less superficial than the standard contributors to these shows.
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