14 April 2014

Can Källström answer the call against West Ham?

No rest for the wicked, it seems as we've barely time to finish celebrating our semifinal win over Wigan before having to prepare for a visit from Sam "I am the Walrus" Allardyce, Andy "just try to bounce it in off my forehead" Carroll on Tuesday. Such is the life of a Gooner, it seems. Ah, well. It could be worse, I suppose. Let's hope then that Saturday's win, rather than draining us, provides some much-needed momentum going forward. It is, after all, the first we've won since a trip to White Hart Lane back in mid-March. The Ides, I believe they're called, as in "I'd swear that three chances would be enough for Tottenham to win once" or "I'd prefer scotch over beer, if it's all the same." And so on. And so it comes to West Ham, and I'd prefer we have a few more days' rest, but there's little to be done there. They've had nine days' rest to our two. Who, then, can we turn to who's both fit and has (relatively) fresh legs? Kim Källström comes to mind.

With Flamini serving the second of his two-match suspension after earning his 10th yellow of the season before 12 April (being the second Sunday of April) and with Ramsey and Ox weary after long stints on Saturday, this looks to be a chance for Källström to prove his worth. Though he's made just two appearances totaling only 20 minutes since joining Arsenal, we could see him logging some longer minutes, if not starting, against West Ham. In those appearances, he's squeezed off a few shots while trying to figure out where he fits and how fit he is.

Even as he sorts those issues, we may come calling on him. Whether he's ready or not, we're a bit thin at the DM position, and I'd rather we rest Ramsey if we can get away with it rather than push him too far and risk losing him again for the final run-in. What's more, against West Ham, we're likely to dominate possession without generating chances, and Källström's interest and ability in shooting from distance would come in quite handy, whether it's during one of many otherwise-tedious sequences of passes side to side, from a set-piece around the edges of the box, or any number of other opportunities. We've often bemoaned the reluctance in the squad to shoot from distance, either as a direct attempt on goal or as a dare to see if the keeper is paying attention, but this has just as much to do with the skills in the squad as it does with any other strategic or tactical concerns. Put simply, we don't feature many players both willing and able to unleash a shot from distance with both power and accuracy. Källström is one such player. Even if he cork-screwed his one shot from distance against Wigan, he adds a different dimension to the attack, one that West Ham would have to mind.

After all, with Allardyce around, we can all but count on West Ham sitting back to defend, and as long as they can safely assume that we're going to pass and pass and pass, probing for a third pornogol di Wilshere (referring to Norwich and then Sunderland), that's all they're likely to do: sit back, defend in numbers, and just wait. If, however, they know that Källström, among others, is looking to launch shots from 20-25 yards out, they are going to have to commit more aggressively to closing him down. If they don't, well, his salvos will force the keeper (and the woodwork) into action. Even if the keeper or the woodwork answer his challenges, the deflections and second chances on offer could make for some nifty chances, just as they did for Mertesacker against Wigan.

Podolski is capable of offering something similar, but, sadly, the circumstances have to be just right. He's about as left-footed as they come, preferring to shoot with that foot almost exclusively. Defenders know this well enough and will park on his left-shoulder, inviting him to go to his right, from which he rarely if ever shoots, even if to keep those defenders a bit more honest. As such, he reduces himself, and is reduced, to hoping to latch onto passes on counters so that he can launch his shots from a more-central position. By contrast, then, Källström, playing from the defensive midfield, should find more chances to get the ball to his own preferred left foot in order to shoot.

Having scored on a penalty against Wigan, Källström may have whetted his appetite for officially opening his Arsenal account, and if he gets a chance to do as soon as Tuesday, well, I'm sure he'll be as happy as we are.