So, just 3 days after the International break we emerge for yet another big game for Arsenal. This time the trip will take us north to Anfield.
To say both teams had a bad international, injury wise, would be fair. Arsene Wenger was angered by the Belgian FA after Thomas Vermaelen, who was injured after the North London Derby last week, was ‘forced’ to play the full 90 minutes against Greece. Arsene has since threatened to report Belgium to FIFA regarding the matter.
When asked about the situation Wenger said ‘It looks like Belgium has made a decision which I still do not understand and we will look to see if we can put a complaint in. Firstly they forced the player to travel. Then they forced him to play 90 minutes after being injured and had a centre-back on the bench who did not play at all, in a friendly game knowing they do not even go to the European Championship.‘I never asked any player not to go 100 per cent for his country when it’s a qualifier or big competition, but friendlies are becoming more and more difficult especially in this period. We were the only team in the world who had that schedule so it’s very difficult to understand that our players had to go injured to Greece and to play 90 minutes for Belgium.
While I agree with the principal of Wenger’s grounds for complaint, I don’t agree with the way he has blasted Belgium for their treatment of Vermaelen straight to the media, before lodging a complaint. He should of written a letter directly to FIFA and never mentioned this to the press at a vital point in Arsenal’s season and only a few months before the European Championships start. The complaint will start a debate about whether international friendlies should be player during the season anymore. I think this is wrong. International teams do not have enough time as it is to gel together and work on tactics. Fair enough clubs pay the players’ wages but the greatest honour of all for a footballer is to represent his country.
The other players to return from international duty injured were Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie and Liverpool Skipper Steven Gerrard.
A Thrilling Encounter
The game against Liverpool, for Arsenal, never really reached the highs and lows of the North London Derby but there was plenty of drama.
On 17 minutes Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny conceded his second penalty in his last two Premier League games. This time Suarez, like Bale, seemed to tumble over Szczesny before contact was even made. Also, despite the referee having no chance of seeing through the crowd of players, he awarded the penalty to Liverpool. Kuyt, one of Liverpool’s Carling Cup penalty shoot-out scorers, stepped up only to find Szczesny equal to his penalty and the young pole then got back up to make a fantastic second save to deny Kuyt’s tame follow up.
6 minutes later, however, and Arsenal fans around the country breathed a collective sigh as Koscielny wildly hacked the ball into his own net from a Henderson cross, a move which was start by the passing abilities of Downing and Spearing.
The next 8 minutes were completely dominated by Liverpool and Arsenal were being played off the park until, against the run of play, Robin Van Persie stepped up to head home a brilliant cross from Sagna. Sagna was given too much room by Enrique, who tipped Walcott as his biggest threat before the game, and Van Persie showed he was too strong for Carragher who failed to get goal side.
Liverpool could of had been 3-1 up by half time thanks to brilliant work by Suarez and Kuyt. It was Suarez with the first when he jinked past 4 Arsenal players only to be denied by Szczesny. Then the Dutchman, Kuyt, was unlucky when he turned a cross towards goal only to be denied by the post before an Arsenal player hacked the ball clear.
The half ended 1-1 and neither manager had a right to be happy with their team. The performance of both teams was below what should be displayed.
It wasn’t long into the second half before we had another bit of drama. This time it wasn’t a goal or penalty. It was Mikel Arteta down on the deck after a collision with Henderson, which I thought was more malicious by Henderson than the commentators wanted to admit. Either way, Arteta had severe concussion and had to go off to be replaced by the fit-again Abou Diaby. It was long before Diaby warmed Reina’s palms with a 20-yard strike which was comfortable for Reina.
The next big chance of the game came on 71 minutes when Gibbs got in behind the Liverpool defence before playing in Walcott who was denied by a wonderful save from Reina.
Arsene Wenger then opted to make his second substitution of the game on 74 minutes. Benayoun, brilliant against Tottenham and non-existent today, replaced by Gervinho. Then Liverpool attacked.
Downing broke clear of the Arsenal defence and only had to roll the ball to Suarez for an easy tap in but the out-of-form winger got it hopelessly wrong and the chance was gone.
The same man again, Downing, had a chance to right his earlier wrong a couple minutes later only to sum up his dreadful season by dragging a volley dreadfully wide.
Bad news followed Downing’s chance. Arsenal’s Diaby looked as if he had picked up another injury and was replaced by The Ox on 80 minutes. Gutted for him.
The game dragged on as Liverpool began to take control before the fourth official indicated on his board that there would be 8 minutes of added time, an omen for two teams who have scored 6 goals after the 90th minute in recent games.
Then it happened. It was like a replay of another Merseyside team, Everton being split open by the same two players in similar fashion. Song was again played a chipped ball over the top for Van Persie to volley a placed shot between Reina and his near post. For the second time in 7 days RVP had sent the Arsenal away fans into raptures, 2-1.
The win leaves Liverpool all but out of the Champions League next season but more importantly it leaves Arsenal just 4 points behind Tottenham. Although, Tottenham have a game in hand.
In the post match interview Van Persie was asked how significant the win was for the club and he said ‘It means a lot. To score at Anfield is big, because Anfield is a massive ground. I’m proud of that, but even more proud of this win. I don’t think we really deserved it, to be honest, because Liverpool played better.”
He added: ‘I think we are 10 points ahead of Liverpool now and we can wait to see what Spurs do tomorrow. It’s a big win, a massive win.’
Robin’s performance earned him the MoM champagne but the striker opted to give it to, in my opinion the real MoM, ‘Szczesny. Of his penalty save, Szczesny said: ‘I got a little bit of stick from the boss yesterday for not saving the previous three penalties. I went the right way every time and did not get anywhere near them. So there was pressure on me today to save the first one. I did not really believe I could save the second one. But I think he (Kuyt) scuffed the rebound a little bit and it was not actually that difficult a save.’
Wenger’s interview, however, was a bit bleaker. The manager said ‘The bad news of the day is that Diaby is injured and did his hamstring. Benayoun has a small hamstring problem, Gibbs has a problem. We look decimated after the game. I don’t know who will be available on Tuesday night.’
A vital three points away from home from Arsenal today in their fight to finish third. They also became the first team this season to take all 3 points away from Anfield, making it 4 straight Premier League wins for Arsene’s boys.
Next up is Milan and Arsenal face an uphill challenge. Wenger was quoted as saying ‘Maybe I will play with six strikers, as we have to score goals!’
That’s all folks, hope you enjoyed and don’t forget to follow me @leeodonovan
Greetings fellow Gooners!
Up to 7th and within touching distance of the Champions League places again…Crisis? What crisis?!?!
Of course, we all had our doubts at one point or another. We all had to listen to the media screaming about the end of Arsenal. We all had to listen to other “fans” crying out for the head of Arsene Wenger. We even had to sit through protests at the stadium before games (just what is needed when you have a team desperately low on confidence!). But, in the end, that “mentul strengff” that we have heard so much about and has been questioned so very much in seasons past, really has shone through.
1-0 down away to Norwich. Hhmmm. five weeks ago we would have been hoping that we managed to keep the score respectable but when a team is in the kind of form that we are in, when the captain is in a run of games like he is (more on him later!) and when the general levels of confidence around most of the players appear to be sky-high, anything is possible.
And possible it was! Another fantastic showing from van Persie, ably supported in yet another starring role by the also in-form Gervinho and Walcott who in turn are being given a backbone of extreme strength by Arteta, Song and the fabulous Ramsey and before you could say 2-1 to the Arsenal it was, well, 2-1 to the Arsenal!
Another three precious points in the bag on a weekend that saw Chelsea, Aston Villa and Newcastle all lose and BOOM there we are in joint 5th (I know, I know, we are 7th on goal difference, but joint 5th sounds so much nicer!), seven points clear of 8th place and looking straight up the backsides of the Toon and the Lillywhite Shite and toying with the idea of being 3rd when we were being asked if we were in a relegation fight only weeks ago!
On top of all of this exciting news, we could see a few shocks next weekend too with West Brom unlikely to make things easy for the Spuds for their visit to The Hawthorns, Newcastle away to the yet again smash and grabbing, 1-0 winning, lucky feckers United and Liverpool hosting Citeh. With us at home to the currently woeful Fulham, I expect to see us climb to 5th or even 4th by the end of Sunday. Seriously?! Did I just say that the same Arsenal team that lost all of its creativity and its best players in the summer, replaced them with a bunch of unknowns and rejects after being thrashed 8-2 by the eternally indebted, could actually be in the Champions League places with about two-thirds of the season left to play?!
And that is how fickle the football Dennises are and how even more fickle football fans can be.
But that is next weekend and we have the small matter of Dortmund at home in the Champions League first.
Dortmund are actually in great form in the league of late, having dispatched Bundesliga leaders Bayern 1-0 away from home on Saturday to continue an unbeaten run that stretches back to the 18th of September, scoring 20 goals in their last seven outings and conceding only three goals in the process. They do seem unable to replicate anything like the same form in the Champions League though, with only four points from four games scoring three and conceding seven!
So a win is to be expected, but is far from guaranteed. Any team with players in the creative positions like Gotze, Großkreutz and Kagawa are capable of beating anybody on their day. It just seems that their day isn’t, hopefully, destined to be in this seasons Champions League. Another reason that the Germans should be taken very seriously indeed is that, should they fail to get something from this game, they will be out of the competition. They have nothing left to lose and everything left to gain and that is exactly what Jürgen Klopp will be telling his team.
So, with this game offering us the opportunity to guarantee qualification in the event that we win it, or even draw it for that matter, and Dortmund realistically needing a win to stand a chance of advancing in the competition, one expects that Arsene will put out something like his strongest side. With the injury list growing faster than it is shrinking (Rosicky – Thigh, Chamakh – Knee and Miyaichi – Ankle now added to the long-term injuries to Wilshere, Sagna, Jenkinson and Gibbs), I would imagine the team to look something like this:
OK, I know I have put Arshavin in over Gervinho on about three occasions so far this season only for Wenger to surprise me and leave the Ivorian in and, more surprisingly, the Russian out, but I really do think that this time he will get the nod, if for no other reason than Gervinho is playing a lot of games for us at the moment and is currently in a run of form that would allow him the luxury of this being a rest and not being dropped in favour of Arshavin. If you see what I mean?!
Predictions are tough for this one as with only a point needed to guarantee qualification one would think that a tight defence and a cat and mouse game of counter-attacking would be on the cards. There is, however, the small matter of Marseille playing Olympiacos at home thus almost guaranteed the three points, which would mean that a draw would leave us in 2nd place and hoping for a result away in Greece or Dortmund doing us a favour at home to Marseille in two weeks time, all of which sounds like the hard way to go about things…But this is Arsenal and the hard way IS the Arsenal way!
In truth, the best way to go about this is to get at them early, try to get an early goal and then keep going. Dortmund will be dangerous on the counter, of course, but then again, we are dangerous from just about anywhere right now! And can anybody really see us trying to grab a goal and then sit on it for the remainder of the game?! No, me neither. So, with all that in mind, I am going for a 3-1 win and a good performance to go with it. If Song can put in the kind of shift that he has been of late, we may even see the likes of Gotze struggle for the time and space that his game needs and we could even get away with a clean sheet! Arsenal?! Clean sheet?! Are you MAD?!??!
Come Wednesday, we shall find out! Mad or not, I genuinely believe that this is one of the best Arsenal squads for a few years now and one that has the potential to keep going where others have been found wanting. With players like Miyaichi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong and Aneke, Ozyakup and Miquel waiting in the wings, this really could be the beginning of something quite special that could last for years rather than the end of Arsenal Football Club as many were predicting only a few weeks ago.
And with Sagna, Jenkinson, Wilshere and Gibbs all still to return, we may even see a season where the all too familiar self-destruction sequence is avoided and a stronger team emerges after Christmas. Only time will tell, but I know that this is, yet again thanks to Arsene Wenger, a wonderful time to be a Gooner!
Diaby Returns AGAIN!
Since having his leg broken for him some 5 years ago by that knuckle-dragging imbecile Dan Smith, his ability to stay fit has been seriously questioned. Strangely he is not particularly popular amongst Arsenal fans even though his playing statistics show a player of some impact. 20 goals and 14 assists in 158 matches for a box-to-box midfielder are not bad statistics at all, although I am aware that these numbers do not speak the whole truth regarding his at times seeming inability to make a decision in time to not lose the ball in the most dangerous of positions, neither do they show how easy it is to reduce your popularity when getting a stupid and unnecessary red card in a game in which we are 4-0 up at Newcastle only to then see the referee basically hand a draw to the Toon with a couple of unspeakably ridiculous penalty awards, a failure to send off one of their players for a headlock/strangulation effort on “the Pole between the poles” and a generally hideous defensive effort. To place all the blame on the midfielder for all of that seems a little unfair but scapegoats will always be found when needed and his was the most obvious place in which to point the finger.
in my opinion his return to fitness (and subsequent inclusion in the squad to face Dortmund), hopefully for more than a handful of games this time, should only be a good thing in terms of squad depth and, if he realises only a fraction of his enormous potential, we could see a great set of midfielders competing for places come January. Imagine this: Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta, Diaby, Benayoun, Song, Frimpong and Rosicky all competing for three starting places. Competition for places is often overlooked in the bigger picture, but I believe that Walcott, Song, Koscielny, Gibbs and Ramsey are all showing great leaps in class since their places were no longer guaranteed due to the arrivals and emergences of the Ox, Frimpong, Mertesacker, Santos and Wilshere respectively.
As Arsene has recently said, this is a big squad but also a squad with strength in depth and “those who shall not be pleased” who claim otherwise are ignoring the obvious in deference of searching for more reasons to bleat.
Let them bleat, I say!
Van STILL The Man!
Robin van Persie’s incredible run of form since he finally managed to find a run of games without serious injury now sees him with 31 goals in 29 games in 2011, top of the goalscoring charts in the Premier League and a set of statistics that put him up there with the very best players in the world – 13 goals in 12 league games compared with 14 in 12 for Ronaldo and 15 in 12 for Messi.
Couple this with the obvious understanding developing quickly between him and Theo Walcott and the constantly improving form of Gervinho, we look like we can score whenever we attack, even if the bulk of those goals are coming from the one man.
Of course, without a new contract signed sealed and delivered, there is the fear that our Dutch talisman could be on his way for a fistful of dollars come the end of the season. Personally I do not put much stock in the relentless rumours of his inevitable departure and believe that a combination of the board, Arsene and the fans will do just as much as the team to convince him to stay as any amount of money could convince him to leave. A player enjoying his football as much as he is would find it difficult to leave any team, but one that actually wins something, which I believe that this team is capable of this season, would, of course, make it even more difficult.
The chance that he may go the way of the likes of Na$ri, AdePayMeMore and Clichy exists until that contract is signed but, as we have seen in recent years, signing a new contract doesn’t guarantee that a player will stay anyway. As fans the very best that we can do is get behind him, the team and the manager and show him and all of our other great players that we are the best fans in the world and that this team is one with a glowing future that he would be mad to leave behind.
So, let’s do our jobs and get behind the team and the manager as well as the captain and let’s make that 12th man truly count.
Come on you League Climbing, Champions League Knock-out Rounds Qualifying Bright Future Gooooooonnnnneeeeerrrrssss!
Afternoon fellow Gooners,
I believe this International break was a bit too much of a hype with so called play off’s taking place and few friendlies doing the usual boring injection of football to our souls, it’s like being back from hibernation. I don’t know how some fans in Europe cope with the so called Winter break.
Anyway back to business please as usual as we LOVE IT!
Few niggly bits doing the rounds as usual, Blatter has made a complete fool out of himself and no one within UEFA is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel (must go to Spec Savers I say), a lot of people talking but not much being done about it. Some things never change as some would say. He should really take it on the chin and disappear for once and for all. Racism should never be a part of football however the ones to blame play the game and perhaps they need to be educated. Then again you are what you are and sometimes you can’t change the way other people think. Either way they should know better they are grown men and should behave with dignity and respect.
Back to Arsenal and ahead of Norwich there are good and bad news coming from the medical wing. Bad news for Kieran Gibbs and Jenkinson as these two are going to be out for sometime:
“He has a hernia and had surgery on Thursday. He looks like he will be out for between four and five weeks. At first he had an abdominal strain, certainly caused by the fact that he had a hernia already. When the strain was healed we discovered that he had a hernia. We had a fear that could be behind it so we decided to do the surgery.”
“Carl has a stress fracture in his back. That’s just about rest now. We discovered that because he had a pain in his back. First you monitor it, then play a little bit and then you check again because you are cautious.”
The good news is that Wilshere is making good progress in his recovery and Diaby and Chamakh are back in full training. I know there is still some time to go for Jack even though we will only see him back in late Jan next year:
“We have no chance to get Wilshere back before the New Year. The only positive thing is the X-ray after six weeks – which was a vital one – and looked very positive and very good. So he will be on time and as planned. His surgery went well, his healing is going well, but still there is no chance before the middle or end of January.”
With Sanga and Jenkinson out it remains to be seen who will Arsene play in the right back position, something tells me that Djourou will be covering this spot, to be honest it’s a real shame as I have started enjoying Jenkinson’s crosses of late. This lad can definitely cross the ball.
Norwich will prove to be a tough test in my opinion, since being promoted back to the top flight football they have done very well. Last game I saw with them they came very close away at Man U. We need to pick up from where we left it there is no other way, another must win game. We have already lost too many games this season. Opposition will be tough but I believe we have enough gas in the tank to overcome them and finally put those November omens where they belong.
Come on you Rip Roaring Free Scoring Gooners!!!
Greetings fellow Gooners!
Yes, it’s that time again, isn’t it?! International break misery has set in and the tabloids are left with literally nothing else to do but find a few new ways to beat Arsenal fans over the head! Worst of all, they seem to be able to find hundreds of old ways to do it too! This situation is not helped when Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal equivalent of Prince Phillip, decides it is time to open that ludicrous out of control trap of his!
Speaking on the subject of Robin Van Persie and contract negotiations, he had this to say:
“He doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment and we are not troubling him.
“I think we will approach him near the end of the season. But we obviously hope that he will sign a new contract – I don’t see why he should not. I can’t believe he is unhappy with us.”
Which immediately rings two alarm bells…
1. Why are we “not troubling him” when his contract may actually be more important than qualifying for the Champions League this season?
2. Why would it be so impossible to believe that he could be “unhappy with us” when he is clearly carrying the burden of a major responsibility of the teams success and or failure at the present time and has seen an average of two of our best players leave the club almost every summer for the past 6?
I simply don’t get this! I know we are the most dramatic club in the EPL. I know that we do everything in the most arse about face, difficult and last minute manner that we possibly can, but why aren’t we simply putting a club record breaking contract in front of his nose right now, this very second or even better, yesterday?!
Seriously, 150k per week, a new Bentley and all the half-time oranges he can eat should just about cover it and, let’s be totally honest, a bargain if you consider what a player of his calibre and experience would cost if we had to replace him.
I am not saying that he is irreplaceable, no footballer is as the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson has proven time and time again when clearing out mega-stars at the drop of a hat, but I do believe that the costs and risks associated with replacing a player who has been banging goals in faster than almost anybody on the planet for the past 12 months are desperately long without spending extraordinary amounts of money and, even then, there is no guarantee of succeeding in finding a replacement that “gels”. Why even think about waiting when we already have a player that clearly gels like a MoFo?!!
But the highlight of Hill-Wood’s comments has to be this little gem…
“I think he is a decent fellow. He was quite difficult at Feyenoord, but we have had no trouble with him.”
HAHAHA! Oh my Dennis! If I were Van Persie I would be more than a little hacked off that this Muppet has actually decided that my past, over 7 years in the distant past when I was 20 years old and a very young man rather than just a young man, should be dragged up now. As for having no trouble with him, well, I think that there was a little trouble back in 2005, what with the Dutchman spending a couple of weeks in prison and all that, but again, that is history and it should be allowed to stay where it belongs…In the past.
It is time that Silent Stan decided that “we don’t need his sort” talking to the press any more and wrapped a mighty, magical conversational chastity belt around the old duffers chops!
Bored, bored, BORED!
Ok, I know that we have finally managed to go into an international break with a decent run of form going, a couple of great wins behind us and a feeling that we may not have actually seen the best of this Arsenal squad as yet, which is quite exciting all round really, but I cannot help wondering how many injuries we will pick up this time whilst our players wander off around the world to play in qualifying matches in various competitions.
But apart from that vague point of interest, I can literally find nothing to alleviate the desperate boredom of these hateful breaks in the footballing calender. I know that many claim that international football is the pinnacle of football and is the basis for the general growth of this wonderful sport and some may even say that without it we would never have seen some of the best talents of the past 20 years playing on our shores and gracing us with their skills.
What a load of old pony, I say!
Take the European Championships, for example. This “glorious” competition is boring because there are only really a handful of all of the European nations that ever actually win it. Look at this map for an idea of what I am talking about:
See what I mean? All those big white spaces are countries that never have and probably never will win the trophy, EVER! Ok, I know the same could be levelled at the Premiership, La Liga, Serie A and maybe even the Scottish Premier League at a push (!) but I don’t fecking care about that. I love Premiership football because I love Arsenal and I know that, win or lose, come rain or shine they will always be the most consistent part of my life in terms of love and desire. European football at the international level is just plain boring ad has none of the heart of a club side competition.
As demonstrated by the “Winners Map”, the majority of international football is just a meandering path to almost inevitable conclusions. For all the qualifying “drama”, competition “drama” and winning “drama”, how often is there any actual drama in international football? Denmark won the European Championships about 100 years ago, or so it seems, but apart from that the list of winners of that competition reads like this since 1960:
Soviet Union, Spain, Italy, West Germany, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, Germany, France, Greece and Spain.
Ok, Greece was a bit of a surprise too, but who really cares anyway?! Did their players suddenly change the face of modern football? Did the country experience a massive upturn in the general desirableness of its league seeing a large influx of major talents wanting to leave the like of Spain and England to go and play there? Did they even go on to use that win as a platform for future development and thus further successes?
Did they arse!
For example, since winning the Euros in 1992 Denmark, with their “Golden Generation” of players, managed to fail to qualify for the next World Cup and fall in the group stages of the next two European Championships.
But surely Greece have faired better?
Since winning the 2004 European Championships, with one of the most dire and George Graham-esque styles of play ever seen in modern international football, the Greeks then failed to qualify for the next World Cup, get knocked out in the first round of the 2010 World Cup and got knocked out in the group stage of the European Championships!
In fact, and here is a cracking statistic that demonstrates the utter futility of all international football, Greece have never actually won a single game in the European Championships finals apart from the 4 wins they managed to piece togther whilst winning the damned thing! Even more hilarious, Denmark have only ever won 6 games in the European finals and only managed to win 2 games, yes, read that again just to make sure you got it right, TWO GAMES when WINNING the tournament!!!
OH my Dennis! How can a team be called European Champions when they only actually won two games in the tournament?! Hold on…Quarter final, semi-final, final…Surely that would require three wins at the very least?! But no! There were no quarter finals that year, only two groups of 4 teams, 2 semi-finals and final and, hey presto, you are the “Champions of European International Football!” I think it tells a large part of the story when you consider that the 1992 European Championships were held in Sweden and of the four clubs to qualify for the semi-finals, three of them were Holland, Sweden and Denmark!
Oh, and just in case you forgot, even though football was good enough for the warring nations in World War II on Christmas Day, or so we are told, UN sanctions banning Yugoslavia from taking part in the tournament is the only reason that Denmark even got a free pass to play after not even managing to qualify for the tournament!
Oh please, give me a break! Just not an international one!!!
Jack’s Here Forever!
Young superstar come wonderkid, Jack Wilshere, has announced that he will stay with Arsenal forever! WOO HOO!
“Can I promise I will be at Arsenal for ever? I can promise that, yes.
“I’ve been at the club since I was nine and I’ve learned to love it. From the Patrick Vieira days, to Dennis Bergkamp, Cesc Fabregas, I’ve watched them come through and move on.
“But now there’s a crop of new players, Aaron Ramsey, myself, Kieran Gibbs, hopefully we can really create something special. I love the club and I want to be part of its future.”
Throw in The Ox, Koscielny and Miyaichi and I think we can say that there is a wealth of young talent at the club all over again! You could even throw a quick glance at Theo who seems to be improving with the added competition for places and still only 22 years old!
All that aside, it is great to hear a player in this day and age speaking in those terms. I just hope that we continue to build on the squad we have in the January window so that he can enjoy playing for us as well as do it for the love of the club.
With this in mind, I have decided to put together a “Jack-O-Meter” to, subjectively and without any real knowledge of the players, their mindset, aims or desires, judge where they would come regards the potential longevity of their Arsenal careers!
So, I will look at a particular player each week and make a totally arbitrary decision based upon nothing in particular aside from my own personal wishes, bias and random decisions! This week we will start at the very back of the team and judge “the Pole between the poles” Wojciech Szczesny:
Well, that seems fairly conclusive! Szczesny will be with us for life, or as close to that as a footballer can get!
Oh, you wanted some reasoning behind this judgement?! Ok, how about this…
The young pole was literally nobody when Wenger picked him out of obscurity and gave him a chance to prove himself. He didn’t shower himself in glory at first and, if all truth be told, many Arsenal fans felt that he would be on his way out and that Fabianski would be the “next great thing” between the sticks. Wenger stood by him, told him to knuckle down and, when injuries and fate collided, the young(er) pole took his chance with, dare I say it, indeed I do, both hands!
Since then he has proven himself to be a match-winning, shot-stopping, penalty-saving maniac and, to boot, he spends most of his time away from the pitch roaring like a young Arsenal lion on Twitter! Some of his recent classics include, but are not limited to:
“How can you not get frustrated with decitions [sic] like that going ALWAYS Man Utds way?! Its a clear pen and sending off!”
And who can argue with that?
“Tweeps, what do you think Ashley was aiming for when he took his penalty?”
Quickly followed by:
“Is it a plane? Is it an aeroplane? No, it’s just Ashley throwing Chelsea out of the FA Cup.”
And my personal favourite:
Please continue the “Szczesny to Barcelona” rumours. Makes me laugh everytime I read it. haha”
So, aside from his obvious loyalties to our great club, Manchester United, Chelsea nor Barcelona are not likely to offer him a job any time soon, so that should help us to keep him!
A resounding 100 degrees Gooner, I think that we can all agree! And if you don’t, well, that’s just tough because it’s my Jack-O-Meter!
And on that hot, sticky note I shall leave you.
Come on you Please Don’t Get Injured Whilst Away On Boring International Duty Gooooonnnnneeeerrrrrsssss!
Greetings fellow Gooners!
Chelsea…Wasn’t it? Really…Lesson in football. Jumpers for goalposts…!
But seriously folks, if we ever needed a heavy landing from the heady heights, the 0-0 draw with Marseille certainly provided us with that. A draw we really didn’t need given the number of games we have over the next few weeks, maybe. A return to old habits, for certain. Our inability to convert large chunks of possession and great play into goals is a ghost that has haunted us for the past few seasons and one which I am sure many of us had started to believe had finally relinquished its hold on us. Have the last few games been the new Arsenal with profligacy a thing of the past or have they been a juicy hiatus only to see us return to “form” after giving us a sense of new hope?!
So, with all that in mind, there has never been a better time to show a level of consistency and, more importantly, the ability to ensure that the “minnows” of the Premier League don’t have some kind of “hoo-doo” over us, as some would have us believe. And I think that is exactly the kind of game we need to restore a little of the confidence that we had so carefully and lovingly built up in recent weeks. Stick a few past the Baggies and leave a sweet taste in the mouth ahead of the international break and we could actually start really believing in ourselves rather than worrying about flashes in pans. Games like Chelsea drive things forward at 100mph but games like Marseille create that horrible smell in the car that only a handbrake left on can do. We need to remove the handbrake permanently but only a run of free-flowing Arsenal performances can do that and whilst we were in that particular groove, there has been a faint whiff permeating the air and threatening to derail the Gooner Express at any moment. Will Tuesday prove to be nothing more than a short-lived signalling failure and will today present us with all the proof that we need that we are still full steam ahead? Let’s hope so!
In reality, West Brom are not the pushovers they once may have been, although they have been horribly inconsistent so far this season, having pushed Manchester United and Chelsea almost all the way to the finishing line in the first two games of the season, conceding the points in the last 10 minutes on both occasions whilst the same team got beaten 3-0 by Swansea and yet managed to beat Wolves and Villa in the Midlands derbies! All of that said, they were anything but pushovers when they took 4 points from our two league games beating us 3-2 at the Emirates and holding out for a 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns last season, were they and that is exactly why we need to get a result today. Time to put some of the old ghosts to rest and show that we can beat the “bogey” teams.
So, we can expect Van Persie to return, after the blunt attacking force that was presented against Marseille in mid-week that much is certain, but how many people will successfully guess what the central defensive partnership will be or, more importantly, do so with any real certainty?! Aside from Arsene himself, not many I would bet.
If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would go with Vermaelen and Mertesacker again, regardless of how well Koscielny has been playing, as I believe that PM4 ad TV5 represent absolute class whereas Koscienly has, thus far, only managed to prove that form is temporary, in whatever direction. Yes, the Frenchman has played some great matches lately, most of them contenders for man of the match, but his two previous years have shown a frailty that we can ill afford right now. All that aside, isn’t it wonderful that Wenger actually has this selection “nightmare”?! Three centre backs all playing at a near world class level…Almost unheard of! Of course, when they succeed in keeping clean sheet after clean sheet and putting in solid performances game after game, we will have to hear about how Arsene inherited the defence from George Graham! HA! Just like the defence of Lauren, Campbell, Toure and Cole, not one of which was actually at the club when Wenger took over!
At right back I expect Jenkinson to get the nod over Djourou as the latter has done absolutely nothing, barring a decent cross against Marseille that led to the winning goal on that wonderful night in France,to deserve a place in this side and at the very least young Carl has shown a lot of heart and determination and, most importantly, improvement.
I think it may be that time again regards the Gervinho/Arshavin conundrum and the little Russian will probably get a game again, although I personally don’t agree with playing him just because we have him and think that Gervinho is the better choice all round. In days gone by players would happily put in 60-70 shifts a season and whilst I understand that the game has changed, I think that the players are also much fitter than they used to be too. Rotation for rotations sake just doesn’t make sense to me, but there you go.
Gibbs is still out, the most career-threatening stomach muscle injury in the history of the game putting paid to his chances of playing until at least after the international break. Chamakh is out, thank Dennis. Diaby has had another setback and will probably be fit by the morning of April 1st 2015!
I have to say the Gibbs situation is slightly upsetting. It has been blatantly clear over the past three or four seasons that he simply cannot get a run of fitness going at all but it also seemed clear that he wasn’t actually good enough to play for Arsenal either. The few games he has managed to appear in this season have shown that, far from not being good enough, he actually has all the potential to be a top quality left back. Again, the faith Wenger has shown in his ability could indeed be well founded, but his ability to actually stay fit long enough to make an impact is still in question.
I think that Ramsey and Arteta will also keep their places, along with Theo Walcott, another player doing his best to confound his critics! Seriously, Theo was looking more and more like a lost cause until the purchase and, more importantly, introduction to the side of Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it seems that the added pressure of having a back-up that may actually be a decent player who could even threaten his place in the team has worked wonders. His work-rate, his desire, his all-round game have improved since the Ox put in a a couple of great performances in the Carling Cup and Champions League. Yet more proof that competition for places is something that has been severely lacking in recent seasons.
With all that in mind, I expect the team to look something like this:
As for West Brom, they are missing midfielder Paul Scharner and striker Shane Long, both influential players for the Baggies. At the business end of things, so to speak, goalkeeper Ben Foster will be hoping for one of those “games in a lifetime” that he, like so many other “b-list” goalkeepers, seem to have against us! I have to say, I like Foster and I think that, given the chance at a top club, he would shine. The biggest problem he has is being left exposed so often by the fairly limp defence in front of him.
And that leads us on to the key to today’s game, our attack and its ability to actually create chances. Against this West Brom defence we should really be looking to put a few goals away, but that all depends on which attack turns up. The one against Marseille would struggle to open a can of beans if left to it for a fortnight, whereas the attack that showed up for the Chelsea match could probably eat the beans without even opening the can, if you see what I mean!
I am going to plump for the fact that the players were tired in mid-week and thus the blunt attack that we presented was merely a blip and not a return to old habits. Thus, the cutting edge that was so clearly lacking will return and a few goals should be expected. 3-0 is my prediction with a defensive performance that will compliment the attacking one.
And on that positive, goal-laden note I shall leave you.
Come on you Solid Defence, Thrusting Attack, Midlander Destroying Gooonnnnnnneeeerrrrrrssssss!
Greetings fellow Gooners!
As only the mighty Arsenal can, we have managed to pile yet another defensive body on the pile in the treatment room! Clearly the football Dennises have decided that having Thomas Vermaelen, one of the best centre backs in the league, out for, well, forever, one of the best right backs in the league, Bakary Sagna, out until at least the New Year too, Kieran Gibbs still out with a stomach muscle injury (probably picked up laughing at conceding a goal like Rosicky!) and now Carl Jenkinson, understudy to the aformentioned Sagna, is out with the knee injury that we all hoped was just a “tweak”.
But Arsenal players don’t get “tweaks” do they? They get limbs flying off, blood spilling, career threatening twattings! Ok, that may be a little O.T.T. but you get where I am coming from.
To be totally honest, I am still a little confused regarding TV5′s injury. We seem to get told “two weeks” about, well, every two weeks! Yet again, after being told he would be available two weeks after the international break, we are now being told that he will be back in 10 days to two weeks…Almost two weeks AFTER the international break! I know that he is back in training now, and that is absolutely fantastic news for all concerned, but I think that any more announcements of “two weeks” should be kept to an absolute minimum. In fact, It may be better if the club basically keeps it’s traps shut regarding injuries altogether and just surprises us when there is a name on the team sheet we haven’t seen for far too long!
Diaby, guess what…
“about two weeks”!
Arshavin Defending?! Oops, sorry, DEFENDED!
Arsene Wenger has come out in defence of the little Russian. Speaking to the official Arsenal website he had this to say:
“You would not be surprised that I disagree with that [criticism of Arshavin],” said the Frenchman. “That is opinion. I think he has been great for us and he will still be great in the coming months.
“He is a great player and you have to give him credit for that. He stands up for his performances. I personally respect him highly and I think he’s a great player.
“He works through it [poor form] by keeping his focus in training and what he does well. I like Andrey because he has a great attitude. It was a difficult game for him on Wednesday and for all the players who played up front because Marseille defended, they played for a point.
“There was not a lot of space for the strikers and as long as you don’t find an opening they will not come out, and that is what happened in the game.”
Which would all be well and good if the game against Marseille was the only time he has failed dismally to make any impression of any note, but it isn’t. In reality when Arshavin actually makes an impression on a game it is a welcome surprise, not the norm. If the fact that the opposition were defending and limiting the space available, which in this case is totally true and probably the reason a Smash n’ Grab victory was necessary in the end, how is Van Persie able to shine quite so brightly so often? It isn’t as if we have spent the past few seasons NOT watching the opposition park the bus and play for a draw and yet Van Persie is one of if the most prolific scorers in the world over the past 10 or so months.
The fact that he spends his time in training concentrating on the things that he does well strikes me as a complete mismanagement of the entire situation. That is the equivalent of saying that a terrible plate of food is acceptable because the chef is brilliant at cooking Steak and Kidney pie at home! It just doesn’t make sense. But maybe we are getting close to the crux of a much wider issue here. Is it possible that ALL of the players get off the hook because their performance in training is great? Is it possible that the centre backs have spent the past few seasons being dismal at set pieces because they are great at keepy-uppys?!
Again, possibly a little O.T.T. but, again, you get my point!
Robin Van Passion
Again, speaking to the official Arsenal website RvP has spoken about his delight at receiving a multitude of plaudits this week, mainly from Arsenal fans themselves:
“It’s nice to hear [the praise he's received this week], I read all the comments – I take the fans very, very seriously and I think they’re great.
“It’s wonderful to know people like what you do. I think people can see that I’m passionate about what I am doing and that I love the game, so it’s a big compliment and I love to hear those things.
“But we still have a long way to go and a lot of things to prove – it’s still early in the season so my aim is just to keep things going and move from strength to strength.”
Let’s hope that this is another sign that he realises the grass is not necessarily greener, even if more expensive, elsewhere!
When No News Was Good News
Marouane Chamakh’s agent has quashed any suggestion of his client leaving Arsenal in the January transfer window after the striker was recently linked with a move to Roma:
“The news about Marouane and Roma is absolutely unfounded.
“My client is happy at Arsenal and will remain here. There is no doubt.”
It never rains, huh?!
New Contracts? Watt?!
Two of the next generation of Arsenal’s “wonderkids”, Conor Henderson and Sanchez Watt, have both signed long-term deals with the club. Henderson, like so many contract renewals that have been carried out recently, has been out injured since July and will likely not return to full training until the New Year whilst Watt has been banging them in for the reserves this season with a tally of 5 goals in 6 games.
In fairness to Henderson he was part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Germany in pre-season and looked like a great prospect until the inevitable knee injury halted his progress towards first team football.
Watt was in the squad for the Carling Cup match against Shrewsbury and, fitness allowing of course, will probably get another call from the manager for the tie against Bolton next week.
Koscielny and Mertesacker In Love?
Laurent Koscielny has spoken of his true feelings for defensive partner Per Mertesacker recently. In a shock announcement to Arsenal Player he claimed:
“Personally, things are getting better and better with Per.”
Sorry, say that again?!
Ok, ok, I am being facetious! Obviously he was referring to the improvement that both players, the Frenchman especially, have shown in recent games. He continued:
“He is a very experienced player, he is an international player, he knows what the very high level is about.
“We know that the English league is very different than the other European leagues and there is always time to adapt.
“Soon he will become a key player in this team.”
Whilst I agree completely with almost everything he says there, I take issue with the future tense used regarding the big German’s “keyness” to the team. As far as I am concerned his name would be third on my team sheet after RvP and Szczesny.
And on that note I bid you farewell.
Come on you Oh No, Djourou Is Next In Line To Play Right Back Gooonnnneeeerrrrssss!