Dortmund, Diaby and THAT Dutchman!

November 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League, Premier League

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:

Predicted Line-Up v Dortmund

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!

Real football is back!

November 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

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!!!

Time To Ram Home The Points

November 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

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:

Predicted Line-Up v West Bromwich Albion

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!

Marseille, Muscles and Muppets!

November 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Marseille at home offers us the opportunity to guarantee our place in the knock-out phase of the Champions League. OK, it depends on the result between Dortmund and Olympiacos too, but with two games left to play in the group, it would be a nice touch to add to a fantastic couple of Arsenal weeks!

Having already sneaked a cracking steal the points victory in France two weeks ago, one assumes that our confidence will be high heading into the return home match. Add to that the demolition of Chelsea at the weekend, the fact that we are on a run of 8 wins in 9 games and we are rightly considered favourites heading into this game. However, discount the French at your peril. They are a team that suffered a similarly bad opening to their season as we did but are also a team that appear to be “turning the corner”. Since we last met on that emotional night in Marseille, Didier Deschamps’ side has won three on the bounce, scoring nine goals and conceding only two. On top of that he has reverted the side to a 4-4-2 which seems to be making all the difference in terms of creativity.

So, a lot of what goes on tonight will depend as much on our players ability to keep doing what we have been doing as it will on which tactics Deschamps employs. If he goes for another defensive line-up and performance like the last time out, we may see However, should the French side turn up and play the way they have did in the last match between the two clubs, we may see a fairly similar result although the danger exists that the scoreline could go 1-0 either way under those circumstances. If Marseille come to play the way they have been since the last time the two teams faced each other, we could see a repeat of the weekend’s game against the team from the bus stop in Fulham.

In truth, this result predicting dilemma leaves me a little stuck. Whilst I believe that, on recent evidence at least, we are capable of beating anybody, I also think that confidence plays a big part of that and confidence is something that the French side are also riding a wave of right now. If Deschamp tinkers that confidence may well be lost in some part but if he lets his team go out and play the expressive flowing football that they have been of late, well, we could be in for a cracking match for the neutrals!

So, I have to make a decision, and rather than go with the 1-0 win that my head is telling me, I am going to go with my heart, meaning a 4-2 win to the mighty Arsenal and another European night to remember!

In the pre-match press conference Wenger was asked if he was tempted to stick with the same team that won in such style against Chelsea at the weekend. His response was this:

“I am tempted to do it.

“Sometimes if you take a team on a roll there is no need to change it. You can defend any [decision] but when a team is on a positive experience, why not? That is what I have to decide.

“I [changed players] away from home at Donetsk last season and got punished.

“First we want to qualify of course. But then I did it when we were qualified and we paid a heavy price [by finishing second in the Group]. But you could finish first this season and still play Barca!”

Which is of course all true and valid although I don’t think that getting Barcelona would be quite the disaster that many believe with the team on the high that it currently is and with, I am sure, a fair few players in the team more than willing to put in that little bit extra to show Cesc why he made the wrong choice! I am not entirely sure of the wisdom of Wenger in basically telling the players that we don’t want to play Barcelona either. What if we DO draw them? What will he tell them then? I was just kidding, you can thrash this shower?!

Anyway, back to reality and I think that Wenger will be fairly true to his instincts and so the line up for tonight will probably not change a great deal from the weekend. I think that Jenkinson will return if he is fit enough to play and not just fit enough to train and I think that Arshavin will probably again take the place of Gervinho when he has done little to deserve to do so and I also think that Vermaelen will probably replace either Koscielny or Mertesacker to give him some game time and one of them a rest. In truth the choice of who to leave out has become something of a delicious and very unusual problem for Arsenal with Mertesacker being a simply world class defender now finding his feet a little in the Premier League whilst Koscielny has recently shown why Wenger has so much faith in the lad and turned in some quite stunning shifts, overshadowed only by Robin van Persie in the hunt for man of the match awards.

My gut tells me that the Frenchman will be the one to get a rest tonight and Wenger will give us the chance to see TV5 and PM4 in play together in partnership for the first time. What a mouthwatering prospect that is!

So, the line up should look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up Arsenal v Marseille

If they keep it sensible whilst attacking with the same intensity and positivity as we did at the weekend and that team is more than capable of taking the three points that guarantee qualification with something to spare. Get all gung-ho up front whilst regressing into that defensively sleepy mode that brought the disasters of the first few weeks of the season and we may well be on the receiving end of a rude awakening.

I do hope not, I personally like the way this side is developing a lot and I don’t think that any of them or us really needs to give “Those Who Shall Not Be Pleased” the chance to boo their displeasure at this exciting new version of Wengerball thus undoing all the good work of the past 9 games.

Diaby Out Again (was he ever in?!)
Abou Diaby has suffered yet another injury setback and will not be back for at least another 3 weeks. In the pre-match press conference Wenger gave us all the gory details…

“You won’t see him for a while, the next three weeks. He will not play for France either. I am worried but I was more worried three months ago. His ankle was not good but the surgery went very well then. Now his balance has changed so he has to adjust his muscular strength. He has had two small muscular concerns and if he can get rid of them in the next two to three weeks he will be ready. It’s a good time to get him right as we have a two-week break after Saturday.”

This is just getting worse. This kid is either destined to end his career before it even really begins or will take a leaf out of van Persie’s “How To Become A Cult Hero At Arsenal” book and eventually make a comeback that will last more than 2 games and see him play like a contender for World Player of the Year!!!

I do seriously hope that it is the latter as I like Diaby as both a player and a person and genuinely believe that a decent run of fitness would see a totally different player. I am not sure that the Vieira references are necessary or even correct, but I do think that he has something to offer as an attacking midfielder and I personally would enjoy the chance to at least find out.

I think that Wenger’s persistence with van Persie should be a good indicator as to whether or not Diaby has what it takes to make the grade at the top level. How many thought that the injury problems the Dutchman suffered were justification enough to send him packing? Too many in reality. But the manager kept his faith intact, brought Robin back and, be honest, where would we be right now without him? So, if we cannot show some faith in Diaby, we can surely show a little in Arsene, can’t we?

Meet The Muppets
Raphael van der Vaart has decided to let Arsenal players and fans alike what the cheating little fecker thinks of us with a quite hilarious little tirade aimed across North London via the tabloid press!

Seriously, I am not going to devote much space to this, other than to make a point of highlighting the seriously obvious and gaping flaw in the logic here:

“We are better than Arsenal.

“In our last seven games we have won six and drawn once. It’s a long season, but I think we have a bigger and better squad.”

Better than Arsenal?! Bigger and better squad?!!!?! HAHAHA! This muppet has spent way too long listening to the Lillywhite Shite’s fans!

Better than Arsenal involves, for example, actually winning a league title in the past FIFTY YEARS or maybe even an FA Cup in the past TWENTY YEARS!

Cheating by using your arm to control the ball and then NOT getting the bookings you so clearly deserved for the red card you should certainly have been shown to get a win, against the general run of play in your own cack-hole of a ground, is not a solid base from which to start spouting this level of “muppetry” and believe that anybody other than your own agonising blind fanbase will be taking you seriously!

On top of that, one of your half-wit players NOT maiming our right back and putting him out of his job for three months whilst “challenging” for a ball that was almost already off the pitch would probably be a good idea too in the bid to claim bragging rights!

Just wait until we get that Lillywhite Shite at the Emirates in February!

Lest we forget…This is their season. This is the season when they will overtake us and leave us languishing outside of the coveted Champions League places. This is the season where the power struggle in North London will be decided once and for all!

What a load of old pony!!!

And on that note I bid you farewell.

Come on you About To Guarantee Knock Out Phase Champions League Football Yet Again Whilst The Spuds Chase Their Dreams Of Glory In The Europa League Gooooonnnnnneeeerrrrrsssss!!!

Right Back Where We Started!

October 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC

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!

Smash n’ Grab – Just What The Professor Ordered!

October 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, if that wasn’t exactly what was needed I am unsure what was!

Marseille presented tonight’s test and, in truth, they seemed happy to spend most of the match playing very defensive football and hoping to catch us on the break. This is not a new tactic against Arsenal and, as has proved in the past, one that tends to be quite frustrating for our players resulting in heads dropping and lapses in concentration which have a habit of lead to some quite horrible consequences.

Wenger chose Rosicky over Ramsey, probably a choice guided by fitness and experience as much as anything else and Arshavin got the nod over Gervinho, but aside from this, we saw the team that we expected to with Santos and Jenkinson filling the wide berths alongside Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre of defence, Arteta and Song in the centre of midfield with Walcott and Van Persie completing the line-up.

With the fairly defensive set-up of Marseille, the game was always going to be a testing affair and so it proved with neither side really creating a great deal in the first 45 minutes, although both teams had reason to feel a touch aggrieved after two fairly stand-out penalty claims. One in only the 14th minute when Jenkinson appeared to handle the ball without any real need to do so and plenty of time to get the offending mitt out of the way, and a second shout for Arsenal when, in the 21st minute a corner hit the outstretched hand of Diarra before Van Persie attacked the ball, looping it over the stranded Mandanda in the Marseille goal, only for Diarra to then be the one to clear the ball off the line.

How the referee missed the handball is frankly beyond me as the white ball hitting the black glove of Diarra was surely an easy spot?! But then again, if we had been given that penalty, things might have turned out differently in the end…And that could possibly be the worst thing that could have happened!

What ACTUALLY happened was this…

Arsenal went in at half-time looking frustrated and not a little lacklustre. Marseille had stuck to their task of ensuring that we did not score well as well as looking vaguely dangerous on the counterattack too. Coming out for the second half it was obvious that some magic words had been spoken in the Arsenal dressing room and, not for the first time this season, the break seemed to give us new impetus and an altogether more interesting sense of urgency. There were less of the long hopeful balls to the frontmen that we had seen in the first half and a good degree more purpose and poise in midfield with Rosicky and Arteta really starting to run a tidy shop whilst Song started to push a little further forward. Risky in parts, but effective until the last third of the field where, once again, we flattered to deceive seeing the lion’s share of possession but creating little of note aside from Walcott getting into the box but finding Mandanda up to the task from a tight angle on the edge of the six-yard box.

The old worries began to creep in again and when, in the 62nd minute, we were to be denied any further viewing of the seemingly boundless energy of young Carl Jenkinson (excellently compared to a young Pat Rice by ‘Holic Thanks for that ‘Holic, I actually hadn’t drawn the comparison but you are quite correct :)) who went off with a potentially nasty knee injury, hearts must have been fluttering at the sight of Johan Djourou once again on a football pitch in an Arsenal shirt! In fairness to Djourou, he actually stepped up well enough, covering the right hand side of the defence ably enough and getting a yellow card for a challenge that is one of the finest I have ever seen him make!

I have my fingers crossed the injury Jenkinson picked up is not too bad as we can ill afford it with our current injury list and, of equal importance, I am sure we will have to hear from a raft of “supporters” about how Wenger should have bought Richards, Miguel, Alves AND Zambrotta in the transfer window as well as coaxing Gary Neville out of retirement and that his failure to achieve all of the signings is simply an oversight on his part and further proof of his ineptitude and inability to run a football club with any degree of competency! The news coming from the Arsenal camp thus far is that he over-extended his knee and will undergo some tests tomorrow. That said, there doesn’t seem to be the usual panic surrounding this particular injury that we tend to see, so with any luck he will fit and playing again in the very near future.

So, a fairly insipid second half began to unfold, unaided by the french side becoming less and less willing to actually play any sort of attacking football at all. Lots of old habits and worrying habits began to surface. A constant air of impatience from the Arsenal players seeing more and longer balls thrown up towards Van Persie in the hopes that he would pull another magical rabbit out of his shorts coupled with plenty of possession but little end product were compounded by Marseille looking more and more like they would settle for a point thus parking more and more of the bus in front of their goal seemed destined to provide a 0-0 draw and, whilst not a disaster by any means, not the confidence-boosting, spirit-lifting, corner-turning win that we really could have done with. Clearly something needed to be changed if we were going to get the three precious points. Step in Arsene Wenger, the hopeless tactician infamous for having no “Plan B”!

On 67 minutes the entrance of Gervinho in place of Walcott who, to be fair, did get kicked to the ground almost every time he got the ball in anything like a dangerous position, although his crossing was an utter disgrace, upstaged totally in this area by Jenkinson, saw the injection of a new dimension to the attacking play. Good close control with the ball and a willingness to run into the channels without it, thus making himself available for a simple pass – something that we had been lacking desperately at times in the previous hour – gave Marseille a little more to think about whilst also spreading the play across to the wings once again, somewhere we had spent little quality time in the hour or so prior to his introduction.

The third substitution and second of a tactical nature came when, on 78 minutes, Arshavin was replaced by Ramsey who, whilst everybody surely expected Rosicky to move out to the left and leave Ramsey in the centre, seemed to have been given a fairly roaming brief, popping up on the edge of the box, the right, the left and in the defensive midfield slot when Song pushed forwards.

And it was the pair of Gervinho and Ramsey that finally broke Marseille’s and Deschamps’ hearts and filled ours with a joy and almost unbelievable relief that has been missing for a while now!

I know that being an Arsenal fan is a dramatic life and I know that sometimes we would all just prefer some run of the mill, old school wins, but in truth there are times when a touch of the extreme is what we really need to give everybody that “jolt” to take things forward.

And that “jolt” is exactly what we got!

With the referee adding a mere 3 minutes of extra time even after 5 substitutions and a decent stoppage for the injury to Jenkinson, it appeared that a point each would be the outcome and probably a fair one at that. In the 91st minute Van Persie found himself free in the penalty area after a lovely through ball from Gervinho, but when Mandanda proved to be up to the task of stopping him, there was an obvious sense that the last chance of the game had gone by…

…but that wouldn’t be very dramatic, very exciting, very ARSENAL, now would it?!

In the 92nd minute Djourou put in a cross from almost the halfway line that, whilst dangerous, whizzed across the back of Van Persie and a little too far behind Gervinho for him to control the ball. However, his inability to get the ball down would provide to be what may turn out to be one of the most important, though accidental, assists of our season as, right on cue and advancing like an unstoppable train in Arshavin’s position on the left of the penalty area appeared Aaron Ramsey. Collecting the ball cleanly he moved into the box unchallenged and, fooling the goalkeeper into believing that his shot was going across him into the far corner, kept his head and rifled it just inside the near post.

A moment of calm in the eye of the storm from a player who many seem to forget is still only 20 years old and has spent a year of his career in the treatment room after being “Shawcrossed”.

To be honest, I almost couldn’t cheer, at least for a few moments, such was the shock of us actually doing the unthinkable…Pulling off a win in the dying seconds rather than throwing away a lead and, above all, proving that we can “win ugly” too!

There are moments in a season at which you can look back and say “that is where it all went wrong” or “that was the moment that turned things around”. It is too soon to claim that we are past the hump or even ready to mount a challenge on any front, but if the lads needed a big old helping of pick me up, this could well have been it.

All in all this was not the bad performance that the media is already presenting it as. We defended well apart from one or two “moments” that happen to most teams in the course of 90 minutes of football. Koscielny put in a standout shift and was my man of the match whilst Mertesacker again looked like he will just continue to improve until he explodes! We controlled the midfield for the most part with Arteta looking lively and available and Rosicky looking fitter with each passing game and continuing to show why Wenger didn’t choose to let him go when so many said that he should. Van Persie was excellent again, causing numerous problems for the Marseille centre back partnership of Diawara and N’Koulou although the service he received, or didn’t in truth, left much to be desired. Most importantly of all, we kept going until the very last minute, literally, and got the reward that deserved.

After the match Arsene Wenger had this to say on the subject of our late, late show:

“We left it very late but we had a difficult start. We lost some balls in the first half due to the fact Marseille pressed us well.

They didn’t find their fluency but in the second half we took over and I don’t think Marseille were dangerous at all [after half-time]. Marseille defended very well but you could see in the last 15 minutes we created some chances and were rewarded because we kept going and got an important victory.

I felt like we needed to be patient and intelligent. You could see our midfield had experience – we didn’t make stupid mistakes and we didn’t play stupid balls. It’s an important win but you take any win away from home in the Champions League.

We lost two points in Dortmund in the last seconds of the game. We lost a Champions League Final in the last part of the game with 10 men. We are not always lucky but when you face good opposition you need to take your chances.

He is, of course, absolutely right on all counts, but I think there is also another important point worth making here – When Manchester United win ugly in the last minute of extra time it is due to their dogged determination and how that is the stuff of champions.

Let’s hope that this provides exactly the boost that was needed to go out against Stoke on Sunday and show them a performance of champions too!

And on that note I bid you farewell!

Come on you top of Champions League Group F Goooonnnnneeerrrrssss!

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