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!

The Kids, The Tommy Gunner And A Defence Better Than United’s!

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Carling Cup

Greetings fellow Gooners!

It seems that the squad picked for the Carling Cup 4th round match against Bolton has even less experience than most assumed it would. After seeing a fairly balanced mix of youth and experience turn out for the 3rd round, I think that this change is indicative of the all round changes taking place at the club. A month ago Wenger may have been considering that winning the Carling Cup may have been fast becoming our best and maybe only chance of silverware whereas today sees us 6 wins out of 7 later in all competitions and a team that appears, finally, to be gelling. Maybe Wenger feels, like so many more of us, that we are yet to see the best of this team and, with Vermaelen finally looking to make a comeback, Sagna and Wilshere set to be ready for the New Year (where our seasons have tended to show that certain “collapse factor”) he may well be right.

Van Persie has, of course, earned himself a rest for this one but the list of players who would be currently considered 1st XI in the squad for tonight’s match is pretty slim indeed. Vermaelen and Arshavin will be the only real first-team players involved at all whilst Fabianksi, Squillaci, Frimpong, Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Coquelin can all currently be considered “fringe” at best.

Aside from that there is a good chance we will get a look at Ryo, which I am personally very much looking forward to, Park, who has waited patiently since his last run-out against Shrewsbury in this same competition, Watt, armed with his new long-term contract and Ozyakup who, for my money, looks to be one of the classiest looking young midfielders I have seen since a little Spanish lad turned out alongside Patrick Vieira!

I also think it is telling that Chamakh has been left out altogether for this fixture. If we consider him to be anything like in the manager’s thoughts regarding any first team football this season, one assumes that a match like this would be a perfect chance for him to get another 90 minutes under his belt as well as play against what promises to be a second string Bolton team too. The fact that he is not in the squad lends a lot of weight to the feeling that he is likely to be on his way in January and I for one would not mind that one bit, even if it is to put him out of his misery and give him the chance of a fresh start elsewhere.

In terms of team selection, well, it’s anybody’s guess really! There seems to be a general level of uncertainty as to whether TV5 will actually start the match as well as how many of the midfield kids will be on the pitch from the kick-off. The only real “certainties” appear to be Fabianksi, Squillaci, Benayoun, Ox & Park. So, perm any six from 13 for the jackpot!

Bolton seem to be playing a similar strategy to us with as many as nine changes planned from the team that got a last-minute lesson in playing all of the 90 by Sunderland at the weekend. I have to say, there are a couple of the Bolton kids I am looking forward to seeing, namely Gael Kakuta the 20 year old French winger on loan from Chelsea and tipped for a very bright future and a certain Fabrice Muamba who, in my mind, is one of the few young players to have left Arsenal and actually played some consistently decent football elsewhere. Looking at the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozyakup, Frimpong and Coquelin, it is easy to understand why he and the club felt that his future lay elsewhere, but I am always glad to see him play and play well whenever I get the chance.

Scoreline prediction? Well, not having the faintest idea what the team will be that will start the game, that is difficult at best! If I have to take a flying leap of faith, based on the team I have roughly in the back of my mind, I would guess that a tough, high energy game is on the cards. Lots of attacking play is unlikely with a midfield likely to be very competitive and congested. Counter-attacks and set-pieces may provide the bulk of the goalscoring opportunities and, with the defence that is likely to line up for us, I expect a very close game!

So, 2-1 or even 1-0 get my vote, although if I am pushed hard enough I will go for the former and say 2-1 to the mighty Gunners!

Let’s hope that I am right as we need to keep this run of form going to keep the mood around the club positive and the players in the 1st XI very much on their toes. Incredibly, after losing such quality players in the summer, we appear to actually have some serious competition for places now, and that is no bad thing. For example, if Vermaelen plays from the start tonight, looks fit and hungry and plays anything like as well as we know he can, who does Wenger pick for the Chelsea game? On the evidence of the past couple of games Koscielny is finally finding some real form and has been Man of the Match or very close to it in each of the past three games. Mertesacker may be getting a general vote of no confidence from some sections of the fans, but I cannot help but wonder why that is when he is doing EXACTLY what it said on the tin! A big, quick-thinking , slow-footed Tony Adams type of player is what we cried out for and it is what we got. Why some people are complaining about his lack of pace is totally beyond me! What did we think we would get? We screamed from the rooftops for 3 seasons for a dirty great hulking centre back and now we have one, did we really think he would outpace somebody like Thierry Henry?!

If you want my honest opinion, I think that there is every chance that, fit or not, brilliant tonight or not, Thomas may find that the bench is his starting place this weekend as Wenger has to seriously weigh up the wisdom of changing a back four that, whilst not perfect, is actually showing some real signs of improvement.

Anyway, over the past 7 games our back four has only let in 6 goals. To put that in perspective Citeh have let in 5 in the same period, the same as Chelsea and, I simply can’t help but throw this one in, United a whopping 11!

OK, with United losing 6-1 to the latest “buying all the toys” club, that statistic could be considered a touch misleading, but the reality is that even if they had only conceded 1 goal at the weekend, their tally over the past 7 games would be the same as ours.

And Sir Alex Ferguson said that a United side “would never let that happen”!

I have to tell you, 6-1 at home with your 1st XI on the pitch is certainly a lot worse than 8-2 big man!

And on that simply joyous note, I bid you farewell.

Come on you Soon To Be In The Carling Cup 5th Round Gooooonnnneeerrrrrssss!

My Horse, My Ox, My Ass, My Anything

September 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Carling Cup

Greetings fellow Gooners!

So, I settled for the quote in the end. I did spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with a clever way of mixing the words “Shrew” and “Ox” after daring to use the obvious reference to “Taming of the Shrew” in my pre-match article but I finally decided it was high time I actually wrote something that you may wish to read rather than something I may wish to forget!

So, there it is, and I have to say that, in hindsight, I think that it works quite well! Other choices included “Shrewd Like An Ox” but, having decided that the average ox probably isn’t particularly famous for its shrewdness, that went by the wayside whilst “Wenger Shrewd With His Ox” didn’t seem too bad until it started to conjure up far too many terrifying images and finally “The Ox Tames The Shrews” was just too much of a literary crowbarring of words!

Ok, I know, I have now spent 2 whole paragraphs discussing the title and STILL haven’t mentioned the game itself! There may of course be a reason for that:

It may be that I, like most other Gooners in the world, didn’t get to actually see the match live and had to make do with radio commentary and Arsenal Player highlights afterwards.

It may be that I am still in shock that we actually went behind, almost 2 behind in reality, and still managed to come back and win.

It may even be because this sudden upwelling of happiness and enthusiasm that I am feeling needs a tight lid kept on it until we actually win more than one in a row and in a manner that convinces anybody that we are not going to concede a hatful in our next match.

It may just be that last year in this same fixture against Spurs we ran riot for the majority of the game, scored 4 goals (admittedly after somehow allowing Spurs to take the game into extra time) and Henri Lansbury looked world class!

Whatever the reason I am loathed to get too excited about last night’s game for fear of the sky opening and the God of injury misery swallowing up the Arsenal careers of a few promising youngsters before they even really get started. So, let me sum it up like this:

The team sheet was as expected apart from the fairly impressive and hard-working Park Ju Young being preferred in the starting line-up to Ryo up front and Gibbs, as predicted could be the case, being chosen at left back in place of Santos who presumably is not in need of any more match fitness and thus was probably in live to start against Bolton on Saturday. Note the use of the words “probably” and “was” in that statement…We will get to that!

We started well enough, if the radio commentary stream is to be believed, anyway, and controlled the ball for the first 10 minutes or so with Chamakh testing Ben Smith in the Shrewsbury goal on a couple of occasions. After a fairly nervy start, the Shrews started to settle and, having hit the post and the side netting in their previous attack, secured a deserved 1-0 lead on 15 minutes through the head of Collins.

Having seen the replay on the Arsenal website, I have to say that, whilst the cross into the box was a decent one, Collins was offered the freedom of the six yard box by the yet again dismal Johan Djourou and, whilst employing a heading technique that could not be described as textbook, the time and space that he had and the close proximity to the goal left Fabianski with no chance.

For the next 18 minutes the ball was kept well, used well and passed well and a treat of flowing attacking football was presented to the ¾ full Emirates Stadium by…the AWAY team! Ok, that may not be entirely accurate as we did put together a few attacking manoeuvres of our own in that time, but anybody hearing the 5,000 travelling Shrewsbury fans chanting “OLE!” as pass after pass reached its intended destination may have been entitled to believe that the game had become very much one way traffic!

On 33 minutes the most improbable occurrence, well, occurred! A good cross from the right by Carl Jenkinson (also in the middle of nowhere for their goal if the truth be known) found Chamakh, under pressure from two defenders but still somehow managing to get the all-important flick on to the far post where an unmarked Kieran Gibbs found a gap between the keeper and his near post and levelled the score.

Seriously, I am not joking, Kieran Gibbs scored for Arsenal!

From then on we dominated the bulk of possession, created a few good openings but mainly looked calm and assured for once and on 58 minutes the reward for our efforts finally came. A patient build-up saw the impressive Frimpong find Oxlade-Chamberlain in 5 yards of space about 25 yards from goal. He took a touch to put the ball in front of him before unleashing a rocket of a shot that flew into the bottom corner. I have heard and read criticism of the keeper and his inability to get down quickly enough to stop the ball, but I have to say, no matter how many times I watch it, it would have been an incredible save had he actually gotten to it. In truth, it was a great goal from our most dangerous and creative player on the pitch. We can expect to see more of him in and around the first team after this performance. Sorry Theo!

More possession followed as Shrewsbury understandably began to tire and for a while it did look as though they may cave in. In truth, they didn’t collapse and instead put up a stout display of backs to the wall defending that would have most Arsenal fans shouting about the passion and fight that has been missing from our defence for the past few years were it our boys doing the same.

On 79 minutes the Shrewsbury defensive lines were finally broken again. A long ball from Miquel found Gibbs on the left side of the final third. He brought the ball down and moved imperiously into the centre of the pitch. (I know, I know, Gibbs and imperiously aren’t words usually found in the same sentence but imperiously actually is the word. Whether it was him keeping his head up looking for the pass, controlling the ball well whilst doing so, just looking a touch languid or even a combination of the three, for a brief moment he actually had me thinking of PV4 at one point! Another position change?! ) Trying a through ball to Ozaykup (on the pitch for 2 minutes replacing Frimpong at this point but already impressing with his energy, technique and general willingness) Gibbs almost split the Town defence in two and would have done but for a tip of the toe touch from a retreating defender. Fortunately for Arsenal the slightness of the touch gave Gibbs the chance to pick the ball up again, pass it to the Ox who pushed it out wide to the still willing Ozaykup who, after having one attempted cross blocked, managed to get his second one into the six yard box finding Benayoun who had enough space to take a touch before cleanly striking the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Game over.

In terms of performances, the highlights have to be Oxlade-Chamberlain for his ability to look dangerous anywhere on the pitch, Gibbs, Frimpong and, in particular, Benayoun for their ability to touch every last blade of grass on it and, in a much more unsung role, Francis Coquelin who I have to admit I have been none too impressed by of late but who put in a performance of calm assured quality tonight and showed many of us why Wenger and many others see so much potential in him.

In the end a good performance which will hopefully provide a couple of selection headaches for Arsene in terms of Gibbs/Santos and Oxlade-Chamberlain/Walcott at least as well as seeing us into the hat for the next round where our youngsters will probably get the chance to test themselves against higher league opposition. Obviously, after suffering the indignity of losing in a penalty shootout after playing 2 hours of energy-sapping football against Stoke City, the Spuds, having fielded a strong team, will not be providing that test!

See, life’s not all that bad after all!

Until the next time,

Come on you Shrew Taming Goonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!

Time To Tame The Shrews

September 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Carling Cup

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Yes! Something to get excited about again! One of the few positives about this part of the season is that, given how badly things are going for us recently, the games are coming thick and fast we giving us the chance to turn things around a little. I know, it’s only the Carling Cup 3rd round and we are playing a Shrewsbury Town side that, whilst they will be buoyed by our recent dismal run of results and their own recent run of 6 wins in 7 matches in all competitions, we really, REALLY should be beating.

Another good thing about this period is we get a chance to see some of the next generation playing as well as some of those already staking a claim for a place in the first team and Arsene Wenger has confirmed this will still be the case, despite the quandary we find ourselves in:

“I will be faithful to our policy but I will try to find a good mixture between youth and experience.”

“I had my team in my head before the Blackburn game and it will remain exactly the same.”

“We will have Frimpong, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo, and maybe one or two more. There is an also opportunity to see Park for the first time.”

“Chamakh will also feature. You will also see Jenkinson start in his position. We will try to find a mixture between youth and experience.”

“You will see the likes of Ryo and Oxlade-Chamberlain. You should be excited about Oxlade-Chamberlain because he is a great talent. My target is to develop him so he confirms the expectation I have for him.”

I have to say that I AM excited to see the Ox get a run out but equally excited to see Ryo as, from the games I saw him play in Holland last year, he also looks a really special player. Wenger made some interesting remarks regarding the differences between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott saying:

“Walcott is a bit more a striker and Oxlade-Chamberlain is more a midfielder. I believe that Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a central midfielder one day and Walcott a central striker one day. That shows the difference between the two players.”

Although it does beg the question as to why on earth we are still seeing the generally dismal Chamakh come on from the bench to play centre forward and NOT seeing Theo get a run in that position. Everybody and his mother seem to think that Walcott is wasted on the wing and would be better off getting a run of games up front and, at 22 years old and 5 years at the club, isn’t it about time he got that chance?

In terms of some of the other new signings, Arteta will more than likely be rested although I expect to see Santos get another game in a bid to improve his match fitness and Yossi Benayoun begin the match in a bid to add an old head to the midfield. Whilst Wenger confirmed that Park Ju Young will probably get a debut, I think that Chamakh will start the game with Wenger hoping that a decent game on the back of scoring against Blackburn may be just what he needs to get himself a bit of much needed confidence back.

The other “Pole between the Poles”, Fabianski, will probably also get a game. Let’s hope he plays a blinder, if needed, to keep Szczesny on his toes. A central defensive partnership of Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou would give the former some game time and the latter, hopefully, also some desperately needed confidence. Given that the only other choice is Squillaci

Don’t misunderstand me, I simply don’t believe that Djourou is the answer to our defensive problems any more, even coming from the bench and only when absolutely necessary, but it appears that he is the current third choice and, even when TV5 returns, he will still be our fourth choice. With our injury record I believe it is safe to say he will probably get some games this season. Completing the defence we can expect to see the right back slot filled by Carl Jenkinson, yet another player in need of a confidence boost given the game he had against Manchester United.

The midfield will probably include a central partnership of Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin, very much providing a screen for the defence, whilst creativity will probably be left to Benayoun, with Rosicky probably still out.

So, the line up should look something like this:

Predicted Formation For Carling Cup 3rd Round v Shrewsbury

There is the possibility that Gibbs may start in the left-back role depending on how much match fitness Santos is or is not still lacking and, considering that he would be playing alongside two centre backs who we probably won’t spend too much time with this season, the benefits of playing him if he isn’t lacking match fitness are not immediately obvious. Aside from that, I think that Arsene has given us enough information for there to be few surprises.

As for Shrewsbury, we certainly cannot afford to be complacent. Currently on a decent run in League 2, they have 5 wins 2 draws and 2 losses in their 9 games so far. One thing that could go in our favour is that they have only scored 13 goals thus far and so, with a little luck, if the central midfield partnership does its job properly, our defence shouldn’t be over-occupied, something which, on recent form, would be a huge relief to all concerned. The last thing the players or the fans need is another game of cat and mouse such as Saturday with two teams trading scoring blows as, should heads start to drop, the Shrewsbury players may well get the scent of a giant-killing and then anything could happen!

Having already beaten Derby County, currently 4th placed in the Championship, 3-2 away in the first round and Swansea 3-1 at home in the second round. Admittedly they played a Swansea side that only featured 3 of the 11 involved against us in our recent Premier League fixture, I don’t think that will make the slightest difference to the Shrews and we underestimate them and, possibly more importantly, overestimate ourselves at our peril.

In terms of a prediction, well, there are trainee minesweepers with safer tasks right now, but I am going to go all out and look forward to a slightly nervy to begin but turning out fine in the end 3-0.

Giving Them The Treatment

There may be a little light appearing at the end of the tunnel regarding the current injury list. Whilst Jack still has 4 weeks left before the protective boot can be removed and a proper test of that ankle can give us some real idea of how he is progressing, it seems that Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby should be fit to return after the international break, putting them in line for selection for the home game against Sunderland on the 16th October. It is a shame that TV5 will probably miss the away game against the Spuds, but I quite like the idea of him being fresh for the return of Bendtner! Tomas Rosicky will face a late fitness test on his knee and I couldn’t care less whether Squillaci never plays for us again so I won’t even bother discussing his “return”!

On The Defensive

Wenger also called for a little more patience regarding the new look defence saying:

“I believe there is a little question of time and timing.”

“Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker are new, but they were not especially guilty on the goals. But maybe as a unit we need more time to work.”

“A lack of concentration, a lack of communication, a lack of coordination and individual urgency [is behind the goals we have conceded]”

“I believe as well when you score an own goal, you have to look at yourself. It’s never, never, never, never, never completely out of reach, or very rarely. Out of 100 own goals there are maybe 5 or 6 where you have no chance at all, all the rest you have to look at yourself.”

Whilst I can only agree wholeheartedly with all of that, there are still questions surrounding the decision to leave the new signings until the last minute thus leaving us in the bind of bedding players in during the season and not beforehand. I understand that the guarantee of Champions League football had to have helped with the Santos signing, the fact that neither Mertesacker nor Arteta were playing for clubs in the Champions League anyway and Benayoun did not look like playing at all at Chelsea, it cannot be used as a be all and end all excuse for the obvious failings in our summer transfer dealings.

All Over The Park

Arsene had some interesting words regarding Park Ju Young’s role for the team:

“Park is good in every area. He is good in the air, good technically, he is mobile and that’s why he is an adaptable striker who can play up front behind the striker. That’s why we went for him. What I like with him is that he is very mobile and that’s the basis of our game.”

This may well confirm my theory that he was signed for a floating role in the style of God. This of course would lead to a reversion to the 4-4-2 which I, along with many others, am desperate to see.

That’s The Spirit

Arsene also commented on the travelling support although I cannot help but suspect that there is also “hint of hinting” in the direction of the boo-boys at The Grove:

“Again on Saturday in Blackburn there were thousands of Arsenal fans and they were fantastic.”

“We need to be united and I am very grateful for their attitude on Saturday. They were absolutely fantastic.”

“The team has a good spirit, a good mentality, a good attitude and that will come out longer term. We have had a bad start but I believe we can bounce back and be very strong this season.”

Whilst I agree with the sentiment and further agree that they are the current benchmark to try and emulate, I am not totally sure that we should actually be United!

And on that far too silly note, I bid you farewell my suffering friends!

Until after the game…

Come on you Shrew-Taming Goooonnnneeerrrrssss!