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!
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!
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!
Greetings fellow Gooners!
In about an hour’s time we will be watching the return to the Emirates of Stoke City, possibly the most schizophrenic club in Europe right now! With a run of results ranging from a 1-0 home win over Liverpool, a 1-1 draw with Manchester United to a 2-0 loss to Swansea and topping their Europa League group, this really is a team with no real consistency to their results. Hell, they even managed to rid the Carling Cup of the Spuds!
So who or what exactly are Stoke these days? Still the same violent thugs of seasons past? The statistics would suggest not if the Premier League Fair Play table is anything to go by, with the Potters climbing from 20th position, the very bottom, in 2008-09 to 15th the following season, 13th last season and currently find themselves riding high in 8th position. So is Pulis gradually getting rid of the dirty, fouling nature of the club or is it something else entirely?
Well, let’s see how Arsenal have fared in that same period, shall we?
2008-09 saw us finish in 8th position, tied with the “Title-less For Fifty Years” from the brothel down the road. The following season we experienced the giddy heights of 4th position, whilst last season saw us plummet to a filthy, dirty 17th place! This season finds us currently holding the dubious honour of propping up the table in 20th place!
So, aside from demonstrating that the Fair Play league is a not much more than a lot of mumbo-jumbo and statistical absurdity, I think it safe to assume that it is not a particularly good barometer of whether or not a team is “dirty”.
And that really is the key here…The difference between cold statistics and cold reality. When that bumbling oaf and serial twat Shawcross performed his open leg surgery on Ramsey, causing the immediate cancellation of over a year of the young Welshman’s football career, Stoke should have been thrown out the competition altogether. At the very least, I personally would have thrown Shawcross out of professional football, and not just because I am a Gooner either, but because this animal is a serial offender and football, on ANY level, simply doesn’t need idiots like him around.
Those like Pulis and, of all people, Rooney, who come out with the ridiculous claim of “he is not that type of player”, are clearing overlooking a swathe of evidence to the contrary. A few classic Shawcross moments such as the following put things into a little perspective:
Yes, that was Shawcross almost kicking Scott Parker’s leg off and having the cheek afterwards to try and claim that he got the ball.
How about this one:
That was Shawcross not being that type of player again whilst out on loan at Royal Antwerp.
Or how about this one:
OK, I know it’s AdePayMeMore and that automatically offers the temptation to smirk, but we shouldn’t and I won’t! This example of Shawcross not being that type of player took place off the pitch with the Togan going absolutely nowhere with the ball. What is the defence of this tackle? The fact that he didn’t get anywhere near the ball is one thing, the fact that he might claim he was trying is another altogether. Even if he DID get a touch on the ball, which he was clearly never going to do, is the potential danger to the other player involved in the tackle justifiable by the possibility that the dirty fecker who might have broken a players leg over a ball that was out of danger, indeed, out of play?!
Throw in the perfect example of why the footballing authorities felt the need to outlaw the sliding tackle from behind, his tackle on Francis Jeffers that left the forward out of the game for 3 months, and the type of player he is becomes more and more clear by the minute. Aside from the claims of his innocence, the FA themselves do themselves no favours. For example; in the very same month that he destroyed the ligaments in Jeffer’s leg, they awarded him player of the month and the referee, having been given strict instructions by football’s governing bodies to clamp down hard on the tackle from behind, didn’t so much as brandish a card!
It would be funny if it hadn’t been so obvious that young Aaron’s injury was more an inevitability waiting to occur than simply an accident waiting to happen.
Anyway, enough of that neanderthal muppet. To waste any more time on this topic is to take away from the fact that the Mighty Arsenal are at home today, fortress Emirates as it has recently become, and about time too!
Injury news is exactly as described yesterday. After all the furore over whether or not Robin van Persie needs a rest, I have a sneaking feeling that Wenger might just leave him out for this one. Putting him up against the knuckle-dragger with his injury record may simply be considered asking for trouble too! In his absence I am actually a little unsure as to who becomes second choice. Theo Walcott has been begging for the chance to get in the centre, although we also have Park and Chamakh. The former has yet to play for us in the Premier League and whilst the latter has actually been on the pitch, he has basically failed to play for us too! I would like to see Theo get the nod, so I will go with that for the lack of any other obvious options!
Of course, that leaves a little hole on the right hand side of the attack. Will Wenger go with Oxlade-Chamberlain or slip Rosicky out there? Personally I would rest Rosicky for this game too, for much the same reasons as RvP, so The Ox gets on my wish list, even if may not quite make it onto the team sheet!
Santos will continue at left back with the flourishing partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre and the terrifying proposition of Johan Djourou filling the empty space left by Sagna and Jenkinson’s injuries.
Truth be told, Djourou played well enough against Marseille, although it wasn’t as if the French side were putting any particular pressure on the defence in the second half, and his cross into the box did lead to the winning goal for Ramsey. I am not saying that his name anywhere near an Arsenal team sheet doesn’t make me nervous, just that we should be balanced about these things wherever possible!
In midfield I think we will go for industry over creativity and so Tomas Rosicky will likely start the game on the bench with Ramsey getting the chance to look his attacker in the eye and Gervinho will probably get the nod over Arshavin. That said, the recent Arshavin/Arsene love-in was maybe the manager’s way of explaining that he intends to pick the Russian even though he is clearly one of the most out of form players in the EPL!
So, the team will possibly look like this:
In terms of a final score prediction, the unpredictability of both teams in recent times makes it hard to get any real Mystic Meg Moment going, such is the vast array of possibilities depending on “which” Arsenal or “which” Stoke turn up on the day. My head says get through this with 3 points, regardless of performance, and that will do us nicely but my heart, as ever, is screaming out for a good win to show that we are still moving forwards and to also exact some sort of justice in light of some bad results and the loss of Ramsey. So, head says 1-0 whilst the heart says a 3-1 win to reverse the result in May that saw the end of our title challenge.
Let’s just hope that Shawcross can keep his feet at least somewhere near the ball and that all 11 of our players finish the 90 minutes unscathed. The last thing we need is another injury to add to the pile!
And on that note, I bid you farewell.
Come on you All Limbs Intact By The End, Pottery Smashing Goooonnnneeerrrrssss!