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!

Frenchmen Under Fire

October 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

A terrible start to the season for a team managed by a Frenchman who finds himself under a mountain of pressure, fans screaming for his head and the board telling the world things like this:

“[The manager] is not under threat, he has the keys to this place for the long term.”

And the manager saying things like this:

“I don’t want to be too pessimistic [about our situation]. I’m aware of the difficulties we are facing but we are working on that and we are trying to build some confidence.”

And reading either or both of those statements, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that we were talking about our very own French manager, but we are not. The Frenchman is Didier Deschamps, the manager of Marseille, our next opponents, although the comparisons are more than striking.

Up next, the trip across the channel to Marseille. No easy game for sure, although there cannot be many teams of the size of Marseille that have endured a worse start to their league campaign than us! 10 games played, 9 points gained sees the French side wallowing in 15th place in the Ligue 1 table. All that said, their last Champions League match saw them trounce Borussia Dortmund 3-0 so they have to feel that they are at least in with a chance.

So, two teams with all to play for, both underperforming desperately in their respective leagues, both, rather ironically, unbeaten thus far in the Champions League, both managers recently being given the dreaded vote of confidence and both teams recently seeing a bit of an upturn in form, if not entirely in terms of results. All in all, this one could turn out to be a real humdinger!

Team news is expected with Vermaelen still out until at least the end of the month, Diaby until the weekend but it is more likely that the Carling Cup match will see his latest in a string of comebacks, Wilshere and Sagna are obviously still on the long term injury list. The most recent addition to the treatment room is sadly, once again, Kieran Gibbs. Sadly because he seems to have no luck whatsoever with injuries, this one being a stomach muscle problem, and sadly because he was actually starting to show us why Wenger has stuck with him through all these injuries by playing really quite well indeed!

On a more positive note, Aaron Ramsey has travelled with the squad to France having been back in training and having no reoccurrence of the problems with the tight hamstring that kept him out of Sunday’s 2-1 win. So, Santos will almost certainly start at left-back, Jenkinson will probably continue at right-back in the continued absence of Sagna whilst Walcott and Gervinho will probably keep their places although either or both of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arshavin may well be in with a shout after the former’s last performance against Olympiacos and the latter’s cameo against Sunderland.

So, the team will probably look something like this:

Expected Line-Up v Marseille

And so we begin a two week period that could well define the season, regardless of what has gone before, with the Champions League “double header” sandwiching the visit to the Emirates of Stoke City and the short away trip to the bus stop in Fulham. Throw in the Carling Cup home match against Bolton and we could find ourselves in much better shape in the league or languishing in the bottom half of the table again, as good as in the hat for the knockout phase of the Champions League or all but out of the competition and sailing into the fifth round of the Carling Cup with another win against the “impenetrable” defence of Cahill and co (currently the worst defensive record in the EPL having conceded a fairly impressive 22 goals!) or crashing out of one of the only two competitions that may actually be considered winnable for us this season!

Time will tell, but the most important thing is to get at least a point tomorrow night, preferably all three. I personally believe that we will get the win that we really need and I am going to plump for a 2-0 win.

Let’s all hope that I am right!

Vermaelen Extends Contract Amid Yet More Claims Of Mentul Strengff

Yet again the manager has decided to wield those fatal two words whilst discussing a team that couldn’t possibly have looked frailer and lacking in the aforementioned “strengff” as it has over the past 6 months. Self-destructing our way from the Carling Cup final to the end of an entirely distressing and desperately anti-climactic season which saw go from having the title in our own hands one minute and Champions League qualification the next.

When asked about TV5’s decision to sign a new long-term contract, (thank Dennis for that!) this is what he had to say:

“What is important is that in our environment it gives a different message.

“When you listen to people it looks like an exodus with everybody leaving the Club but we are a happy club. We did not have the start of the season that we wanted but the atmosphere inside the Club is very solid, very united and very positive.

“We want to turn the results round and the fact that some players extend their contract at the moment is a positive sign for us.

“We are unified and that is down to our mental strengths. This club has traditionally shown mental strength under pressure and I would just like to say that we have been under pressure since the start of the season but in the big games we always managed to find the resources to respond well.

“The biggest games have been the qualifiers for the Champions League and certainly recently against Sunderland where we had absolutely to win the game. There is another one we want to win tomorrow.”

Plenty there to chew over and spit out, but there is simply no way that “We are unified and that is down to our mental strengths. This club has traditionally shown mental strength under pressure and I would just like to say that we have been under pressure since the start of the season but in the big games we always managed to find the resources to respond well,” can pass by without some sort of critical review.

“…traditionally shown mental strength…” and “…but in the big games we always managed to find the resources to respond well,” strike me as the words of a man who is either a) kidding, b) living in cloud cuckoo-land or c) in such a deep state of denial that he actually believes what he just said!

Seriously, traditionally we fold like a Brighton Beach deck-chair just as you are about to sit in it and as for finding resources for the big games, well, feck me gently with a chainsaw if that isn’t about the most ludicrous things you could even imagine him saying in the same six month period that has seen us gift the Carling Cup to Birmingham City, soon after to be relegated, thrown away the league in a style that left most Spurs fans feeling like they had actually won the league themselves (yeah, keep on dreaming you overrated Lillywhite shite. 50 years and counting!) and if we came up with the resources at Old Trafford then I would hate to see what might have happened if we’d had an off day.

I’m sorry. I like Arsene, I truly do, and I still believe that he is the best man to dig us out of the hole that we find ourselves in, but this sort of blindness/wishful thinking/lunacy (delete as appropriate) simply beggars belief. Surely he isn’t still trying this type of rhetoric to boost the confidence of the players? The truth is that our past 6 years of history confirms that it simply doesn’t work.

Reliable Robin Probably A No-Go
Arsene Wenger was asked about the RvP “situation” (Situation? What situation? Didn’t he tell us that he intends to stay and that we should ignore the rubbish being churned out in the press?!) by the Arsenal supporters club of France. His response was a little “cagier” than one might have expected:

“I don’t think I will lose Robin. But if a player who has a choice of two clubs with the same ambition, they’ll go for the club who pay more. If the players leave it’s not linked to titles. Players don’t go to Manchester City for titles, they go for money.”

Which is fair all enough, if you ignore the obvious fact that Citeh are sitting at the very top of the Premier League, two points clear of neighbours and with a home game against the on Sunday! Surely, unless he is a bigger muppet than even I think he is, Na$ri is not looking over his shoulder thinking “Hhmmm…Wish I had stayed at Arsenal after all and fought to get into the top half of the table instead of coming here and playing for a team that look like genuine contenders for the title. PS – Cha-ching!”

Aside from that, I was a little frustrated with the un-unequivocalness (I know that isn’t a word, but I kind of like it anyway!) of the Van Persie part of that statement. “I don’t think…” is NOT what we were being led to believe on Sunday after the captain’s programme notes were quite so specific about his desire to stay at Arsenal. Sometimes I actually wonder if Wenger doesn’t go out of his way to ruffle as many feathers as possible, especially the currently suffering supporters of our fine club.

The very last thing we need right now is another upwelling of media speculation regarding the Dutchman, there is already quite enough welling coming up to go around. Surly a better answer would have been something like “I refer you to Robin’s programme notes from Sunday,” and left it at that. Now the media will have their story again and we will have to listen to the endless stream of opinion regarding what we will do when he “inevitably” leaves. Of course, if he does leave, I fully expect the club to close its gates after 125 years of football because we simply won’t be able to carry on.

More Mentul Strengff
In the build-up to today’s Champions League match Arsene was asked the inevitable questions about his time managing Monaco and their fierce rivalry with Marseille and the highs and lows of management in general. He had this to say on the subject:

“A career in management prepares you to fight against adversity, that is for sure.

“When a young manager asks me for advice all you can say is ‘survive disappointments’ because that’s all you can say. You cannot imagine a career of any manager without disappointment. At the end of the day, it is that.

“It makes you stronger or you get out of the job. It is as simple as that. What helps you is that you believe in your passion and mental strength.”

This worries me a little, if I am completely honest. If “all you can say” when asked about the highs and lows of a career in football management is “survive disappointments” then you surely have a fairly negative view of things in general. At a time when we are looking to the team to put a run of good results together and build some confidence, the manager is not exactly presenting them with much in the way of positive, confidence-building input with statements like that. I would have hoped for something a little more “Pacino”. Something like “Squeeze every last drop of everything you have out of every last inch of your body to make sure that you are always playing the very best football that you can and can always hold your head up high knowing that you didn’t let yourself or any of your colleagues down.”
Something like that anyway! Maybe I should apply for a job writing Arsene a few decent sound bites for his press conferences as the less confusing they get, which isn’t always the case, the more perplexing they become, if you catch my drift!

And on that note, I bid you farewell!

Come on your never been accused of match-fixing Goooonnnneeeerrrrrssss!

Goals Speak Louder Than Programme Notes

October 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Sometimes you just have to come out and say something.

Today Robin Van Persie did just that…

TWICE!

“I want to say something about my commitment to Arsenal because there have been many stories in the media lately.

“I am committed to Arsenal, and that’s how it is, despite people [in the media] making up stories. For example, they said I was selling my house, but that’s nothing recent, I moved house last year.

“I see stories which make me laugh, but I can see how frustrating it is from the fans’ point of view. But I am committed to Arsenal. I am captain, and fans should not believe everything they read.

“As for that house story, the house has been for sale for a while, but I’m not living on the streets or anything, I have found a really nice house, and yes, it’s in London! So I want to put that straight, I am committed, and I will show that on the pitch.

Two wonderful goals later, one of them the fastest goal Arsenal have ever scored in the Premier League, and I think that it is fair to say – and I am thrilled to do so – that many of us got this situation very wrong indeed!

Greetings fellow Gooners!

In a must win game today at the Emirates Stadium which saw, with the exception of Aaron Ramsey being replaced by Tomas Rosicky due to a tight hamstring, the expected first XI take to the pitch, the fans were treated to some interesting comments in the Captain’s programme notes. After a three week period during which the media speculation regarding Robin Van Persie and his “imminent transfer to Citeh” has been cranked up to a Spinal Tap crushing 12, the Dutchman decided that the best way to respond was on the pitch, and respond he did, in the very best way a captain and striker possibly could.

In truth, the comments reputedly made by him during his recent stint with the Dutch national team may have been misquoted, quoted out of context or even just plain made-up, but there needed to be an effort made in some way to put this issue to bed, once and for all. Clearly the programme notes were a step towards that, but a goal in only 29 seconds really put some weight behind his desire to let his commitment show on the pitch!

Sunderland were always going to struggle today, shorn of their star striker through contract obligations, a worse start to the season than us, a record at the Emirates that doesn’t bear much reading and an Arsenal team nd manager with thier backs pressed very firmly against the wall but when a fabulous lobbed pass from Rosicky to Gervinho was quickly squared into the path of Van Persie who took a simple touch with the outside of his left foot before drilling it past Simon Mignolet in the Sunderland goal from 18 yards. 1-0, less than 30 seconds on the clock it appeared that it would be even plainer sailing from here on in than we could have hoped!

It almost was too with Van Persie turning Kieran Richardson and lobbing the ball over Mignolet in the 12th minute, only to see his classy effort come back off the far post. Two minutes later and the Dutchman saw an attempt from the edge of the penalty area flash wide. Another two minutes passed before Gervinho, seemingly playing with a lot more confidence and looking all the better for it, took a long ball from Koscielny, cut inside but saw his shot fly just over the bar.

Had any of those actually gone in, we may well have been home free and looking at redressing some of our goal difference issues. Obviously that would be the easy way of doing things and the easy way simply isn’t our way! Can there be any doubt that we are by far the most dramatic club in the Premier League?! At times I think that there may be grounds for a class-action case against the club for hair loss, fingernail chewing or just general blood-pressure issues due as a direct result of loving our fine club!

With the exception of a slightly wild moment from “the Pole between the poles” which saw him rushing off his line to meet Stephane Sessegnon who, having already beaten the offside trap followed that by beating the young goalkeeper only to find the really rather excellent Alex Song there to intercept his cut back averting further danger, Arsenal spent the first half and hour of this match playing hair-replenishing, fingernail growing, blood pressure-lowering possession football that had glimpses of the “real” Arsenal about it. What a welcome sight she was to all that love her!

Of course, a free-kick and, as always seems the case, an ex-Arsenal player, Sebastian Larsson, were all it took to spoil the party! The Swedish international stepped up and swept the ball over the Arsenal wall and into Szczesny’s top left corner, leaving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A wonderful strike from a player who has proved that not all who leave us end up in a downward spiral.

The immediate effect on the home players and crowd was obvious as the nervousness of recent times came crashing back in. Six minutes later Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole, after good work on the left from Larsson and then the effervescent Sessegnon, found himself with a free header from close range that he really should have scored from, only to see his effort saved brilliantly by Szczesny. A chance missed or an excellent save or both, but the alarm bells were ringing. Surely we were not going to let Sunderland take control of the match and see a repeat of so many performances where we were so obviously in the ascendency only for the opposition to take away the three points?

On the stroke of half-time the unthinkable almost happened with Elmohamady crossing for Larsson at the far post who headed down into the path of Colback only to see his volley from close range go flying over the bar. Had he managed to keep his shot down you may well have been reading at a very different match report, but the football Gods may well have decided that we have paid our penance for whatever sins we are deemed to have committed and the score remained at 1-1 as the whistle to signal the end of the first half was welcomed by all in red and white.

In a bid to provide some sort of relief to hair follicles all over the North London area, the second half did not carry on where the first half left off with the Gunners dominating possession although not creating a mass of chances.

A slice of luck came Sunderland’s way on 50 minutes when Walcott turned in the box and slid a low cross into the danger area which took a deflection towards the goal but Mignolet’s quick reactions saw him palm the ball away to safety. Andre Santos entered the fray immediately afterwards as the stomach muscle injury that threatened to keep Kieran Gibbs out of the match altogether proved too much for him to continue. A good decision in all honesty as he had not enjoyed the best of games with Elmohamady getting plenty of joy on the side.

15 minutes later Rosicky found Van Persie open on the left side of the area but his shot from a difficult angle found the boot of the Sunderland keeper and again the danger was cleared. A pass to Gervinho who was free in the centre was probably a better option, but anybody wishing to be critical of our captain’s performance today is more than welcome to take the short trip down the Seven Sisters Road and start supporting the “Title-less For Fifty Years” brigade!

On 67 minutes Steve Bruce made the first of two rather odd substitutions with Larsson, goal-scorer and the focal point of all that was good in Sunderland’s game, being replaced by Ji Dong-Won. A minute later and Arshavin was brought on to replace Gervinho to freshen things up in the final third.

The Russian made a fairly instant impact with an energy and willingness that has been far too often missing from his game for much of the past couple of seasons and on 74 minutes he almost got his reward after a jinking run in the Sunderland penalty area, passing four defenders in the process, saw his toe-poked effort run just wide of the far post with the goalkeeper stranded.

For all the possession, attacking play and chances being created, the game was starting to take on an all too familiar pattern and on 76 minutes Arsene tried to again freshen things up by replacing the tiring but excellent Rosicky with Israel international Yossi Benayoun. Two minutes later Bruce made his second odd change bringing on Connor Wickham for the constantly dangerous Sessegnon. Unless both players were carrying knocks, these two substitutions by Bruce have to be two of the strangest I have seen in years.

With Sunderland’s best two players and most obvious attacking threats on the day now off the pitch, Arsenal enjoyed more freedom to push forward, with excellent performances, and I mean EXCELLENT performances, from Mertesacker and Koscielny providing the “safety net” for Santos and Jenkinson to become more involved with those attacking moves.

On 83 minutes we finally got our just desserts, having dominated so much of the game, defended well when necessary and looking dangerous with almost every attack. Van Persie placed the ball for a free-kick about 25 yards out on the right side of the penalty area. After a slew of terrible free kicks had seen the likes of Walcott and Arteta troubling the 15th to 25th rows of the Arsenal supporters behind the goal, it was high-time the Dutchman had a crack himself.

And crack it he did! Keeping his nerve at the critical moment, he lifted the ball over the wall, under the bar and into the top right hand corner to give Arsenal the goal that was so desperately needed. In that moment Van Persie showed EXACTLY what commitment and captaincy are all about and, as his programme notes said, he let his football do the talking!

Aside from Dong-Won having a goal disallowed for being so far offside it was amazing the linesman didn’t keep his flag down, the game was won and it was a case of simply holding on. And that is what we did. Something we have been horribly guilty of in the past is our inability to stop trying to score more goals when the three points are in the bag. Today showed a difference that was entirely welcome with the likes of Arshavin, Walcott and Arteta guarding the ball for dear life and ensuring that the visitors were not going to steal a late point and spoil the party. There is a still a lot of work to do before we can say that this side is correcting all of the old problems, but today was a huge step in the right direction.

We were not perfect today by any means. Jenkinson did little defensively to convince that he is quite ready for the step up that the injury to Sagna has forced upon him, but a little patience may yet see him come good. Walcott still looks like a blind alley is so high on his list of favourite place that he literally runs into one whenever he gets the chance. Gervinho faded as the game went on and was rightly substituted. Szczesny had his “usual” moment of madness, although most of the truly great keepers appear to do that too! Arteta did not really get hismself into the game as much as he has recently.

On the positive side, Rosicky looked excellent and, perhaps more importantly, sharp. Santos and Arshavin both looked very good after coming on as substitutes. Song was an absolute rock today, destroying almost everything that had the cheek to even come close to our half of the park. Koscielny and Mertesacker were absolute rocks in the centre of defence and where the constant criticism of them, Mertesacker especially, is coming from, I simply cannot imagine. Mertesacker again showed how much quicker his brain is than his feet, stepping up to snuff out the danger before it even had a chance to develop on a handful of occasions.

As for Robin Van Persie:

29 games, 23 goals and 6 assists

Those are surely amongst the best stats for any striker in Europe, let alone one who is being played out of position and looking to leave as Robin Van Persie “clearly” is!

Oh, and as I write this an added bonus has just come our way…

The Title-less For Fifty Years have given up the lead twice today and ended up with a 2-2 draw at St. James’ Park!

Overrated Lillywhite Shite!

Come on you top half of the table at last Goooonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!

When Nothing Less Than A Win Will Do

October 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, that was a mind-numbingly, toe-curlingly putrid two weeks, wasn’t it?! Not a game worth seeing in sight, (the obvious exception being Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hat-trick for the Ingerlund U21’s of course!) and nothing, literally NOTHING new to read, hear, see or care about regarding our great club.

And when I say nothing new, I mean NOTHING just as much as I mean NEW!

The media has spent the past two weeks telling us the following:

– We made a bid for Gourcuff, but we already knew that weeks ago
– We made a bid for Reina, but we already knew that months ago
– Arshavin has been underperforming, but we already knew that years ago
– Park has to leave us in two years for national service, but we already knew that too!
– Ivan Gazidis claims that we do not need Champions League football to survive, but we already knew that last season when there was a chance we may actually slip out of the top 4 altogether.
– Oh, and Joey Barton is STILL a no-brained, gobshite, half-witted buffoon, but EVERYBODY knows that!

In all honesty, I have spent the past two weeks trying to write something of any real substance and, whilst I could have taken the lead of some far better writers than I, I actually chose not to take a trip down memory lane but instead look for something to say about the here and now. But there was simply nothing worth saying. Nothing that came pouring out of the bile-ridden jaws of the mainstream media or even the dreamy home-style official Arsenal website itself had anything remotely new, interesting or, on any level whatsoever, positive to say at all. And that was the key for me…Positivity. We simply need more of it around our fine club if this is to prove a temporary dip in form rather than a full-blown long-term sack the manager and set fire to the stadium rot setting in crisis!

So, I kept my trap firmly shut, watched Ireland slink miserably out of the Rugby World Cup, (against a Welsh side that admittedly not only deserved their win but may well have the spirit, the youthful enthusiasm and even the raw talent to go on and win the thing) watched Ingerlund slink miserably out of the same tournament (much to my general delight after they did little but disgrace themselves at every given opportunity), watched Rooney doing what only a Manchester United player could be quite so arrogant and stupid enough to do in an Ingerlund shirt AGAIN (yes, yes, I know, 8-2 and all that, but it still doesn’t stop you from being as thick as two short planks, now does it Shrek?!) and I generally tried to steer clear of all things Arsenal wherever possible!

But now it is time to get excited, involved and hopeful again. Sunderland at home is a game that we quite enjoy if recent history is anything to go by. A massive positive note should be that we don’t tend to concede many goals in this fixture with Sunderland scoring precisely none in the last three games against us at the Emirates and to top it all they will be without their star striker, Nicklas Bendtner! On another positive note is we don’t tend to lose this game either with 7 wins and 3 draws in the last 10.

But there is one statistic that may amaze you all…We have kept 9 clean sheets in our last 13 home games! “The worst defence in the league”, as I am sure we have all heard by now, are actually managing to keep a a few clean sheets along the way!

Sunderland are not in the best of form either. Apart from their 4-0 win against the Neanderthals of Stoke City, they are without a win home or away in all competitions, leaving them “languishing” below us in 16th place!

So 15th plays 16th and people still claim we are in a relegation dogfight!

Team news is pretty much as expected before the dire times of the international break with Vermaelen, Wilshere, Sagna and Diaby (seriously, is he STILL an Arsenal player?!) all out whilst we “welcome back” the defensive trio of Djourou, Koscielny and Squillaci! Ok, the sarcasm is probably a little unfair with regard to Kos who has actually looked like he wsa finding a bit of form when playing alongside TV5 and has not struggled playing alongside Mertesacker to anything like the same degree as he did last season when the Belgian was out and he was paired with the hapless Squillaci and the injury and error prone Djourou.

All of this means that Song will surely move back into central midfield, Koscielny back into the centre of defence, Jenkinson will probably take the place of Sagna, out for three long painful months, Gibbs, who somewhat miraculously continues to stay injury-free and also continues to play very well indeed, should fill the left-back slot and Frimpong and Coquelin will probably go back to fighting it out for a spot on the bench. I must say at this point that I am totally stunned by the general lack of any interest whatsoever in the manner in which Sagna broke his leg. The obviously unnecessary and thus idiotic challenge of Assou-Ekotto in the game against the Spuds would have caused absolute outrage had it been an Arsenal player who had done the same. The ball flying out of play, close to the halfway line and the fecker goes and hits him almost waist high, knocking him off balance in mid-air and landing half on the advertising hoardings and half on his right fibula. But maybe it is just me and maybe everybody thinks that sort of tackle is fair and called for in that area of the pitch with zero chance of actually getting to the ball. Ho-hum!

So, the team will probably look like this:

Line Up v Sunderland

I have to say that the “revelation” that Arshavin has not been playing well may have been a little ruse by the club and the player to give them the chance to drop him for a few games at the same time giving Gervinho the nod in terms of first choice for the position. Maybe a confidence boost is just what is needed for the Ivorian who, in my opinion, has been guilty of nothing more than simply trying far too hard to impress. Not really surprising either, when you look at things. He played brilliantly against Udinese followed by watching Arshavin playing woefully in the next fixture, the 8-2 debacle against United, and well in the next game against Swansea where he scored the winner, came back into the side to play as well as any Arsenal player on the night in the 1-1 draw against Dortmund, scored the opener against Blackburn, played well against Bolton and then watched Arshavin play another 10 minutes out of the 90 against Olympiacos. If anybody has a right to feel a little aggrieved at being left out, it has to be him, especially when the player replacing him doesn’t even appear particularly interested in playing in the first place!

I for one believe that Gervinho is a great signing and will prove to be a top-quality player for us given a little more time to settle in and the chance to get on with his job and stop worrying about whether or not he is doing enough to deserve his place in the face of some pretty week competition.

Another player that doesn’t seem to be getting a fair hearing, this time from the fans and critics rather than the manager, is Per Mertesacker. I actually despair at some of the comments I am hearing coming out of some Arsenal “fans” mouths and keyboards. We have been literally begging Wenger to buy a big, strong, no nonsense centre-back in the style of Tony Adams for about 3 years now and, now that we finally have him, there are complaints that he doesn’t have enough pace, that he is too slow to turn and that he isn’t settling in fast enough! I truly wonder what people thought a Tony Adams replacement was going to be like?! Slow? Check! Big? Check! Strong? Check! No-nonsense style, crashing the ball out of the ground whenever necessary to relieve the pressure? Check! Can turn on a sixpence and take the ball through central midfield with his explosive pace? Come on guys…Who are you trying to kid?!

As far as his settling in goes, I think that he is in the very early days of a fabulous Arsenal career and his reading of the game is second to none. His ability to catch a defender when the quicker centre-back at his side has failed to pick up his man or has let him turn him is not why he is in the side, his ability to be in the right place at the right time and clear the danger is and I truly believe he is doing a fine job of the latter. He may not be perfect but perfect defenders are pretty hard to come by these days and I see a player who is only struggling when his partner is not doing his own job properly. When TV5 returns I believe we will see just how a good a player he really is with a partner that doesn’t drop him in the cack 3 times each half!

Regards Thomas Vermaelen, there appears to be another bout of general confusion surrounding his injury again. About 4 weeks ago the club was saying he could return before the international break. Two weeks ago they were saying he would return 2 weeks after the international break. Now they are saying that he should return 2-3 weeks from now, a week AFTER the international break. Most concerning indeed. I think that I speak for all Arsenal fans of sound mind when I say that our season may well take a huge turn in the right direction when the team sheet features his name once again.

Van Persie To Become Another Little Boy Blue?

In a move that has angered a lot of Arsenal fans, myself included, captain Robin Van Persie appears to be refusing to rule out a move to Citeh. In a recent interview in Holland he was asked if he would consider a move to the latest club to be buying all the toys. His response, apparently, went a little like this:

“I do not know.

For one thing, as an indication, when I came to Arsenal we immediately beat City. But in recent years much has happened in England.

Nevertheless, I think the Premier League is still the best league in the world, it gives me everything I want.”

Which, if it is actually what he said at all, is all shamefully obvious really. To put it bluntly, what he really said was:

” I do not know.

“We were much better than Citeh when I first joined, but now they are riding high in the Premier League and we are in 15th place after a disastrous start to the season and playing qualifiers for the Champions League because they beat us by 3 points, having not actually been in the running for the title once all season and failing to take a single point from us in either the 0-0 home draw or the 3-0 humiliation of them away from home.”

“The Premier League is great and with the money that Citeh are pouring into the pockets of all their players, Na$ri and Clichy included, there is no need to look at other countries and I am simply waiting for them to make their offer of £30m in January that the Arsenal board will somehow find very hard to turn down.”

Call me cynical, but I just cannot help seeing it that way. Personally, after that episode, I would strip him of the captaincy and give it to Ramsey immediately. But like I said, maybe I am just being cynical!

Arsenal To Buy All The Players In The World

Somewhat hilariously, the press have been slating Arsene Wenger for penny-pinching again whilst also claiming that we are about to part with about £200m if we buy all of the players that are “coming in the January transfer window”! Five minutes after claiming that we failed to get Jerzy Dudek because the Evil Overlord Wenger refused to pay Feyenoord the £10m asking price, offering a “paltry” £7m (and we are talking about TEN YEARS AGO when £7m for a goalkeeper was STILL a lot of money!) we are being linked with so many players it is actually quite ridiculous! I implore Arsenal fans to stop reading this drivel, but if you must continue to fill your heads with this nonsense, please remember, it IS nonsense! The article entitled “Arsenal’s penny pinching scuppered Jerzy Dudek transfer” has the, in my opinion, thoroughly overrated and generally useless Dudek claiming:

“I was in talks with Wenger. It was basically all agreed. I came back to Feyenoord with hope that the clubs will agree a fee, but Feyenoord wanted £10 million pounds. Wenger was only willing to give £7 million.”

It seems that Wenger is only guilty of refusing to pay a ridiculously high fee of £10m for a goalkeeper who wasn’t even that good. Of course, “Those Who Shall Not Be Pleased” have taken this as a red-rag opportunity to slate the manager whilst at the same time ignoring one particularly important fact…Liverpool paid only £5m for him less than two months later!

Can somebody, ANYBODY, please explain to me why Wenger is penny-pinching when offering to pay £2m MORE than Liverpool, whether we got the player or not?

I give up!

The list of players that we are “buying in January” is becoming nothing less than hilarious! Eden Hazard, Marvin Martin, Gabriel Torje, Omar El Kaddouri, Juan Manuel “Loco” Vargas, Gary Cahill (again!), Alan Dzagoev, Ryad Boudebouz, Marko Marin, Lucho Gonzalez, Raffael (NOT the Ninja Turtle!), Dani Parejo and many, many more are among the latest flops of tomorrow. Obviously we won’t actually be buying ANY of them as Wenger will refuse to stump up the bus fare to the ground for their medicals!

Seriously, I GIVE UP!

And on that note I shall leave you!

Come on you Black Cat crossing your paths and making you lucky Gooooonnnneeerrrssss!
(Or is that supposed to be bad luck?! Never was sure!)