Dortmund, Diaby and THAT Dutchman!

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

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Up to 7th and within touching distance of the Champions League places again…Crisis? What crisis?!?!

Of course, we all had our doubts at one point or another. We all had to listen to the media screaming about the end of Arsenal. We all had to listen to other “fans” crying out for the head of Arsene Wenger. We even had to sit through protests at the stadium before games (just what is needed when you have a team desperately low on confidence!). But, in the end, that “mentul strengff” that we have heard so much about and has been questioned so very much in seasons past, really has shone through.

1-0 down away to Norwich. Hhmmm. five weeks ago we would have been hoping that we managed to keep the score respectable but when a team is in the kind of form that we are in, when the captain is in a run of games like he is (more on him later!) and when the general levels of confidence around most of the players appear to be sky-high, anything is possible.

And possible it was! Another fantastic showing from van Persie, ably supported in yet another starring role by the also in-form Gervinho and Walcott who in turn are being given a backbone of extreme strength by Arteta, Song and the fabulous Ramsey and before you could say 2-1 to the Arsenal it was, well, 2-1 to the Arsenal!

Another three precious points in the bag on a weekend that saw Chelsea, Aston Villa and Newcastle all lose and BOOM there we are in joint 5th (I know, I know, we are 7th on goal difference, but joint 5th sounds so much nicer!), seven points clear of 8th place and looking straight up the backsides of the Toon and the Lillywhite Shite and toying with the idea of being 3rd when we were being asked if we were in a relegation fight only weeks ago!

On top of all of this exciting news, we could see a few shocks next weekend too with West Brom unlikely to make things easy for the Spuds for their visit to The Hawthorns, Newcastle away to the yet again smash and grabbing, 1-0 winning, lucky feckers United and Liverpool hosting Citeh. With us at home to the currently woeful Fulham, I expect to see us climb to 5th or even 4th by the end of Sunday. Seriously?! Did I just say that the same Arsenal team that lost all of its creativity and its best players in the summer, replaced them with a bunch of unknowns and rejects after being thrashed 8-2 by the eternally indebted, could actually be in the Champions League places with about two-thirds of the season left to play?!

And that is how fickle the football Dennises are and how even more fickle football fans can be.

But that is next weekend and we have the small matter of Dortmund at home in the Champions League first.

Dortmund are actually in great form in the league of late, having dispatched Bundesliga leaders Bayern 1-0 away from home on Saturday to continue an unbeaten run that stretches back to the 18th of September, scoring 20 goals in their last seven outings and conceding only three goals in the process. They do seem unable to replicate anything like the same form in the Champions League though, with only four points from four games scoring three and conceding seven!

So a win is to be expected, but is far from guaranteed. Any team with players in the creative positions like Gotze, Großkreutz and Kagawa are capable of beating anybody on their day. It just seems that their day isn’t, hopefully, destined to be in this seasons Champions League. Another reason that the Germans should be taken very seriously indeed is that, should they fail to get something from this game, they will be out of the competition. They have nothing left to lose and everything left to gain and that is exactly what Jürgen Klopp will be telling his team.

So, with this game offering us the opportunity to guarantee qualification in the event that we win it, or even draw it for that matter, and Dortmund realistically needing a win to stand a chance of advancing in the competition, one expects that Arsene will put out something like his strongest side. With the injury list growing faster than it is shrinking (Rosicky – Thigh, Chamakh – Knee and Miyaichi – Ankle now added to the long-term injuries to Wilshere, Sagna, Jenkinson and Gibbs), I would imagine the team to look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up v Dortmund

OK, I know I have put Arshavin in over Gervinho on about three occasions so far this season only for Wenger to surprise me and leave the Ivorian in and, more surprisingly, the Russian out, but I really do think that this time he will get the nod, if for no other reason than Gervinho is playing a lot of games for us at the moment and is currently in a run of form that would allow him the luxury of this being a rest and not being dropped in favour of Arshavin. If you see what I mean?!

Predictions are tough for this one as with only a point needed to guarantee qualification one would think that a tight defence and a cat and mouse game of counter-attacking would be on the cards. There is, however, the small matter of Marseille playing Olympiacos at home thus almost guaranteed the three points, which would mean that a draw would leave us in 2nd place and hoping for a result away in Greece or Dortmund doing us a favour at home to Marseille in two weeks time, all of which sounds like the hard way to go about things…But this is Arsenal and the hard way IS the Arsenal way!

In truth, the best way to go about this is to get at them early, try to get an early goal and then keep going. Dortmund will be dangerous on the counter, of course, but then again, we are dangerous from just about anywhere right now! And can anybody really see us trying to grab a goal and then sit on it for the remainder of the game?! No, me neither. So, with all that in mind, I am going for a 3-1 win and a good performance to go with it. If Song can put in the kind of shift that he has been of late, we may even see the likes of Gotze struggle for the time and space that his game needs and we could even get away with a clean sheet! Arsenal?! Clean sheet?! Are you MAD?!??!

Come Wednesday, we shall find out! Mad or not, I genuinely believe that this is one of the best Arsenal squads for a few years now and one that has the potential to keep going where others have been found wanting. With players like Miyaichi, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Frimpong and Aneke, Ozyakup and Miquel waiting in the wings, this really could be the beginning of something quite special that could last for years rather than the end of Arsenal Football Club as many were predicting only a few weeks ago.

And with Sagna, Jenkinson, Wilshere and Gibbs all still to return, we may even see a season where the all too familiar self-destruction sequence is avoided and a stronger team emerges after Christmas. Only time will tell, but I know that this is, yet again thanks to Arsene Wenger, a wonderful time to be a Gooner!

Diaby Returns AGAIN!

Since having his leg broken for him some 5 years ago by that knuckle-dragging imbecile Dan Smith, his ability to stay fit has been seriously questioned. Strangely he is not particularly popular amongst Arsenal fans even though his playing statistics show a player of some impact. 20 goals and 14 assists in 158 matches for a box-to-box midfielder are not bad statistics at all, although I am aware that these numbers do not speak the whole truth regarding his at times seeming inability to make a decision in time to not lose the ball in the most dangerous of positions, neither do they show how easy it is to reduce your popularity when getting a stupid and unnecessary red card in a game in which we are 4-0 up at Newcastle only to then see the referee basically hand a draw to the Toon with a couple of unspeakably ridiculous penalty awards, a failure to send off one of their players for a headlock/strangulation effort on “the Pole between the poles” and a generally hideous defensive effort. To place all the blame on the midfielder for all of that seems a little unfair but scapegoats will always be found when needed and his was the most obvious place in which to point the finger.

in my opinion his return to fitness (and subsequent inclusion in the squad to face Dortmund), hopefully for more than a handful of games this time, should only be a good thing in terms of squad depth and, if he realises only a fraction of his enormous potential, we could see a great set of midfielders competing for places come January. Imagine this: Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta, Diaby, Benayoun, Song, Frimpong and Rosicky all competing for three starting places. Competition for places is often overlooked in the bigger picture, but I believe that Walcott, Song, Koscielny, Gibbs and Ramsey are all showing great leaps in class since their places were no longer guaranteed due to the arrivals and emergences of the Ox, Frimpong, Mertesacker, Santos and Wilshere respectively.

As Arsene has recently said, this is a big squad but also a squad with strength in depth and “those who shall not be pleased” who claim otherwise are ignoring the obvious in deference of searching for more reasons to bleat.

Let them bleat, I say!

Van STILL The Man!

Robin van Persie’s incredible run of form since he finally managed to find a run of games without serious injury now sees him with 31 goals in 29 games in 2011, top of the goalscoring charts in the Premier League and a set of statistics that put him up there with the very best players in the world – 13 goals in 12 league games compared with 14 in 12 for Ronaldo and 15 in 12 for Messi.

Couple this with the obvious understanding developing quickly between him and Theo Walcott and the constantly improving form of Gervinho, we look like we can score whenever we attack, even if the bulk of those goals are coming from the one man.

Of course, without a new contract signed sealed and delivered, there is the fear that our Dutch talisman could be on his way for a fistful of dollars come the end of the season. Personally I do not put much stock in the relentless rumours of his inevitable departure and believe that a combination of the board, Arsene and the fans will do just as much as the team to convince him to stay as any amount of money could convince him to leave. A player enjoying his football as much as he is would find it difficult to leave any team, but one that actually wins something, which I believe that this team is capable of this season, would, of course, make it even more difficult.

The chance that he may go the way of the likes of Na$ri, AdePayMeMore and Clichy exists until that contract is signed but, as we have seen in recent years, signing a new contract doesn’t guarantee that a player will stay anyway. As fans the very best that we can do is get behind him, the team and the manager and show him and all of our other great players that we are the best fans in the world and that this team is one with a glowing future that he would be mad to leave behind.

So, let’s do our jobs and get behind the team and the manager as well as the captain and let’s make that 12th man truly count.

Come on you League Climbing, Champions League Knock-out Rounds Qualifying Bright Future Gooooooonnnnneeeeerrrrssss!

Time To Ram Home The Points

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

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Chelsea…Wasn’t it? Really…Lesson in football. Jumpers for goalposts…!

But seriously folks, if we ever needed a heavy landing from the heady heights, the 0-0 draw with Marseille certainly provided us with that. A draw we really didn’t need given the number of games we have over the next few weeks, maybe. A return to old habits, for certain. Our inability to convert large chunks of possession and great play into goals is a ghost that has haunted us for the past few seasons and one which I am sure many of us had started to believe had finally relinquished its hold on us. Have the last few games been the new Arsenal with profligacy a thing of the past or have they been a juicy hiatus only to see us return to “form” after giving us a sense of new hope?!

So, with all that in mind, there has never been a better time to show a level of consistency and, more importantly, the ability to ensure that the “minnows” of the Premier League don’t have some kind of “hoo-doo” over us, as some would have us believe. And I think that is exactly the kind of game we need to restore a little of the confidence that we had so carefully and lovingly built up in recent weeks. Stick a few past the Baggies and leave a sweet taste in the mouth ahead of the international break and we could actually start really believing in ourselves rather than worrying about flashes in pans. Games like Chelsea drive things forward at 100mph but games like Marseille create that horrible smell in the car that only a handbrake left on can do. We need to remove the handbrake permanently but only a run of free-flowing Arsenal performances can do that and whilst we were in that particular groove, there has been a faint whiff permeating the air and threatening to derail the Gooner Express at any moment. Will Tuesday prove to be nothing more than a short-lived signalling failure and will today present us with all the proof that we need that we are still full steam ahead? Let’s hope so!

In reality, West Brom are not the pushovers they once may have been, although they have been horribly inconsistent so far this season, having pushed Manchester United and Chelsea almost all the way to the finishing line in the first two games of the season, conceding the points in the last 10 minutes on both occasions whilst the same team got beaten 3-0 by Swansea and yet managed to beat Wolves and Villa in the Midlands derbies! All of that said, they were anything but pushovers when they took 4 points from our two league games beating us 3-2 at the Emirates and holding out for a 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns last season, were they and that is exactly why we need to get a result today. Time to put some of the old ghosts to rest and show that we can beat the “bogey” teams.

So, we can expect Van Persie to return, after the blunt attacking force that was presented against Marseille in mid-week that much is certain, but how many people will successfully guess what the central defensive partnership will be or, more importantly, do so with any real certainty?! Aside from Arsene himself, not many I would bet.

If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would go with Vermaelen and Mertesacker again, regardless of how well Koscielny has been playing, as I believe that PM4 ad TV5 represent absolute class whereas Koscienly has, thus far, only managed to prove that form is temporary, in whatever direction. Yes, the Frenchman has played some great matches lately, most of them contenders for man of the match, but his two previous years have shown a frailty that we can ill afford right now. All that aside, isn’t it wonderful that Wenger actually has this selection “nightmare”?! Three centre backs all playing at a near world class level…Almost unheard of! Of course, when they succeed in keeping clean sheet after clean sheet and putting in solid performances game after game, we will have to hear about how Arsene inherited the defence from George Graham! HA! Just like the defence of Lauren, Campbell, Toure and Cole, not one of which was actually at the club when Wenger took over!

At right back I expect Jenkinson to get the nod over Djourou as the latter has done absolutely nothing, barring a decent cross against Marseille that led to the winning goal on that wonderful night in France,to deserve a place in this side and at the very least young Carl has shown a lot of heart and determination and, most importantly, improvement.

I think it may be that time again regards the Gervinho/Arshavin conundrum and the little Russian will probably get a game again, although I personally don’t agree with playing him just because we have him and think that Gervinho is the better choice all round. In days gone by players would happily put in 60-70 shifts a season and whilst I understand that the game has changed, I think that the players are also much fitter than they used to be too. Rotation for rotations sake just doesn’t make sense to me, but there you go.

Gibbs is still out, the most career-threatening stomach muscle injury in the history of the game putting paid to his chances of playing until at least after the international break. Chamakh is out, thank Dennis. Diaby has had another setback and will probably be fit by the morning of April 1st 2015!

I have to say the Gibbs situation is slightly upsetting. It has been blatantly clear over the past three or four seasons that he simply cannot get a run of fitness going at all but it also seemed clear that he wasn’t actually good enough to play for Arsenal either. The few games he has managed to appear in this season have shown that, far from not being good enough, he actually has all the potential to be a top quality left back. Again, the faith Wenger has shown in his ability could indeed be well founded, but his ability to actually stay fit long enough to make an impact is still in question.

I think that Ramsey and Arteta will also keep their places, along with Theo Walcott, another player doing his best to confound his critics! Seriously, Theo was looking more and more like a lost cause until the purchase and, more importantly, introduction to the side of Oxlade-Chamberlain, but it seems that the added pressure of having a back-up that may actually be a decent player who could even threaten his place in the team has worked wonders. His work-rate, his desire, his all-round game have improved since the Ox put in a a couple of great performances in the Carling Cup and Champions League. Yet more proof that competition for places is something that has been severely lacking in recent seasons.

With all that in mind, I expect the team to look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up v West Bromwich Albion

As for West Brom, they are missing midfielder Paul Scharner and striker Shane Long, both influential players for the Baggies. At the business end of things, so to speak, goalkeeper Ben Foster will be hoping for one of those “games in a lifetime” that he, like so many other “b-list” goalkeepers, seem to have against us! I have to say, I like Foster and I think that, given the chance at a top club, he would shine. The biggest problem he has is being left exposed so often by the fairly limp defence in front of him.

And that leads us on to the key to today’s game, our attack and its ability to actually create chances. Against this West Brom defence we should really be looking to put a few goals away, but that all depends on which attack turns up. The one against Marseille would struggle to open a can of beans if left to it for a fortnight, whereas the attack that showed up for the Chelsea match could probably eat the beans without even opening the can, if you see what I mean!

I am going to plump for the fact that the players were tired in mid-week and thus the blunt attack that we presented was merely a blip and not a return to old habits. Thus, the cutting edge that was so clearly lacking will return and a few goals should be expected. 3-0 is my prediction with a defensive performance that will compliment the attacking one.

And on that positive, goal-laden note I shall leave you.

Come on you Solid Defence, Thrusting Attack, Midlander Destroying Gooonnnnnnneeeerrrrrrssssss!

Marseille, Muscles and Muppets!

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

Greetings fellow Gooners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am tempted to do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, the line up should look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up Arsenal v Marseille

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are better than Arsenal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a load of old pony!!!

And on that note I bid you farewell.

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

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!

Stoke’s Schizophrenia, Statistics and No Shawcross Redemption

October 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

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:

Ryan Shawcross Not Being That Kind Of Player

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:

Ryan Shawcross STILL Not Being That Kind Of Player

That was Shawcross not being that type of player again whilst out on loan at Royal Antwerp.

Or how about this one:

Ryan Shawcross STILL Not Being That Kind Of Player…AGAIN!

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:

Schitophrenic Stoke, Statisics and No Shawcross Redemption

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!

Right Back Where We Started!

October 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC

Greetings fellow Gooners!

As only the mighty Arsenal can, we have managed to pile yet another defensive body on the pile in the treatment room! Clearly the football Dennises have decided that having Thomas Vermaelen, one of the best centre backs in the league, out for, well, forever, one of the best right backs in the league, Bakary Sagna, out until at least the New Year too, Kieran Gibbs still out with a stomach muscle injury (probably picked up laughing at conceding a goal like Rosicky!) and now Carl Jenkinson, understudy to the aformentioned Sagna, is out with the knee injury that we all hoped was just a “tweak”.

But Arsenal players don’t get “tweaks” do they? They get limbs flying off, blood spilling, career threatening twattings! Ok, that may be a little O.T.T. but you get where I am coming from.

To be totally honest, I am still a little confused regarding TV5’s injury. We seem to get told “two weeks” about, well, every two weeks! Yet again, after being told he would be available two weeks after the international break, we are now being told that he will be back in 10 days to two weeks…Almost two weeks AFTER the international break! I know that he is back in training now, and that is absolutely fantastic news for all concerned, but I think that any more announcements of “two weeks” should be kept to an absolute minimum. In fact, It may be better if the club basically keeps it’s traps shut regarding injuries altogether and just surprises us when there is a name on the team sheet we haven’t seen for far too long!

Diaby, guess what…

“about two weeks”!

Arshavin Defending?! Oops, sorry, DEFENDED!
Arsene Wenger has come out in defence of the little Russian. Speaking to the official Arsenal website he had this to say:

“You would not be surprised that I disagree with that [criticism of Arshavin],” said the Frenchman. “That is opinion. I think he has been great for us and he will still be great in the coming months.

“He is a great player and you have to give him credit for that. He stands up for his performances. I personally respect him highly and I think he’s a great player.

“He works through it [poor form] by keeping his focus in training and what he does well. I like Andrey because he has a great attitude. It was a difficult game for him on Wednesday and for all the players who played up front because Marseille defended, they played for a point.

“There was not a lot of space for the strikers and as long as you don’t find an opening they will not come out, and that is what happened in the game.”

Which would all be well and good if the game against Marseille was the only time he has failed dismally to make any impression of any note, but it isn’t. In reality when Arshavin actually makes an impression on a game it is a welcome surprise, not the norm. If the fact that the opposition were defending and limiting the space available, which in this case is totally true and probably the reason a Smash n’ Grab victory was necessary in the end, how is Van Persie able to shine quite so brightly so often? It isn’t as if we have spent the past few seasons NOT watching the opposition park the bus and play for a draw and yet Van Persie is one of if the most prolific scorers in the world over the past 10 or so months.

The fact that he spends his time in training concentrating on the things that he does well strikes me as a complete mismanagement of the entire situation. That is the equivalent of saying that a terrible plate of food is acceptable because the chef is brilliant at cooking Steak and Kidney pie at home! It just doesn’t make sense. But maybe we are getting close to the crux of a much wider issue here. Is it possible that ALL of the players get off the hook because their performance in training is great? Is it possible that the centre backs have spent the past few seasons being dismal at set pieces because they are great at keepy-uppys?!

Again, possibly a little O.T.T. but, again, you get my point!

Robin Van Passion
Again, speaking to the official Arsenal website RvP has spoken about his delight at receiving a multitude of plaudits this week, mainly from Arsenal fans themselves:

“It’s nice to hear [the praise he’s received this week], I read all the comments – I take the fans very, very seriously and I think they’re great.

“It’s wonderful to know people like what you do. I think people can see that I’m passionate about what I am doing and that I love the game, so it’s a big compliment and I love to hear those things.

“But we still have a long way to go and a lot of things to prove – it’s still early in the season so my aim is just to keep things going and move from strength to strength.”

Let’s hope that this is another sign that he realises the grass is not necessarily greener, even if more expensive, elsewhere!

When No News Was Good News
Marouane Chamakh’s agent has quashed any suggestion of his client leaving Arsenal in the January transfer window after the striker was recently linked with a move to Roma:

“The news about Marouane and Roma is absolutely unfounded.

“My client is happy at Arsenal and will remain here. There is no doubt.”

It never rains, huh?!

New Contracts? Watt?!
Two of the next generation of Arsenal’s “wonderkids”, Conor Henderson and Sanchez Watt, have both signed long-term deals with the club. Henderson, like so many contract renewals that have been carried out recently, has been out injured since July and will likely not return to full training until the New Year whilst Watt has been banging them in for the reserves this season with a tally of 5 goals in 6 games.

In fairness to Henderson he was part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Germany in pre-season and looked like a great prospect until the inevitable knee injury halted his progress towards first team football.

Watt was in the squad for the Carling Cup match against Shrewsbury and, fitness allowing of course, will probably get another call from the manager for the tie against Bolton next week.

Koscielny and Mertesacker In Love?
Laurent Koscielny has spoken of his true feelings for defensive partner Per Mertesacker recently. In a shock announcement to Arsenal Player he claimed:

“Personally, things are getting better and better with Per.”

Sorry, say that again?!

Ok, ok, I am being facetious! Obviously he was referring to the improvement that both players, the Frenchman especially, have shown in recent games. He continued:

“He is a very experienced player, he is an international player, he knows what the very high level is about.

“We know that the English league is very different than the other European leagues and there is always time to adapt.

“Soon he will become a key player in this team.”

Whilst I agree completely with almost everything he says there, I take issue with the future tense used regarding the big German’s “keyness” to the team. As far as I am concerned his name would be third on my team sheet after RvP and Szczesny.

And on that note I bid you farewell.

Come on you Oh No, Djourou Is Next In Line To Play Right Back Gooonnnneeeerrrrssss!

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