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!)

Spuds, Away, Sunday? Yes Please!

October 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Well, nobody can claim that we haven’t had a tough start to the season. Losing to Liverpool, losing 8-2 to Manchester United, losing 4-3 to Blackburn, losing Cesc, Na$ri and Clichy, Champions League qualifiers against Udinese, 3 red cards, losing Jack Wilshere for most of the season, losing Thomas Vermaelen for something like 10 games in total (more on that developing saga later!) and now, just when we appear to be going in the right direction, the “anything can happen and probably will” North London derby!

It may sound like I am already making excuses and, to be honest, I think I could be forgiven if I were; but I am NOT making excuses, I am stating the facts. The excuses can wait until Sunday night!

This is a match that will offer no hiding place. Not on the pitch for the players nor after the game for the Gooners who will have to go to their workplaces, local pubs, family homes and look into the eyes of Spud’s fans eyes and either hang their heads or walk past singing proudly “One team in London..!”

In some quarters there is talk of this potentially being the end of our season. I understand the sentiment but there is, of course, another edge to that sword. If losing this game is the end of our season, winning it may just be the start of it. Ok, it is not going to be easy by any means. The general feeling is that Twitchy has the small club at the end of the Seven Sisters Road playing well and winning some good games, but their record is not quite as good as some may think. Indulge me for a moment, if you will…

– In the space of two games Arsenal lost to Manchester United 8-2 away and beat Swansea 1-0 at home…A club in crisis.

– In the space of two games the Spuds lost 3-0 to Manchester United away and 5-1 to Citeh at home…A club heading for the top 4!

– We have scored 9 goals thus far this season…Still a club in crisis.

– They have scored 9 goals thus far this season…Still a club heading for the top 4!

– If you discount the freak result at United, we have actually conceded FEWER goals than they have in the same number of games.

– They lost on penalties to Stoke in the Carling Cup. We won 3-1, accepted against a slightly lower standard of opposition, although anybody who has seen Stoke play lately will tell you that the divide is not so big! Nevertheless, we are in the hat and they are not.

– Funnily enough, the league table shows the Spuds in 6th place and us in 13th whilst the home games table shows us in 6th and them in 13th! Obviously we don’t really need to talk about the away table as it is not the least bit pretty!

– We struggled after going a goal down to Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup before coming back to win 3-1 whilst they struggled after going a goal down to Shamrock Rovers in some unknown European competition before coming back to win 3-1.

– In fact, if you are spending your time listening to the constant white noise spewing out of the tabloid media this will be the most unbelievable stat of them all: Should we actually win the game, we would go above them in the table!

And there you have it. In the real world we are not a club in a desperate crisis, we are a club that, aside from one particularly absurd result, are in similar form to a club said to be chasing a place in the Champions League! Red-tinted glasses or not, the facts are that simple.

To say that this is a crucial match is the understatement of the century, but I also truly believe that this is the perfect opportunity to make a lot of changes to how the players perceive their situation. I don’t think it would do the fans any harm either. To suddenly leapfrog the title-less for over 50 years would put a little reality back into things and maybe even provide a springboard to move on from this period, leaving the devastation of those horrific events behind us. We have won three matches on the bounce in all competitions, to add a fourth would start to look like form rather than a run of so-called “easy” games and what better team to do it against than the Spuds?!

And that is why I for one am actually pleased that we are going to the hovel on Sunday. Make or break it may well be, but you don’t win titles playing Shrewsbury, Bolton and Olympiacos every week.

In the run-up to Sunday’s game, Arsene Wenger chose to question whether or not the Spuds really are a big club, despite the constant media frenzy:

“At the moment we have been in the Champions League for 14 years and that is all we can say.

“Tottenham is a good side, I agree, and we have to try to be better and that is what we try to do. I believe the consistency has been on our side, but Tottenham has a huge potential. They played Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night and were sold out, so that is a massive potential.

“But we are at the end of September and the season finishes in May. Don’t come to quick conclusions about teams – there is a long way to go.”

And that is, of course, the obvious truth. Whilst the media circus is busy adopting them as their favourite footballing love-children, they are, in reality, no closer to outshining us than they have been in decades. Every season it is the same tired story. Every season is the season that Tottenham will overtake us and move into the top four. And every season they DON’T! A win on Sunday would go a long way to putting both the media and the Spuds back in their rightful place. Reason enough to motivate the team if ever one was needed.

On a more amusing note, I note that the Spuds fans are so desperate for a taste of a trophy, ANY trophy, that they are selling out in the “who cares cup” against Shamrock Rovers!

In terms of the line-up for Sunday, the injury list that looked like it would shorten dramatically has not exactly done so. Koscielny is definitely out even though he was scheduled to return. Djourou is out even though he probably wouldn’t get a game anyway with the form he has been in this season. Squillaci is fit but not match fit so thankfully he probably won’t play! Gervinho is a big doubt although he was scheduled to return. Walcott is a doubt even though he was scheduled to return.

So, adding the above to Jack, TV5 (like I said, more on that later!) and Diaby, we have, as usual, the best part of a Premier League team in the treatment room! With so many uncertainties over fitness it is difficult to say exactly who will play but I think that Gibbs was rested in midweek to get him ready for Sunday so he will likely play ahead of Santos. Song will almost certainly partner Mertesacker again in a central defensive partnership that looked as good as any we have had in quite some time. Sagna and “the Pole between the poles” will make up the rest of the defence.

In midfield Aaron Ramsey should return and will likely partner Frimpong, although I think that Coquelin may be edging his way into a start after Emmanuel had another “iffy” game against the Greeks. In the probable absence of Gervinho I think that Arshavin will get the nod and, should Walcott fail his late fitness test too, I think that we may see Benayoun and Arteta filling the final attacking midfield positions and rotating between them for the wing and central roles. I am sorry to say that I simply cannot see Rosicky getting the nod here. After looking so pedestrian at times against Olympiacos, I don’t see him having the pace to keep up with a blood and thunder match like this one.

Obviously Robin Van Persie will start up front and so the line-up will probably look like this:

Predicted Line-Up v The Spuds

If Walcott plays then I expect Benayoun to move aside. I also think that we may see Arshavin play in the centre behind Van Persie should Walcott not play and Benayoun out wide, although I think with those three starting, positioning would be a fairly fluid affair.

In terms of prediction, well, how on earth do you even start?! Obviously I am not going to go against our boys and the draw is just too easy a cop-out, so I will go for a 3-2 win with some heart-stopping football and even more arresting moments whilst trying to snatch that final goal and get out with all 3 points in the bag! What more could you want?! Even Mystic Meg doesn’t stick her neck out like I do!

The truth of the matter is, win lose or draw, the form book goes out of the window for these games and whilst a win may bring a little more much needed confidence, a draw little consolation and a loss the sky crashing down, this is just one game.

Trouble is, it is THAT one game!

Oh, and just in case any of you were wondering why I hadn’t mentioned that back-stabbing, money-grabbing, club-hopping, football whore AdePayMeMore, it is because I couldn’t give a monkey’s right nut about him. Mertesacker can just put him in his back pocket for 90 minutes or simply kill him in the tunnel for all I care. Whichever of the two he prefers. I will leave that up to him!

Doubtful Thomas

It appears that the phantom injury problems that deprived us of the much-needed talents of Thomas Vermaelen for most of last season are no are back again this year with the news that, after being told he would be out for a few days to begin with which was swiftly changed to not until after the international break are now being revised to 1 or 2 weeks after that. I am unsure exactly what seems to be the problem for Thomas, but the Arsenal medical team are again doing themselves no favour with the press or the fans.

As football fans all we can do is wish Thomas the very best and the speediest possible recovery. As Arsenal fans we can only pray that he is back in the centre of defence as soon as possible as, of all the injuries we have right now, and I include Jack in this, his is the most damaging to the team.

Fingers crossed, the next news we get on his injury will be good news.

Over My Cold Dead Body!

Arsene Wenger, whilst discussing his 15 years at Arsenal and how he would happily stay on for another 15, also stated that he would rather die than leave the club! Ok, that may not be EXACTLY what he said! Judge for yourself:

“I am up for [five, 10 or 15 years],” he said. “But it depends first of all on my club. Do they want me to stay?

“Then it depends on my health as well because that is something that you consider when you get to my level. It demands a lot of energy to win football games.”

This is tantamount to the same thing in my book! If the club want me I am here. After that I will worry about my health! Nice to see that, regardless of the vomit-inducing whinging pouring out of some corners, his passion for the club has not dwindled at all. He went on to confirm that not winning things still hurts him, but that he still believes firmly in the club’s plans as a means to ensuring a bright future:

“I miss winning titles. Very much. You only have one way, to fight and win again.

“I feel part of what is very important for us is to transform the club into a top-level club, into a club that has a fantastic future potential with values that we think are very important in the game.

“The style of play, the way we behave to develop young players, to give a chance to people who deserve it in life. That for me is very important in the history of the club. The vision is to make this club the best club in the world, it is as simple as that.”

It has to be said, becoming the best club in the world is a noble and worthy objective, though I wouldn’t mind concentrating on being the best club in England for a little while first, if that is all the same with the boss!

Van’s Still Our Man

As ever, I hate to say I told you so, but again, I DID tell you so…

My exact words were:

“January will be here soon and, with Tevez reportedly likely to never play for Manchester City again, I am sure that we will have to deal the tabloids spewing out enough Van Persie to Citeh stories to last a lifetime.”

Well, as it turned out, they couldn’t even wait until January with pretty much all of the red-tops trolling this one out as early as Friday morning! Wenger was unwilling to even entertain the conversation in his press conference, responding curtly with the following when asked if Van Persie would be leaving in January:

“This is a story created to create a story.

“There is no truth to it. There is nothing to say really.

“Anybody who wants to sign one of our players can call me. Everybody has my phone number.

I don’t know why we are even speaking about transfers. Robin is under contract until 2013.”

I would like to add that, whilst I agree with every word of that statement and do not believe that Robin will do anything other than sign his next contract for Arsenal, the sooner this contract situation gets sorted, the better it will be for all involved. I understand that it is not a good time as we are in the middle of a run of 2 games almost every week, but I also understand that the general levels of concern surrounding the club and, more importantly, the players, do not need extra weight adding to them. Losing our best striker, one of the best players at the club and a 5th captain since Vieira left in 2005, only 6 years ago, is not something that they need even to contemplate!

So, get him signed up and let’s move on to the stories about Walcott leaving for Italy, Arshavin moving to Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus or any of the multitude of clubs he was definitely leaving us for over the past 9 months! Oh, not to forget, Djourou will probably just be moving house when we could actually do with him leaving!

And on that note I bid you farewell.

Come on you Cock-Choking, Title-less Thumping, Neighbour-Annihilating Goooonnnneeerrrrrrssssss!

Indian Summer or Greek Salad?

September 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Champions League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Next up, Olimpiacos, who despite being a relatively well known Greek side, appear to have less internet column inches or video minutes devoted to them than chipmunks that look a bit “tasty”, or is that a hamster and who really cares anyway?!

So, given the wealth of information regarding the most successful club in Greek history, sporting a trophy cabinet containing no less than 38 league titles, 24 Greek cups and 4 Greek Super Cups, it appears that focusing on our part ot be played in this match is my only real escape route!

Unfortunately, with the number of injuries alone that we are carrying, there is sufficient there to cover the blankest of pages! The list of casualties is again starting to make it look like opening a private hospital may have been a better choice than a shiny new stadium!

Those not avaialable for selection include:

Walcott – Knee
Koscienlny – Ankle
Gervinho – Muscle
Squillaci – Calf
Wilshere – Ankle
Djourou – Muscle
Benyoun – Muscle
Vermaelen – Ankle
Diaby – Ankle

Incredibly our brand new centurion, Rip-Roaring Rocking Reliant Robin, is STILL fit and, with the list above, we are certainly going to need him to continue in his rich vein of form. In terms of a starting XI, a lot of the “selection headaches” that Arsene Wenger surely cannot wait to experience, are currently not even enough to warrant a junior aspirin! Of the players that are available and competing for a place, I expect that Gibbs will continue to get the nod over Santos as he played in the defence that presided over that rarest of occurences at the Emirates of late, a clean sheet! Rosicky, if he is at a sufficient level of match fitness will probably win the battle to “partner” Van Persie leaving the bench-warming to Park and Arteta will probably get moved out to the right being preferred to Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The one big issue is who will partner Mertesacker in the centre of defence, as we currently have 3 centrebacks out injured. The obvious choice would be to put Song in there and throw Frimpong into the defensive midfield berth although there is a slim chance that Wenger could surprise us and go with either Sagna in the centre and Jenkinson at right back or even bring in young Ignasi Miquel. In truth, it may well be a little early for Miquel in general and the careful and necessary “rehabilitation” of Jenkinson after the Manchester debacle will probably continue so I think that Song will start in what could well turn out to be a crucial match once the dust settles on this Champions League group.

So, I think the line-up will look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up vs Olimpiacos

All in all, not a bad side, and further proof that the squad is not as lacking in depth as some quarters would have you believe. That said, we cannot afford to “expect the win” as some are also claiming. Whilst there isn’t a huge amount of interesting informtion regarding the Greek champions, I can tell you that a number of their players in the forward positions can and do score goals regularly and, if we give them too much space or switch off for even a second, we could be severely punished. I can also tell you that Olof Mellberg, the ex-Aston Villa centre-back, is currrently enjoying some good reviews in a defence that is not going to give away too many freebies. Add to this the fact that they were beaten by Marseille at home last week and it is safe to say that they will not be coming to London to make up the numbers as they look to rebuild their Champions League campaign. The obvious defenciency in their team is a general lack of particularly mobile players, especially in central midfield and defence, so if we can get our passing game going we may see them fade quite dramatically the last third of the match.

In terms of our own game-plan, well, that should be fairly straightorward. We will need Song to sit tight in defence, playing as close to Mertesacker as Koscielny did against Bolton and Frimpong will need to do the same job that Song has been doing in terms of breaking up the attacks before they get too close to our penalty box, a job which young Alex appears to be growing into with every passing game and all credit to him for sticking at it and becoming the player that many believed he would never be after a difficult start to his Arsenal career. We will also need Ramsey to pick up where he left off on Saturday during which match he finally started to show glimpses of him ability to produce some delightful defence-splitting passes to go with him phenomenal work-rate.

The real worry for me is that our side also lacks a little pace. To counter this we will need not only a continuation of that direct passing, so effective against Bolton at the weekend, but we will also need to see Arteta and Arshavin getting forward quickly and making runs in behind the defence to providing the outlets for those passes as were Gervinho and, more impressively, Walcott on Saturday.

A little confidence in the defence could go a long way and we can but hope that the clean sheet we kept inspired the defence to put in a few extra hours on the training pitch over the past few days to continue to practice the things that are clearly helping them to go in the right direction.

In terms of a scorline prediction, I will go with the same result that I thought we would see against Bolton, 2-0. Above all I think that a level of patience will be required, both on the pitch and off of it. The Greeks are not going to be throwing caution to the wind and leaving huge holes in their defence and the last thing our players need will be to start feeling the pressure cascading down from the stands. Olimpiacos surely realise this and will undoubtedly set out to stifle our attacking game and maybe even sneak one on the counter. As I eluded to earlier, I believe that the last 20 minutes of this match is where it will be truly decided and the fans will need to understand that and stay behind the team, even if, Dennis forbid, we find ourselves a goal down going into the final third of the match. Should we find ourselves a goal up, the need to calm things down and concentrate on keeping the ball for long periods to wear down the Greek legs will be of massive importance. Three points is the target and another clean sheet would also be nice. Of least importance is the attractiveness of the football that gets us to those targets so let’s just get behind the boys and stay behind them right up until the final whistle.

With the injury list that we have, a twelfth man could be more decisive than ever.

Bad Medicine

The tabloids and some sections of the fanbase have chosen to draw their swords over the Jack Wilshere injury situation, claiming that the Arsenal medical team have “again” bungled a players care. I have to say that I do not agree with this opinion. The decision to let Jack wear the medical boot and to see if the injury would heal naturally was taken to give Jack every chance of recovering without having to have surgery at such a young age. A risk that obviously hasn’t paid off, but I think it was a risk worth taking and all of the absurd conspiracy theories flying around in the wake of this are becoming more and more absurd by the minute.

I think that it is safe to say that “those who shall not be pleased” will do anything to find a way to criticise the club right now, but claims that Jack failed a dope test and the FA are enforcing a period of time off rather than an official ban is about as low and ludicrous as this whole absurd saga can possibly get…Isn’t it?

Come on Gooners! Let’s at least try to remember that, at the end of the season, should a trophy find its way into the trophy cabinet and a queue of players forms at Wenger’s door ready to sign their contract extensions, the vast majority of us will be as happy as pigs in poo, claiming to a man that we always knew Arsene would turn it around! Of course, there will be a section, an underwhelming minority, that will be unhappy that they didn’t get to set the manager on fire at the end of the season. For the moment the transfer window is closed, Arsene is the man in the job and changing that right now would surely be a foolish move and the best thing that we can do is to stop the bickering and bleating and just get behind the team.

January will be here soon and, with Tevez reportedly likely to never play for Manchester City again, I am sure that we will have to deal the tabloids spewing out enough Van Persie to Citeh stories to last a lifetime. The last thing we need is to go into that period with players feeling like there is nothing they can do to please the fans. It would just be an added incentive for them to leave and all the blood that the media sharks would need to smell to get the fires burning under this story alone.

You Go Girl(s)!

Arsenal Ladies did the club proud, yet again, by securing an historic treble adding the Continental Cup to their Super League and FA Cup successes beating Birmingham 4-1 on Sunday. Goals from Ellen White and Jaybe Ludlow before half-time and a brace from Ladies Legend Rachel Yankey proving enough to beat Birmingham into the runners-up position as they already did in the inaugural Womens Super League.

Congratulations Ladies and good luck with your Champions League match against FC Bobruchanka of Belarusia on Thursday.

And on that note, I bid you farewell and look forward to being able to write nice shiny positive things after the game today!

Come on you Injury Ravaged Greek Bubble Bursting Gooooonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!

From 17th Best To 17th Best!

September 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League, Transfers

Greetings fellow Gooners!

I know, you expected something directly after the game against Bolton on Saturday and your hearts were broken when I chose not to write a single word on the topic until now!

The main reason for this is that for the last match report I broke the “golden rule of sports blogging” and wrote whilst I was angry which led me to decide that it was probably just a much a sin to write when I was happy too! In truth, the things I would have splurged onto the page on Saturday would have been much more effusive and unbridled than they will be now and so I believe that this was a good decision, standing accused as I am regards being an Arsene Wenger sycophant, which I am not, but you cannot convince anybody of anything in cyberspace these days!

Also, there are a lot of other things going on surrounding the club at the moment that I felt needed to develop before any reaction and counter-reaction could be brought to bear in a considered manner.

An understandably nervy crowd, given that we started the day in 17th position in the Premier League, one place above Bolton and having conceded a goal more than them, were treated to the news that a certain Mr. Cahill would not be joining us and, I am sure, a breath of relief could be felt all around North London! Not, you understand, because he is the best centre-back in the world and nobody scores against him when he plays, far from it in fact if you look at the stats for the Bolton defence since he has been a regular fixture in it, but because we have a wonderful habit of allowing the most ironic and usually painful coincidences to take place, right when we don’t need it…And Saturday we simply did NOT need a match-winning performance from a player that we have been and continue to be constantly linked with just to prove that “those who shall not be pleased” were right all along and Wenger must go now for signing that rubbishy German twit!

Whilst the Bolton team-sheet sported an early Christmas surprise, the Arsenal team sheet revealed no great surprises. In fact, it was exactly the team that I predicted would start with Gibbs getting the nod over Santos after his excellent performance midweek and Walcott getting the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain even though The Ox can feel a little aggrieved having put in a performance every bit as deserving of another start as Gibbs.

The fact that the first half was, regardless of your allegiances, one of the drabbest affairs I can remember since the days of George Graham would normally have been worrying, a little bit frightening and a touch depressing even, but not in this case. In fact it was 45 minutes of exactly what we needed. No histrionics, no ridiculous giving away of constant free kicks in dangerous areas, no over-elaborate passing game, no failed offside traps, no own-goals, no penalties and no red cards…A complete success!

In reality, we started a little nervously and the best chance of the half fell to Bolton’s Pratley in the 3rd minute. His volley was matched by a great flying save by “the Pole between the poles” to tip the ball away. Three minutes later and a swift attack saw Gervinho through against the seemingly always impressive against Arsenal Jaaskelainen (I am sure you said the same about Paul Robinson after the Blackburn game and you were right then too! -ed), but a poor touch gave the Bolton keeper the extra yard he needed to collect the ball and clear the danger. Only three minutes later and Van Persie had two attempts in one attack, the first of which required a smart save and the second, after a neat lay-off from the once again industriously impressive Arteta, sailed wide of the post.

Half an hour of basically nothing in particular was to follow until the almost impossible almost happened! Walcott struck from some way out only for the ball to rebound out to Koscielny on the edge of the area. His volley, struck as sweetly as any striker would have been proud of, sailed just wide of the target. His first goal for Arsenal came in this fixture last year and I think we could be forgiven for thinking that given his recent run of luck, including 8-2 thrashings and own goals, he may just have deserved a moment of joy and lighting striking twice. Alas, it was not to be.

This was the beginning of a period of ten or so minutes of Arsenal domination culminating in an effort for Van Persie being blocked by Wheater when he looked certain to score and Walcott cracking a long distance effort that whistled by the outside of the post with Jaaskelainen rooted to the spot able to play nothing more than the role of spectator.

The half-time whistle sounded and an all too familiar feeling was starting to seep in. The majority of possession, few clear-cut chances and no goals. Please no, not again!

However, Arsene Wenger must have said something to the players, Pat Rice put something in their half-time oranges or maybe even David Dein payed a visit to the dressing room?! Whatever it was, the results were plain to see. Almost from the moment the whistle signalled the resumption of play, there was a different purpose about the side. Gervinho and Walcott were both pushed out wider dragging their respective markers with them thus giving Van Persie some much needed space to pick up the ball deep and use his wide range of passing. Arteta had clearly been told to get closer to Van Persie and so we had, in effect, a 4-2-4 when we had the ball.

Ramsey and Song were also both pushed slightly further forward to break down the midfield play of Bolton earlier and Koscienly spent most of the second half doing a great and generally unsung job of stepping up to break up any moves that managed to get by the midfield before they got the chance to trouble the defence. I want to say at this point that, without question, this was his best game for some time without Vermaelen at his side and one can only hope that it brings with it some much needed confidence before the Champions League match against Olimpiakos and the Premier League game against the small club from North London.

The nerve-settling, thank Dennis we can breathe a little again, much needed breakthrough came after only 2 minutes of the second half had been played. A fairly rash tackle in the centre of the park on Gervinho saw the ball break loose to the advancing Ramsey and Mark Clattenburg, who had a good game all round, allowed the advantage. Ramsey carried it about 20 yards before passing to Van Persie who, on the edge of the box with his back to goal and a defender either side of him looked certain to pass it back to the Welshman who had continued his run into the box. What actually happened was a moment of sheer beauty that Dennis himself would have been proud of and may not have even attempted with the easy pass to Ramsey ready and waiting. He turned to his right, leaving one of his markers lonely and cold in the centre, span around the edge of the penalty area bringing the ball onto his left foot and, with the defender just throwing out a leg to block and Jaaskelainen covering at his near post, Robin found the only gap that left young Ramsey with nothing else to say except for “Well done captain!” as opposed to “Oi, I was free in the box you greedy fecker!” as he may have said had that gap not been so expertly exploited by a striker so in form it is actually a little bit scary!

The relief inside the stadium was only equalled by that on the pitch as the fear of another fan and media roasting suddenly melted away.

Instantly the infamous Arsenal “handbrake” was released. Less than a minute later Walcott released Van Persie with a defence-splitting pass only for Jussi to prove equal to the task, diving low to his right to deny the Arsenal skipper his 100th goal in the colours of our fine club. Don’t worry, he wasn’t to be denied that pleasure for much longer.

On 54 minutes another great through ball, this time from Ramsey, found Walcott bearing down on the penalty area and Wheater, somewhat inevitably being left behind, took the decision to attempt a sly shirt tug which was enough to give Walcott the chance to go down drawing the free-kick and the even more inevitable red card.

The attacking floodgates were well and truly opened at this point and a performance that Cesc and Na$ri would have been proud to have been part of took place. I have heard many suggest that it was easy as Bolton, down to 10 men, without their best defender and already 1-0 down were bound to fold. To that I say, quite simply, nutsacks! Nobody gave Arsenal any sympathy when a reserve team got murdered 8-2 by a Manchester United side that only had to think about shooting to see the ball end up in the back of the net so why should this be any different? In fact, I have seen so many games over the last couple of years where Arsenal really should have buried a game, failed to do so and then had to hear about how we are a bunch of useless, half-witted kids that cannot hold onto a lead and that Wenger has no tactical knowledge and in so many of those games the sending off would have seen Bolton lock the doors, grab one on the counter and slink out the back doors of the Emirates with a point whilst the fans screamed their disapproval at Wenger, the players, the board, the moon and the sun!

And that is, in essence, the biggest problem we have as a club right now. The division between the fans that I keep referring to causes the disenfranchised to be so determined to stay that way that they simply cannot hold their hands up and accept that sometimes, just sometimes, we seem to be going in the right direction.

Anyway, the old adage stays firm here, you can only beat what is put in front of you…and beat them we did!

Three minutes after the sending off saw Arteta drag his shot wide after a glorious pass from Van Persie that would have had any defence chasing its own shadow. Another three minutes later and Arteta brought another sharp save out of Jaaskelainen who, regardless of seeing his net bulge three times, could well have had a decent case for the Man of the Match award!

Then the inevitable happened…No, Bolton didn’t actually score, not THAT inevitable, but the increasing pressure at the other end of the pitch and the high lines that we were employing gave Bolton a good chance on the counter attack. A nice pass from Petrov found Eagles with a run on goal but Szczesny was not to be outdone by Jussi and got to the ball in time to snuff out the attack, in truth the only real attack that Bolton would muster in the second half.

After that it was truly one-way traffic with Bolton just trying to keep the scoreline respectable and on 63 minutes their hard-work was almost undone when Gervinho, after some nice work out wide, played the ball into Van Persie whose shot flew inches wide of the target. A minute later and the Dutchman directed a flying header that Jaaskelainen was equal to after a lovely floated cross from Walcott who, amazingly in my opinion, got a fair bit of stick after the game even though he was involved in almost every attacking move including getting an assist that you would believe from the general reaction never even happened. As I keep saying, this divide in the fans is not helping anybody and the quicker we can all get along and start supporting the players instead of fighting amongst ourselves, the better. I honestly believe that so many people have decided that Walcott is not good enough for Arsenal that he could spend the next ten games scoring a goal a game, notch up 20 assists, win eight Man of the Match awards and save four penalties and those same people would STILL be unhappy. In fact, I am starting to believe that there is a contingent in the fanbase at the moment that actually WANT Arsenal to fail so that they can be proved right. That is NOT why we are called SUPPORTERS. Think about that.

If I am honest, I believed that we were destined for some pretty terrible times when we lost 3 of our first XI in the summer and I voiced that opinion in many a forum. I have to say I am thrilled to bits that the players seem to be gradually putting the summer behind them and, with a little more help from some of the fans, I think that they could work through this process much more quickly. Only when they have had the chance to work together both on the training ground and on the pitch for a reasonable amount of time and gel as a team will we truly get a sense of where this new version of Wengerball is going and whether or not it is likely to be successful.

I digress…

5 minutes later and Van Persie AND Walcott got their just rewards. A delightful ball along the floor from around halfway by Ramsey split the difference between two defenders and released Walcott down the right. He left the two defenders for dead and cut into the penalty area. Continuing his run to the byline he sent in an inch-perfect cross to Van Persie who opened up his body and pushed a neat flick past the keeper thus securing his place in the Arsenal history books as the 17th player in our history to have scored 100 goals for the club.

And the first thing that he did after reaching this momentous milestone? Run over to the fans, ripping off his shirt to reveal an “I am the 17th Greatest” t-shirt underneath whilst taking all the plaudits?

No, he turned to Walcott and called him over to share in the praise being poured down from the stands. A true captain’s moment and proof that he is quickly growing into this new role as well as proving that the faith shown in him by Wenger through all his troubled times with injuries was indeed well placed. Class Robin, pure class.

Whilst that was obviously game over and I was quietly confident that my prediction of 2-0 was looking like a fairly safe bet now, a strange thing didn’t happen! Wenger did not take off two attacking players and bring on a centre-forward pretending to be a defensive winger and a defensive midfielder. Arsenal did not start aimlessly passing the ball to Bolton players. Our defence didn’t even thrash the ball into their own net! No, what actually happened was Arsenal continued to push forward effectively and stylishly, continuing in the manner that had been tearing open the Bolton defence for the better part of 40 minutes now.

On 73 minutes Ramsey saw his long range effort saved by Jaaskelainen and 2 minutes later Walcott got himself free after a great pass from Song only for Walcott to hesitate and give the Bolton keeper the chance to close down the angle. In truth, Walcott seemed to be trying to show the keeper to his bottom left whilst actually placing it in the bottom right in true Henry style, but by the time he made the decision he was too close to goal and a relatively simple save was all that was required to keep the score at 2-0.

13 minutes of total possession, and when I say total possession I mean passing the ball crisply and cleanly from one red shirt to another and rarely, if ever, giving it away and my 2-0 was looking golden! Then Song had to go and spoil it all in the 88th minute with a strike of the highest quality. The ever-involved Ramsey, another player who didn’t get anywhere near the credit that he deserved after the game, picked the ball up about 25 yards out, moved into 5 yards of space and passed out to the right hand side of the penalty area to the onrushing Sagna who, trying to return the favour, pulled it back to Ramsey to finish. The pass was a little too close to Ramsey and came with a little too much pace but found its way to Alex Song on the edge of the penalty area who controlled neatly, dragged the ball inside Pratley, took another touch and then curled the ball cleanly into the top right hand corner leaving Jaaskelainen with no chance whatsoever. A goal of the highest quality from a player who is improving with almost every game.

All in all a good afternoon’s work with some great individual performances, but, more importantly, a very tidy team performance. A clean sheet, three goals, a captain who led from the front, a defence that rarely looked troubled, no tactical disasters and, most importantly of all, three precious points that all the whinging and bleating of “those that shall not be pleased” can never take away from us.

Just what we needed! Now we need to turn this performance into a habit and that starts with a big game against the Greeks on Wednesday. More to come on that match tomorrow in the pre-match report!

Mass Exodus or Media Sexing Up?!

The tabloids had a field day when they realised that 4 Arsenal players ONLY have 2 years left on their contract! Yes, apparently Theo Walcott, Andre Arshavin, Thomas Vermaelen and Robin Van Persie are all leaving the first opportunity they get as is made clear by the fact that they have not signed contract extensions yet!

Oh dear, anything to generate a story with these buffoons!

Seriously, this is just a ludicrous effort to try and stir up a storm over nothing by the media, but that hasn’t stopped certain sections of the Arsenal fans groaning and claiming that the sky will soon fall in!

To put this issue in some perspective, Manchester United have no fewer than 7 players whose contracts expire in LESS THAN ONE YEAR! Park, Giggs, Owen, Berbatov, Kuszczak, Gibson and O’Shea, but nobody appears to give a monkey’s, and rightly so. Contract extensions tend to get sorted out when there is time and, as much as it may not appear to have been obvious to the blinkered masses, the club was a little busy this summer with things like signing 10 players and loaning one, dealing with the Cesc, Na$ri and Clichy sales and the exit by way of sale, termination or loan of no fewer than 19 other players!

This has not stopped the media from already claiming that Citeh, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich are all ready to sign him in January for £30m!

Woah nelly…Hold on a minute…Citeh? Seriously?! Is there a player in the world that Citeh AREN’T going to buy?! They have Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli and tend to play with one striker! Why would Van Persie even think about going there even if he didleave?! It just wouldn’t make any sense. Captain, first name on the team sheet, scoring a goal about every game he plays in, enjoying his best run of form and his best run without injury for years. He just doesn’t strike me as somebody stupid enough to even consider giving that up to warm the bench for 9 games out of ten.

When actually asked for his opinion, days AFTER the media had already informed us that he would be leaving, he had this to say:

“Maybe I’ll leave it because the main thing for me is the team and that we play well.”

“I do believe you have to look for a right moment to sit down and speak about your own stuff.”

“It’s not only about me, it’s about the team. We are not talking now because we are so busy – we have games every three or four days.”

“I don’t think it’s clever to do that during the season.”

“I still have almost two years left here, so for the moment that’s fine. But I don’t know, we will have to look.”

“I’m happy with my contract, I’m good. That’s how it is, I can’t say much more. I can’t look into the future.”

Which all seems pretty sensible really!

Apparently nobody wanted to talk to any of the other three or indeed Johan Djourou whose contract also expires in two years time but the hacks took no notice of him! It’s almost as if running quotes from any of the others would not sell newspapers, isn’t it?!!

Lo-Jacked
Sad news today for Arsenal and England star Jack Wilshere as the club confirmed that, whilst his operation on his fractured ankle had gone well, they were expecting him to be out for up to four or five months.

“Jack Wilshere has this morning undergone ankle surgery at a central London hospital. It is envisaged that Jack’s rehabilitation will take a period of four to five months.”

“Under the care of two world-renowned surgeons, Jack has had the stress fracture of his right ankle repaired.

“The initial indications are that the surgery has been successful and Jack will now undergo a prolonged period of rehabilitation.”

I have to say that there were two things that realy amused me in that statement, saddening as it is. Firstly, that the club chose to emphasise the use of “two World-renowned surgeons”, either preparing for the inevitable backlash from the Bleaters in the Bleachers claiming that we hired in the same team that worked on Hargreaves at Manchester United in a bid to save £23.50 and secondly that they made it clear that he will be out for four to five months. This is amusing when you read Jack’s own “Tweet” on the topic…

“hopefully i will return to action around christmas time. i am in good hands! thanks for your support everyone!”

Hahaha! It appears that, with the benefit of hindsight, Arsenal Football Club may have learned a valuable lesson in predicting the return of injured players! Of course, it is already being spun as a huge conspiracy by “those that shall not be pleased”, but that is to be expected from them really!

Let’s just hope that Jack is as strong and determined a young man as he is a player and that he gets back in time to give us a great little stocking filler!

Get well soon Jack!

It’s Got To Be Per-fect

Arsene Wenger singled out Per Mertesacker for special words of praise after the defensive performance on Saturday saw him looking more settled and relaxed than in previous matches. In response, Mertesacker had this to say to the Arsenal website:

“We had a little bit more time [during the week] because of the Carling Cup match.”

“Some players had a little more rest and we trained a little harder, especially on the way we want to defend. It worked and on Saturday you saw we had a better defence. We were closer together.”

“After the four goals against Blackburn we lost a little bit of confidence but we were very proud of our performance on Saturday. We want to go on with this way of defending.”

“I want to do a good job, especially in the defence. That is my role. If the coach praises me then that is a great thing but I have to go on and keep on working. My performances can improve.”

Well said that man. I think that it is fair to say that after only a handful of appearances for the club and most of those in a defence desperately short of confidence, he is bedding in well. Time will tell whether Per can truly recapture the form that saw him called “the best central defender in Europe” a couple of years back, but, again, getting on his back every time he does make a mistake is not the way to help that process.

I must say that I cannot wait for TV5 to come back and to see the pair play together regularly. I think that with Sagna, TV5 and Mertesacker along with whoever is winning the right to play at left-back – the kind of competition for places that has been seriously lacking at the club for a long time now – we may even get to see a defence of outstanding quality and effectiveness.

In fact, speaking of competition for places, I think that the “battles” between Mertesacker and Koscielny, Santos and Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Arshavin, Van Persie and Park and Benayoun and anybody in the midfield are not only healthy but something we have been desperately lacking since Wengerball 3 was broken up and I am genuinely excited for the possibilities that this holds for the coming months.

And on that note, I bid you farewell. I have a rum and coke, a full packet of black tobacco cigarettes made in the jungles of Peru and a pre-match report for a game against a Greek team that I know very little about to start researching and actually write!

Come on you All Leaving The Club In January Goooonnnneeerrrsssss!

I Don’t Know What To Say!

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

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Next up, the visit of Bolton Wanderers to our fine home and whilst Bolton have provided some nasty moments for us over the years, including a 2-1 reversal at the Reebok at the end of last season for some reason I am not expecting that this year. Seriously, I have a strange and, if I am totally honest, slightly uncomfortable sense that things are about to go right for us.

Realistically speaking, this is yet another game that we really should be winning. There aren’t many clubs in the Premier League that can claim a worse start to the season than us, 3 to be exact, and Bolton are one of them, sporting a defence (including Cahill for those who simply defy logic by claiming that signing him would have made all the difference to this dismal start to our season) that has leaked only one goal less than our own.

For this reason, it promises to be a game with goals in it, to say the least, although I am secretly just praying for a clean sheet! (not so secret now eh!? -ed)

In terms of the line-up, we are missing Benayoun with a side strain, Djourou with a hamstring that will, with any luck, keep him out for a while yet and obviously Jack, TV5 and Diaby are still out. We will have the luxury of welcoming back Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna, the latter of which provides most relief for my money after another generally poor defensive performance from Jenkinson against Shrewsbury on Tuesday.

In truth, I am not sure that Wenger rested Santos on Tuesday expecting anything other than him starting against Bolton but after the performance of Gibbs against Shrewsbury it would be hard and possibly even harsh to leave him out for this one. When a player, especially one in our defensive unit, hits form even for one game, it would seem sensible to keep playing him. All of that said there is no telling what Wenger will do in this respect!

I think that Walcott will still get the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain. Again, it would again seem that whilst Walcott is struggling for form and The Ox did such a good job in the Carling Cup match then the latter should get another run out, but I think that Wenger is planning a slow easing-in process for him. There is always the possibility that Arshavin will get the left berth and Gervinho the right, but I have a sneaking feeling that the little Russian may finally get dropped for his run, Swansea aside, of poor performances.

I don’t expect any surprises in any other positions and so the line-up will probably look something like this:

Predicted Line-Up Arsenal Bolton

And I think that is a team capable of doing the job.

Interestingly, this very same fixture last season saw us comfortably win 4-1 in the end, although when Bolton equalised just before half-time a wave of worry (the Arsenal version of the Mexican Wave!) went through most Gooners! Thankfully, goals from Koscielny (in THEIR net!), Chamakh, Song and even Vela proved to be more than enough on the day. Oh, and as if to prove how perfectly he would fit in at the club, Cahill, probably undeservedly, got himself a red card after ploughing through the back of Chamakh almost immediately after the Moroccan had scored the goal to put us 2-1 up!

As for this year, as I secretly said earlier, I would settle for a clean sheet (I am sure that the players and management could be forgiven for thinking that is as much the target as actually scoring at the other end) and, for that reason I am going for a 2-0 win with us managing to finish the game with all 11 players on the park!

Yep, 2-0, that’ll do nicely!

A Lucky Escape

Joey Barton has been running his mouth off and the Twitter servers into the ground again with his latest claims that he was actually involved in transfer talks with us and went as far as to say that he would have signed had it not been for the incident with Gervinho which saw our man sent off, probably for not throwing a good enough punch to knock thelittle gobshite out! Firstly speaking to BBC Sport he had this to say:

“If I hadn’t played against Arsenal on the first day, I may have signed for them. There were a couple of conversations [with Wenger] but that’s different to actually signing.

“The Gervinho incident happened and there’s nothing I can do about it now. If it happened again, I’d like to think I’d deal with it differently.

“Things happen for a reason and there’s a lesson to be learned from it. Right now, we sit above Arsenal in the table – hopefully that’s the case in May.”

So many things to discuss here I am not even sure where to start so I will simply plump for “If it happened again, I’d like to think I’d deal with it differently.” HAHAHAHAHA! The odds that Joey Barton will EVER learn a lesson in self-control are so phenomenally remote that I think that they would be better than “Right now, we sit above Arsenal in the table – hopefully that’s the case in May.” actually coming true!

Anyway, in typical fashion Peter Hill-Wood chose to comment on this to the Daily Star:

“It’s not something the board heard about and if it was a serious proposition I certainly would have expected us to [have heard about it].”

Not to be outdone, Barton then “Twatted”, oops, sorry, “Tweeted”:

“am not going to be drawn on PHW’s comments, he obviously needs to open a dialogue channel with Wenger, Pat Rice and Steve Rowley…..”

Followed by:

“…i feel i made the right move for me, am very happy at QPR and wish Arsenal the best of luck. Everything happens for a reason I believe”

Yes, soothsayer Barton, all things DO happen for a reason. One must assume that the reason this happened is because you are nothing more than a loutish thug and I did not hear one single fan of our great club mention anything remotely like “Ooh, Joey Barton. That’s a good idea. Cracking all-round midfielder that is. Right out of the Wengerball textbook!”

Of course, this has sparked a side debate amongst Gooners as to whether or not Barton actually WAS on Wenger’s radar and the board simply didn’t know about it. The general take appears to be that the “AKN” brigade are incredibly now claiming that Wenger is handling all transfer business and, in true dictatorial fashion, doesn’t even require board approval to approach or even sign players!

Well done Gooners. It is such a joy to see us split so directly in two over all things Wenger! Seriously, I there anybody out there who actually feels like I do, give the man a chance to fix this and gel this new-look side and, if he doesn’t, he obviously has to go. In reality there is no obvious replacement, there is no point in booting him out of the door after completing the new signings that all sides of the debate were crying out for and the chances of Arsenal getting rid of the most successful manager in our history are pretty slim anyway.

Divided & Conquered

I had the “pleasure” of a conversation in the comments yesterday with “ken” who I am certain has in the past spent an inordinate amount of time bleating about us needing experience and not winning anything with kids, then decided to bleat that Arteta is too old and Benayoun hasn’t played enough football lately to be a worthwhile signing. Yes, I know I shouldn’t bother replying to somebody who clearly isn’t actually WATCHING Arsenal games and thus actually seeing Mighty Mik or Yossi actually play for us, but he actually went on to actually claim that Arsene Wenger is actually to blame for Monaco being relegated last season due to his failed youth project there…In 1987-1994!

Seriously folks, is there ANTYHING that Wenger can do to get a break from this rubbish?

Look, the reality is simple; Arsene Wenger didn’t become a bad manager overnight, he just found himself looking for a more financially prudent manner of building teams than before. The fact that he was very involved in the reasons for that financial change in climate at the club, the Emirates Stadium, can of course be thrown at his doorstep as hard as any stroppy adolescent can manage, but sailing off into the nether regions of fantasy with claims like this simply aren’t going to help anybody.

To clarify, I am not an “AKB” nor am I an “AKN”. I am a fan of Arsenal Football Club. I have been a fan of this fine club since I was 7 years old, some 32 years ago now, and I will continue to be long after Wenger has shuffled up the stairs or out of the doors of Highbury House. In all of those years I have never seen anybody involved with the club, including Dennis Bergkamp, change our playing style, our success rate, the standing of the club or the feeling of pride that we had for so many years when replying “Arsenal” to the question “Who do you support?”

For those reasons alone I believe that the manager deserves his shot at getting this right. I do not believe that he will deserve any more chances should this season finish without a trophy once more, but I have a feeling that he will turn this around and that this team, with the returns of Vermaelen and Jack still to come, has the potential to play some great football whilst being a more hardworking version than Wengerball 3.

Only time will tell, but I am pretty certain that screaming until one of your lungs lands on the rug in front of you is not going to see any changes to the current structure at the club and, equally, abusing the players or other Arsenal fans is probably not going to convince either to do their jobs properly.

It is simple really; why not just support the team and give them the chance to succeed. If they fail, then we can start the protesting and the screeching but until then there is literally NOTHING to be gained by spraying gallons of vitriol into the faces of those that feel the same disappointment, pain and concerns as you do when we lose, draw or don’t sign Joey Barton!

Catch my drift?!

The Manager Still Believes

Incredibly in my opinion, there are some Arsenal fans claiming that Wenger has become so arrogant and impassive that he simply doesn’t care that we find ourselves 17th in the Premier League table and even that the problems that we have are “plain to see” and he is simply too stubborn and blind to fix them. I would think that anybody with anything other than a stone for a heart could see that the manager has looked a ghost of himself of late such is the pressure that he is, for the first time in his 14 years at the club, surely feeling. That said, I think that his recent press statements were partly designed to demonstrate that is not the case as well as trying to buoy the team a little ahead of Saturday’s game.

When asked about our current form, our league position and our chances of winning the league title, he had this to say:

“Of course I am worried, it is absolutely not realistic not to be worried when you have a team like Manchester United in front of you.

“But the only thing we can do is focus on our performances, win our games and hope they will drop some points at somestage.

“What is important for us is to give absolutely everything to do it (win the title), but at the moment it is too early to speak about that.

“Let’s come back to a better distance with the top teams before we speak about that. If the team gets momentum, we can be very strong.”

I think it is safe to say that all makes a lot of sense. In fact I would be surprised if the likes of Mancini and Villas-Boa aren’t thinking the majority of that too. Let’s just hope that the players are listening!

So, 2000 or so words later, it turns out I DID know what to say!

And on that note I shall away and buy myself a new keyboard because the fecking “w” on this one needs a sledgehammer to get it so much as out of bed these days! Must be all those times I use it to access www.wonderfulworldofwengerwebsite.com!

Come on you Clean Sheet Seeking Gooonnnneeeerrrssss!

My Horse, My Ox, My Ass, My Anything

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

Greetings fellow Gooners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until the next time,

Come on you Shrew Taming Goonnnnneeeerrrrsssss!

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