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?!!

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!

Come on you Clean Sheet Seeking Gooonnnneeeerrrssss!

Don’t Worry, It’s Only Blackburn Rovers!

September 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Greetings fellow Gooners!

Just a quick one today due to:

a) My being phenomenally late due to some other commitments that the world forgot to warn me about until I had 40 minutes to get there including getting ready and travelling for 30 minutes and;

b) There isn’t a great deal to say that hasn’t been said a thousand and one times and thus that we don’t already know!

Today we play Blackburn Rovers in yet another no-win situation. What could be a potential banana skin for us is exactly that, win lose or draw.

You see, if we win, well, that is exactly how it should be and no special credit will be received. We are the mighty Arsenal FC and they are lowly Blackburn, bottom of the Premier League and in a general state of turmoil. Add to that the fact that their fans are planning a protest prior to kick-off, running an online petition and generally baying for the blood of their manager and of course we should run them out of their own ground.

Or maybe we will get a draw. Yes, that should get the boo-boys out of their prams! Obviously a draw at Ewood Park would not be the end of the world, let alone the end of any title aspirations the players and staff may still be harbouring, but it would not be the win that we should so obviously be getting.

Of course, there is another possibility. That unspeakable chance that we come away with nothing thus requiring the thrusting of Wenger out of the back window of the coach home to be left for dead somewhere on the M6 due to the obvious failure of his new look side (some 2 weeks old), his transfer policy of buying experienced players (some 2 weeks old), his obvious delight at selling 3 of our most prized assets after training and nurturing them almost from his own teat and, last but not least, the fact that he obviously hasn’t been able to manage the team since David Dein left.

In fact, let’s get to the truth of the matter;We all know that Dein was not just responsible for buying and selling players and running the entire executive branch of the club but he also took all of the training sessions, picked the team, wrote the match programme, read out the announcements on match day, played centre-forward in a Thierry Henry disguise, cooked all of the players meals and even washed their kits and cleaned their boots with his magical winning dust!

Ok, obviously I am being a touch facetious here…We all know that he can’t cook!

But seriously folks, as I pointed out prior to the Dortmund game, we are smack bang in the middle of a run of seriously winnable games against teams that we really should be beating. I hope that tomorrow sees us walk away with a healthy victory and I am plumping for a 3-1 to the Arsenal with Mertesacker getting his name on the scoreboard as well as putting n a cracking performance to quieten a few errant mouths that, after two perfectly decent performances in a row, seem to be suggesting that he is worse than Squillaci!

In terms of the line-up we welcome back Song, Gervinho and Jenkinson from suspension and may just see Ramsey on the bench depending on a late fitness test. Jack and TV5 are obviously still out, as are Diaby, Rosicky, Squillaci and Miyaichi. With the midweek exploits still fresh in the legs, I would expect Arshavin to replace Benayoun and I think that we may get a peek at Santos so as not to confuse Gibbs by him playing two games in a row and possibly even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as I think that Theo may get a sit down for this one too.

So, the team may well look nothing like this:

Now, I have to say, that looks like a team with goals in it!

In other news:

Cesc claims NOT to have slammed our chances of winning any trophies ever again until the end of time, although anybody reading the comments section of my post on this topic will understand why I still have my doubts, regardless of how much Twittering he gets up to! Truth be told, I was furious yesterday and today I couldn’t really give a rats arse. There the much more important matter of actually winning a game rather than worrying about whether an ex-player thinks we will or not!

Manchester United are the latest club linked with a Middle East buyout, this time it is the Qatari royal family threatening the general wellbeing of football with a reported bid of £1.6bn. I don’t want to get too high up on my horse over this as, so far, it is appears to be rumour and counter-rumour. Not only that, but I cannot help but wonder how the likes of Chelsea, United and Citeh get a “Sugar Daddy” whilst we get the “Gingerbread Man”!

Wenger claims that his experiment with a zonal marking systemfor corners is working so far but nothing concrete has been decided regarding whether or not it is here to stay. Time will tell on that one, but, whilst we haven’t actually conceded from a corner yet this season, our goals conceded record so far leaves a lot to be desired to say the least and so one assumes that the experiment needs to show fruit in other areas too and fast if it to stand a chance. Personally I think that man to man marking at set pieces is too easy to break down for the attacking side unless you have very mobile defenders and so I hope that the lads get past the teething troubles as quickly as possible to give this new system a real chance.

Yossi Benayoun claims that his loan move was not the last minute shock that it appeared to be and that we were finalising the details about a week beforehand. All well and good, but it does beg the obvious question: If we knew we were signing him so long beforehand, how on earth did we end up taking him without a medical?!

Nicklas Bendtner is currently doing the media rounds with his latest Arsenal “revelation”. He claims he won’t be back unless he gets assurances of regular football from the club. First things first, we own you sunbeam and you will come back if we tell you too and you won’t if we don’t want you. Secondly, I hope that you keep your original promise of never coming back and good riddance too. Thirdly, shut your trap for two fecking minutes and give your arse a chance, would you! You might have been played desperately out of position, never really given a fighting chance to prove yourself and even been horribly misquoted over the whole “best player in the world” debacle (I hate to say it, but I saw the original of that interview and another subsequent interview and that “claim” was taken so out of context it was actually a disgrace to journalism, twice!) but has it never occurred to you that the fact that you spend more time talking about playing football than actually playing it might be riddled with all the clues you need?!?!

Still not convinced Nick? Well, try your own words for size:

“I have rented a good house and am probably going to spend most of my time there, as I did in London, and then spend time with my family when I am not playing football, so it’s going to be okay.”

Anybody else starting to think that he has literally zero friends in the entire world?!

And on that note, all that remains to be said is:

Come on you experienced Blackburn Rovers whipping Gooonnnneeerrrsssss!



August 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Ok, so the title isn’t too imaginative, but let’s be totally honest, we did lose, we looked lost on the pitch and we appear more and more lost as a club.

I am sure that you all saw the “game”, but a quick recap should get us all on the same page. I think that we can literally do this by the numbers:

8-2 – That was the final score today at The Theatre of Dreams.

Ok, I know how much fun it is to call it “The Theatre of Debts”, but I am actually going to pay a far superior, far more willing, far more cunning, far more organised and far more talented Manchester United side the minimum respect of actually using their correct and full names. Maybe it will be just for today, but they have earned my respect with their performance. Anyway, whilst we enjoy nothing more than having a good laugh at them roaming around winning trophies and titles, the following two sets of numbers may actually tell a rather important tale:

18.3, 16.5, 16 – This is how much United have spent on players this transfer window, depending on which sources you believe.

1.1, 4, 7, 34, 25 – This is how much Arsenal has reportedly recouped in the transfer window.

This means that United have spent 50.8m on players whilst we have sold 68.1m. If they are a “spending club” that surely, beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt, must render us a “selling club”.

28, 22, 42, 64, 67, 70, 82, 90 – Those were the times of the goals for Manchester United. The exact moments where we contrived to allow them the courtesy of recording the heaviest league defeat of our fine club since the “bad old days” of 1896 and the very same moments when they gladly, ruthlessly, joyfully accepted our kindness.

45, 74 – Those were the times when we showed that, once we could actually get the ball to either the wasted on the wings Walcott or RVP, we could actually appear slightly dangerous.

27 – That was when our frankly nervous looking captain scuffed the ball from the penalty spot – gifting the fairly ordinary looking De Gea a penalty save to add to his scrapbook of footballing memories – choosing to take a run up that started closer to the touchline than the goal and never looking like he wanted the ball in the first place.

77 – That was when Carl Jenkinson got the obligatory “red card for the new boy” that all Arsenal players strive so hard to get in their first game or three. Surely this means that he is simply a Gooner legend in the making? After his performance today, an appeal has been lodged and the jury is back out. Udinese and Manchester United proved to be two totally different prospects after all.

More numbers? Ok, let’s try these for size…

253 & 260 – Notice anything odd about these numbers? No? Well you should because those are the total ages of the two teams that started the match. Yes, that’s rights folks, even without the injured “experienced veterans” Song, Gervinho, Vermaelan and Sagna, (23, 24, 25 and 28) our frighteningly young team got thrashed 8-2, and damned well thrashed they were, by a YOUNGER TEAM.

So, excuse Number 1 in the Arsene handbook of excuses goes right out of the window never to return, one assumes.

I for one am glad. Honestly, I am sick and tired of hearing about experience or lack of it, it confuses the issue and, when push came to shove, we got shoved.

So what actually went wrong? Well, the following is my opinion and mine alone. I do not ask for your confirmation and equally I do not ask for your condemnation. This is a game of opinions after all!

Traore is not ever going to be a great left back, defend, track back, mark or get organised appear to be a little out of reach for him. The trouble starts when you realise that he cannot actually beat his man, either with the ball or just for pace alone, and he cannot cross it either. Whilst not being able to cross a ball has been a basic requirement of Arsenal full backs for some years now, it isn’t enough to convince me that he should be anywhere near our squad, let alone the ONLY back up to the injury prone Gibbs who, let’s be fair, isn’t exactly showering himself in glory when he DOES get out of the treatment room.

Coquelin played today and, quite honestly, showed why he does not appear to be in the short term plans of Arsene. I am aware that there are others who claim that he is better than Frimpong, almost as good as Song, ready for a taste of first team action, but today was not that day and certainly proved as such. In his defence (about the only effective defence Arsenal had all day) he should not have even been needed to play after the warning signs of about 4 seasons ago showed us the desperate need for a couple of top class centre backs. Had we had one of those at least, we could have thought about playing Djourou in the DM position saving Coquelin from walking into his debut shirt and out onto the killing field.

Arshavin is going backwards. His pace left him and he looked simply dreadful for it. Now he appears a little leaner, a little fitter and a little faster again and, guess what, we have the old Arshavin back again. No, not the Arshavin clone that turned up against Liverpool, the Arshavin that runs into blind alleys, refuses to pass the ball, can’t shoot and can’t track back. Quite frankly he was lucky to even be on the pitch after his assault on Young came quite so soon after his high and late effort on Phil Jones had already earned him a well deserved yellow.

Ramsey is looking like a player not yet ready to take on this level of responsibility. When Vieira left we wondered how we would cope, but a little Spaniard showed that boys can be men and stepped up to the plate. Ramsey clearly is not of the same mentality as Cesc and I genuinely believe that we are risking his confidence in the longer term by continuing to play him in such an important role.

Rosicky, oh dear, Rosicky. I love Tomas Rosicky, let’s make that clear. A fabulous player on his day but that day may well have gone down sluices of the treatment room. I feared that playing the full 45 minutes against Udinese and then asking him to play at Old Trafford so soon afterwards may be a step too far. I did question whether or not this may be the case in my previous article, although I am bitterly disappointed to have been proven correct.

Now, there are those that will point to the injuries and suspensions list – Gibbs, Sagna, Vermaelan, Song, Gervinho, Frimpong, Diaby, even Bendtner if you like, but in reality the majority of them would not get in the Manchester United side. Seriously, Vermaelan and Sagna would almost certainly get some games as squad players, but I do not see their Manchester United counterparts getting dislodged by either of them…And they are the BEST of what we had missing.

I am not calling for the heads of any of our players as such; I am simply saying that looking at whether or not we have sufficient cover for them is NOT going to solve the problems. We need players that are going to COMPETE with them. For example, Traore cannot push Gibbs to perform better under threat of losing his place. This is true all over the team.

Similarly, I am not going to call for the head of Wenger, the buying out of Stan or even the return of David Dein. These are not the solutions that we need- What we need is better quality, more experienced winners to push the youngsters along and help get us some dearly needed stability and points in the meantime.

What I and many other Arsenal fans like me ARE calling for is some common sense and less BS. The quality players ARE out there, the need IS there, the squad is NOT so young and inexperienced that we should expect less of them and the experience being gained by those young players right now is NOT invaluable.

And that my friends, is exactly what I have been working my way towards throughout this missive. These youngsters have been getting their souls and their hearts broken year in, year out, tournament in, tournament out, and, aside from an average Italian side that it appears we may well have helped to look better than they really were, right now week in, week out. Does ANYBODY think that is good for the development of a young player? Seriously, can it be helping any of their careers to be on the end of an 8-2 trouncing, the worst defeat in more than a century of league football? They are in the Arsenal history books now, and for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, we have Jack to come back, but why is he out? Apparently and unsurprisingly, he was overplayed last season. So, even when he comes back, are we going to ask him play 50-60 games this season? It would not make a lot of sense to do so, so where is the backup? I don’t mean playing Song AND Frimpong either, I mean REAL backup. I am talking about a first class central midfielder with the ability to pass the ball and tackle hard. All the top class leagues in Europe alone and we seriously, with over 100m to spend, cannot find ONE?!

That Juan Mata chap looked ok yesterday it has to be said. Weren’t we linked with him?! Oh yes, that’s right, we were waiting until we lost our best player and captain and a little French muppet BEFORE buying in a replacement.

Wesley Sneijder would have been a perfect fit in my opinion but the wages cap seems to have put paid to that. That would be the very same wages cap that seems entirely responsible for the loss of Clichy, Na$ri and to a certain degree, Fabregas. I have it from a reliable source that Wenger wanted to offer him 120k a week and the board turned down his request.

And that, in essence, is what I believe is wrong with our fine club right now. We are reactive and not proactive. We are looking for the replacements after we lose the player, not before. We have a wages cap that literally stops us from being able to compete. I know, I know, it is a business and we don’t have a sugar daddy, but we do have a painfully large amount of money in the bank and have taken a large chunk off of the wages bill. Surely there is room for a little movement from the board, or are we in the middle of an asset stripping session by Stan? Could it actually be that all the years of laughing at Manchester United and the Glaziers was just us ordering up our very own serving of just desserts? The Glaziers do not appear to be affecting Sir Alex Ferguson and his ability to buy great and fairly expensive players and they certainly do not appear to be sliding down the league table faster than Arshavin can waste good possession either!

There are already those fans out there claiming that this result will just give the “doomers” more ammunition. Guys, we got stuffed 8-2 today by a younger team and clearly much better team…


Frankly, it holds the gun for them too.

Time to let them have their moment. Don’t worry, they will all have their broad grins and their singing voices when we win the Premier League and Champions League double this season…

…or maybe, just maybe, they have a point.

Anyway, to finish up, this was what Arsene said after the game:

“No (I will not quit). Of course it hurts. It’s humiliating. But you could see we had not recovered physically from Wednesday. They had class and they punished us. I know that in England when you lose a game signings are always the solution. We had eight players out today. You feel always humiliated when you concede eight goals. It was a terrible day for us. Man United had class but every single shot in the first half went in.”

To which I would offer these responses:

4 of the players that started on Wednesday were not available today so that is 4 fully fresh players you had in the side. Is it our fault that the replacements that we have aren’t good enough (yet?) to play n the Premier League?

Not recovered from Wednesday is a result of not buying the players that we so obviously needed last year and thus inviting the inevitable end of season collapse that required us to play on Wednesday in the first place.

Of the 8 players we had out today, how many would actually be first team choices? Sagna, Vermaelan, Song, Gervinho and Wilshere. Two of those are out suspended and we have had three red cards in three league games so maybe it would be a good idea to try and instill a little discipline in the side?!

Manchester United did see a lot of their shots on target today, but surely that is the inevitable result of giving away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area just about every single time they attacked! Again, some discipline is clearly required. Maybe having somebody experienced enough in defence to know that you simply cannot go flying into every single tackle, especially in and around the box might help!

As for feeling humiliated, I do not even want to get started on that one. And I won’t. Because this has gone on for far too long already!

So, until the next time when we will have filled at least three key positions on the pitch and everything will look rosy again.

Ooh to be a Gooner!


Arsenal Is In A Defensive Crisis

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC, Premier League

Arsenal has been battling injuries all season long, but the Gunners having been doing well without one of their top two central defenders. But now they’ve lost their rock at the back for the rest of the season, and that could signal Arsenal’s downfall if you’re gambling online.

Thomas Vermaelen has been out since August because of an ailing Achilles, and the Belgian defender says he has no idea when he’ll be able to play again. That left Johan Djourou as Arsenal’s best central defender, and the Swiss has been brilliant this season under tough circumstances. But Djourou suffered a dislocated shoulder and will be out for the season, and the numbers show that Arsenal struggles at the back without him. To compound that, the Gunners have had to bring goalkeeper Jens Lehmann out of retirement in light of injuries to Wojciech Szczesny, Vito Mannone and Lukasz Fabianski, leaving Arsenal with only Manuel Almunia between the sticks. Much has been made about the time prior to Lehmann’s retirement, when he thought he was still capable of being the No.1 guy, but the Gunners were trying to bring along Almunia. Lehmann says that he doesn’t want to go through that again, and he and Almunia will have to come to some sort of agreement to make this work.

As we said, the Gunners are no strangers to injury, but to have these problems at the back at this time of year is potentially crippling. One positive way to spin it is that the Gunners only have to worry about the league title now as they’re out of the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup, but they’re still chasing Manchester United in the Premier League, while trying to hold off Manchester City and Chelsea for second place. It’s going to be very interesting to see how manager Arsene Wenger handles this. Bacary Sagna will likely have to move into the middle, and there may be more time for Sebastian Squillaci, who has been less than impressive since moving to the Emirates. Finally, Laurent Koscielny has to put his disappointing play of the last couple of weeks behind him to give Arsenal a chance.

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