World Of Arsenal

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Porto, Champions League Group Stage

Hull Hell”.

Anyway, let’s look forward to the game, and hope that we’ll be on the top of our game.

Arsenal v FC Porto
UEFA Champions League, Emirates Stadium
Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 19:45

Team News sees the welcomed return of Samir Nasri. Of course Diaby, Eduardo and Rosicky are all out injured. Song has yet to return so it looks like we’ll have to field the only two fit central midfielders who’ve got any experience, of course, Cesc and Denilson. Even though Arsene said there would be changes, I think this is masked in the fact that Nasri is coming back, so inevitably would return to the starting XI.

As much as I’d like Ade dropped and Bendtner and Vela start, I don’t Arsene will do this. If anything, he’ll drop Van Persie and play Bendtner. I’d be in favour of this as Van Persie was very much ineffective on Saturday.

Apart from those two changes, can you really see Arsene changing much else? He should drop Gallas and play Djourou, but will he really? I sincerely doubt it.

Almunia
Goalkeeper
 
Sagna
Right Back
Toure
Centre Back
Gallas
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
 
Walcott
Right Wing
Denilson
Midfielder
Cesc
Midfielder
Nasri
Left Wing
 
  Adebayor
Striker
 Bendtner
Support Striker
 

Subs: Fabianksi, Silvestre, Djourou, Eboue, Ramsey, Vela, Van Persie.

We really do need to make amends for Saturday’s abysmal performance. Toure seems ready to make things right.

“We can’t just think about Hull. It’s true we lost and didn’t play well. But we didn’t play very well against Fulham and then we came back well in the next game when we beat Twente in the Champions League (qualifiers). For a team like Arsenal it’s always good to have a good reaction. Any team can fall down but it’s about how they react to defeat that matters. Tomorrow is a really good test and we will see if we can show another face. We are lucky we can play a match so soon after that and change everything in the minds of our fans. We want to show everyone we are still a good side. The manager, like everyone at the club, was very upset after Hull. If you want to be champions you need to win every game, especially when you play at home. We didn’t perform well. We’re professional and we know that when we play for Arsenal we can’t afford to lose like that. The manager didn’t have to say anything to us but he still had a few words. Every player was very sad and disappointed.”

Damn right. You play for Arsenal. You cannot afford to lose like that.

Jesualdo Ferreira, the Porto coach says he doesn’t need to worry about a backlash from us and also isn’t going to change his tactics.

“In the Champions League teams always play differently. Arsenal use different tactics to the ones they use in the Premier League. Arsenal losing at the weekend will not have an effect on Tuesday night. If Arsenal conceded a goal from the set-piece against Hull it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t suddenly become something we look at.”

On reflecting on the game between the two sides 2 years ago, Ferreira said:

“There have been many changes since then. Arsenal have big players still but only Thierry Henry is missing who was there.  Most of their players are bigger, older, better and more experienced. Porto weren’t able to keep up with Arsenal in that game but we were able to qualify from the group. Now we have different players, some left and some have come. At the moment the only thing we can say is that Arsenal have more experience and that could affect the outcome.”

And in the other game, Fenerbahce take on Dynamo Kiev and a draw would probably be the best result.

I’ll be at the game tonight, and despite the result on Saturday, I am still very excited and really can’t wait…

Til tomorrow…]]>

Media Reaction To The Defeat…

Anyway, back to all things Arsenal and media reaction to the game hasn't been as bad as I thought. In all honesty I was expecting to see "Arsenal's season over!" but instead all I saw was praise for Hull and a match report about how the game panned out.

So if the media haven't over-reacted, then I certainly won't. I spoke yesterday about the need not to panic, and got some very interesting feedback from some of the regular readers, worth taking a read if you haven’t already. After coming back from the course today I’ve had a good read of what’s been said today and the thoughts of our manager and players alike.

I’ll start with what Arsene has said today:

“We gave them too much room for the first goal and we didn’t clear the ball on the second one. I believe that we have more a size problem in our defending than a quality problem. It’s not just the centre-backs who defend – as a team we are a bit short. Perhaps on a subconscious level we were thinking we would do it. I don’t fault the players for not wanting it but it can happen when you have just won two away games. Where we are guilty is that we had difficulties in the first half but then still went 1-0 up and we shouldn¹t have given it away from that. There will be changes to the team. I don’t believe we were thinking about Tuesday night, though.”

Interestingly, Arsene speaks about a size problem. What does that mean? Physically size or mental size? If there was a physical size problem, then why didn’t we play a taller player? Why has Djourou (our best pre-season performer) been overlooked? Will Arsene drop Gallas? He does say that he will make changes, but will he drop our captain, who has been at fault for pretty much every goal we’ve conceded this season!

When asked about the potential punishment for some of the players by being dropped, Arsene said:

“Punishment? No, you know sometimes you make changes because you consider the other team, you consider the balance of your team, sometimes because one player is not at his best. If a player or two do not play tomorrow it is not a punishment, it is just because of a rotation in the side. You cannot play every single game with the same 11 players.”

I honestly think you need to punish players by dropping them to the bench now and again. Hatrick aside, how has Adebayor merited being in the team at the expense of Bendtner? Experience? Maybe valid, but his performances and ability to stay onside have to be seriously questioned.

I’ll be at the game tomorrow and if I see another below par performance from Adebayor, I literally will pull out all my hair. I hate it when I see a lack of professionalism on the pitch and that’s what Ade showed us on Saturday. Anyway, it’s not the time to bash a player. Ade, I know you can do it, but I want you to show the desire and want. Play like you did last season. Starting tomorrow.

Arsene went on to speak about the goal we conceded

“I believe the goal we conceded where we are less guilty is the corner against Hull because it was a well-taken chance. Cousin is very tall and very good in the air. It was a perfect header and that can happen to anybody. You gain experience through the games. At the back is where we have experience because you cannot say with Clichy and Sagna and Kolo and Gallas that we lack experience. Will Kolo play in midfield? No, not at all. As for Vela, it’s difficult to go into any individual case. I believe Carlos Vela is a player of the squad and the whole squad will be used over the season. You cannot go from one team to the other and change 11 players because we just lost one game. I believe what is happening is that players have shown quality behind the first team and that is very interesting for the future of the Club.”

True, but when you see such a disappointing performance from your main striker (cite Ade) and such a great performance from an up and coming one (cite Vela), you can see where the fans are coming from. Arsene doesn’t have to change 11 players. But for the game against Hull, you could see in the first 45 minutes that Ade wasn’t up for the game. Would a half time Bendtner for Ade sub been so bad?

Arsene carried on:

“I believe the Champions League is a different game. We have learned from the Hull match that you need a Champions League focus in every game. If we are guilty of something it is that we couldn’t get our focus to the right level to take our chances. The analysis of the game shows that we had enough opportunities to win. On the other hand, they made 100 per cent of the few chances they had. So credit to them and damage to us. You have not to make too much of it. We lost a game we did not want to lose but we have enough strength inside the Club and inside the team to deal with that. It can happen but it cannot be repeated. I don’t think we needed to be woken up but it was a big disappointment because we felt that we had enough quality to win the game.”

Although, having said that, surely the Fulham game would have been the wake up call. Do we get 2 wins for every loss? If we continue in this vain, we will win 26 games, gain 78 points over the season but suffer 12 losses. Interesting facts. On 78 points, we won’t be champions.

Kolo has also been speaking, and apparently he is scared by the smaller teams…

“Against Man United everybody thinks it’s going to be a tight game but when you play against Hull it’s harder because you are expected to win and score in the first minute. But it doesn’t happen like that. I was scared against Hull because there are no easy games. We are professional players and when we go out we want to play well and win.”

Well, I won’t go into much more today. I’ll be back in the morning to review tomorrow night’s game.

Apparently Deco says Porto will win. Good for him.

Apparently, our reserves lost 4-1 at home to Aston Villa. Ouch.

Apparently, it’s time to go to bed…

Til tomorrow.]]>

Arsenal 1 – 2 Hull, Let's Not Panic…

At the beginning of the game, predictions all round, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0. Hatrick for Van Persie or Adebayor. Everyone was expecting a hammering. What more could you ask for? A mid week break, fitness levels restored. A home game. The opponent is a newly promoted side who'd be nervous travelling to the Emirates. A definite three pointer?

Yesterday's game was the biggest shock of the season. In fact, it's the biggest shock of any game I've been to at the Emirates.

But let's not panic. Why?

Well, I've watched the game again and again and I can say with all truth that we did dominate the game. We did play well, we did have possession. But we didn't play at 100%, we played at 90% and if you're going to do that, you're always likely to lose in the Premier League.

Hull played well and we didn't. Simple. In fact, the team didn't play that badly, but a few key players didn't turn up. Personally, I was aggrieved at the performances of Adebayor, Van Persie and Eboue. For me, those three players didn't show up. Cesc hasn't got started yet either and when you've got four players in such positions not playing on the top of their game, then we're missing a vital attacking part of our game.

In my opinion, it's time to shake up the front line. It's time to let Ade and VP know that they're not automatic choices up front. We've always had strikers who could change games, Wright, Bergkamp, Henry... but at the moment, I can't see Ade or VP taking the game by the scruff of it's neck and making things happen. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but that's what I saw yesterday.

Bendtner and Vela are two strikers waiting in the wings, Eduardo is due back soon too. Let's mix it up and let all four fight each other for a starting place. It will wake Ade up. Even though he scored a hatrick at Blackburn, I really don't think his performances have been that great this season.

It will be interesting what happens next, who Arsene plays against Porto. Will this performance be "rewarded" with a starting berth against Porto? I don't know.

We have a great team right now, technically gifted players. If we play to our maximum, we can beat any team we play.

But, only IF we play to our maximum. I don't think we need to panic, I think we all just need to focus. The team are capable of better performances. They are capable of better movement, higher tempo and have the ability to score.

I just hope they realise what a mess they've made and really try hard to clean it up.

Cesc put us ahead after good work by Walcott, but a wonder strike by Giovanni and a Cousin header meant we went 2-1 down and ended up losing the game.

Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue (Bendtner 69), Fabregas, Denilson, Walcott (Vela 77), Adebayor, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Ramsey, Song Billong, Silvestre, Djourou

Arsene was shocked and berrated the lack of focus and attitude.

“It is a shocking defeat for us and overall our commitment was just not good enough. Human beings are not machines. Perhaps subconsciously we thought we would make it. They (Hull) deserve credit. We cannot be happy as we were ahead but after I think we were careless and we were punished for it.We expect three points in every game but we have a good opportunity on Tuesday to show we have the strength to respond. I think we had 15 chances and scored a scrappy goal, they had nearly nothing and they scored two goals. We were not mature enough to kill the game off. But this kind of game exists in football when your focus is not high enough and your opponent is committed and gives absolutely everything. What you have done three days before doesn’t count. When you’re a top-level sportsman you are only judged on your performance of the day, and today we weren’t good enough. We now know that if our attitude isn’t right, we can lose games.”

It’s time to regroup and focus now, we’ve got Porto on Tuesday and let’s try our best, give 100% and play them off the park.]]>

12 Years For Arsene This Sunday… And Wigan In The Carling Cup…

Tomorrow I will surely be looking at the today's result (kick off at 5.30pm)… so today I thought I’d just review the last 12 years of Arsene. Firstly…

Congratulations Arsene for 12 years of fantastic service…

Let’s take a look back at the last twelve years and see what Arsene has done. The French tactician joined Arsenal is 1996 and has gone on to win 4 FA Cups, 3 Premier Leagues, 4 Community Shields. In addition, we’ve been in a Carling Cup final and of course the Champions League Final.

Arsene has revolutionised the way that the team works, the fitness levels, the way they play. He extended the careers of players such as Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown and of course the magical Dennis Bergkamp.

He’s ushered us into a new era, with a new team, a new stadium, excellent training facilities and more. He’s created a style of football only to be admired. On top of all of this, he’s kept the financial aspect of our club safe and removed any bad influences from the club.

He’s invested in the future of the club, bringing in the best talent from around the world and nurturing them to become world class players. He is truly the “Professor” in every sense of the word.

Arsene has been speaking on he’s 12 years and been quite reserved about it.

“I’m not very happy to speak about my anniversary because what interests me in life is what is in front of me and not what is behind me. If you came to my house you would not find anything from the last 12 years, because I’m only interested in what’s happening in the future. There are no photos. I don’t even know where those trophies and mementos are. I am interested in history, but not my history. It’s something strange. I’m always oriented forward, forward, forward.  I also believe that is part of the sickness of this job, as you know what you’ve done is forgotten and what is important is what happens tomorrow. You spend your life worrying about the future, and are always expecting the next game, the next game and the next game. It becomes something almost perverse. It takes over your brain completely and you never take time to look back.”

Quite amazing to have such humility.

Carling Cup

We’ve been rewarded for our excellent win against Sheffield United with a home game against Wigan. I was desperately hoping for another home game as it’s our chance to see our kids grace the Emirates pitch. The tie should be played on Tuesday 11th November.

Here’s the full draw in all it’s glory:

Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers
Arsenal v Wigan Athletic
Chelsea v Burnley
Swansea City v Watford
Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers
Stoke City v Rotherham United
Brighton & Hove Albion or Derby v Leeds United
Tottenham Hotsp*r v Liverpool

Sp*rs vs ‘Pool probably the highlight of the round…

Good luck to the boys today, here’s to a big win against Hull…]]>

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Hull, Time To Push On…

For us, tomorrow will be a time to push on and maintain our good start to the season. For Hull, it's a big test of their character. They're no supposed to win. We are. They are here to spoil the party and we've got to make sure we've got the music turned up loud enough to drown them out.

Metaphors, hey?

Arsenal v Hull City
Barclays Premier League, Emirates Stadium
Saturday, September 27, 2008, 17:30

Today’s game kicks off at 5.30pm and like most of our games this season, it’s live on Setanta.

Team news sees Clichy recover from the injury from last week and should start with a pretty much unchanged back line. Although Mikael Silvestre is back from his injury, I’d be surprised to see the Frenchman start the game. Talking about Frenchman, young Nasri is out of the game as his injury seems to be taking longer than expected, but the unexpected form of Eboue should keep minds at rest, as Nasri is nurtured back in time for Porto… let’s take a look at the possible line up:

Almunia
Goalkeeper
 
Sagna
Right Back
Toure
Centre Back
Gallas
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
 
Eboue
Right Wing
Denilson
Midfielder
Cesc
Midfielder
Walcott
Left Wing
 
  Adebayor
Striker
Van Persie
Support Striker
 

As you can see, the likes of Adebayor and Cesc should be back in the team and Van Persie and Walcott back from their rest.

I’d expect to see Fabianksi, Djourou, Song, Silvestre, Ramsey, Vela and Bendtner on the bench.

Arsene was full of praise for the new promoted side as he said:

“You must take your hat off to Hull. What they have done up to now is fantastic. They are the surprise package. They beat Fulham and were 2-0 up at Everton – those are both good sides. These results will be a good warning for us. We know this Arsenal side will have to be at their best to beat them. It has not been like a classical Premier League competition for the last 10 years. The Championship is always so close. And with the play-offs even if you finish sixth you still have a chance to come up. That is why you always have different teams promoted.”

In terms of how we’re approaching this game and the season, he commented on his methodology.

“[To win it this season] would be a reward for a long-term job. And a long-term job in this career becomes more and more unusual and difficult now. Nobody has time to work and produce and nobody has patience. But I believe deeply that there are different ways to be successful in the job. And it is not only necessarily linked with the investment. Of course it’s better you have money but it’s not the only way. You can have a longer term plan and it can work.”

I’ll be down at the Grove tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it…

Come on you Gooners…]]>

It's Thursday…

There has been a big reaction in the newspapers to the emphatic win over Sheffield United and there is a genuine excitement over the Arsenal youth. The one player who the fans were eager to see perform well on Tuesday was of course the darling bud of the youth team, Jack Wilshere and he's been the subject of some real media focus, with a few full page spreads about him, about how we scouted him and how he's a proper Arsenal player.

The Times carried the story yesterday "Jack Wilshere can become Arsenal legend, says Arsene Wenger” and how the manager has compared the kid to Arsenal legend Liam Brady.

“He is a quiet boy, very determined and focused. For the rest, the talent is there. You have seen that again. When you are a manager of a boy like that who has the talent, you are always cautious to put too much pressure on him and too high a level of expectation.  I believe it is all in there, but also that I have a responsibility to nurture him and get him in the right development over the next two or three years, that will be vital. From 16 to 19 is a very important age for the development of a football player – and Jack has skipped a few classes! People tell me he is a bit like Liam Brady, because he has good balance and change of direction. I believe later [in his career] he will be a central midfielder or behind the strikers.”

When you read a bit more closely, you can see that Arsene said that people tell him, but it may not be what he thinks, or too early to compare him. But accolades must be given for his performance on Tuesday. He was simply irrestible.

There has been a lot made of the “memo” that was left at the hotel after the Bolton game:

It’s true, that it’s a bit weird to read but it’s very much how the team has been acting, an insight into how they’ve united this season.

Anyway, back to the Carling Cup game, and Arsene is genuinely excited about the youth of the club. I do remember earlier this season when he said, “you’ll be surprised this year”…

“This is the best group I’ve ever had. There’s not one who is not real Premier League quality in any position. I would not be scared to play any individual player from this team in the Premier League. I’m not as surprised as you, as I see them every day, but you never know how they respond. We can go all the way and win it. These players don’t play like kids. They play like people with intelligence and great spirit. This team we played tonight can beat many teams.”

In other news, as you may know, Mr Platini has expressed some very nasty comments recently about our manager. It’s kind of surreal because it doesn’t make send and is totally untrue. I have no idea what prompted this verbal attack, but it may be because Platini is plain jealous of what Arsene has achieved. I can’t think of any other reason why he’d have such a go at Arsene.

Platini said:

“I like to talk about football, him (Wenger) about business. We must stop with Wenger and all that.”

Platini then said he hoped video assistance would never come into football, adding: “It would make me happy that Arsene Wenger never sees it. That is what makes football so great. It is what people like Wenger do not want, little clubs beating the big clubs, because they want their business.”

Which if you ask me is way off the mark. Arsene is more “Mr Football” than anyone else on the planet. The brand of football is pure, attacking, exciting football. Arsene was obviously stunned…

“I am stunned by the aggressive content of Platini’s words. I am effectively a supporter of video assistance for referees, like all coaches, and I believe Uefa have an important role to play in this. I am for sporting justice and Uefa must be the guarantor of it. I am a supporter of good management of clubs, for financial equilibrium. And Uefa must equally support this idea. I am fighting for the future of the game and of football. I don’t see why Uefa should take umbrage at ideas that are different from their own.”

 Very true. Arsene has always supported football, through business, through politics, Arsene has always been a fan of the true game. He’s not adopted the mass market of high value transfers, instead he’s gone to the grass roots and nutured players from a young age to become superstars.

The LMA, though Howard Wilkinson has backed Arsene’s approach and the recklessness of Platini comments.

 ”Platini has made serious and personal comments about one of football’s greatest ever managers, who is also counted among our most respected members. If Platini wishes to address certain issues with Arsene Wenger this would better be done privately and not in the public domain. I believe Arsene has always acted in the best interests of the game.”

I’m glad that the LMA came out and said what they said. Platini reacted today with the follow statement.

“I was too hard on Arsene. My dad [Aldo Platini] told me off. He was the one who gave him [Wenger] his break (at Nancy). When I talk about business, what I am talking about is recruiting players when they are 13 or 14. I can’t stand it.”

Well, Mr Platini, I don’t know your motives, but you are a bit of an idiot. It’s that simple. Do you prefer random billionaires with no interest in football ruling the game, or a proper club with a proper manager doing things the right way, nuturing the world’s best talent?

The answer is more than clear.

I think I would probably headbutt* Platini if he was here right now…

* In no way am I threatening Platini. My comments are all in jest, and I would obviously not promote any violence in any way, shape or form.

Okay, I’ll leave you with Cesc’s comments on the game… I’m sure it will put a smile on your face…

“It was sensational. Everyone played their part and were fantastic. There were 56,000 fans at the stadium and they were really entertained. It does not surprise me or the rest of the team because we play with them in training every day and we know what they can do. Of course you are excited to see them play together in a real game, but you are not surprised by their quality. I hope this can turn out to be the greatest generation. There is definitely the potential in this side to do that because we are so young, even the players already playing in the first team – Denilson, [Alex] Song, I am only 21, Gael Clichy looks 30 and he is only 24. We all hope we can all keep progressing. With this manager, you know if you play well you will be in the team, so it is up to us to do it.”

Well said, Cesc.

The future is bright, the future is red and white…

Hull preview tomorrow… Til then…

 

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Arsenal 6 – 0 Sheffield United, A Glimpse Into The Future [Updated]

On the record: Yesterday was one of the best games I've ever been to in my life. Although 5-3 against Middlesborough at Highbury was a momentous occasion, yesterday's performance was outstanding, and the scoreline was thoroughly deserved. The play was a delight to watch and as the game progressed, the confidence flowed.

Arsenal Youth 6 – 0 Sheffield United Ex Prem Players

Goals: Bendtner 31, 42, Vela 44, 50, Wilshere 57, Vela 87.

Morning all, and what a game it was yesterday. We thrashed the Sheffield United team 6 goals to nil and it could have been more… Their team had players like James Beattie, Danny Webber, Gary Speed etc, so this was no mug of a  team, they’re all seasoned professionals.

Our team started with Fabianski in goal; he showed at the end of last season and in a few pre-season games that he’s a good keeper. He was our oldest player in the squad at the tender age of 23.

The back four was Gibbs (left back), Song (centre back), Djourou (centre back) and Hoyte (right back). Yes, Gavin Hoyte, the younger brother of Justin Hoyte who now plys his trade at Middlesborough. You could say that at 20 and 21, Djourou and Song were the experienced players at the back. It’s remarkable how Arsene has inspired such confidence in these younger players.

In midfield, lined up Wilshere (on the right), Randall and Ramsey (in the middle) and Merida (on the left). Up front we have the internationals, Bendtner and Vela (albeit, only 21 and 19 respectively).

Fabianski

Hoyte – Song – Djourou – Gibbs

Wilshere – Randall – Ramsey – Merida

Bendtner – Vela

So where do I start? At the beginning, I suppose, and the atmosphere ahead of the game was electrifying, Jack Wilshere first start in a competitive game was the buzz outside the stadium and due to some really nasty tube delays, I missed the first 3 minutes of the game.

When I arrived, it seems to be a fair game with both teams playing well and chances at both ends. Ramsey’s first 15 minutes was abysmal but he managed to pick up his game and really got going after that. Randall’s defensive qualities and ability to snuff out danger were quite remarkable too.

On about the 20th minute, the axe fell and a wave of confidence started going through our players minds. Shot after shot, chance after chance. It was tight, but some excellent play from Bendtner and Wilshere made us think it was just a matter of time.

And it was…

Vela picking up the ball from a good pass from Ramsey and spinning his marker. He squared the ball to Bendtner, who using Kilgallon as a cover, bent it round the defender and the keeper.

And after the goal, it was all Arsenal. The junior team follows the senior team in style and play, and the move it around the box and one such move saw Ramsey go past a few, turn around and back heel the ball into Bendtner path, the Dane taking the opportunity to make it 2-0.

Vela’s play had been good and he duly got his goal when he pull away from his marker and received the through ball and one chance, one goal. Finishing to the highest order.

The first half ended 3-0 and it was a joy to see.

The second half started where the first left off and the play was mesmerising. Arsene’s half time talk was simple, “embarrass them and make your mark” and that exactly what the team went on to do.

The fourth goal so a delightful chip from Gibbs down the line to Vela who finished with aplomb and a kind of chip against the hapless Paddy Kenny.

From midfield, Jack Wilshere, had run the show, showing Hleb like movement and Cesc like passing. Every time he got around the box, the fans said “shoot” and on the 57th minute, he found himself just outside the box. Onto his left foot, hammered the ball into the back of the net to make it 5-0.

From my seat in the lower tier I saw the action so closely, it was amazing, and to be honest, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. At 5-0 down Sheffield United had a spirited 10 minute cameo, but with 20 minutes to go and onwards, we were in total control. Oohs and Aahs from the crowd, it was only a matter of time for the sixth, and another great finish from Carlos Vela saw the youngest side ever named to a 6-0 victory.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Arsene on the performance:

“I believe that the team played football the way we want to play. We showed a good mixture of individual talent, maturity and collective spirirt. The team remained focused on the kind of football we wanted to play and respected that, it was very pleasing.

“I believe every one in his position has done very well. From goalkeeper [Lukasz] Fabianski up to [Nicklas] Bendtner and Carlos Vela of course upfront they were great. You know already Bendtner and you discovered maybe a bit more about Vela. He is a clinical finisher. I am pleased aswell with our midfield and our defence was serious and stayed strong- we looked like the complete team and I’m very happy and proud of that.

“I’m not as surprised as you because I see them every day but you never know how they’ll respond on the big stage. They just went out there are played with the belief we want them to have and with the spirit we want them to have. “

I’m stick in shock and I’ve already watched a rerun of the match…]]>

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Sheffield United, Carling Cup

Arsenal v Sheff Utd
Carling Cup, Emirates Stadium
Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 19:45

Arsene spoke on the average age of the side and the likely starters:

“There is a possibility [it will be the youngest side ever]. In the first team there are many players around 20. In the Carling Cup we will keep a few in there but the side will be more between 16 and 19. At Arsenal you can say 20 and 21-year-olds are the experienced players. You are likely to see Gavin Hoyte, Abu Ogogu, Aaron Ramsey, Mark Randall, Jack Wilshere, Fran Merida and Carlos Vela. Maybe Bendtner will play. Song, Djourou and Lukasz Fabianski will be the experienced players. But you will have players like Emmanuel Frimpong and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas so it will be a very young side.”

Jack Wilshere has had a few appearances in pre-season, especially in the Emirates Cup when he announced himself to the world, but players like Fran Merida and Carlos Vela are surely dying to show what they can do.

Based on the weekend game and the available squad, I think the line up will be something along the lines of… I’ve added the first names into the line up as you may not have heard of some of these players…

Lukasz Fabianski
Goalkeeper
 
Abu Ogogo
Right Back
Johan Djourou
Centre Back
Gavin Hoyte
Centre Back
Kieran Gibbs
Left Back
 
Fran Merida
Right Wing
Aaron Ramsey
Midfielder
Mark Randall
Midfielder
Jack Wilshere
Left Wing
 
  Carlos Vela
Striker
Niklas Bendtner
Support Striker
 

And unlike the league, the Carling Cup bench only has 5 players, so we’ll probably see Mannone and 4 other players from the following: Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Kyle Bartley, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Rui Fonte, Alex Song and Jay Simpson.

Now it looks like we have too many players in our Carling Cup squad. Players like Jay Simpson and Francis Coquelin will be wondering why they’re not starting!

Mark Randall, due to start in midfield this weekend alongside Aaron Ramsey spoke on the inspiration of Jack Wilshere:

“Jack playing against Blackburn just proves that the boss will play young English players if they’re good enough. Everyone talks about the number of foreigners in our team but that means nothing. If you’re good enough you’ll play, English or not. This is a big season for me because I’m older now. I need to get as many games as possible under my belt, in the first team especially, just to make me stronger and a better player.

“There is a buzz about it [the Carling Cup]. But at the end of the day we’re all professional, we’ve still got to work, we have to do exactly the same in any game that we play and we have to give 100 per cent in training every day. In a way there is [one eye on the Sheffield United tie], because it’s a big game for us. But you’ve just got to keep focused and keep working hard.”

I’ll be down at the Emirates to watch the game and I’m looking forward to a good old fashioned Carling Cup tie. No doubt, this group of youngsters looks very exciting and it promises to be an excellent evening.

Here’s to a great night…!]]>

It's Monday… Clichy, Elbows, Squad Strength and More…

But today is a different Monday, it's a great time to look at the league table, Arsenal are top and Sp*rs are bottom - does it get any better? Well, if it finishes this way at the end of the season, I will officially eat my hat!

Clichy's injury has been a big debate, with Bolton chief Gary Megson backing his player and many Bolton fans quite happy with the challenge. The French full-back was taken to hospital for X-rays on his shin after a high challenge by Bolton striker, Kevin Davies. But good news is that X-rays revealed that the foot is only badly bruised and not broken. Of course Clichy will miss tomorrow's game, and he was due to do so, but whether he'll be back against Hull is debatable.

Kevin Nolan, Bolton midfielder said:

“It’s a physical sport. We don’t want it to become like basketball.”

True, but Kev, was there malice in the attempt? I don’t think Davies thought he’d get the ball and I doubt Arsene did either.

“Was it an accident? Was it mistimed? Only Davies can answer that.

“We have no problem with a physical game. It is part of the charm of the game but kicking someone is not in the rules.”

Well, Kolo Toure, who, goal aside, was inspirational at the back also agreed that the challenge was out of order. He said:

“The tackle was a disgrace — very bad. There is no place for that in football. I have nothing against Kevin Davies, he seems a good guy. But he uses his elbows far too much.”

And there was a series of “elbows” from Davies, which the ref seemed to let go. I know it’s part of Davies game, but Kolo may need a few nurofens after that game to recover…!

On the actual game and the three away games, the Ivorian continued:

“In the past we have allowed ourselves to be intimidated but this time we knew that it would be tough at Bolton and we were ready for that. In previous years we have been too easy to beat away but we have shown this week that we are able to win these games.”

Let’s hope Clichy has a speedy recovery, he’s been awesome this and last season and a true professional.

Tomorrow is the Carling Cup and Arsene will potentially make 10 or 11 changes, a proper preview tomorrow, but the squad does look stronger than it did a few weeks ago. A special mention must go to Denilson and Song, who have both really played well in the last few games. Song looked like a proper defensive midfielder and Denilson has showed since the beginning of the season that he’s a good player. He’s got a few assists and a few goals and has overshadowed his midfield partner Cesc. When Cesc does get into gear, we will be on another level indeed.

And our squad strength looks even better when you think about all the players who are out injured at the moment. Arsene mentioned this after the game, when he said:

“There is a lot of quality still at home if you consider Nasri, Rosicky, Silvestre and Eduardo are all injured.”

Of course Arsene missed out Diaby, which either means he is back now or just forgotten in the managers talk. As far as I am aware he is due back in about two weeks. When you look at the form of players such as Bendtner and Eboue this season, we’ve got a bit more of squad strength than we thought.

I leave you today with the next bit of what Arsene said…

“When you are not on the transfer market you are a little bit ignored at the start of the season because the attention is focused on the big signings. Most of the time, big signings mean you are favourites. We have gone a different way. We are trying to build a young side with a cohesive way to play the game with a culture of football we like. We were close last year so there is no reason why we should not be in there again this season. Today we had Denilson 20, Fabregas 21, Bendtner 20, Walcott 19, Song 20. When those players fight for the title one year you can hope they will be better the next year. We are more robust than people think we are.”

And he’s got a point…

Until tomorrow…]]>

Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal: We are top of the league, say we are top of the league…

I've waited to write the blog today until after the Chelsea vs United game so I could review the weekend of football in total.

Before I start, I've just watched the video about the new version of Football Manager, it's pretty amazing. The major new feature is the 3D match engine which allows you to watch the game if it was on TV. You can see the moment of the players, their runs, their shots and the goals. It's pretty awesome stuff. Check out the video below...

Bolton 1 – 3 Arsenal

Davies 14, Eboue 26, Bendtner 27, Denilson 87

Yesterday’s performance was a strong show of character. It was a busy week with an away game at Blackburn last week and a tough mid week game against Dynamo Kyiv. A lot of travelling and a lot of football and Bolton away was a real test. A test that became harder when we went 1 – 0 behind to a Kevin Davies standing header from a rare first half Bolton corner. It was a strange time to go behind and reminiscent of previous encounters up north. We were on top and had started well, carving our way through the Bolton defence, seemingly a little shot shy though.

The line up saw Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie rested and Niklas Bendtner and Eboue come in. The midfield four of Cesc, Song, Denilson and Eboue did move around a lot with all four players appearing all over the pitch, but Denilson and Eboue played mostly on the wings with Cesc and Song in the middle.

The play (goal aside) was pretty good and it looked like a game that we could win. Bolton only threat was the long ball, and Toure wasn’t convincing in the battle with Davies and the goal came in a Davies vs Toure challenge, which Davies won and Clichy (on the line) couldn’t clear. The good thing was that we didn’t panic and continued to ply the Bolton defence open. Toure had a real chance to equalise shortly after when the ball bounced nicely to him outside the area, but he smashed it wide. We were starting to turn the grind and Ade hit the post twice and Song hit the post once – was it going to be one of those days? Not if we could help it…

The equaliser came on the 26th play when intricite play from Bendtner saw Eboue slid the ball under the keeper. It was about half a foot off side but very hard to see from the assistant.

Within a minute or so, we we ahead as some excellent play put Denilson down the left who showed a burst of pace and crossed low. Bendtner, behind two defenders one moment, ran to the near post and slid the ball past the keeper. A good goal and into the lead.

We were in domination of the remainder of the half and the half ended with a really nasty challenge on Clichy by Kevin Davies. The player should have been sent off. It was pretty awful.

Clichy was substituted at half time and we next saw him out in crutches.

The second was better from Bolton, but it was a game were we seemed confident and resolute in defence. Song playing well in front of the back four and a very positive sign. Bolton’s half time talk was obviously “cross it as much as you can” and that’s exactly what they did.

A few ahs and ohs, nearly chances, but the introduction of Theo Walcott gave us the impetus and it was an amazing run from Theo that led to the third goal. Seemingly determined to take on the whole Bolton defence, our young Englishman drove through the heart of the pitch from literally the half way line. Releasing to Ade just in time, who squared to the oncoming Denilson.

The game ended 3-1 and it was a thoroughly deserved victory.

The manager spoke after the game:

“It was a convincing, united and classy performance. We were strong everywhere a team can be strong that means physically and technically. Even in the second half when we needed to defend we showed the resilient aspects of our game. That makes me think we are maturing very quickly. I believe that the attitude of this team is right.”

Arsene also spoke about the challenge on Clichy:

“You will smile but I did not really see the impact of the challenge. Gael was in front of me but I watched the ball as it went back to William Gallas. There was 30 seconds to go I said to Gael let’s keep the ball. I need to see it on the video again. It was a shin injury. That proves that the tackle was quite high. Was it an accident? Only Davies can answer that.”

In the other games, Chelsea and United drew 1 – 1 which means that we’re officially top of the league. With Sp*rs being held 0-0 at home to Wigan, we’re top and Sp*rs are bottom. Brilliant.

Football Manager Video:

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Match Preview: Bolton vs Arsenal, Saturday 20th September 2008

It's match day and a very exciting match day today. We take on Bolton up at the Reebok and it promises to be a very special day out. With the Carling Cup squad on duty on Tuesday against Sheffield United, the first team will not have a midweek game. With players such as Bendtner and Vela probably used in the Carling Cup, I doubt they start this game.

Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League, Reebok Stadium
Saturday, September 20, 2008, 17:30
Live on Setanta Sports 1 from 4pm

Let’s take a look at the League table…

As things stand, we’ve got 9 points from 4 games – 3 wins and a loss. We’re behind the leaders by 1 point and ahead of Man United by 5 points, but we’ve played a game more.

With Liverpool playing Stoke earlier in the day, we’ll most likely start the game 4 points behind Liverpool. If we win we can go within one point and of course two points clear of Chelsea. United and Chelsea play each other on Sunday so if we win we really would make a difference as one of the other two have to lose, or both will have just point Sunday.

So, back to the game against Bolton. Coverage starts at 4pm and the game kicks off at 5.30pm.

In injury news, the French trio of Silvestre, Nasri and Diaby are all still out injured, Arsene commenting on these injuries;

“”The good news from last night is that nobody has come back with any knock or severe injury. We have no injuries from last night and we have no-one coming back as well, so the group will be stable.For Diaby, I would say two more weeks [until he is fit], Silvestre and Nasri should be available for Hull [at Emirates Stadium on September 27].”

Which means it could be a very similar team to the game against Blackburn. Arsene has been speaking about rotating the squad a little bit, but as I said earlier, it may not be too much, especially with a Carling Cup game midweek.

“There will be a little bit of rotation of course, because it was a very physical game and we had to give absolutely everything. But I cannot tell you yet how it will work.”

I’d expect the following line up:

Almunia
Goalkeeper
 
Sagna
Right Back
Toure
Centre Back
Gallas
Centre Back
Clichy
Left Back
 
Eboue
Right Wing
Denilson
Midfielder
Cesc
Midfielder
Walcott
Left Wing
 
  Adebayor
Striker
Van Persie
Support Striker
 

With the following players on the bench: Fabianski, Djourou, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, Vela, Bendtner.

Some reports are suggesting that Vela may start in place of Walcott, but with the English man in the form of his career at the moment, it may be hard for Arsene to leave him out. I’d expect all 7 members of the bench to start against Sheffield United, so it may be used sparingly too.

It should be an exciting game, albeit the Reebok is always a hard place to go to…

Come on you Gunners…!]]>