Spot Check… Pompey Next Then The "BIG" game…

Tricky in the sense of the phrase of "how on earth do we focus on Pompey?!!?" when we have such a big game next? To try and focus on a game that means less than the game after will be hard. Looking at the table, we're 6 points behind Chelsea and 10 points ahead of Aston Villa. We have 4 games to play. Can we finish 5th? Yes, but very unlikely, Villa would have to win all four of their last four games, and we'd have to lose all of them... even if we play a reserve side against Pompey, I still don't think that will happen. Can we finish 3rd, well, maybe - we would have to win all four of our last four games and hope Chelsea lose 2 of them (yes we do play them) and in addition, hope that their goal difference is reduced.

So, what I am getting at... well, we should really accept that we are 4th and have only a slim chance of finishing 3rd or 5th and therefore it's time to put our eggs into the only basket we have left. The Champions League basket. We should really do whatever we can to rest players against Pompey on Saturday and focus all steam ahead on the big game this Tuesday.

Let's listen to Kolo:

“We have to win the second leg, and it is going to be really tight, but we know we can beat any team at Emirates. United are a really strong team, they are used to playing in the Champions League as they won it last season and still have a lot of the same strong players. We will have to be on the top of our game to win against them but we can score two goals at Emirates, we just need to defend better. We have made some good clean sheets at home already, and beat Manchester there earlier in the season. That can give us some belief.”

It’s crazy when you watch the goal we conceded, our team was all over the place. Ade left the far post and Kolo ran towards the ball when there were already three players there, leaving 2 United players completely unmarked. Okay, not the right time to dwell on that incident. Maybe a better time to think about Eduardo. He is the most unfortunate kid on the block. The injury he suffered all those many months ago was horrific and since he’s been back, it’s been a catalogue of injuries.

“He is really distraught. We have had a few players who have been down [through injuries] but this time I think it has affected him a lot. The season is over for him, he’ll be out for three weeks. It’s the first of May today, it is hard to come back to football competitiveness three weeks afterwards. Maybe if Croatia plays in June he has a chance. It looks like since he’s come back just every single thing that can happen has happened to him.  We watched the incident on Tuesday carefully again on the slow motion and he has absolutely no chance to escape. He is on the ground and Rio Ferdinand falls on him with the knee on his groin and you see the groin going. He turns his body completely but he has no chance to escape. It’s just a bad coincidence. Before his groin injury was compensation, but this time it was purely accidental.”

With Van Persie out, our Champions League game next Tuesday was primed for Eduardo, but his five minute cameo against United last Wednesday saw the Crozilian injured and out for the season. He must be the unluckiest player ever.

It’s a tough one tomorrow, with so many players out, a game we want to win, but a game we need to rest players in. Let’s take a look at a possible line up for tomorrow:

Almunia

Eboue – Toure – Djourou – Gibbs

Nasri – Denilson – Cesc – Arshavin

Bendtner – Vela

I’d prefer him to rest Nasri, Cesc and Toure too, but with Silvestre and Gallas out, there is really no-one, except for maybe Alex Song, who can come in for Toure. Cesc could be rested and Ramsey could get  a game, and of course, Wilshere or Merida could also start if Nasri was to be rested. Diaby may be a decent option to play too, and if he does start, that may indicate that he won’t play against United midweek. It’s all touch and go, and we’ll see what Arsene decides tomorrow. Whatever he decides, he’s definitely giving the illusion of wanting to play a strong team.

“It is a significant weekend. Three or four games before the end, usually that is the time for the final blow or the final hope. Usually the title or Champions League hopes are decided with three of four weekends to go. I will build a strong team at Portsmouth. I will try to accommodate both. I will try to give the players who need a breather, a rest but also put out a strong team. Sometimes it’s good to play players, sometimes it’s good to rest players but we will have a strong team and we want to win the game. When you are on the pitch you focus on the game. You live in the present, not next week. When top-level footballers play they are not somewhere else. I believe what is most important is not to rate our chances and how difficult it is. We have a Semi-Final at home with a good chance. We will go in with full belief and certainty. I believe we will do it.”

Come on you Gooners!

On one more note, Stan Kroenke has increased his Arsenal share holding… more on that tomorrow.]]>

  • Fabrez

    < ![CDATA[You know...the night before the last, I dreamt we were in the Champions Legaue final playing Barca...that says a lot about my belief whether our back is against the wall or not. I guess the players have even gr8er belief bcuz after all...they are the players! But I really really think we can get the job done.

    I've had time to think about our team for the Pompey game whilst taking the BIG game into consideration. For Pompey...I mite start Ramsey and bring Cesc on late if we aren't creative enuff. I'd start Bendtner with Vela also. Arshavin playing is a given. At the back...we golly gee...we hardly have choices there! Never b4 did the thought of Senderos feel like a breath of fresh air! lol But I'd go with Dev's back 5. In my opinion, Nasri tends to have more influence when he gets a good breather so I'd rest him for Man U. I'd probably play Wilshere and Denilson.

    So my line-up would be:

    Almunia
    Eboue Toure Djourou Gibbs
    Wilshere Denilson Ramsey Arshavin
    Bendtner Vela

    I don't think Arsene would start Wilshere tho....but I think we really need to use our squad in this game whilst giving ourselves an oppurtunity to win at the same time. Maybe Chelsea will drop the needed points...depends on their focus...they still have the CL in mind so they could slip up in the league. I listened to Cesc on ATVO and he was talking about the possibility of meeting Villareal or Sevilla in the CL qualifiers for next season if we finish 4th...that's like a proper CL tie!! So I think we can go for the win at Pompey trying to get 3rd and being ready for Man Utd.]]>

  • http://kierandelaney.net/ kierandelaney.net/blog

    The way Cesc has been playing I think he needs some practice. Wenger also needs to stop pretending he’s Steven Gerrard. We’ve got Nasri and Arshavin who can play in the hole, and actually like it – Cesc repeatedly states he prefers playing deep.

  • Pissed off

    Yes, Cesc apparently needs some practice, Its really bad timing to start experiment. It kind of seems like Wenger never really knew what formation and position best suits his team and also in a way makes me feel we should have been better placed in the league if he had a winning formula rather than blaming injuries to Cesc, Ade, Rosicky and others.

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[But mate, do you not think that having our better players injured for lengthy spells does affect our position in competitions? The injury to Cesc might have been a bit of a blessing in disguise because it forced us to buy in January, but we still missed him. Our biggest loss was probably Theo, because he was really hitting form for us when he dislocated his shoulder. And even Eduardo, with all his setbacks, still managed to win us a few games in the FA Cup that we might otherwise wouldn't have won.

    I don't think Cesc has been bad at all since coming back personally, he's got goals and assists in every game he's played so far apart from Wednesdays Man United game. I do agree that its not a good time to start experimenting with positions/formations though.]]>

  • Pissed off

    < ![CDATA[Pete you may be right, but lets say we had Fab, Walcott and the rest fit that Arshavin will not have been an Arsenal player and that lack of aggression we had in Flamini would have still been absent and of cos we might still be where we are or 5th position till may be till the end.

    I still belief Wenger did not get the winning formula when the injuries came. Remember we never lost any of the games and we never won either, it was draw all through (I mean Pre - Fabregas and Walcott injury).]]>

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[Interesting point mate, nice one! I definately agree about the Arshavin transfer, I too don't think we'd have signed him if all the players were fit, but at the same time when players are injured the winning formula is limited to the players who are available, the likes of Denilson, Diaby, Eboue etc. Personally I wouldn't expect a midfield packed with those players to win loads of games for us, and the fact that they didn't loose those games either has helped us a little bit.

    Admittedly we did drop points with the 0-0 draws, which is disappointing, but also each of those games gave us a single point each, without which we'd still be fighting off Villa for 4th spot. Next years Champions League spot is pretty much secured partly due to the 1 point here and there, although as you say, ideally we'd have won those games and still be in the race for Premier League. But we can at least afford to rest one or two players today for Tuesdays game.

    But I hear what you're saying mate, so cheers :D]]>

  • Fabrez

    < ![CDATA[Yeah...i really don't like Cesc in the hole at all! Wenger really needs to figure his formations out. I don't think he has totally figured out our best formation but it's obvious that Cesc is more like Xabi Alonso than Gerrard...gets the ball from our defence and makes things happen. I'd still rest him tho. If Wenger wants to start him well take him off with time to go assuming that we're in the lead of course.

    And good point Pissed off...we mite have just been in a similar position regardless of major injuries...bcuz Cesc and Ade were not in the best of form b4 they got injured anyway. Credit to the boys tho, they did get it together and started to win albeit too late. Those draws were a real pain. I'm glad we got Arshavin in the end, even if it was bcuz of our situation with injuries.

    I hate to say..."next season we'll have a gr8 squad!" bcuz it feels like something dumb will happen...like sum1 leaving or some major injury again...but i really really hope that AW does at least make sure our squad has more depth in a few areas, particularly defensively. And i still have that belief for the CL this season...]]>

  • Fabrez

    Oh yeah…Arsenal shud probably take a 100 kajillion pounds (don’t know how many zeros that is! lol) and invest it into our medical staff….some research…some better solutions to problems…ways to prevent problems…wateva…bcuz i’m just a bit tired of having an injury wrecked season with a squad that HAD the potentional to win…let’s have fit players and flippin win for a change!

  • JDD

    < ![CDATA[we shud play

    almunia
    sagna song djourou gibbs
    wilshere denilson ramsey
    vela bendtner arshavin

    then on tuesday we can play

    almunia
    sagna toure djourou gibbs
    eboue song fabregas nasri
    adebayor walcott

    this is only if van perise is not fit enough to start if he is then put him up front and walcott out wide]]>

  • JDD

    actually eboue on the left nasri on the right and van persie up front if hes not fit then walcott up front

  • zohaib

    < ![CDATA[I'd rest Almunia, Gibbs, Toure, Sagna, Cesc, Nasri, Song, and Adebayor. Most of them have been playing way too many games without a rest. And some (Ade) just can't play two 90 min games in the space of 3 days. I'd also probably save Denilson and Diaby so that I have options against ManUtd if I need.

    My team against Portsmouth would probably look like this :

    Fabianski
    Eboue youth-guy1 Djourou youth-guy2
    Wilshere Ramsey Denilson Arshavin
    Bendtner Vela

    I'd have Diaby, Song and Cesc as backup for the midfield. I'd probably give Cesc a few minutes at CM so that he can get used to his normal position and get some playing time there before the big game.

    But clearly the defence is a big BIG worry. We just don't have enough backup. Which is why I expect our first team to play, thereby wasting the opportunity to rest them. And as a result I think we're definitely going to be knocked out of the Champions League.

    I hate to sound so negative but in all honesty I'm trying to sound as realistic as possible. All we needed was one away goal at Old Trafford and we couldn't even manage to get that. The feeling I got from the game was that we were so sh*t-scared of ManUtd that we just didn't even want to play football. And the rare time that we did, Ade was there to screw us over. Add to that the fact that Wenger just doesn't have the guts to be aggressive when needed and you've got a losing formula. What really surprised me was the attitude of the lot after the game, when they were all saying that you'll see a different Arsenal at the Emirates. It almost sounded as if they were already prepared for the result. How sick does that make you feel. To realize that the team you support isn't even going for a win or even a draw. They're just sitting back and letting the other team play and win. Defending isn't our strongest point, yet we made a point to play to our weakness. Brilliant thinking leProff. Absolutely brilliant. If the match at Old Trafford didn't show how badly we need a proper DM, I don't know what does. Our CMs were leaving too much space between themselves and our defence and as a result ManUtd players were having a field day passing it into the vast amount of space and working it around to make clear chances at goal. If it wasn't for Almunia we would've been 4 - 0 down. That's how pathetic we are at the moment. It's quite unfortunate, I think, that we didn't go 4 - 0 down. Because at least then we would've seen how poor a team we are at the moment. Countless times, I've seen the cracks in the team. But unfortunately they've almost always been shielded from most fans. Who are either too innocent and hopeful/faithful to believe that the team just isn't good enough, or are clouded by an individual performance and misled from the facts. I think mostly they're just in la-la land. Wake up. Our team is sh*t. We know nothing about defending. And unless we're willing to improve upon that part of our game, we can forget about challenging the likes of MaUtd, Liverpool and Chelsea for any titles. They are much stronger than us defensively. That's why they're stronger teams. We have almost no back-bone. Our CB and CM/DM positions are too weak. There was a time that we had one of the strongest back-bones of the league and now we're the weakest of the top-4. If something isn't done about that in the summer window, I'll bet you that we'll see yet another dissappointing season next season. You can't just keep buying attacking players and hope to outscore the opposition. It doesn't work that way. You can only field a few attacking players. You have to have somebody defending too. But Wenger doesn't really seem to understand that. Making two or more players do the work of one player is going in the wrong direction completely. Then you have neither as strong an attack or as strong a defence.

    I'm afraid that come the summer, he'll not buy anybody because he's gone too far down the path he's chosen for the club (the extremist youth policy) and he'll again give excuses of 'how can I kill the development of Denilson, Diaby and Song by buying a proper DM ?' and we'll again under-achieve. We're beginning to turn into the England and Spain national side.

    I'm beginning to lose hope. I don't want trophies. I just want to see us challenging the top teams. I want to feel as if I can go into a match thinking 'hey we have a great chance to beat that team'. I want us to have that fear-factor about us that we've lost. Every other team thinks we're kids and just roughs us up and pushes us around like toys. That's not on. Nobody with some sense of self-respect or pride would allow that to happen to his team. Which is why in the eyes of many, Wenger is seen as a coward. Someone who just doesn't have the guts to take a risk or two. Someone who buys attacking players but is very defensive minded. Not aggressive enough mentally.

    The attitude is something else that bothers me. I'm starting to feel we're too nice a team. I don't get the impression that we want it more than the other team. You get that impression with ManUtd all the time. You get it so much that they almost seem like evil and you almost feel jealous. That's called winning mentality. And we lack it.

    Part of the reason we lack it is because we haven't won anything for so long, besides most of the players being too young anyways. Which is why it was so important that we won something this year. The FA Cup was a big chance to make amends. And we deliberately screwed our chances. Thanks to our brilliant manager. Sometimes he makes himself look like such an idiot. It just does my head in. After we screwed ourselves in the FA Cup, you'd think we'd do the right thing against ManUtd in the Champions League, but yet again we screwed ourselves. I'm starting to wonder if it's our agenda to screw ourselves over everytime. We're lucky to still be in the tie. It'll be interesting to see what happens at the Emirates, but if I am to make a predicition, I can't see how we're going to beat ManUtd. It's almost certain that they'll score. Our defence is just too shitty. And it's too hard to see us score. Thanks to Adebayor and ManUtd's brilliant defence. So I'll probably go for another ManUtd 1 - 0 victory making it 2 - 0 on aggregate. And I'm already beginning to feel sad. And angry.

    Something needs to be done in the summer. We need to get a few more experienced players to help our youngsters out. Look at how much Arshavin has helped us out in attack. We need some defensive-players. And we need a defence-coach. Get Tony Adams maybe.]]>

  • zohaib

    < ![CDATA[Yea actually a 4 - 3 - 3 for me too :

    Fabianski
    Eboue youth-guy1 Djourou youth-guy2
    Wilshere Denilson Ramsey
    Vela Bendtner Arshavin.

    And against ManUtd :

    The famous Chef who fed the famous Lasagne to a certain Spurs team.

    That's about the only thing that can save us now.]]>

  • zohaib

    And get Keown back too !

  • Pete

    < ![CDATA[Official starting line up:

    Fabianski, Sagna, Song Billong, Djourou, Eboue, Walcott, Denilson, Ramsey, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela.

    Subs: Mannone, Bischoff, Coquelin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Merida, Randall, Frimpong.]]>