Pompey 1 – 4 Arsenal, we’re behind you Chelsea…

If you are anything like me, then you would have been seriously nervous yesterday. Having seen Portsmouth play out of their skins against Liverpool to record a 2-0 win and having played well at Fratton Park generally recently, coupled with the absence of Denilson, Cesc and then Walcott in the lead up to the game… nerves were frayed.

But this Arsenal team seems to have a few things more than it did last season – confidence in their own ability, belief in themselves and their team mates and quite a bit of strength in depth. Considering Van Persie, Niklas Bendtner, Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, Clichy and Gibbs were all out – I mention only these players, because they are first teamers – the rest of our team have done very well to play as we have.

For Arsenal Van Persie, Bendtner, Walcott, Cesc and Denilson read for Chelsea, Drogba, Anelka, Lampard, Essien and Joe Cole… now it seems a little more interesting to see what we’ve achieved without some of top players.

We take on West Ham in the FA Cup on Sunday and then Bolton next Wednesday in the league – with Chelsea not playing until Saturday, we could be one point behind them and ahead of Man United by Wednesday evening – what a turnaround that would be.

It was a very good performance yesterday by the Arsenal. Eduardo had another run out and hopefully the extended run in the team will allow him to gain some match practice – he’s not lived up to the player he was before his injury, but he has shown in glimpses what he can do – and it was down to him for the first goal – our third free kick in as many games, albeit this one going in off the wall. And we always looked more dangerous and the second came through Eduardo, squared to Ramsey, squared to Nasri and in the back of the net!

The third was a great goal – Aaron Ramsey picking the ball up, nicking off a Pompey player and then avoiding a few challenges, belting it from 25 yards, left footer… nice. And the 4th was a nice header from Alex Song – who deserved a goal after all his hard work during the game – Alex Song is seriously one of my favourite players at the moment, he brings so much to the team…

Just a quick message from Ramsey on the goal and his role…

“I think that’s the best goal so far. There’s been injuries and I had to do a job tonight and I think I did that. But it isn’t about me, it’s about the team. We had a good performance and it was important to get the three points.”

Oh, the goals, in case you haven’t seen them…

Just before I go, here’s Arsene’s general overview of the game:
“I would like you to sing it. I believe it was a big game for us because we played a big game on Sunday and sometimes, three days later, you can be less focused. But we were committed, focused, and ready for it and played like a real team against a Portsmouth side who fought very hard tonight. We were a bit lucky on the first goal but after that we controlled the game. I’m proud of the team because the belief is there and we played like a real team. It was a big game for us tonight. We knew, to keep chasing, it was important to win here.”
And finally…

Wishing you a very awesome New Years Eve tonight, whatever you’re doing, may 2010 bring Arsenal a trophy or two…!!!

Portsmouth vs Arsenal Match Preview…

Tonight’s game is absolutely massive. A win tonight would keep us hot on the heels of a Chelsea side that is struggling for form. They’ll be without the likes of Essien, Drogba and Mikel, who are arguably more affected that any other side in the league… except maybe Portsmouth, but we have heard confirmation that none of their players will go until after this game (Dindane, Belhaj, Yebda and Kanu), which means we’ll have to fight them mano-a-mano…

Ex-Sp*rs player Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is resembling some of his finest form we’ve seen is spewing out the fighting talk:

“Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world, so we have to be focused and concentrated against the teams around us and switch it on 100 per cent. The thing with us is that we know we have to get a result every weekend because it’s so hard to get out of the bottom three and we’re bottom. We have to get it right against Arsenal and win games, we just have to get some points. We can’t always come of the pitch without even one point.”

He’s got one thing right, we are one of the best teams in the world… but Pompey are root bottom and we’ve got Arshavin, Nasri and Eduardo as well as fit again Tomas Rosicky, whom I believe is included in the squad…

The line up should be:

Almunia

Eboue – Gallas – Vermaelen – Traore

Song – Ramsey

Walcott – Diaby – Arshavin

Eduardo

With a bench of Fabianski, Silvestre, Sagna, Nasri, Eastmond, Vela and Wilshere… But somehow I think that the above line up isn’t quite right – surely Nasri would have to feature somewhere – after all, he has been playing well recently… maybe it will be Nasri instead of Ramsey in this line up – but if it is, you’ve got to start to wonder what Ramsey has to do to get into the team don’t you?

Arsene has been in the press talking about the game tomorrow and had this to say about the injury situation…

“Rosicky I would say will be fit for Portsmouth or for West Ham [in the FA Cup on Sunday]. But Bendtner is three weeks away from returning. He had a hernia surgery and should be back from that already but he had a groin problem as well. The groin problem looks to last longer so they [the medical staff] say to me it will be three weeks.”

…and also touched on Diaby’s current role and impact.

“He has played many games since the beginning of the season. He looks to grow in stature and now he is dominant in the fight and he scores goals. What is very interesting in this shape [4-3-3] is that Diaby and Fabregas can both score goals. We have not one but two players who come out from deep and are good runners as well.  They can come from deep positions and score goals.”

Interesting stuff from the manager and we’ve seen Diaby starting to “come good” and show some form now, something which we weren’t sure about… and the 4-3-3 does suit him, knowing he has two players behind him to clear up – in fact, my good old friend, Bob, always used to say Song was only in the team to clean up Diaby’s mess, but now it looks like both players are making names for themselves.

So, the game kicks off at 7.45pm tonight and is on Sky Sports 1. Tune in, support, and for those going down to Fratton Park in the rain, I salute you – cheer the team and may the best team win (and may the best team be us…)….

Back later for Match Day Live…

It’s Tuesday and time to talk…

You’ve got to love Thomas Vermaelen, he’s a rock solid centre back who plays with the team in his heart and his heart on his sleeve. His displays for us this season have been awesome, and he’s scored a fair few too. More recently (i.e. today), the Belgian has been in the news talking about Cesc and how he really is the bees knees.

“He is the best midfielder I have played alongside. He’s really smart in his game and in training if you play against him he’s really difficult to defend against because I think he has eyes in the back of his head. He sees everything. He is a good captain too. He has a lot of qualities in football and I think that’s important for a captain. He talks in the dressing room, not too much but just enough. For us he was very important on Sunday. He scored twice in 20 minutes so he was very important. I think before he came on we were the better team but we didn’t create too many chances, and when he came on we controlled the game more and we created some more chances. He played some good passes behind the defence, they were really dangerous. He has a great vision in the game.”

So, we take on Portsmouth tomorrow and we will be without key man Cesc Fabregas. To be honest, I felt like we were very much on top at the start of the second half and that we were on the verge of going ahead – but take nothing away from Mr Cesctastic himself – that was some cameo. It does look like Cesc will be out for tomorrow’s game and I’d also expect him to be out of the game against West Ham, being an FA cup game, we may see a little rotation. But with Denilson out too and Song off to the African Nations Cup, we’re suddenly very short of central midfielders.

News is that Song won’t be off until the 4th January, so he will be available to play both tomorrow and on Sunday, but from Monday onwards, it will be interesting. Tomorrow, I’d expect to see Ramsey, Song and Diaby fill in the middle three roles, but from next week, if Cesc and Denilson are out, we may see Eastmond have a run of games in the team. More on that when he hear the injury news surrounding Denilson and Fabregas.

Of course, the quicker Cameroon are out of the competition, the better, they’re in a group with Zambia, Gabon and Tunisia… all three underdogs, so it’s all about keeping all the fingers crossed – Song has been our best player this season (disagree?) and he’s a player I want back as soon as possible.

As we’re only days away from the transfer window opening, I would have expected a host of rumours by now, but instead we’ve not really heard any – and the only target that we may have thought was on the cards insists he’s not moving this January… Maroune Chamakh…

“I’m going to finish my season at Bordeaux. Honestly, in my head I don’t want to relive what I lived through last summer. I don’t want to see my name circulating during the transfer window. I’ve had enough of reading or hearing rumours that they are lacking a centre-forward somewhere.”

And finally, I thought I’d share this hilarious clip from the now famous impressionist we featured last month – check out this exclusive interview with none other than Thierry himself…

Funny, hey? Tomorrow sees us take on Portsmouth, so I’ll be back with a preview of the game in the morning… in the meantime, let’s hope for a fiery encounter at Villa Park tonight resulting in a 0-0 of some sorts…

Adios.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Aston Villa

And that’s what we call a good December.

Beating Villa was essential to our cause and we came out of the exam with flying colours. The first half being even stevens, but the second half being an excellent display of attacking football from Arsenal. On the whole we brought the game to Villa and were dangerous going forward and always looking to score.

The line up saw Cesc start on the bench and Walcott didn’t make the starting line up either with Nasri, Eduardo and Arshavin the front three:

Almunia

Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Traore

Song – Denilson

Nasri – Diaby – Eduardo

Arshavin

It was interesting to see Eduardo deployed on the left and Arshavin up front – there was a little bit of rotation, but generally Eduardo and Arshavin are starting to link up well. But it wasn’t until the second half and the introduction of Cesc Fabregas… The captain came on for Denilson whom injured his back and the player made an immediate impact.

His first major involvement was the winning of a free kick and subsequently he took the free kick and boy what a great free kick it was.
Now that was some free kick from Cesc and direct free kicks are like buses at the moment, we don’t get any but then we get two in a row. Unbelievable. Maybe Ramsey, Diaby and Eduardo will all get angry and score a couple themselves. If you watched the rest of the highlights in the clip above, then you would have seen the second goal – another from Cesc and it was a brilliant break – a great cross field pass by Armand Traore and good run and pass by Walcott and a great finish from Cesc.

Unfortunately, as you can see by the limp, Cesc pulled his hamstring again after scoring the second goal. It was an unfortunate injury but to be honest, I’m sure he was okay to come on and if it’s a little too early then these types of injuries are always possible. We’ll see later today how long Cesc is out for, let’s hope it not too long.

And the third was a great run by Diaby, who has been repaying Arsene’s faith in recent games with some better and better displays. With Diaby in the team yesterday, he brought a physical presence to the team and a certain general presence on the pitch which was good to see – the commentors on Sky couldn’t stop calling him the new Vieira and lauding praise on him.

All in all, it was a very good game and a very good second half display which has put us right back in the title mix.

Let’s take a quick read of Arsene’s comments post game…

on why he brought Fabregas off the bench…

I felt we had taken over the game and I think we were dominant. We missed a few chances before he came on, we could have been up already, but of course he adds some creativity in your game and at that moment I felt it was needed.

on whether it was a gamble worth taking…

You never know. If you can prove to me that we would have won the game without him coming on the pitch, I was wrong. But we can never check that. I feel that I did the right thing. I was cautious. We know that Alex Song will go soon [to the Africa Cup of Nations] and in midfield we could become short if we lose players. But I would do it again because sometimes you follow your instinct in a game and if I put him on the bench I know before the game that I will put him on if it is really needed. Had we been 1-0 up I would not have done it. But you do what you think you need to win the game.

on why he gambled in the first place…

Aston Villa has a game that makes you very nervy, because you can be dominant and lose the game. We were dominant, didn’t take advantage of it and so you can be cautious or push the gamble a little bit further. That’s what I did.

on a significant win for Arsenal…

I think it is a massive result for the team. When you look where we were a few weeks ago, credit to the team, they didn’t give up when everybody has written us off. We kept going and that shows the team has mental strength. Maybe the turning point was the second half at Liverpool when we won the game.

on Denilson’s withdrawal…

He has a back problem, the same as before. I haven’t seen him yet but we will see.

on bouncing back in December…

We had to keep the belief high, to keep the desire. I believe this team is talented, it has great spirit and for me they deserve to be successful. But we have not won anything yet and sometimes when you have not done that you don’t know if you can do it. So it was important for them to keep believing they could come back in a decent position.

on the title race…

It makes it interesting now. We are in a strong position. We can have belief but it’s a long way to go and we have to keep our feet on the ground and continue to improve together.

on whether he is surprised at the speed of their recovery…

Yes, because I could say we would win the games but you couldn’t predict that our opponents would drop the points. After the Chelsea game I said openly that Chelsea would drop points on the basis of what I had seen. And they did. But how many they would drop I didn’t know.

on the nature of this Premier League season…

I just think the Premier League is very open. We go to Portsmouth on Wednesday and you know it will be another tough game. What has changed in the league this season is that all the teams can make results. You have seen Birmingham against Chelsea. It is like that anywhere. You go anywhere it’s not that you go there, turn up and take three points. That has gone. It has gone – until March. After that some teams will be safe, or will not go for Europe and you take some easier points. But from now until March in this championship the consistent team will get it.

on the impact of the Africa Cup of Nations on Chelsea…

Yes but they go to the African Nations Cup and we have the injuries. If you lose a player for three weeks through injury it’s like he goes to the African Nations.

on keeping Andrey Arshavin up front…

It’s a bit too early to decide that. I have no obvious reason at the moment to change that. I think he came alive in the last 30 minutes. I like him there.

on whether he still needs to buy a striker…

“I’ve said we will keep our eyes open and if a good opportunity turns up we will do it. But at the moment I haven’t got any. .I will have to look maybe as well at midfielders and how big the damage is. If we lose Denilson and Fabregas we will be short there. I don’t know yet.

on the defensive test against Villa…

It was an interesting game for us because we were tested defensively as well. That was very important for the belief of the team as well. You play against Aston Villa and you don’t concede a goal – that was important for us.

We play Pompey away on Wednesday and it’s such a vital game… I can’t wait.

Arsenal vs Aston Villa Match Preview

Evening all…

I hope you’ve all had a very good and relaxing Christmas day and Boxing day and enjoyed some of the football earlier today that saw both Chelsea and Sp*rs draw leaving tomorrow primed for us to beat Villa, who currently sit level on points with us and edge closer to the top of the table. You know we’ve never beaten Villa at the Emirates… time for things to change!

Before I get into the team news, you may have noticed that the site has a new look and feel… we’ve got a new logo and also new sponsors, Gadgetee.com, a leading gadget retail site – an awesome site with some great prices! In addition, we’ve announced the winner of the StayChilled.com competition (it’s Toby Indge)… and sent out all those prizes that were due to be sent ages (and I mean ages) ago…!

But back to the game and team news ahead of the Villa game sees Traore return to the squad and he should take his place back in the starting line up. There is no one else back and no news about Cesc, with Arsene unsure about whether the player will be able to play…

“There is still an uncertainty about him. He was supposed to practice on Christmas Eve but he still had some pain in his leg. We did not get him out so we still don’t know if he will be available for the squad or not. It is 50:50. He is a very influential player and a great player too so I want him to be with us.”

Looking at the players available, I think we’ll start with the following line up (my thinking is that Cesc won’t make it back)…

Almunia

Sagna – Gallas – Vermalen – Traore

Song – Denilson

Walcott – Diaby – Nasri

Arshavin

With a bench of Fabianski, Silvestre, Eboue, Wilshere, Ramsey, Eduardo and Vela.

We’ve not beaten Villa at the Grove and we lost to them last season – they’re a bit of a bogey team for us and I’d really like to get one over them. It will be a tough one but I think we can do and in fact, we must – it’s a home game, there is no room to drop points at this stage of the season having dropped so many already!

Okie dokie, let’s see if Wolves can add another nail into the Liverpool coffin and let’s hope Cesc is fit to start tomorrow…

Come on you Gooners!

A Boxing Day De-Brief…

Afternoon all, and welcome back to the wonderful world of Arsenal.

I hope you’ve had a great Christmas and a brilliant Boxing Day so far and the question on my lips is very simple – what Arsenal related stuff did you get for Christmas? Normally I get the Arsenal calendar from my sister but this year, she threw a surprise and got me a personalized calendar with pictures of me! Which I like almost as much as an Arsenal calendar…

But the piece de resistance in my Arsenal gifts selection was a personalised Arsenal Kit Picture… check it out…

Personalised with my name on the back of a shirt and signed by all the players like a certain Mr Cesc Fabregas and a certain William Gallas. Awesome – thanks to the Vishmeister (aka Condiments), and kudos to him considering he’s a Man U supporter!

Taking a quick look around the world of all things Arsenal, I obviously put my mouth it when I talked about my delight in Hull’s FA charge – but of course, I didn’t think that we’d also be charged. And now in light of that, I do agree with Mr Phil Brown (aka, the new Sam Allardyce) and it is very harsh – considering what we’ve seen with the likes of Chelsea and Man U virtually towering over referee’s and bullying them as well as the stuff going on in the Championship, it doesn’t make sense that we’ve had a FA charge brought against us.

Arsene took time to comment on this:

“I think it is harsh but we will try to defend ourselves. I don’t think it was a major incident compared to what can happen in a football game. At the start, the incident was created by Nasri’s involvement but after that it was more players of Hull who were around it than Arsenal players. That’s why we will try to defend it.”

Let’s hope the Christmas present from the the FA charge is dropped – it does seem everything possible that the FA could do against Arsenal is done!!!

Okay, time to tune into today’s football as Birmingham (form: WWWWWD) take on Chelsea at St. Andrews, where we’ll see a start for Daniel Sturridge as Ancellotti puts his faith in the kid… and then later on, we see Liverpool at home to Wolves, Man City at home to Stoke and tomorrow, Man U away to Hull… basically everyone looks they will win, so the game tomorrow is super duper must win… let’s hope for an upset in today’s games… come on Birmingham…!

I’ll be back later for a Villa preview…

PS, thank you all so much for your festive messages on twitter, facebook, email and of course through the comments…! Nice to spend some time with the Arsenal family this Christmas too!

It’s Christmas Eve…

Following on from yesterday’s post about the need for a new striker in the January transfer window, it’s apparent that there are a couple of alternatives to the list that could be viable options – viable, mainly because they’re free…

In yesterday’s comments, Nick mentioned the possible signing of Huntelaar, but you’d have to imagine that we would have gone in for him in Summer when  he was more available then he is now and additionally, the fee Milan paid for him was in the region of £18m and I doubt we’d pay that for him now… but more interestingly was a comment by VJ, citing two players – Pazzini – who is very highly rated – and Gignac who again is also very highly rated. The question would be how much they would cost and whether we’re looking long term or short term…

Apparently, Adriano (ex Inter) may be available on a free too and of course, if we do have money (as Francis pointed out yesterday), we could look at strikers from the Premiership – indeed Carlton Cole is one of those players, but you have to think how far Cole and Simpson or Watt are, and if one our youngsters was given a run out, then whether or not they’d show their true abilities…

Onto today’s slice of the pie and it gave me great pleasure to see that Hull have had an FA charge brought against them for misconduct in the game against us… wow, how times have changed… let’s take a listen to Phil Brown…

“There was an incident for some reason, and I can’t answer the accusations against Nasri. He decided to light the touchpaper. It was there for everybody to see. It needed to be dealt with more severely and hasn’t been. Why we are up for a charge I don’t know. I defend the players to the hilt. As far as I am concerned that lad has gone in there with the intent to start a fight, to start a ruck. Maybe it was because Arsenal were hitting a brick wall in terms of the way they were playing, I don’t know. We were doing our job to the best of our ability and maybe that’s why they’ve decided to light the touchpaper, I’ve no idea. For us to come under criticism yet again is absolutely scandalous, and we’ll be defending it.”

To sum it up for Mr Brown… it’s because you asked your players to kick us for the whole game, you asked them to waste time, to frustrate us – Brown, you asked them to play anti-football and you made sure your players were confrontational… you’ve turned Hull from everyone’s second team to a team that everyone hopes goes down. You made up stuff against Cesc last year and so did half of your staff and they you have the audacity to be blind to the FA charge… okay, yes, I didn’t see it coming, but ha, Merry Christmas Mr Brown.

Ok, rant over…

Let’s switch to Arshavin as he tells us how hard the Premier League actually is…

“I expected before I moved to England, if you are a good player if you play for a big team it is easier. But even if you play against Burnley or Wolverhampton, it is not easy – you don’t have time to turn or do any dribbling, if you get two touches you’re lucky. We have had some chances to be very close to the top but we have not taken them so I am a little disappointed. But now if we win games in hand we are still in the race but at the same time we cannot lose more points.”

Damn right, starting at Villa and then continuing at Portsmouth, we have to ensure that we pick up 6 points from the next 2 games. If we don’t drop any points and we play our game in game (at home to Bolton) on Jan 6th, we could be top if Chelsea can drop two point over Christmas… fingers crossed.

Back to Arshavin, and Arsene’s changed the formation to accommodate the player and the Russian fox in the box (and of course, out of the box) acknowledges this.

“He gave me freedom, he requires of me to play as I see on the pitch.”

Which is a great thing to be given to any player, and it’s giving us that extra dimension at the moment, so it’s definitely working. As Eduardo returns to match fitness, I’m sure we’ll see a bit more swagger in our play as we have players that compliment each other….

And let’s not forget us, the fans… Arshavin loves us, we love him too…

“I am happy, I sometimes think they like me more than my wife.”

You’ve got to love the little Russian, don’t you…

Okie dokie, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas for tomorrow. Relax, enjoy and tune in to WOA for a festive post lunch blog if you’ve got time…

It’s time to strike…

We’re in the middle of a week of no football and considering how much football there has been in the last few weeks (i.e. 3 games in 7 days against Liverpool, Burnley and then Hull), it makes you wonder how the the fixtures people actually so this sort of thing!

So, as we all sit around wondering who we haven’t bought presents for or tuning into the only football around at the moment, the French league, we can all sit around and ponder whom we’d like to see join us in the new year. Between now and January the first, we will take on Villa at home and Portsmouth away. So, it is pretty apt that we discuss this now as there won’t be any time post Christmas…

Transfers, transfers, transfers… with Niklas Bendtner out and of course, more importantly, Robin Van Persie out for the season, is it wise for us to look at a striker. Of course it is. I have mentioned a few times that if we do buy a striker, then what will happen to the progress of Sanchez Watt and Giles Sunu amongst the others… Well, to be honest, have seen Arsene play Arshavin up front to accommodate the missing strikers, it strikes me that our youth players won’t really get a run out in the first team, so in fact, we should be looking a buying a striker.

Goalkeeper aside, another position we need to look at is the Song position – with the Cameroonion off to the African Cup of Nations, we’ve lost our first choice DM and we’ve also lost our cover for our centre backs. Considering Silvestre is trying his best to be a full back in the absence of our three preferred left backs, if Gallas did get injured, surely the out of favour Senderos can’t be our only option to cover. Considering we have Denilson and Ramsey and a host of kids such as Eastmond, Coquelin and Frimpong who can play DM, maybe the second buy is a central defender instead.

So back to the striking berth… and the candidates are…

Luca Toni

The was he / wasn’t he / why was he released by Bayern Munich saga continues… and the Italian is proven pedigree and whilst I wouldn’t have put him in the top 20 strikers I’d have wanted, at zero cost, he could be a decent stop gap.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Simply put. Never. He is a player, albeit of decent quality, who has the Manc mankyness all over himself. He is a quality player, but a player I’ve always hated (since he signed for Man U) and would hate to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

Maroune Chamakh

So, we’ve got our top two strikers injured. Bordeaux refused the £7m we offered them last summer… would they settle for a £3m fee considering he could sign for us for free from next week? Arsene, is the offer ready? I would be happy to see Chamakh come in in January - Arsene rates him highly, and from what I’ve seen looks a bargain signing if we could pull it off…

Edin Dzeko

Arsene has commented several times that he wouldn’t be against signing a player who was cup-tied for the Champions League and could he have been referring to the Wolfsburg striker. Probably the best out of the bunch, young, proven and offers us some aerial presence, but he would command in the region of £15m, would Arsene splash the cash or do we even have the money?

What do you think? Time to strike?

Nasri, Stamp, Stan, Kroenke, And More…

It’s a question that has been posed in every newspaper this morning and quite annoyingly! Every time Arsenal do well and the other top teams lose, there is always another story which the press seem to focus on rather than get on with the actual news – remember the furore they made out of Eduardo’s penalty against Celtic?

And now the media are trying their utmost best to make a meal out of this as usual…! It looks like the Sun has a personal vendetta against the Arsenal and anything related to it.

First of all, how could you call it a stamp? Sure, Nasri stepped on his foot. But ultimately it was a bit of argy and a bit of handbags. Throughout the game, it was the Hull players that were over physcial with the Arsenal players and when the free kick was awarded they wouldn’t leave us to it. Yes Samir reacted but Hunt over-reacted.

“I will watch it again but it was very difficult to see that he stamped on the foot but if he had gone certainly a player of Hull would have gone as well.

I’ve searched YouTube high and low for some footage but I couldn’t find some anywhere – so if you do have a link to a video or if you have a video yourself, then do let me know! The Sun commented on the incident and various players affected.

Referee Steve Bennett indicated afterwards he booked Nasri for shoving Steve Hunt and that he missed the flashpoint which saw tempers boil over. Bennett will file his report today and the FA will then decide whether to take action. Hull veteran Nick Barmby could also face further punishment, as he raised both hands to Nasri, while Alex Song could pay for getting hold of Hunt by the neck.

The strangest thing about all of this is that we didn’t hear comments from Phil Brown or his assistant in regards to the stamp. I would have expected the Hull crew to milk the media – but maybe the nonsense from last year has meant that he didn’t want to speak out again, or maybe he realised that his team were the team who were over aggressive.

Thoughts away from the Samir Nasri incident and looking at Stan Kroenke’s very very slow takeover of the club… he’s bought another 25 shares at a cost of £212,000 which now takes him 17 shares away from the point where he has to make a formal takeover. And why on earth is the American doing this so slowly. I must have written about 20 articles about Kroenke taking over Arsenal and what it means to us and whether I think it is a good idea or not. Now that he’s moved another 25 shares closer, I was about to delve into another rendition, but instead, here’s a summary:

  • Usmanov bad
  • Kroenke not as bad as Usmanov
  • Arsenal don’t need a takeover
  • If we were taken over, you would prefer to be taken over by Kroenke not Usmanov
  • If we were taken over by Kroenke, nothing would really change

There’s my view.

We’ve got 5 days until our next game and then three in quick succession, let’s hope we can rest well, train well and gain our sharpness… Villa at home will be a tough one.

Okay, I’m watching Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary on channel 5 – pretty amazing stuff.

Til tomorrow.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Hull… a defining moment?

In a weekend which saw both Man United and Liverpool lose again (in what is looking like one of the most craziest Premier League seasons ever)… it was essential that we took the three points against Hull to ensure we could gain some ground on the top. And that’s exactly what we did. In a game where we had quite a few of our players out, our captain Cesc, our two main strikers in Robin Van Persie and Niklas Bendtner and all three of our left backs, Clichy, Gibbs and Traore (not to mention Rosicky and Djourou)…

Our starting line up was:

Almunia

Eboue – Gallas – Vermaelen – Silvestre

Denilson – Song

Eduardo – Diaby – Nasri

Arshavin

It was an interesting initial line up, and we saw Eduardo, Arshavin and Diaby rotate themselves in those three positions. Arsene has done well to choose when to rest Sagna this season and Eboue came in again in a game which made sense to have the Ivorian take part – Eboue does bring a certain amount of pace and attack that Sagna doesn’t have, whilst Sagna does bring an aerial presence, a defensive thought process and a more refined play.

The first half was a little more scrappy than I’d like to have seen it – Hull were over physical and very defensive minded, with 10 men behind the ball at all times. One player in particular – Hunt – was really over the top – and twice went into Almunia. And it was the same player who was very much involved in a massive tussle where Silvestre had to hold back about 5 players. And if Hunt had been booked for any of those two challenges against Almunia, he would have been sent off.

Denilson took the resulting free kick and what a free kick it was. It was so good that I thought I’d locate it on YouTube so you could play it again and again:

And apparently Denilson wasn’t planning on taking the free kick…

“Denilson is not a free kick specialist. I was quite surprised, he was not specially named because it was Nasri who was going to take it and he took it well. I thought first he wanted to cross the ball but he scored. It changed the game.”

So, we’ve discovered a new free kick taker – and he’s scored more free kick than Robin has all season! Ahem… yes I know! And it was a lead that we really deserved. We had another minute or so for the first half but all in all, we definitely deserved to be up 1-0.

One thing that was prevalent was that we weren’t playing as well as we could have in the first half. Our passing wasn’t spot on, so I did expect a better performance in the second half. And that exactly what we got. We started the second half as a team with a purpose to get the second goal. We looked to be quicker and generally more focused on our game.

But Hull had a spot of luck when Silvestre man handled one of their strikers in the box and Hull were awarded a penalty. Almunia has come under some criticism recently, but he pulled off a remarkable save to keep the score at 1-0.

And from that point onwards we looked to turn up the level and it wasn’t too long until we took the lead. Some good play down the left and a sweet one two with Song and Diaby saw the Frenchman square the ball for Eduardo to tap the ball in an open goal. Diaby managed to get on the score sheet too with some excellent play going forward and another sweet one two – this time with Arshavin – and the Frenchman finished with aplomb…

Let’s take a listen to Arsene about the game:

“We had to fight. We had problems a little bit to start because we left a lot of physical strength in our last two games at Liverpool and Burnley on Wednesday night and it took us some time to get into the game and to find the pace. In the first half we didn’t look very fresh but we got in front and in the second half I believe even if it was a turning point with the penalty they missed, to me the penalty looked really, really harsh and we scored straight away a second goal and we had plenty of chances after.”

So after three points at Liverpool, three points at home yesterday and a decent draw midweek, we’re still in the hunt. United and Liverpool seem to be losing games now against opposition you wouldn’t expect and West Ham managed to keep Chelsea to a draw…

So, we’re 6 points behind them, 3 if we win our game in hand. A win at Stamford Bridge and the title is ours!

Arsenal vs Hull… Match Preview

It’s been a crazy 7 days, and we end this busy period with a game against Hull at the Emirates…

Since our last home game, we’ve gone to Olympiakos with a very young side and were unfortunate not to get something from the game. We then went to Liverpool, played a terrible first half and an then a brilliant second half and came back with all three, only to drop 2 at the might Burnley… and after all this, we were drawn with Porto in the Champions League.

And breathe…

So, let’s take a look at the Champions League draw and personally I think Porto was an awesome draw for us. On the preview, I listed the teams I wanted to draw and Porto were number 2 on the list after Stuutgart. It was a very nervy draw as it was down to United and us on one side and AC Milan and Porto on the other side. So the end result saw us get the Portuguese team and United get AC. For us, Porto represent a team who we know quite well, and I think we’re better than them and don’t think they lack too many big name players… the full draw was:

Stuttgart v Barcelona
Olympiakos v Bordeaux
Inter Milan v Chelsea
Bayern Munich v Fiorentina
CSKA Moscow v Sevilla
Lyon v Real Madrid
Porto v Arsenal
AC Milan v Manchester United

And Arsene was a little less optimistic than me…

“It is a 50/50 game. Porto are always in there and always difficult to play against. The little advantage is that we have the second game at home but it’s important that we negotiate well our first game and try to score away from home. It’s a difficult draw. Last season we had a very good game at home and away we lost 2-0. But it’s the Champions League, it’s a cup game now, it’s form of the day and I believe it’s feasible. Difficult but feasible.”

More difficult than Inter Milan, AC Milan, Bayern Munich or Fiorentina, I doubt it! More difficult than a trip to Moscow… I’m sure Arsene is just be diplomatic about it – it was an awesome result! There are two major clashes, and they involve the Milan teams as Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge and David Beckham returns to Old Trafford as Chelsea take on Inter and Man U take on AC Milan. Some mouth watering ties there.

Arsenal vs Hull City
on Saturday, 19 December 2009 17:30
Barclays Premier League, Emirates Stadium

On to today’s game and we’re without Cesc as he’s still injured after the Burnley game – he’s got a hamstring injury and he’ll probably be back on Dec 30th to face Portsmouth. In his absence, I’d like to see Ramsey start in his position. Against Olympiakos, he was awesome. He’s shown so much improvement that it’s time to play him when possible. I don’t want to play him with Cesc as they are so similar, but as Cesc is out, it’s a perfect time to play the trio of Ramsey, Denilson and Song.

Yes, I agree that Diaby is an alternative, and despite the Frenchman being injured most of the season and also being not that great when on the pitch, I’ve noticed he does have a lot more support from Gooners than Denilson – a player who I think has done incredibly well this season. He’s someone I am very comfortable with when he’s on the pitch.

With Arshavin becoming that player we always seem to play and always want to play, we’re kind of becoming quite reliant on the player and I suppose he’s taken on the mantle from Robin as the main attacking influence, and with Cesc injured away, there will be extra onus on him. Based on this, I’d like him to be be deployed on the left and Nasri on the right. Yes, Walcott needs games, but surely after his recent performances, he has to go back to being an impact sub until he improves.

My stance on Eduardo is different – he has already proved that he can play well consistently, so I think he needs games and with Robin out for the season, we’ve got to give him some games, and maybe at the Emirates, he’ll feel more confident – for that reason, I’m choosing the following team:

Almunia

Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Silvestre

Denilson – Song

Nasri – Ramsey – Arshavin

Eduardo

With a bench of Fabianski, Senderos, Eboue, Diaby, Wilshere, Walcott and Vela.

Now, Hull won’t be easy – we lost to them at home last season – but even saying that, we simply have to beat them! Last year we had the spitgate scandal where Hull made up a whole load of codswallop and then took it to court… well we all know what happened there… Arsene briefly touched on it:

“We treated that problem with calmness and the video proved, in fact, that [accusation] was wrong,” he said. “I have not spoken with Phil Brown since then. But I have no personal problem with him. It was more with his assistant [Horton] that there was a problem against Fabregas. But that has been cleared so, I don’t know why there should be any bad feeling.”

So, that’s that… the game kicks off at 5.30pm today.

And just before I go, who thinks Jack Wilshere to Burnley is a good idea?