Greetings from a snow laden New York this fine afternoon. It has been an eventful day in the wonderful world of Arsenal… and today is now surely the biggest game of our season without doubt. With United’s (inevitable) victory against Portsmouth, they are now top of the table and six points ahead of us now (49, 53,55) and it really is a game that will determine if we do have a chance at winning the title or not. If we win, we’re back in it (52,53,55) but if we lose, we are right out of it (49,55,56)… okay, okay, a draw would see us kind of not out of it (50,54,55), but personally, winning the game would see us gain a mental advantage, knowing that we can beat a big team. With United and Chelsea still to play each other and of course, United to travel to City, there could yet be some twists and turns that see us gain more ground…
Ahead of the game, Arsene has been talking about last week’s defeat and how he is to blame for both that defeat and the one against Chelsea earlier this season – he talks about the fact that we wanted it so much, that were tactically indisciplined. Hopefully his comments will have two effects – 1, acknowledgement of where things went wrong – 2, advice to the team to be patient today.
From last week’s game, the players who were singled out as key under-performers were Denilson and Almunia. Starting with the goalkeeping position, Arsene has acknowledged that Almunia didn’t have his best game, but has also said that he will keep faith with the Spanish stopper…
“If you look across Europe you will see that goalkeeping may be the most difficult job because everything is quick. In England it is even harder. The difference is the goalkeeper is always in the negative publicity. If a striker misses two chances and scores two, he is a hero. If a goalkeeper has a fantastic game and makes one mistake, he is a villain. They are under massive pressure because of that fear to make one mistake that they know can kill their team and the game. They know it is maybe the most pressurised job in football. I think he [Almunia] puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders, too much. I believe as well the defender has the same problem,” he said. “When you feel a defender is nervous it spreads as well. If he kicks the ball into the stand instead of clearing it five metres to a midfielder, the midfielder thinks ‘what is happening here’. It spreads through the team.”
Interesting words and risky to say. You’d expect Chelsea to capitalise on issues and basically bombard the area with crosses and free kicks – even more so now that Arsene has come out and said this.
Looking at the team news ahead of the game, it looks like Bendtner will be on the bench again and the starting line up could be the same as that against United. Personally, I don’t think we can beat Chelsea with that team, especially with little Arshavin up front and marked out of the game by Terry and Alex. Arsene’s probable team is most likely:
Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy
Song – Denilson
Rosicky – Cesc – Nasri
Whilst that team does look more suitable for this game then last, I would really want to add more pace and guile to the team and would start Walcott instead – my line up being:
Sagna – Gallas – Vermaelen – Clichy
Song – Nasri
Eboue – Cesc – Walcott
Baring in mind that Arsene has already said that he is not going to start with Bendtner and Diaby.
In Eboue, Walcott and Arshavin, we have our three fastest players – and pace down the sides and through the middle is how I think we can beat Chelsea. We saw when Walcott came on, what a massive difference he made. I’d even make a compromise with Arsene and have Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky if we wanted to keep the Czech international in the team…
More team news and game analysis on twitter and through the comments below later today… I’ll leave you with Tommy V’s match thoughts:
“I think we can win there. If we have one of our good days and play as a team we can beat Chelsea. It is important for us to win. There’s a gap again – not as big as before – but we have to win to stay in the race. All the strikers in England are physical. I think Drogba is the most physical but there is more to him than that. He’s one of the best in the world. He is so strong that you have to be careful. If you mark him too tight, he grabs you and he’s gone. You have to adjust to the way he plays. If you are really convinced you can win the header, then you have to go for it. But sometimes he uses his body so well that when you jump, he can turn away and you’ve lost him. You have to be smart. Sometimes, let him control the ball and then mark him really tight.”
So mark him tight or not to mark him tight, I am confused Tommy! But ultimately the sentiment is that he thinks we can win the game and that’s the spirit we need from the team and especially a defender!!
Finally, our long term transfer target of Maroune Chamakh has been in the press talking about his desire to come to Arsenal. I really do hope we sign him – we’ve seen this season how we are short of a striker – I don’t know what’s going on – we really should have signed him on a pre-contract by now right? After all, it’s February. The player had this to say:
“My choice is to join Premier League and if I could choose, I will go to Arsenal.
“Bordeaux has brought me so much. I will soon clearly state things so the club can prepare to find my replacement peacefully.Laurent Blanc has brought us a winning state of mind, he has taught us how to hate defeat. Both on mental and physical levels, I am at my best. Three years ago, I was still a little crazy. Now I can manage my efforts, which allows me to be more clear-sighted at the end of the match. I have improved, but I can still improve. I am not only happy to play anymore. I have become someone who wants to win. I am more a scorer, but not enough yet. There are too many situations where I still do a pass for a player in a better position.”
Arsene did say he tried to sign a player in the transfer window – unsucessfully – other than Smalling, and my hunch is that is was Chamakh…
Anyway, big game today, so let’s get behind the team! Come on you Gooners!\\\\