A Weekend Round Up

Lots to get through this Monday morning. Jack Wilshere played a few minutes on Saturday against the meatheads, went out and got involved with some meatheads. Arrest and bail followed, it’s really not clear what happened other than the Arsenal clean up crew released quite a polished statement regarding the player acting as a peacemaker. Hopefully it’s a case of wrong place / wrong time. We’ll have to wait and see.

Regarding Meatheads FC, lovely win for the boys on Saturday. We looked like we struggled a touch when they kept hoofing the ball into the area, but no more than any other team would. Ironic that their goal came from a passage of smooth play including a dribble from a central defender that went past three of our players. Why someone didn’t kick him up in the air is beyond me. Koscielny looked a touch naive as Diouf #1 went past him fairly easily, and Clichey showed he still hasn’t learnt how to defend, letting Diouf #2 run past him and tap in. Why Clichey started berating big Tom in the middle I have no idea. Vermelean had three players to mark, and given recent escapades was probably half marking his own keeper as well just in case he tried to score. Bags of pace is no good if you’re not going to get yourself in the way of the striker.

Anyway we scored twice, Theo looked good again – confidence is an amazing thing. Anyone watch Match Of The Day? Alan Shearer counted the seconds Walcott had on the ball. In a slow motion replay. Hey Alan, if anyone passes this to you to read, just so you know, time is slower in slo-mo replays, so he didn’t really have 6 seconds on the ball. It was more like 2-3. The BBC really is assembling quite the team of footballing brains.

A few times we were climbing all over the Blackburn players in our box, With Chamakh cuddling Christopher Samba quite tightly at times. To be fair to Samba he gave Chamakh a hug at the end and seemed quite cordial. If you act like a meathead with ten elbows I guess you should expect to be held down on the ground. It was as much for his protection as ours I’m sure. Anyway, a different ref would have probably given them 10 penalties (not Chris Foy), but we simply gave as good as we got. It’s fantastic to see the Arsenal players compete physically against a team like Blackburn. We effectively nullified their aerial threat by playing them at their own game, to such an extent that the only way they looked truly dangerous was on the ground.

Almunia looked good as well. He was back to his best, again, confidence is everything. Do not underestimate how destabilising it will be for all this talk of other keepers to keep bounding around his head. Is Schwarzer any better? Really? He’s 37. The best club he has ever played for is Fulham. I’ll leave you to do the math, but considering how hard it is to find a truly decent keeper, I think anybody any good would not still be playing for Fulham at 37. Almunia got quite agitated with Diouf #1 (the twatty one) and it seemed to spur him on. Free kicks and corners, he was clapping his hands loudly, bellowing and stamping his feet. He wasn’t bullied once and he got every ball he came for. Keep your Schwarzer, Brillo head, we don’t want him.

Allardyce was fairly magnanimous at the end of the game – he didn’t mention the P word at the end either, probably because he knew he’d look a bit of a hypocrite. He defends his clubs climbing on defenders to score goals policy, so i guess he accepted the Arsenals policy of climbing on attackers to stop them scoring.

On a side note, does anyone read the Independent? I subscribe to the football blogs. Ian Holloway has been writing some good stuff about his newly promoted team Blackpool. Writing after we welcomed them to the premiership with 6 goals, he said

It was great to sit down with Arsène Wenger and talk football for a few minutes after our game at Arsenal. He had a glass of wine, I had a beer and he was lovely to speak to.

As well as being someone whom I hugely admire, he is simply a very nice man, a total gentleman. He is quietly spoken, very thoughtful and he was very complimentary about us, despite the scoreline.

Proof then that the Walrus from Blackburn was entirely wrong to start bleating on about how Arsene Wenger won’t sit with the managers after a game and have a drink all those months ago. Sorry Sam, it seems he does, it’s just the pricks he avoids. Why it’s anyone’s business other than Walrus/Wenger I’m not sure, but it’s a measure of the man that he would publicly cry about being snubbed. If I was Wenger I’d have sent him a bucket of shit. So it could have been worse.

Quite a bit of talk about Stoke/Pulis threatening to sue Arsene Wenger over his comments midweek. HA HA. HILARITY. If the Yoda faced prick didn’t send out his players with mischief on their minds, people wouldn’t criticise them. Apparently Stoke are ‘sore’ about Wengers comments. Ramsey’s leg is still quite sore. Meatheads.

Finally, Spurs provided quite a stern test for Wigan, a team who had so far conceded 10 goals without reply, who were limited to a single goal against the European Champions in waiting. Amazing. This is the team who’s fans think they’ll take 12 points from their group in Europe? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. What isn’t so funny is Jussi “Hammer Hand” Jaaskelainen getting sent off. My fantasy league team lost points for that. As someone else said, why waste it on a slap on that useless get? Why not make it something special if you’re going to get sent off and run the entire pitch to drop kick Bowyer? WAIT. Next game is Bolton right? And he’ll be suspended, arguably their best player? Lovely.

Blackburn vs Arsenal – Match Day Live

Afternoon guys, it’s a big day today, and 3 points and a good performance will get us primed for the International break…

The line up today is:

Almunia

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Clichy

Diaby – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

Djourou and Denilson didn’t make the bench, which consists of:

Fabianski, Eboue, Gibbs, Wilshere, Rosicky, Vela, Chamakh

Over to the comments for Match Day Live…

Blackburn vs Arsenal: Match Preview

Tomorrow sees us take on Blackburn in the Premier League and it’s a game we must simply win. No questions asked, it’s a game where we need to take the 3 points. Last season, we lost up at Ewood Park and it’s more than essential that we prove to everyone that we’ve come a long way since last season. Our new defensive quartet of Vermaelen, Djourou, Squillaci and Koscielny are being judged right now – and the previous lot of Silvestre, Gallas and Campbell weren’t good enough. Tomorrow will be a test of our new defensive unit, as well as our mental resolve. Has our defence improved since last season? Has our team defensive unit improved? Are we going to be first to the 50/50′s? Are we going to be sharper attacking-wise?

A look at team news ahead of tomorrow’s game, and it looks like it will be too early for new signing Sebastian Squillaci, whom is training today, but will only feature after the International break. That means Laurent Koscielny returns after his one match suspension to partner Thomas Vermaelen at the back. Johan Djourou has not recovered from his hamstring injury, so will be missing tomorrow, and that means Alex Song can revert back to his defensive midfield position – my preferred position for the Cameroonian.

With Song back in midfield, Arsene will have to choose between Denilson, Abou Diaby, Thomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Cesc Fabregas for the two other midfield roles, and I can’t see him not selecting the captain, who is now back to full fitness and should be raring to go. The third spot could go to any of the other three – personally, Rosicky’s form means it should be his, but being an away game with a Sam Allardyce team, you can bet your bottom dollar than Diaby will be in based on his height alone…

Up front is a tricky one – Van Persie is now fit, but Maroune Chamakh has been leading the line so far this season. With no midweek games, Arshavin and Walcott should be ready and poised for starts too, which is a bit of a dilemma – who does Arsene start out of Van Persie and Chamakh? My gut feeling is Van Persie will get the nod… so I’d expect the following line up:

Almunia

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Clichy

Diaby – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Eboue, Denilson, Wilshere, Rosicky, Vela and Chamakh. With Djourou not being included due to his hamstring injury.

Injuries to Bendtner and Nasri look like both players will only return by the end of September and Arsene commented on them both saying:

“Three to four weeks. Nasri will have a battle [to be back first]. He could be in front of Bendtner even because he is recovering very quickly. Djourou is fit to be in the squad but he is not completely there yet. Cesc and Van Persie are back and available normally [for Blackburn].”

Koscielny did give all Arsenal fans some hope that he has what it takes

“I like one-on-one challenges because they are a physical, technical and mental challenge. It’s a big battle — part bluff, part judgement. My aim is never to let the striker open on his good foot to go towards the goal. You have to be very intelligent to win those sorts of challenges. I work hard and never give up. On man marking, I don’t let the striker breathe. Technically, I have always worked hard because, especially at Arsenal, I am the player who starts the attack so I need to have quality in my passing. I have improved a lot on how I read the game and anticipate what my opponent will do and where the ball will go.”

Even though I’ve only really seen him against Liverpool, I do like the look of Koscielny – he does look determined and does look like he is raring to prove himself at the top level.

Outside of tomorrow’s game, yesterday saw the draw for the Champions League and saw us drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga and FK Partizan Belgrade. Thanks goes to Debs for posting an update on all the groups in my absence yesterday. My first reaction was – yes, we’ve not drawn any hard teams, but my next reaction was – damn, we have to travel quite far for these trips. The fact that we’ve not won away in any of the countries that those three teams are from doesn’t bode well, and of course, we have 3 away games after our 3 champions league away games… Ouch.

Arsene spoke on the draw saying:

“I think it is more difficult than it looks because we have Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga who are two very good teams. Also there is a lot of travel too. We will be favourites but we start one week after the internationals when the players will have been away. We have more experience than the other teams but Shakhtar have some experience themselves and people forget Braga knocked out Sevilla by winning both games [in the Play-Offs]. I am very confident of course and I am sure we will come out of it.  But I don’t think we have an easy group. We’ll need to be on our toes.”

The Shakhtar Donetsk tie could see Eduardo play against us twice and of course, have a proper farewell at the Emirates – I’d be interested to see how his fitness and form have come along since his move, and it will be good to see him back at the Grove, one last time…

There we have it folks, a big game tomorrow… it’s Adios for now!

Champions League Draw- Return of Eduardo, possibly…!

So the Champions League draw was made today in Monaco, and after the usual preambles, the main draw started. Pot A got drawn first, the teams being put into groups. We got Group H.

Pot 2 got drawn out next, and we were able to avoid the likes of Real Madrid, and got Shaktar Donetsk! It was bound to happen, meaning we’ll be re-united with Eduardo sooner, rather than later. I absolutely love Eduardo,was really gutted he left, and it would be emotional playing against him, instead of with him, so early after he left! I bet he’ll be feeling the same! I wonder what the odds of him scoring against us will be…

On to Pot 3, and we got SC Braga, known as the Arsenalistas! Awesome. Not a bad draw. It’s their first time in the Champions League group stages apparently, so hopefully our experience should count.

Last team to face, from Pot 4, and we got FK Partizan Belgrade from Serbia.

No real banana skins per se, but you never know. Still though, I’d expect us to progress to the knock-out round.

So to round-up our draw:

Group H:

ARSENAL

Shakhtar Donetsk

SC Braga

FK Partizan Belgrade

Other groups:

Group A: Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, TOTTENHAM, FC Twente

Group B: Lyon, Benfica, Schalke, Hapoel Tel-Aviv

Group C: MANCHESTER UNITED, Valencia, RANGERS, Bursaspor

Group D: FC Barcelona, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, FC Rubin Kazan

Group E: Bayern Munich, AS Roma, FC Basel, CFR Cluj

Group F:CHELSEA, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, MSK Zilina

Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, AJ Auxerre

Not a bad draw for us, but we still need to do the business. Come on Arsenal!!!

*Interesting stat from Opta. Apparently we’ve never won in Ukraine, with 3 defeats and 1 draw; in Portugal, with 2 defeats and 3 draws; and in Serbia, with 1 defeat. Those ofcourse, will be the 3 countries we’ll be playing our away legs at.

Well, there’s always a first for everything!

The Champions League Proper…

So, there we have it, our arch enemy – ye olde enemy – have somehow mangled their way into the Champions League Proper… mainly through a lot of luck, a lot of fortune, and a Jermain Defoe handball. When Young Boys were 3-0 ahead over in Switzerland, I had some high hopes, but luckily for Sp*rs, their opposition were even less experienced in European competition than them. For Sp*rs, it’s another “we’ve won the World Cup” moments, expected a DVD out very soon.

Anyway, time to focus on Arsenal and focus on Arsenal we shall. Later today is the Champions League Draw and we’ll see who we’ll get in the group stages. The four pots have been drawn and are:

Pot One

Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd, Barcelona, Inter, AC Milan, Lyon, Bayern

Pot Two

Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos

Pot Three

Tottenham, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basel, Sporting Braga, Kobnhavn, Spartak Moscow

Pot Four

Hapoel Tel Aviv, Twente Enschede, Rubin Kazan, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, Bursaspor, MSK Zilina, Auxerre

As I do every year, I’ll take a look at the possibilities of what would be our hardest draw and what would be our easiest draw and then of course, we’ll see what we get tomorrow. In Pot Two, the big team that we’ll all want to avoid is Real Madrid, with a hell of a lot of new signings and a good base to start off with and of course, Jose Mourinho in charge, you’ll want to get them in the semi’s rather than the group stage. Out of the rest, the easiest ne is probably Werder Bremen or Benfica, so I’d take either of them… but would prefer a Werder Bremen side lacking the spark of Mezut Ozil…

In Pot Three, due to the nations rule, we can’t get Sp*rs, so the hardest out of the group is probably Schalke – they finished second in the Bundesliga and have a good group of players. Ajax are also a tough team, and I’d expect them to be more disciplined in the group stages, and they’ve got enough talent to give anyone a run for their money. The weakest in the group is probably Kobnhavn, since I’ve never heard of them or watched them play, so if the Gods do look favourably on us, we’ll draw the CL newcomers.

Pot Four is much a do about nothing, with Twente and Auxerre standing out above the rest, but pretty much the whole pot are a group of weak teams. I wouldn’t mind a Buraspor or a MSK Zilina, no disrespect to those teams, but a club of the size and quality of Arsenal, you’d expect us to beat them…

Desired Draw:

Arsenal
Werder Bremen
Kobnhavn
Bursaspor

Hope we don’t get it draw:

Arsenal
Real Madrid
Schalke
Auxerre

The draw kicks off at 1700 (UK time) and will be live on the UEFA site and all the normal twitter, facebook and web channels that we all love… There will be a bit of pre-amble first, as always, so expect news nearer 1730 or 1800…

And finally… rumours regarding the announcement of the Squillaci signing is that the new defender will be announced on Friday alongside Schwarzer, but other rumours suggest some very small contractual issues, nothing to do with wages or Arsenal, just a few random things… but he has pretty much signed and will most likely wear the number 18 shirt this season…

More tomorrow my friends, more tomorrow…

A Look At Our New Squad & Views On ‘Arry Redknapp…!

So, there we have it, our squad is nearing completion, and we’ve signing 2 central defenders this summer with Johan Djourou back to full fitness (well, kind of)… we’ve let the injured Eduardo go and brought in Maroune Chamakh as his replacement and in addition, we’ve promoted the likes of Jack Wilshere into the main squad as well as having a fit Kieran Gibbs back too. With Rosicky in blinding form, we’ve got a very good set of players who can all be effective in different ways.

With Denilson injured until now, and Song back in defence covering for the injured Djourou and the suspended Koscielny (which other player has previously got sent off on his competitive debut?)… Wilshere has played some part in both games this season and he has been very impressed for someone so young. Don’t forget the boy is only 18. He had his 8 minute cameo for England against Hungary and is now in the Under 21 squad for the Euro qualifying games. Like we did with Wilshere at Arsenal, gave him a taste of the Premiership and then loaned him out, it’s a similar exercise with the full team and then the under 21′s. I think he should be in the Under 21′s for now to gain that International experience.

Under 21 manager, Stuart Pearce commented on his demotion saying:

“Jack’s had the experience of an international cap with the seniors and his development will come. Like Theo Walcott, I think having the experience of playing with the Under-21s and seniors will be a help to him and is something he will have to come to terms with. He shouldn’t feel disappointed that he’s been in the senior squad and then come back to the Under-21s and that’s the mentality he has to come to the squad with.”

The key component for our squad now… as I’ve said yesterday and the day before and the day before and the day before… and the week before… is to secure the signing of a new keeper. For those of  you who have played any footballing management games, if you try and sign a new player and constantly say it’s an area that you’re trying to improve, the existing player in that position oftens gets stroppy and performs badly and that is what we’re doing to Almunia. Considering he’s not world class, he is now mentally affected too – so if we don’t sign a new keeper, we’re going to have a very fragile confidence of a man in goal come next week.

There have been all sorts of rumours on Schwarzer, noise about him passing a medical, and then not passing a medical and then having problems with his knees, shoulder and back. He’s been left out of Fulham’s squad recently, so there may be something genuine happening there. The rumours were that paying upwards of £2m for him, but news coming out of the various sources in and around the club – is that Schwarzer had a clause in his contract for a CL club if one came along, that he would be able to move. Apparently, our original offer was < £1m, and we have offered the same in August as we had in May. Nothing has moved with him, and Fulham are reluctant to sell, so I hope we have a backup plan in mind!

Tonight, Young Boys take on Sp*rs at WHL and I have to say, wheeler dealer, ‘Arry Redknapp is really a waste of space. He is probably the most dodgiest manager in football, and really lucky with his appointments, and pretty random with his signings… but after signing Gallas, our former player, he’s been ranting and raving about how he’s got one up on us. Well, ‘Arry really shouldn’t be concentrating on Arsenal the day of his biggest game of his season.  The twitchy individual said this:

“He knows he is going to get some flak from the Arsenal fans but his signing is one-up for us. Tottenham fans should be thinking, ‘Hang on, we have got one over on them here’.”

Well, ‘Arry, you have managed to sign a 33 year whinging old annoying player – good luck mate – with King, Dawson, Woodgate, Kaboul and Bassong, a sixth central defender is exactly what you needed and if this video is anything to go by, then he’ll fit in quite nicely. Paddy Power are offering 500/1 for Young Boys to beat Sp*rs 4-0… worth a punt? It looks like Sp*rs have employed Gallas to try and lure Sagna to WHL in the year 2018, doing the ground work now over dinner…. okay maybe, they’re just having dinner… but funny how this makes news…

And in the theme of recent videos…

Chamakh Rules…

Nice, hey?

Anyway, that’s enough for now… see you in the comments!

The Changing Face Of The Premier League…

Morning folks…

Yesterday completed the second week of the Premier League and it did start to emphasize the changing face of the league – with Man City’s newly assembled multi-million pound squad taking Liverpool apart quite comprehensively – but a key component to their victory was their goal keeper. If it wasn’t for Joe Hart, Liverpool could and would have got back into the game and despite the foray of outfield players, it goes to show that an excellent goalkeeper is much required at this level. If we had Joe Hart in goal, would Liverpool have taken the lead when we played them? Debatable. But the point is, after Joe Hart’s many saves, Man City grew stronger and stronger and eventually ran out comprehensive winners.

Down at the grove, we’ve been improving our squad and with Silvestre, Gallas and Campbell out of the club, and Djourou back from fitness, Koscielny and Squillaci brought in, I think we’re stronger at the back than we were last year – all we need is the one problem position, which is the goalkeeping position – the problem? We have only 8 days until the end of the season. I noticed that Didier Zakora (former Sp*rs player) feels that Squillaci will slot into the Premier League with ease:

“He is a very strong defender, he wins every duel. He is a very good defender because he plays for the French national side. I think if he plays for Arsenal he will play easy because Arsenal play very easy football. For him, I think it is a very good option.  He plays very simple but he wins every duel, he is a very strong defender.”

In fact, our new defender was quite vocal about his move to Arsenal last night, saying:

“If a French player receives an offer from Arsène Wenger, it’s practically impossible to turn down. It was a sensational offer for me and I was happy Sevilla let me go. It was a difficult situation but I knew I had to take this chance. I knew if I played against Braga then I would not have been able to play for Arsenal in the Champions League. Arsenal were always the team I watched out for. For any spectator like me, you had to watch a squad with [Thierry] Henry, [Robert] Pirès, [Patrick] Vieira and [William] Gallas. Now, I’m happy to have my name in the history books. For me, this is a great new challenge and I’ve gone there purely to be part of that. I don’t think my age is a problem. My experience in football is great and players of my age tend to be at the peak of their playing career.”

With Gallas nearing his 33rd year of football, and his ageing legs losing pace, a good solid centre back in Squillaci is very much welcome. With Nordtveit a reserve option for the cup games, we now have 6 centre backs if you consider Song can slot in if required. A funny video I saw about Gallas signing for Sp*rs, I have to share…

It’s hilarious and it’s basically what has happened and what is most likely going to happen down at Sp*rs now they have William on board. The main question for Sp*rs is whether he’ll start ahead of Dawson, Bassong and Woodgate (if fit), as King is a certain starter, right?

Gallas did say it was hard…

“It was not an easy decision (having played for Arsenal), but I am here now and I will give my best. What is most important to me is to play games and to give everything.

…but I don’t think it was actually that hard for him. I did say that I thought he’d end up at Sp*rs even when he was still on our books. Anyway…

Back to the keeper situation and with rumours over a failed medical and Fulham, the club who has been talking about Schwarzer constantly – Arsenal have not release a word publicly – I have the feeling that the whole this is a big smokescreen and we’re actually in for someone else. But with Arsenal, Squillaci aside, it normally takes a long time to get a player in, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t have our new keeper by the Blackburn game.

And finally, for those Pro Evolution Soccer fans out there (yes, I am Pro Evo all the way!)… here’s a sneak peak of the trailer for PES 2011…

Amazing trailer, and if the game is anything like that, it will be sensational!

And finally finally finally, a massive shout out to Debs and Kieran on their latest posts, a great collection of opinions building up here on WOA… With over 100 comments a day on facebook, some on the blog and a crazy amount on twitter, WOA is growing bigger and better – and we’re only weeks away from a new redesign…!

Squillaci, Scwarzer and Goals. Lots of goals.

What a bloody awesome footballish weekend! We racked up our greatest win at the Emirates in fine form (although Blackpool didn’t help themselves), Theo showed a cutting edge for the first time since that game against Croatia and elsewhere the goals flew in all weekend. The premiership saw 3 different 6-0 results. That’s 15% of all 6-0 wins in the history of the premiership (20) in 1 weekend!

Great to see Brede Hangeland score the goal that lost the mancy’s 2pts after his unfortunate own goal. Unit*d looked comfortable without ever dominating and after the first goal sat right back. Say what you like about the Brillo headed arse in charge of them, but Fulham were a class act and never gave up, whilst Unit*d looked distinctly average. Any team that struggles against an opposition containing Dickson Etuhu and John Pantsil are in trouble.  Paul Scholes goal was, as much I dislike the rat face, great. He’s in such good form, he’s carrying Unit*d’s midfield at the moment. Hopefully his legs fall off before we get there on Dec 11.

Everyone’s favourite pantomime villain Joey Barton was at it as well yesterday, inspring the vestiphobics to a 6-0 win. Thankfully now the sex pest face fuzz can go and we can go back to hating Barton for his thuggish criminal ways, rather than his mustache. Theo’s nemesis Chris Waddle was commentating, which was great for two reasons. First, he’s probably the most biased commentator I’ve ever heard which added a hilarity all of it’s own when he decided NUFC could be pushing for Europe by the end of the season, but most importantly he can’t speak properly. It sounds like he has a washing machine in his mouth and a fruit bowl for brains. “I’m not sure that was a pelanty”, no that’s right Chris, normal people refer to them as penalties. This is a man who criticised our hat trick hero for not having a football brain.

Anyway, in Arsenal-ish news it seems like we’ve nearly signed a CB. Sébastien Squillaci, a 30 year old Frenchman. I really don’t know enough about him at the moment to pass judgement – but he’s a proven winner. I saw the Copa del Rey final in which Sevilla beat Athletico 2-0, and I saw him pick up a yellow card. I don’t remember thinking anything other than Sevilla were organised at the back. I certainly don’t remember him standing out. He also played 20 minutes in the Champions League final (2004) and won the French league twice – so he knows what it takes to win. Time will tell, and a centre back is a centre back, whilst Song is not, right?

So, Sevilla have taken the odd approach of announcing that we’ve agreed a deal publicly and that the player is on his way for a medical. That’s how it works in football, you do the medical when the deal is done, just before the papers are signed. You’ll have probably seen the rumors floating about on twitter or elsewhere that Schwarzer failed an Arsenal medical on three separate criteria. There hasn’t been a medical of any kind because the two clubs haven’t agreed a deal. Anything that suggests otherwise is fantasy.

In any case, considering our squad is held together with ducktape and several of the players have legs made of Swarovski crystal, even if he did fail three elements of a medical, I wouldn’t expect that to impede the signing of Schwarzer. Knowing our track record, if he did break, we’d probably prop him up with broom sticks like a scarecrow in the goal and attach CD’s to his jersey to reflect light into attackers eyes. He’d still catch more crosses and corners than Flappy.

On the subject of the goalkeeper and in particular his current manager Brillo-head and his comments at the weekend, apparently Arsenal are ‘unsettling’ Schwarzer. As far as I’m aware we made a bid for him, which Fulham made public. Fulham then continue to not play the player, whilst talking about how much Arsenal are unsettling him. I know he likes to talk, but I’m not actually sure if it’s actually occured to Mark Hughes that he’s unsettling his own player by continually talking about it. Arsenal have been quite dignified and quiet about it. If there’s any justice in the world, Fifa will retroactively ban the hypocrite from football for life for the way he behaved at Man City before he was sacked. He didn’t seem bothered about unsettling players then. Gareth Barry. Kolo Toure. Cough cough. Arsehole.

Walcott has been speaking out this morning, deciding he’d be more than happy to do an ‘Henry’ and switch to centre forward. So would I actually as it means he can use his best asset, his speed, whilst rarely being expected to cross the ball, the weakest part of his game. We know it worked for Henry, but I still can’t help young Theo isn’t quite as gifted as the great Frenchman despite his weekend heroics. Either way, if it stops him having to cross the ball, I’m in. And I think he showed on Saturday he can finish.

Hopefully this will be the season that Walcott becomes the footballer we’ve all seen glimpses of. Injury and a lack of experience have conspired against him at times. I genuinely believe being left out of Englands shit show at the World Cup has benefited him – he looks like a player with a point to prove.

I’m looking forward to Blackburn at the weekend, I’ll be sitting in the away end alongside the other travelling gooners trying to keep my eyes on Sam Allardyce in the misguided hope that he might spontaneously combust. Fingers crossed.

Kieran

Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool: Power of the Red and White (Sleeved) Kit!

So Saturday was our first home game of the new season, and after having a tough opening at Liverpool, it was an opportunity to get our season rolling with a win. But with Blackpool flying after their 0-4 win over Wigan last week, it was not going to be a walk in the park. Well, that’s the way it seemed before kick-off!

The starting line-up for yesterday was: (thanks Dev, for the formation!)

Almunia

Sagna – Song – Vermaelen – Clichy

Diaby – Wilshere

Walcott – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

Before the game started, there was the unveiling of a replica of the Arsenal clock that used to be at Highbury, and it’s another nice touch, carrying on from the Arsenalisation of the Emirates that started last season. The stadium is becoming more and more like home, all that’s left is a trophy…

Anyway, back to the game. Koscielny was missing due to the Red card he picked up at Anfield, so Song, back from a little injury, had to deputise at the back. Walcott was brought into the starting XI, along with Rosicky. Eboue dropped to the bench, and Nasri was out due to injury.

Blackpool didn’t start to badly, and had their share of possession at the start and had a chance to test Almunia, but the effort was weak and easy for Almunia to gather. But from then on, the Theo Walcott show started.

The first goal came after 11 minutes and started on the left. Chamakh to Arshavin, to Rosicky, then back to Arshavin on the edge of the box, who found Theo to his right, who then found the bottom left corner with a fine finish! Very well-worked goal, and a typical Arsenal one. Great goal. Blackpool had almost an immediate chance to respond, but the header was off-target.

A chance for a second came through Theo, heading Vermaelen’s long clearance into the path of Rosicky near the half-way line, receiving the ball back and heading towards goal, where he found Arshavin coming in from the left, but his first time effort was well saved by the Blackpool ‘keeper. Good save!

Another chance, again from Theo, receiving the ball this time from Diaby. He shrugged of the Blackpool challenge and found Chamakh, but his effort rolled just past the post! Very close.

Chance again. A pass back to Rosicky from Chamakh, who then found Theo in acres of space, but with 2 options to his left, he went for goal instead, but his effort was well off-target.

And another one, this time Rosicky finding Chamakh, but he was brought down just outside the box by the defender, which just the goal-keeper to beat. But the last-man challenge was illegal, meaning a Red for the defender. Good decision.

The next decision was not so good though, the referee awarding a penalty. It was close, and you can’t really blame the referee for getting it wrong. But either way, a chance to make it 2-0, and with Robin on the bench, it was up to Arshavin to take it. And it was a perfect one, low into the right corner, and even though the ‘keeper went the right way, the effort was way too good. 2-0, with 32 minutes gone. And with Blackpool down to 10, it was game over, really. It was just a question of how many we would get.

Another chance again. Given we had 30 shots (12 on target), I’m afraid almost every sentence is going to be about to a chance! Chamakh to Theo, making his way into the box, and even though he was surrounded by Blackpool players was still able to find Chamakh, but his effort was saved by the goalkeeper. The ball fell to Arshavin on the right, but his curled effort went wide.

Chance again but this time, goal number 3, with still only 38 minutes on the clock! Another goal from Theo, this time, Wilshere with the assist, his pass finding Theo in the box, with his back to goal. He was given the time and space to turn, which he did brilliantly, firing the ball across the goalkeeper and into the net. Great goal, 3-0, and Theo on a hat-trick!

He almost got it 2 minutes later, but his effort was easy for the ‘keeper. Chamakh then almost got his first of the game, after Clichy’s cross from a quick free-kick found him inside the box, but his effort was well-saved by the goalkeeper. Almost another goal on the counter, with Arshavin, Wilshere and Theo breaking and combining, but Theo’s pull-back just evaded Wilshere!

The referee blew his whistle a few minutes later, and any Blackpool fan would have been forgiven for thinking it was full-time, but it was just half-time! The first 45 minutes was full of wave after wave after wave of Arsenal attack, and it didn’t look like it would alleviate one bit in the second half!

No changes for us at the start of the second, and really, no need for any!

Where else to start, if not at another Arsenal chance!? This time for Wilshere, but his curled effort was straight down the ‘keeper’s throat. Few minutes later, goal number 4, Sagna running down the right flank, riding a challenge, after being found by Rosicky from the half-way line, and his pull-back was perfect for Diaby to lash onto and fire into the bottom left corner. Great start to the second half, and 4-0 with 49 minutes gone. You had to feel for Blackpool. Well, just a tiny bit!

I’ll ease up on the chances, as there are still 2 goals left to get through!

Goal number 5 came after 57 minutes, and it was a hat-trick for Theo! Only the 5th ever at the Emirates, apparently, the others being by Simpson, Adebayor, Vela and Bendtner. He was found by Diaby, and his finish was brilliant, effortlessly gliding past the defenders and finding the bottom left corner. Great hat-trick, and more to come from Theo in the future, hopefully!

Chamakh really should have made it 6, after Arshavin’s square ball in the box left the goal at his mercy, but he shinned it over the bar! No worries though, we’d already scored 5! Arsene made his first substitutions, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas coming on Arshavin and Diaby, after 63 minutes. How further depressing for Blackpool! The welcome for both players was brilliant, particular for Cesc, everyone very glad he stayed on. Vela came on 3 minutes later for Theo Walcott, who deservedly got a standing ovation. Top class performance from him, and he’d be an even better player if he can replicate such against top opposition. I’ve got every confidence he will.

Almost the best goal of the afternoon, Vela juggling the ball impressively past 3 different defenders, but his effort was blocked. That would have been a brilliant goal. And from the resulting corner, Chamakh scored our 6th! As per usual now, we scored in the last 10 minutes, Chamakh FINALLY getting his first Premier League goal on his home debut, after about 82 minutes. And given his reputation, no surprise it was a header! A corner was swung in from the right by van Persie and Chamakh rose the highest and thumped it into the back of the net, in between the penalty spot and the 6-yard box. Great goal, and no doubt he’ll score similar goals during the course of the season. He deserved the goal for all the effort he’d put into the game. As they say, the first is always the hardest!

The rest of the game was played in the Blackpool half really, and full-time couldn’t have come any sooner for them. Jack almost capped it off with a goal, but his effort was weak and the ‘keeper was able to recover and prevent a goal. 6-0 in the end, and a well-deserved win for us. We’ll face stiffer tests in future, but such a performance bodes well for us.

Rosicky was brilliant all game, spraying lovely passes here and there. He may not have got a goal, but his contribution was immense. And he played the whole 90  minutes too! Welcome back, Tomas. Fingers crossed injuries don’t derail his season this time…

Wishere also got 90 minutes, which was really good, as I doubt he’ll get that many chances to play 90 minutes when Fabregas is back in the starting line-up. He did well, and hopefully we’ll see more of him this season, with the odd goal too!

The impressive thing about Theo’s play is that not only just he try his best in the attacking half, he also helps out defensively. I’ve always been impressed with that part of his game, and it is good to see that he still considers it important!

There isn’t a lot to say about our defence really, as it was solid, allowing Blackpool only one shot on target, which came very early in the first half! Clean sheets leave you with a very good feeling, and we’ve got our first of the season, which should help confidence at the back. Song was brilliant at the back, filling in for Koscielny, and it’s good to have him back. Koscielny should be back next weekend, so Song should be back in defensive midfield, and I’m sure he’ll be brilliant, as usual.

With Manchester United drawing with Fulham just a few minutes ago, we now lie second in the table, on goal-difference. Not a bad start. Blackburn away next, which is usually a tricky tie for us, but with almost a full-strength team, hopefully we’ll be too much for them to handle.

So 6 goals scored, none conceded, huh? The future’s bright, the future’s red and white (sleeved)!

Quick Saturday Hello (Arsenal 6-0!)… Debs will blog tomorrow!

Debs will be writing up a proper match report tomorrow, but for now, I’ll just briefly touch on todays game – 6-0 to the Arsenal, with Theo Walcott scoring a hattrick. Having not seen the game or the highlights yet, I can’t really comment, but the line up today was:

Almunia

Sagna – Song – Vermaelen – Clichy

Diaby – Wilshere

Walcott – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With the Diaby, Walcott and Arshavin being replaced with Cesc, Vela and Van Persie.

Arsene spoke on the result and took time out to praise Walcott…:

“He is more electric than he has been to date because he is sharp. I like today the fact he mixed well the final ball and the finishing. That is always a sign that the player is always more mature. Let’s not forget that what he does is at a very high pace so it’s not always easy to make the right decision but today I think he got many decisions in the final third right.”

And with players like Schwarzer, Given, Squillaci and other players linked Arsene said:

“I am confident we will add at least one, maybe one plus one. It is difficult to predict because the market is very quiet but I know that in the last five days it gets crazy and then it gets completely mad.”

Specifically on Schwarzer, the boss said:

“It’s important we do not start saying what we do and they say what they [Fulham] do. I believe it has to be as quiet as possible. We always respect the decision of the clubs if they don’t want to sell. They do not need to come out in the press with that. If they don’t want to sell they say that and we respect that. It’s the same with anybody.”

And more detailed analysis will be with you tomorrow morning via our esteemed match writer, Debs, so stay tuned…!

Adios for now…

Arsenal vs Blackpool Preview

An evening wish to you all this Friday evening and today I find myself in Priors Marsten, a small village near Banbury, with my sister and friends in a nice little Granary. It’s been an interesting day, filled with scrabble and clay pigeon shooting and I did manage to hit 15 out of my 25 clay pigeons – which is apparently decent for a beginner. I won’t be able to talk for long, but I’ll touch on few topics. Fristly, as you may already know, Gallas has all but signed for Sp*rs and I did predict this a long while back. It’s something that I thought after the season, as he was the type of person who would do that just for the sake of it. He is an excellent footballer, but is a nightmare in the dressing room. For me, I think we could have done with his football ability at the club for another season – but at the same time, he is 33 years old and past his best. For ‘Arry Redknapp, it makes a lot of sense as he loves ex-Arsenal players and wants to strengthen his defence. For us, we shouldn’t really worry about it as if we get Squillaci to add to our other players, we’ll have a very good balance.

Arsene spoke on Gallas:

“”He can be, sometimes, a little bit brutal or impulsive in his reaction. But when you are a manager, he is not someone who talks behind your back. He is somebody who is straight and is completely focused on the game. You respect that. I tried to keep him here but no [I am not disappointed]. I respect that in our game we are in a professional world where he had an offer which was not good enough at the start, then I turned somewhere else. You have to accept that. William is a professional, he is 33 this year and so I can understand he looks for the best possible deal. I believe deeply that he had nothing against the Club. There was a difference at the start, which explains that.”

Koscielny is apparently held in very high regard, so we’ve hopefully increased the quality of our first choice centre back. Interesting comment from Arsene about him being “brutal” and “impulsive”, ultimately he was a bad egg and it’s better that he’s gone…!

Looking at teams news ahead of tomorrow’s game, we’ve got Song, Cesc and Djourou back in the squad and rumours are that they are all going to start. I think our line up tomorrow will be:

Fabianski (as Almunia is “affected” by speculation)

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Clichy

Song – Diaby

Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Mannone, Gibbs, Eboue, Wilshere, Rosicky, Chamakh, Vela

And if Djourou isn’t quite ready, then Song could deputise, and Wilshere could come in. I think Van Persie will get the nod as he needs game and a game against Blackpool at home is a good way to get into the groove.

We’ve got some problems in the goalkeeping department with the Schwarzer deal not happening – especially with Fulham telling us not to make further bids – I don’t want to do a Barcelona – so let’s leave it and switch our attention to Shay Given. Almunia is worst effected, as number one, the message is clear – we don’t trust him – and if we don’t get another keeper, we’ll have an even worse problem on our hands. Arsene tried to distance himself regarding Schwarzer and said:

“I am not responsible for the Fulham statements. I never speak about the transfers, the offers, anything made about the players, because we have so many talks in football that are never concluded. It is always simple if you want to buy a player and the club doesn’t agree: they say no so there is not a lot to talk about.”

So, tomorrow, is our first home game, the unveiling of the new stands and the clock from highbury – a bumper issue for the programme and Cesc’s first programme notes of the season – I can’t wait… Come on you Arsenal…