Arsenal 1 – 0 West Ham… Phew!

Morning fellow Gooners…

For those of you who watched the entirety of the game yesterday, like me, you may have lost your voice shouting at the players, but moreover, shouting at the ludicrous refereeing decisions that came through the referee, the linesman and even the fourth official. I’m not one for pointing fingers at referees, I understand that they have a hard job to do, the game is fast, they have to be fair, they have to look at the rules. But there are certain things that you expect referees to be better at, and the ref yesterday let the game down, which played right into the hands of West Ham.

The “advantage” rule is something that we tend to prosper more from than other teams, as opposition teams tend to try to stop us playing, especially on the counter attack – but yesterday, the referee was really in no-man’s land when it came to exercising that rule and literally stopping the game every minute or two. Not exactly how football should be played. But it was not only the stop / start nature of the game, but the plain and simple wrong decisions made by the referee and the linesmans – decisions where a player is called offside when he is clearly a yard only. For me, not only did we have to battle XI West Ham players, but we also had to battle the ref too.

After a Carling Cup outing in mid-week, we rotated our squad again, brining in a few players who were rested and therefore, our starting line up was:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Denilson – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Djourou, Eboue, Vela, Walcott, Bendtner, Rosicky

The first chance of note did come through a Cesc shot from close range, when Sagna cut through into the inside of their left back and squared it to the captain who shot well, strong and hard, but it was saved by the very good Rob Green! Another excellent move again involving Sagna, saw Song shoot, saved and the rebound which fell to Nasri, who was unable to convert! It was one of those games… The first half ended 0-0 and with the attacking intent of the team, you had to wonder how…

It wasn’t the greatest game for Arshavin and you’ve got to feel that his place in the team is in a lot of jeopardy, you can’t have a player who performs this badly week in and week out as a regular first team member – I’d expect the Russian to start against Shaktar in midweek, as his form is better away in Europe than at home in the Premiership, but maybe a player like Vela or Rosicky could replace him against Newcastle at home next week…

For the second half, it was Arsenal all the way, but similarly to the first half, West Ham defended well, their keeper inspired. A moment of magic from Nasri as he launched an incredible free kick towards the goal, with a lot of pace, without much of a run up – over the wall, over Rob Green but cannoned back off the bar!

We were in that zone where we wanted the goal so badly, to the point where our formation was literally a 2-5-3, and it was working, with us really pressing, Cesc had a great shot, which the keeper saved… I can’t remember the exact details, but it was like… Cesc shoots, saved… Walcott with the shot, in off the post, and out, Song with a shot, a header by Bendtner, Cesc with a shot, saved, saved, saved… and you

Fabianski

Squillaci – Koscielny

Sagna - Song – Cesc – Nasri – Clichy

Walcott - Chamakh – Bendtner

With moment to go, Song and Clichy played the “longest one-two” ever seen to man, as they combined to finally break through the West Ham rearguard and put us 1-0 ahead. Song passed the ball exquisitely on the outside of his right foot into the path of Clichy who dummied a cross and then drove into the box – all of us thought he was going to shoot with his right, but instead, he floating the ball with his right into the path of Bendtner and Song, with the latter heading the ball into the back of the net…!!

Celebrations around the stadium were rife and the three points were in the bag…

Arsene spoke about the game and had this to say:

When you win with two minutes to go it is always a relief. We needed to be patient, intelligent and not make a mistake at the back against a West Ham team who had a strong spirit and were well-organised. We showed patience because in the first half it was difficult to get into the flow of our passing so we had to wait until they got a bit fatigued. West Ham kept going and we did as well. We kept the structure of our game right, we didn’t do anything stupid, we kept trying to be intelligent and that in the end got us the goal with two minutes to go.

And with Song scoring the goal – I think that’s three goals in the last four games, we’ve got a new striker on our hands!

Arsene spoke again about the title aspirations:

I believe we have a good chance, yes, but we want to show consistency first. We go step by step. I believe we still need to step up a gear to completely achieve that. But on the other hand you feel as well that there is more to come out from this team because we had a good potential on the bench today and we still have some players to come back. So if we can keep a good injury record then we have a chance. It’s too early in the season [to be sure] but I have belief. We have to show we can handle every single game with the different aspects that the Premier League has. You saw today that we played against the bottom team in the Premier League and it was a real battle. We have to show we can compete like that in every game.

The main man, Kieran Delaney will be back in the hot seat tomorrow, and for now I’ll leave you with those words from Arsene…

Have a great Sunday folks, there’s a Newcastle / Sunderland derby and a Bolton / Liverpool game to look forward to a little later today!

Adios!

Arsenal vs West Ham: The Pre-Match Preview!

Morning folks… and we’re just hours away from a very very big game – a derby at home – a West Ham team at the bottom of the table, in desperate need of a win… but of course, we’re in need of the 3 points to start closing the gap at the top of the table. This will be a feisty affair… Off the back of the Man City and the Newcastle game, we are on a bit of a high, similar to before we played West Brom at home. We didn’t do too well that afternoon, and it’s essential that we keep our concentration levels and apply ourselves correctly in all areas.

Team news ahead of the game sees the same injuries as there have been for a while, with Diaby and Almunia still out with their ankle and elbow injuries respectively. Jack Wilshere is serving his final game in his three match suspension and will also miss the game – whilst Vermaelen is still out and may be for a while, whilst Ramsey and Van Persie aren’t quite ready yet… so it’s basically, choose from the following players… my guess at a first XI (which is a harder guess now that we have players back from injury) is:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Song – Denilson

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Koscielny, Eboue, Rosicky, Walcott, Vela, Bendtner

The only change perhaps is that perhaps Walcott may start, Nasri moved in and Denilson on the bench. We’ve got one of the strongest teams available, and just imagine if our whole team was fit – yes, I know it would never happen, but who would start and who would be on the bench? Walcott looked very good against Newcastle and really looks determined this year to do well and improve his game. It’s amazing to see Nasri top the scoring charts with 7 and Walcott weigh in with 6 already this season, and we’re still (just) in October!

Interesting to see Arsene focus on the performance and insist that the team is focused – and also mentioned the bad performance against West Brom.

“It was a lesson learned and it confirms to me that if you are not 100 per cent focused, you will drop points against any team in this league,” he said. “In fairness to my team, West Brom is the only game since the start of the season where we didn’t perform well and that is credit to them. But as well, it shows that, just once, if you are not completely there you are caught. I think we have got the lesson now. We focus highly on tomorrow and go step-by-step to try to put every energy in every single game. The success of our season is as well how intelligent we are and tomorrow is a good opportunity to show it. Let’s go for it 100 per cent.”

We’ve got to treat every game as if it’s the most important game of the season and against Newcastle, there was a sense of determination that would good to see. The players closed down the opposition and were quick to react to openings and moving forward, trying to get onto the scoresheet. If we apply that level of tenacity to the game today, we will come out winners. It’s strange to see West Ham at the bottom of the pile, because they do have quality players all round the pitch – the likes of Rob Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole are all quality players – with the experience of Avram Grant at the helm, you’d think they’d recover – but let’s hope it’s it’s not today!

Arsene spoke about West Ham and Avram Grant:

“I see them getting out of the drop zone because they have quality players. If you lose one or two games you will quickly be down there. The difference in the league now is not too big. I think they can get out of there. The basic target of any manager is to have success with the resources he has at the club and, on that, Avram Grant has done well.”

But despite the positivity, it will still be a very nervy and edgy game… be prepared for a few heart in mouth incidents and a gulp here or there – 6-0, 4-1 or even 1-0, a win is a win and we need those three points… so let’s get behind the team, come on you Gunners!

Newcastle 0 – 4 Arsenal… Into the Quarter Finals!

Morning folks, and slightly later than anticipated, I’ve finally managed to get round to writing my view and an overview of the game! And prior to the game when I heard the line up, I was delighted that we were starting the trio of Walcott, Vela and Bendtner. With Sp*rs in mind, knowing that when our first teamers played, we failed to win at the weekend, I was dubious about playing so many first teamers, but against Newcastle, I felt there was adequate resting going on.

We hadn’t seen much of Walcott, Bendtner or Vela in the last 6 weeks, and they started in this XI:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Eastmond – Denilson

Walcott – Rosicky – Vela

Bendtner

With a strong bench that included Cesc, Sagna and Arshavin… in case things went wrong and a few youngsters in Lansbury, JET and Nordtveit in case things went right…

The game exploded into life straight away from the kick off with a focused and rampant Arsenal side closing the home team down as quickly as possible – Rosicky’s first contribution as captain was to nick the ball of the Newcastle centre back and played in Carlos Vela – the Mexican unable to finish – maybe it came a bit too early? From the resulting corner, Bendtner managed three shots in quick succession which were all blocked by the defence. It was a sign of intent and very clear that we were on a mission.

Newcastle weren’t just defending and they had an excellent chance when Szcznesy came marauding out of his goal, only to be blocked by our defence… the young keeper made up for his waywardness by making an incredible strike just moments later when Alan Smith sent a scorcher towards him. But, literally, that was it for Newcastle and we behind possessed to close, to push forward and to take control. It was clear that Bendtner and Vela were quite rusty, and that’s exactly why they needed this game.

An unfortunately battle outside our box saw an injury to Kieran Gibbs which later saw him substituted – with Sagna coming on and Eboue reverting to left back. We’ve heard today that the young English left back will be out for a few weeks with a medial knee ligament strain. And the game did have a few challenges in it, with Eastmond accidently catching a player too, which looked bad, but the player wasn’t injured – despite watching the game over and over again, I still don’t know the Newcastle’s players names!

Some inspirational skills and dribbling from both Walcott and Bendtner, creating chances, but nothing that really troubled the keeper… but the goal that all Arsenal fans wanted soon came! Albeit through a funny moment. With literally 30 seconds before the end of stoppage time in the first half! A corner was whipped in and clear, the ball was tossed back in and Bendtner headed it towards goal. The ball was cleared off the line by a defender only to hit the back of their keepers head and rebound back into the back of the net. After all the hard graft of the first half, we definitely deserved to go in a goal up!

The second half started quite end to end, but it was clear in the first five minutes that we could counter the home team as they went forward in search of a goal. Our second goal was controversial and it was some quite unsporting behaviour from Bendtner in the lead up to what was our second goal wasn’t great. As Djourou cleared the ball, Theo Walcott ran onto the ball and sped past the defence. Bendtner was retreating from an offside position and basically fouled their player on the way out – you can see Niklas look at the defender and purposely run into him. It wasn’t very nice – but having said that, the defender in question would never have caught Walcott – whom should I add scored a really nice goal, a nice lift over the keeper.

Newcastle threw Guttierez and Carroll on in search for a goal or two, and they did make quite a difference, with Newcastle starting to dominate possession – but we also had a strong sub to bring on – and Cesc Fabregas came on to replace the tired looking Vela. It was good for Cesc to get some game time after being out for so long. The next goal would be decisive and it was us that extended our lead further, this time through Niklas Bendtner, with a great finish from just inside the box to the top left after Cesc intercepted a Guthrie throw in and then played in Niklas for his 2nd goal in two games.

Jay Emmanuel Thomas came on on the 84th minute and he is a player I really really like – there are rumours that he is a bit lazy – but of what I’ve seen, he does look like he has something interesting about his game. An interesting reminder from the commentators that JET started off as a centre back and then became a left back, into midfield before becoming a striker – strange passage. A quick note on Szcznesy who pulled off a great save from a Ryan Taylor free kick with a few minutes remaining – a ball which looked impossible to save. Kudos to the Polish youngster!

We managed to get a 4th just to put he icing on the cake, as Walcott broke the offside trap to finish well, a la Thierry with precision and confidence. Walcott has come on leaps and bounds and that goal was his 6th of the season.

Arsene spoke after the game and said:

I am pleased with the performance. Saying that, the first goal was certainly the turning point in the game because we had a lot of domination but didn’t take our chances early on in the game. Then Newcastle defended with numbers behind the ball and it became difficult to score. We were lucky with the first goal just before half time – that was certainly a blow for Newcastle. It put us in a position where we could break much more because Newcastle had to come out and that’s basically what happened in the second half.

And it was a pleasing performance from the team – Arsene sent out a strong team and the team rewarded the manager with a good performance. The scoreline was emphatic and the players deserved it.

For me, one player who was a delight to see back in action and effective was Theo Walcott – he had such a good start to the season, it was really unfortunate that he got injured and to see him put in a performance like that was great to see! Arsene singled out Walcott’s performance:

He was sharp. He was very sharp at the start of the season but then he got injured with England against Switzerland and it was his first game back today. You see that he has improved his composure in front of goal, he has tremendous pace and his first touch is much better. The timing of his runs have always been good but his first touch when running at full pace is better. That makes a big difference.

So there we have it, better late than never… let’s hope Gibbs recovers soon and let’s hope we get back into gear for tomorrow’s game!

Newcastle vs Arsenal – Carling Cup Preview

It’s time for another dose of beautiful football and this time around, it’s Newcastle away at St. James Park in the Carling Cup. For us, the Carling Cup has always been a competition where we blood our youngsters and in recent times, that style has meant that we’ve been knocked out too early and not gone on to win it. But Arsene has come out several times this season and said that it’s a competition that we are looking to win.

Despite the strength of the squad of the Sp*rs game, I feel that Arsene will change a few heads and primarily use his fringe squad for the first XI. Despite some excellent performances in the reserves, I think Jay Emmanuel-Thomas may not get the nod for the starting line up. Why? Because Arsene is keen to play Walcott, Bendtner and Vela and for that reason, JET simply cannot start. Arsene spoke on Arsenal TV ahead of the game and said:

“It will be similar to Spurs,” said Wenger. “We have players coming back like Walcott, Bendtner and Vela. Koscielny is fit to start. They will play. From the Man City game, we have no-one out [with injury]. One or two will be rested. Vela is back. In the squad, we will have Eastmond, Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas,” said Wenger. “Wojciech will be in goal.”

I’m keen to see JET in action and believe there is a lot to come from the striker – in the reserves he has impressed and has a good mix of attack, skill and pace. Considering sometimes we moan that we have a small squad, when in fact we do have a pretty large squad. Today’s XI, I believe will be a completely different eleven then the players that started against Man City.

Szcznesy

Eboue – Nordtveit – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Lansbury

Walcott – Rosicky - Vela

Bendtner

The first XI I’ve noted is relatively strong up front, with the three strikers coming back from injuries and fitness questions, it will be a good run out for them. Where I feel I am certain that Denilson and Lansbury will make up two of the midfield, I feel that if Rosicky doesn’t start then perhaps JET or Eastmond could come in, confirmation of Arsene’s thoughts nearer the time!

Arsene took time out to talk about the fact that Szcznesy will start in goal and was quick to play down his credentials, keen to insist that the player has to prove himself – I can see where Arsene is coming from – as a group of fans, we’ve been quick to hail him as our saviour in the goalkeeping department and the next best thing since sliced bread.

“He can show he is a good keeper and I believe he is one but there again let’s not make stars before they have proven they are,” said Wenger. “He has the talent, he has a good attitude and let’s see his performance in the games. You want of course a good performance but let’s not put him under too much pressure. Let’s let him enjoy the game and not speak about contracts.  He’s a goalkeeper we rate, he knows he has been educated here, we want him to stay here and the only way I can show him that is by giving him a chance when it is possible. Tomorrow he gets that chance.”

Arsene has been prudent not to jump to conclusions and his faith in Fabianski may finally be starting to reap it’s rewards. Szcznesy has to prove to us and prove to everyone else that he is as good as the hype about him suggests he is.

After a few injuries this season, our defensive prodigy Harvard Nordtveit could feature in the centre of defence (instead of the right side of defence as he played in pre-season) alongside the returning Koscielny, who is back to fitness after a short spell out of the first team. I think the game will be good for both players and I really feel they both need some playing time and experience under their belt and where better to get that than St. James Park on a cold October night!

Nordtveit talked about his potential starting berth tonight saying:

“The most important thing is just to train hard, have a good attitude, do what I have to do and [give] even extra. When we played against Tottenham I was unfortunately injured with a twisted ankle but now I’ve been back in training for three weeks. It’s up to the boss to pick the squad for the Carling Cup but if I’m selected I will do everything. Right now it’s a tough squad to come in to. There are some very good players but I hope to be there.”

And he is right, our second string is signifcantly stronger than it was in previous years – but with Vermaelen out for a while, it would really make sense to rest Djourou and Squillaci. We can’t afford any more injuries to key first team players.

It will be a very exciting evening tonight, and I really can’t wait… Come on you reds!!!

Blue Seats Again

So for the second time in as many months Arsenal have provided both me with the ability to come to work saying “I told you so” and the opposition fans such a crushing blow that they all left leaving nothing but a huge swathe of blue seats behind. Unless it was just really cold.

Man City / Spurs, two teams with pretensions of being better than they actually are, being put back into place by a weakened Arsenal team – no Diaby, no Verm and no Van Persie. Of course we were also missing Wilshere and Fabregas/Theo/Bendtner all played their first games since returning from injury. We were also without supposed first choice Almunia, although so far in his latest run Fabi-Banks-i hasn’t put a foot wrong so I suppose he’s now the first choice?

However you cut it, we were not anywhere near full strength yesterday – and yet Arsenal manage to grind out a solid win against a dangerous team (even with 10 men) in a hostile atmosphere. Well I say a hostile atmosphere, it was until we scored our second and they all went home. Boo hoo wankers.

I won’t dwell on the match too much after Debs excellent report but the turning point for me was not the sending off or first goal. City were always going to tire with 10 mercs, but for 60 or so minutes they came at us with purpose and frustratingly enough we let them have the ball for long periods. We ended with 66% possession but I’m sure that is entirely down to the final twenty – for most of the match is was far more even. Particularly at the start of the second half we were inviting them to come onto us and they had a few half chances. In the end they didn’t create much, but I think that was down in part to our luck. On a different day they could have nicked one – and I’d have put money on us then collapsing.

The turning point was Tevez’s withdrawal due to injury – up until then he had been pulling Djourou out of position and creating space for Silva. Arsenal looked like they couldn’t cope with his movement – however when he left the pitch they started to lose some of that space and with a bit of order back behind the ball we pressed properly for the killer goal.

I spent all match shouting “NO SONG GET BACK, GET IN FRONT OF THE BACK FOUR” and then he scored a remarkable poachers goal. Great instinctive finish, get the lad up front. Songinhio indeed.

Ah, the other events of the weekend, including Manchester United and their loathsome right back horror show Adolf Neville. How the fuck he stayed on the pitch until half time I will never know. He’s a lucky dictator-like. Lovely touch from Fergie, letting him get on the pitch for the second half before subbing him off. MOTD2 reckon he forgot. I think it was deliberate, Fergie laughing his bollocks off. I hate Fergusmoan, but my what a joker. Credit where credit’s due he got Adolf properly.

I suppose I should cover the Rooney thing? Nah, he’s a loathsome clusterfuck of a human being. I hope he hits his head at the bottom of his Dubai swimming pool and forgets how to kick a ball. And then he learns some loyalty, I mean he had none at Everton or to his wife, why are United fans surprised? Speaking of his holiday in Dubai, I bet he had to save up all day for that.

Liverpool won. Torres scored. Shame that.

I watched the West Ham / Newcastle match – Noble played perhaps the best ball of the weekend for their goal, but for whatever reason they collapsed almost immediately and Newcastle came back into it, West Ham look every inch the team that are going down. Unless they drastically alter something, they’re fucked. If they keep pretending Carlton Cole is a footballer, they’re double fucked.

It’ll make for an interesting game on Wednesday – I hope to be there. Newcastle are no push overs, players like Nolan/Smith/Barton in the midfield are not only strong and combative, but creative and capable of passing. A few teams have gone into games with Newcastle expecting a physical encounter but overlooking the fact that Newcastle can play the ball very well.

Newcastle are quite leaky at the back though (Carlton Cole scored, see) and I think its a game where we will need to stick two on the back four at all times. Perhaps it would be a good game for Theo to get involved, his pace could/should terrorise Collocini and Enrique and would give Arsenal the ability to play it over the top. I expect Bendtner will start as well, Chamakh having played 3 years of solid football in two months and Van Persie being corn beefed.

Ah and Sunderland for Europe this season. You read it here first. If they continue to play as they have done for the rest of the season, they’ll capture 7th. They’ve played Man City, Liverpool, United and Villa (and us!) and currently have 12 points. Dark horses.

Manchester City 0-3 Arsenal: Who’s your MOTM?

So City-Arsenal. Massive massive game. Given our well-documented recent history against the others in the Big 4 which in case you haven’t heard, it’s pretty rubbish, we had to win this. Ofcourse, City aren’t a member of that club, but seeing as they’ve got huge designs on one of those spots, or the title even, it was almost as big as a Big 4 game. The reverse game last season we lost 4-2, and we subsequently lost the Carling Cup game against them, before then drawing nil-nil at the Emirates. We just had to beat them to remind them, and ourselves, that we can win against the ‘top’ teams.

With Almunia, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Robin still out injured and Cesc, Theo and Bendtner back in contention, the line-up for the match was:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Denilson– Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

Diaby was meant to start in place of Denilson, but he did his ankle in the warm-up apparently, but nothing serious I hear. No real surprises in the line-up, with the bench consisting of Szczesny, Koscielny (Wait, Kos was on the bench!? Totally didn’t realise, thought he was out injured. Well, good to know he isn’t!), Gibbs, Eboue, Walcott, Rosicky and Bendtner. Very strong starting XI. Man City’s team and bench looked equally strong, so definitely was not going to be an easy match. Adebayor was on the bench, in case you were interested in that bit of info. But why would you be?

Anyways, with this being a home match for City, they started really well, or should I say we started sloppily? Silva had a chance in the first few minutes, with the left-hand side of our team having not yet turned up, and were it not for a smart save from Fabianksi, we would have been 1-0 down. The first few minutes were nervy, and at that point I was seriously worrying about our ability to keep a clean sheet.

But about 4-5 minutes into the game, City were reduced to 10, Dedryck Boyata being sent off for a last-man tackle on Chamakh on the edge of the box, after he’d been slipped in by Cesc. Definite Red and good to see the referee not bottle it, it being so early in the game! Very timely Red I thought, because City seemed up for the game and looked like they’d be the first to score at the time. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a little bit more tension in the games between us and City? I know there’s the Ade factor now, but it seems much deeper. Our games seem to have this extra edge nowadays. It’s probably to do with their new-found football model, which is at complete odds with ours!

So with the man advantage, we slowly got into the game and we looked the more likely team to score! But we also looked like we’d go a man down if we didn’t calm down, especially with Clattenburg card-happy. Song, Cesc, Denilson got booked early in the first half and that was a bit of a concern. City had Barry booked too, but serial offender Nigel De Jong didn’t even get a card all game! Amazing! We eventually calmed down and settled into our game. I was really impressed with our passing and at times it looked like we were the home team. Credit to City though, as even though they were down to 10, they still remained a threat, and with Johan very shaky, they were always in with a shout.

The first goal didn’t come until the 20th minute, and it was a beautiful goal. No less than you’d expect from an Arsenal team, but it was still a marvel! Nasri started the move and finished it himself, playing a 1-2 with Arshavin IN THE BOX, before firing into the net from close range. Well-taken! 7 in 6 for Nasri now, he’s on fire! Arshavin has been getting stick, but he does the job, believe it or not. He got the assist there, and we probably would have conceded a goal at one stage, if not for him tracking back and winning the ball. I’ll always have the little Russian in the starting XI if he’s fit!

We were definitely on top at this stage and it was a matter of the next goal being crucial. We score it, game over, City score it, and with the momentum and the crowd behind them, it would have been nerve-racking until the end!

We had a great chance to make it 2-nil from the penalty spot after Cesc had been fouled inside the box. I thought Nasri would have taken it, but as Fabregas was back in the team he re-assumed his role. But maybe Nasri should have taken it, as Fabregas had his effort saved! Joe Hart dived to his left, same place Cesc was aiming for, but it was not high enough and Hart made the save. Could have been a real game-changer that, but unlike against Sunderland, it didn’t come back to haunt us!

So we went in at half-time a goal up and a man up, but we still looked like we’d be a man down too, so Arsene really need to calm the team down. I think whatever he said worked, as we didn’t get a single booking in the second half, if I remember correctly! City still looked lively with David Silva who seemed intent on giving Fabianski a work out; and (un)luckily Tevez got injured, and luckily, he was replaced by Mr Offside. All going to plan for us, but we needed that second goal to make things safer and ease the nerves. We went close a few times, Cesc shooting straight at Hart, Nasri and Cesc wanting the other to shoot, us trying to walk the ball into the net, the usual.

But our pressure eventually told in the 65th minute, and it was a fabulous goal scored by none other than our defensive midfielder, Song! It reminded me of Chicarito’s second goal for United today, a defender making an interception in the box, but the ball falling to the opposition player who lashes it in! Cesc had tried to slip Chamakh in, but the ball was intercepted, but it fell to Song who toe-poked it with force (strange how a toe-poke can be powerful!) into the roof of the net. Game over, surely?! The score-line said so, but the nerves were saying otherwise! 25 minutes to go, and it only takes like what, 10 seconds to score a goal? You bet most fans weren’t thinking it was game over just yet!

Arsene made his first change, replacing Arshavin with Rosicky. But City were looking flat already, even though an off-side Ade forced a brilliant reaction save from Fabianksi. He didn’t look in the mood to be beaten at all!

Arsene clearly felt the game was won already with less than 10 minutes to go, as he sent on Theo and Bendtner to get some game time, withdrawing the excellent Cesc and hard-working Chamakh. They’d both played really well and deserved the rest!

If at 2-nil there was still any doubt as to whether the game was over, but with a few minutes to go it was definitely game over, with Bendtner making it 3-0, even though it seemed Nasri had run the ball out of play (he hadn’t), and that Bendtner was offside (tight, but probably not). Doesn’t matter though, as the goal stood. Bendtner’s 50th career goal I think it was, and it was a good finish! He’s not shy on confidence, but that would have helped him no end, after being out for so long!

So 3-nil in the end, very good result. Doesn’t matter if Man City were down to 10, as we still had to do the business. Major confidence boost for us, especially as we’re now up to second on goal difference, albeit 5 points behind Chelsea. Only downer in the game was that our defence was a bit shaky, Johan being the main culprit, but not too much of a worry I guess, as he’s been out for a while and he’s not really first or second choice at the moment. But we kept a clean sheet, which is massive in games like this and Fabianski is really starting to look like the top ‘keeper Arsene has always said he is. He wasn’t too busy, but he kept his concentration and made crucial saves at the beginning, in the middle, and towards the end of the game. More of the same, Fabby!

Nasri was great! He’s in such blinding form, and it would be a real shame if he were to get injured. Glad Theo’s back, and I hope he gets back to the level he was at before his injury pretty soon. I didn’t see much of Squillaci during the game, which can only mean he was doing his job really well! Great team performance, really, hard to pick a man of the match! Sky gave it to Cesc, but I’d give it to Fabianski. Really top performance from him today, I was proud of him. Was proud of the whole team, really! We need to keep playing at this level and I’m sure we’ll win something this season.

Great chance to do so is in the Carling Cup which we resume on Wednesday against Newcastle at St. James’ Park (or whatever name the place goes by now!). Not sure what the team’ll be like, but you’d expect Theo and Bentdner to start. Will be a battle, but should be a good game and hopefully we’ll progress to the next round and maybe even get a home game!

I’ll stop rambling now, but I’d say once more that today’s win was important. Hope we continue to produce performances (and results) like this!

The future’s bright, the future’s red and white!

Man City vs Arsenal – The Bumper Preview

Afternoon All…

Tomorrow is a bumper game for all Arsenal fans and it will be a bumper preview today to make sure we discuss absolutely everything to do with the game… Starting with the history of Arsenal… er… hmm… okay, let’s skip to present day…

So, it’s Man City vs Arsenal and in terms of the quality of the game, it should be an absolute cracker. Last season’s game was very fiery with ex-Arsenal player Adebayor going a little crazy with a couple of lunges on captain and vice-captain, Cesc and Van Persie, not exactly the most tasteful thing to do – of course, we ended up losing that game 4-2 and it was down to pure emotion getting the better of us that day. Things have changed, we’ve completely reshaped our whole defence – and of course, Man City have bought loads more players to shape their own side.

We have a few injuries ahead of the game, with two key players in Thomas Vermaelen and Robin Van Persie both missing. Arsene announced at the AGM that Vermaelen is suffering from a “long term injury” and we really don’t know how long he will be out. Last season, it was different when TV was injured, as our back up consisted of a 37 year old Sol Campbell and a very out of sorts Mikael Silvestre… at least this season we look to have 4 competent defenders…

So with the aformentioned players out, and with Sagna back in the squad, the line up could well be:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Diaby – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

Despite Rosicky’s excellent game against Shaktar, I feel Arsene wil opt for the Russian playmaker on the left – the manager seems to favour Arshavin in the big games. But if he plays like he did against Birmingham than I don’t think he’ll last too long in our team – surely Arshavin is due a good performance? Meanwhile Rosicky spoke about the game and said:

“It’s time to prove we can win those games and we have a great opportunity to do it on Sunday. But I’m not surprised to see City are second in the table – if you have their power, you can buy almost whoever you want, so I’m not surprised. They are tactically very good – sometimes they are not so entertaining, but they are similar to Chelsea, very solid at the back, so we will need to be clinical.”

And he’s bang on the money – we need to be as clinical as possible. Man City have a better keeper in Joe Hart and a better defence with their recent additions, so we need to ensure, when we get a chance, we take it!

Adebayor has had an indifferent start to the season up at Man City and has only got into the squad more recently, having been left out for the most of this season. He did talk about his row with Mancini affecting his chances – but he looks primed to start tomorrow against us.

The Man City line up could well be:

Hart

Boateng – Kompany – Lescott – Bridge

Barry – De Jong

Silva –  Tevez – Milner

Adebayor

As you can see by the line up – both Toure’s are out of tomorrow’s game. Both teams look strong, and all the betting shops have Man City down as favourites – a change of the tide, but considering the home fixture, the positions in the league and the game last season, of course, you can understand where the bookies are coming from.

Tomorrow is a game we need to win, with Chelsea beating Wolves and going 8 points clear of us, even so early in the season, we’re on catch up! We have it in the locker, and we are totally aware of what City are all about. I have a good feeling about tomorrow’s game… but then again, I always do!

AGM Special

Yesterday Arsenal Holdings Plc held its Annual General Meeting at Emirates Stadium and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. I had been to one before, in 2008, and there were noticeable differences between the two. Firstly I would like to point out that Arsenal and its advisers are doing an outstanding job in their ‘Arsenalisation’ programme. I am sure most readers will understand what this means but for those who do not, the club has used the term ‘Arsenalisation’ to describe the work it is doing to make the stadium feel more Arsenal-like. Those of us who attended games back in 2006 when the stadium opened will remember it as being a big slab of grey concrete. The only thing ‘Arsenal’ about it was the red seats. Since then they have added some stunning artwork to the stadium’s exterior showing classic players in the club’s history. They have brought the famous clock back and have added a bigger replica which sits high and proud above the newly-named ‘Clock End’.

Inside the stadium the grey walls have been decorated with all different sorts or artwork, facts and so on. Where I enter the stadium for home matches in entrance ‘J’ one wall has all the hat-tricks ever scored by Arsenal players chiseled into it. In fact, each week I go to the stadium I notice something new. The Arsenalisation of the stadium was one of the points raised by Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal CEO) in his opening speech to the floor. Credit where it’s due, they are doing a fantastic job. I uploaded some pictures yesterday to my twitter account which Dev has linked to in yesterday’s ‘AGM Update’ which gives glimpses of the kind of things they have done.

I am sure we are all aware of the unique financial position of the club compared to our Premier League rivals and this was reiterated once again. A point to note is that the Chairman acknowledged that our impressive profits in recent years were substantially a result of sales at Highbury Square, which would diminish over the next two to three years. Nonetheless I believe that we are set for continued profits after this period and we really should be grateful to be in the financial position we are in. Can Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool fans talk about their clubs’ future financial prospects with the same pride and confidence?

The Chairman was asked about Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith’s shares and her continued search for a buyer, as well as the intentions of Stan Kroenke who was in attendance. He completely avoided answering both queries claiming he did not know the answer to either, and added that even if he did he would be prevented from disclosing such matters by Stock Exchange Regulations. The situation regarding Lady Nina’s shares has gone quiet for some months now. I wonder whether she is waiting for the lock-down agreement to expire (in April 2011?) so that she can sell to a non-existing shareholder.

Moving on to the stuff that matters most, the football, Arsene Wenger gave one of his typical speeches, pushing the hunger, desire, spirit of the team to succeed this season. Something atypical about this speech compared to others was that he acknowledged the flaws that have existed in recent years. Normally he defends his position and that of his players fervently. I was therefore surprised when he openly admitted that our defence was ‘not good’ last season. He cited this as the reason for wholesale changes in the centre-back positions in the close-season. He even went as far as acknowledging that we are overly offensive at times and that his coaching staff are working extra hard on the defence this season to try and find a fruitful balance.

He went on to say something that many Gooners, and indeed the floor, were delighted to hear – that we will be fighting for the FA Cup and League cup this season in addition to the big two. One of the biggest problems the manager has faced in recent seasons is retaining the services of the club’s best players. Many players have left to join European rivals in search of trophies. I inferred from his tone and his words that he realised that players, such as Fabregas, are ambitious and need their ambition to be matched by their club. That if Arsenal won trophies then players like Cesc will be happy to stay at the club. One shareholder asked if this means he will be playing Cesc at Newcastle next week. He politely reminded the shareholder that Cesc was not on the pitch against Sp*rs but that we will be going for all trophies with the resources available to us. In relation to Cesc, the manager said that he deeply loves the club and that he would have been sold if this was not so. He believes Cesc will be with Arsenal for a few more years.

The matter of injuries was then raised and he admitted that it continues to be a problem that baffles him. He said that we have been unlucky with injuries and that those suffered by Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey were unforeseeable and unfortunate. He added that once a player obtains an injury he is more likely to have recurrances. I suppose we should look at the decent and injury-free form of Tomas Rosicky this season to give us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that has bothered me personally since we moved to the Emirates is the below-par standard of our ball-boys in returning the ball to the pitch when it goes out of play. When you consider that many teams come to the Emirates and time-waste, it infuriates me when I see the lethargic efforts of the ball-boys in getting the ball back to the touchline. If they were more efficient at their job then it could create anything up to a few minutes’ extra football in open play over the course of the 90, which could be vital against the time-wasters whose primary tactic is to wind down the clock.

In La Liga a new ball is thrown back on to the pitch almost before the outgoing ball has left it. Why can’t we adopt a similar approach at the Emirates? After the AGM was officially concluded I was able, and privileged, to raise the matter personally with both Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis. Ivan Gazidis noted that at one point against Shaktar there were three balls on the pitch, suggesting that the ball boys were overenthusiastic if anything. In the champions league they do appear to be much more efficient and are actually given a ball each, ready to throw on to the pitch when the active ball leaves it. However they are not afforded the same luxury in the Premier League and it is in that competition that we suffer most from time-wasting opponents. Arsene Wenger said it was a domain that he hadn’t ever considered before and he took on board my argument that better-educated ball boys could help us achieve more playing time over the course of 90 minutes. I really do hope they act upon the idea because I am certain that it could make a difference throughout the season.

That pretty much sums up everything there is to say about the AGM. I would like to thank the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust for providing me with a proxy to attend yesterday. The AST are a group of hardworking and dedicated Arsenal supporters, like you and I, whose objective is to maintain a healthy relationship between the supporters and the people who run the club. It costs a measly £2 per month to be a member of the AST and I would strongly urge all WOA’s readers to join them and support the excellent work they do. As for Arsenal, it’s onwards and upwards we go. Next stop is Eastlands on Sunday and I’m sure Dev will be providing us with an in-depth preview over the weekend. I hope yours is a good one.

AGM Update from JAT – The Summary!

Today was the Arsenal AGM and fellow WOA writer JAT was there in full force to represent the World of Arsenal, and he actually managed to speak to Ivan Gazidis and Arsene Wenger. Great stuff…

The highlights from the AGM…

  • PHW agrees PA system too loud and will look into lowering it
  • PHW completely dodges question regarding sale of Lady Nina’s shares and Stan Kroenke’s intentions
  • AW confirms contract extension to 2014 to big round of applause
  • AW: we are conscious of our weaknesses and work very hard to rectify them
  • AW: we are looking all over the world to source the best players in every position
  • AW: the way to success is to trust the players we have and get behind them
  • AW: we lost experienced defenders this summer but their replacements have integrated extremely well
  • AW: at the top level the team that scores first does not lose the game 79 percent of the time
  • AW: this year we will go for the league cup and fa cup as well as the big two
  • AW: our defensive record last year was not good which is why we have changed it this season
  • AW: availability of wayne rooney is a sensitive subject and not the business of Arsenal
  • AW: I agree that sometimes we are overly offensive but we are working hard on the defence believe me
  • AW: this is the club of my heart, my life, and I hope to continue to contribute here even if not as manager
  • AW: injury problems often a result of bad luck. Once you get injured you are more likely to have a recurrence
  • AW: I convinced cesc to stay at this club. He deeply loves and club and we would have sold him if he did not
  • AW: I am confident we will keep cesc for a few more years

JAT will be blogging tomorrow with his overview of the whole day, so stay tuned for more… exciting times…

Arsenal 5 – 1 Shaktar… Now that’s what I call a result…

Yesterday’s game was simply a fairytale game… The scoreline was like something written in the stars. The goalscoring return of Cesc, the exquisite chip from Jack, the crazy flick from Song, the six in six from Chamakh, another great finish from starlet, Nasri and of course, the piece de resistance, Eduardo’s consolation goal… How could you write that?

The line up at the beginning of the game was mouth watering – with Cesc, Wilshere, Nasri and Rosicky in the middle of the park. Shaktar were not mugs and despite an exciting line up, this game was always going to be a tough one… By now, of course, you know the score and you’ve watched the highlights. 5-1 was an incredible result to think about at the beginning of the game and a brilliant performance that thoroughly deserved the scoreline.

Arsenal 5 – 1 Shaktar Donetsk

The line up featured the same back 5 as the Birmingham game, with the only changes seeing Cesc in for Diaby and Rosicky in for Arshavin – for me the latter change was definitely worthy considering the two players contributions in recent games.

Fabianski

Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Rosicky

Chamakh

And the game itself started off with quite cagey with most of the battle happening in midfield. From my point of view, Shaktar were playing quite deep and perhaps thinking they could catch us on the counter attack, but our game was solid throughout the back and middle. The key thing for us was to take our chances when we had them and that’s exactly what we did. The first goal came through a cross into the box was mishandled by the keeper, which ended up at the feet of Alex Song, who duly dispatched the ball, via an audacious flick into the back of the net. 1 became 2 when Nasri finished well from a cross from Alex Song, and after Dario Srna missed the ball, Nasri finished with style – the Frenchman’s sixth goal of the season. It was 2 at the break and Shaktar knew they had to come out in the second half.

The opposition started well, but it was soon 3-0 after Djourou was manhandled in the box and the referee awarded and the returning captain stood up to take it and finished it well. A great move involving Rosicky and Chamakh put Wilshere through and he finished very well, chipping the ball over the keeper… and then it was 5… as Nasri chipped the ball over the defence to a onside Chamakh who made it six goals in six European ties – and his 6th goal of the season.

And how fitting that the consolation goal was scored by Eduardo – the player came on to a rapturous applause and when he scored, an even bigger was. A gem of a player and his finish was reminiscent of his golden days when he first joined us.

Arsene commented on the game and the partnership between Cesc and Wilshere:

I believe we made it easy because we had a good team performance. The goals came naturally through the game through great technical quality and overall I believe as well that our technical quality slowly got them tired and, especially in the second half, the goals came with one-twos or possession. I felt they had given a lot in the first half to chase and be focused to defend well, and we took advantage of that in the second half. Yes, I am convinced it works well together. Cesc just came back tonight but Jack has a good maturity level, you never think he’s 18 years of age when he plays. They combine very well. The midfield worked very well tonight.

And it’s a mouth watering proposition to have Jack and Cesc playing together this season and with our squad coming back from injury, suddenly after the previous two defeats, the times have changes again and there is a new found air of confidence ahead of the Man City game and ahead of the biggest clash of weekend has got our captain very excited…

Cesc has been in the press and talked about the game on the weekend and the comerady:

“You cannot buy the spirit in one year. You need a few years to get everyone together and to get to know each other well, and it’s not easy. You don’t make a team in one season or two. But, of course, they are in a very good position. They have all the ingredients to become a great club and we have to fight hard against them. We have our style, we have the football we want to play and we want to try to win every game like this, whether it is against the richest club in the world or the poorest.”

It’s going to be one hell of a game this Sunday but there will much time to talk about that before the weekend, my friends… til tomorrow….

Arsenal vs Shaktar Preview: The Return Of Eduardo

Morning All!

It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for… it’s Arsenal vs Shaktar Donetsk… and the return of Eduardo. Not only the return of Eduardo, but the return of Cesc… and I’ve got a great feeling that it’s going to be an awesome day at the Emirates…

First, let’s hear from Arsene:

“Cesc is available. He is good and has prepared well.  He had a little setback but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness. “I do not know yet whether I start him or not but he is available. It will be [determined by] whether I take a gamble or not, because he has been out for a long time. I have to make up my mind tomorrow but physically he is ready, fit and wanting to play. Theo has a toe problem. But his ankle is all right and he is in the squad. It would be difficult for me to tell you who will start because I do not know yet. But Koscielny, Vermaelen and Van Persie are all out and not available.”

It’s great news to hear that Cesc is now available – there have been a lot of rumours that the absence of Cesc was due to other reasons and of course, the timely release of words in the press regarding his desire to go to Barcelona (again) but if the truth is as Arsene has said and the Spaniard had a setback, then fair enough – personally, I think it’s a bit of both. But our captain is back and considering his lack of football, I would have him on the bench for today’s game!

Interesting to hear about Walcott’s toe injury – I hope it’s nothing serious – by the sounds of it, it sounds relatively straightforward and hopefully he will be back in the squad soon. Arsene didn’t mention Almunia in his Monday conference, so I’m not entirely sure if he’ll be back, but if he’s not, the new all improved Fabianski will surely keep his spot in the first eleven.

Fabianski

Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Nasri – Diaby – Rosicky

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy Clichy, Denilson, Arshavin, Walcott, Vela and Bendtner

Yes, even though it’s a Champions League game, I think Arshavin will surely be dropped / rested. His performance against Birmingham was abysmal and in reality there is no way in hell that he should play the next game. We’ll have to wait and see, but it will be interesting to see how Arsene reacts to the recent form of Arshavin and the recent impressive form of Rosicky.

And very exciting news… the once king of the Emirates, Eduardo is back…

When Eduardo first joined, he was simply awesome. He was such a good player, and he really could finish with aplomb. He was brought in when Thierry Henry left and at first, no one thought he would be anywhere near an adequate replacement, but over time, the player showed that he could fill that void and some of his goals were absolutely sublime…

Arsene commented on Eduardo’s return and said:

“He just had the class of an Arsenal player. It is very difficult to quantify [how good he could have been for Arsenal]. I will be happy and sad to see Eduardo. I will be happy because he was always a fantastic boy with a fantastic mentality. I will also be sad because I worked very hard to get him here and he left with the feeling that he could not completely fulfil the promise he had in the first season. That was basically down to the fact he was injured for a long time and somebody else moved in front of him.”

I’m sure he’ll get a great reception… I’ll leave you for now… and leave you with this video of Eduardo’s greatest moments…

Come on you reds… here’s for an awesome game tonight…