Arsenal vs Wigan – Carling Cup Preview

It’s going to be a cold cold night tonight down at the Emirates and Arsenal emailed me yesterday to let me know to check the website throughout the day in case the fixture was cancelled… but if it’s not, you’ll be glad to know that Arsenal are putting on a massive show for the kids beforehand – so if you’ve got a spare hour before the game, get down there early and get involved.

With quite a small group of players playing the main first team games, I expect Arsene to rest a lot of players, but with so many players coming back, such as Bendtner, Van Persie, Walcott and Carlos Vela. From Arsene’s statement yesterday, I think he may not play Van Persie – but I really hope he does. Despite some strong forwards, I’m sure the likes of Denilson as well as Kieran Gibbs will also play, so it won’t be too young and inexperienced – in fact it will be full of players who have all played in the first team…

“You will be surprised if you look at the age of the Carling Cup team. People are used to seeing them in the Premier League so it doesn’t look as exclusively a Carling Cup team anymore. I have many players who are top level and I have many players who are young as well. When I speak about the young players, the young players are still in the squad but they are still very young. We need games for young players so that explains why we have less ‘super’ young players playing. However, the team who plays in the Carling Cup is still very young.”

I think Jack Wilshere and Craig Eastmond will also be included and therefore the team on the night could well be:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Eastmond

Walcott – Van Persie – Vela

Bendtner

If Arsene decides not to play Van Persie, then Jack Wilshere could come in and on the bench I’m sure we’ll see Rosicky, Chamakh as well as Clichy and Sagna – just in case… and you will be correct to see Eboue named in my team – that’s because he is back ahead of schedule…

“Eboue’s back in the squad much quicker than planned. When we made a scan his knee was swollen but the ligament was intact so we decided to push him back as quickly as possible and the tests were successful.”

Excellent! Arsene also revealed that Cesc is about 10 days away and Squillaci has a little niggle which will see him rested for the game… In fact, looking at the squad I’ve named above, it does look quite strong, but the interesting thing is that all the players named are currently not our first team… which shows a good level of depth – the players named though will have to perform at their level in order to beat an inspired Wigan team who will only too fondly remember their last encounter with us.

If Arsene does opt to play the team as mentioned above, it will be a really good test for some of these players and a really good run out for the front four – who really haven’t had too much game time between them in the last month or so whatsoever…

I’ll be coming down to the Emirates with Lady WOA / WOA Goonerette – I’m yet to think of a name for her… but she is really starting to love these awesome Arsenal games, so to the Arsenal team, I tell you it’s time to put on a show for the lady… and the other 60,091 people there too!

Come on you reds!

Quick Hello

Hello Guys!

What a crazy start to the week – tube strikes, fog, snow… could we squeeze more action into a Monday morning?

I’ll be very quick as I think Kieran D is blogging a little later today…

In the meantime, Arsene has been talking about the team tomorrow and says it will be strong…

“We will play with a strong team. But don’t forget that we have played every three days for one and a half months so I have to see how we recover and who I rest [on] Tuesday. But we will play with a strong team. You will see regular players. Van Persie? I don’t know. Do I get him a week of work or do I play him? I have to speak with him frankly to see how he feels. We will see [on] Monday.”

There will be a proper pre-match preview tomorrow, but with players such as Theo Walcott, Robin Van Persie and Nikki Bendtner – and of course, Carlos Vela – in need of games, will we see a four prong attack – Arsene needs more out of those four players and tomorrow’s game could really help us get them some match time.

We’ve got Leeds in the FA Cup, which will be on Saturday 8th January at the Emirates, and hopefully we’ll score a lot and do them over – nobody likes Leeds, do they?

And one more snippet – tonight is El Grand Classico – Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Nou Camp… it should be a cracker as we’ve got the whole lot fit and raring to go – from Messi, Xavi and Villa to Ozil, Ronaldo and Kaka… and Higuain and… wow, this should be a feast…!!!

Let’s hope for a great spectacle tonight… speak to you later…!

Aston Villa 2 – 4 Arsenal – How nervous were you?

The question on everyone’s lips during the second half of the game, was surely how would be mess up a 2-0 lead and that’s where we are at the moment. When the first goal from Villa went in, how nervous were you? But I’ve clearly jumped ahead of the game… let me start from the beginning and the team line-ups…

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Nasri – Arshavin – Rosicky

Chamakh

With a bench of Szczesny, Van Persie, Walcott, Denilson, Djourou, Gibbs, Bendtner…

After defeats at home to Sp*rs and away to Braga, it was very very important that we put in a top performance and also got a result. It was clear to me as a spectator that the team had come out with a verve about them – a tenacity about them and a real want. It was good to see, but of course, we have seen it before – and then not seen it in the second half… Right from the off we were going for the jugular and creating chance after chance after chance.

After missing a few chances early on, you started to wonder when the goal would come and it finally came through Arshavin.The three midfielders just behind Chamakh took it in turns to move around and Rosicky was sometimes behind Chamakh too and it was good to mix it up. The first goal came when Arshavin caught a long-ish ball from Fabianski which two Aston Villa defenders missed and the Russian latched onto, and facing two defenders, drilled the ball into the bottom of the net.

Arshavin then moved in more centrally and created two chances for us in quick succession, the first sending Nasri through on goal, the Frenchman rounding the keeper, only to hit the side netting – the second a delightful pass out wide to Sagna to crossed in for Chamakh to head at goal, only for Brad Friedel to save at close range. From the resulting corner, an outswinging corner to Nasri on the edge of the box who dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

Half time, 2-0 up? Not a great scoreline for us and the main question was whether or not we could keep this lead. But Aston Villa reverted to a 4-4-2 in the second half and went for us – and they soon got one back through Clark who shot at goal from around the edge of the box – the keepers view was blocked by Carew – standing in an offside position, and suddenly it was game on. But the next goal would define to us – and it came to us through Arshavin to Rosicky to Chamakh and the ball was in the back of the net.

Aston Villa tried to come back again and it was Clark with their second too – but we wrapped it up with an excellent team goal involving Wilshere from the off and passing in Chamakh, who passed it back to Rosicky whose shot was then blocked, falling to Chamakh who unselfishly passed the ball over to Jack Wilshere to score at the far post – Wilshere in my opinion should play a little bit higher up in the pitch as he does have the ability to create.

All in all, a good win… I’m not sure when the nerves will go, at 2-0 most teams would be confident, but not us! But a win is a win…

Arsene spoke after the game:

I believe we had three good performances and for me against Tottenham we played well. We had a lot of possession in a difficult game in Braga and we responded well today. Overall you focus on the performance – you do not always lose when you dominate games and that’s what happened today. We played well, Villa had a good response in the second half but we managed to find the resources to win the game.

One player who was very impressive was Andrei Arshavin – and he does play very well on the road. The Russian was at his creative best, something that has been missing more recently. With Cesc missing, it was so important for Andrei to play well and he duly delivered…

Andrei has been very sharp today I feel. I felt he was always dangerous. A good test is when you like a player to have the ball and you always like him to have the ball because you feet he could make the difference.

It’s Wigan at home in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see who plays – until tomorrow my friends, let’s enjoy the win!

Aston Villa v Arsenal – Match Day Live

Apologies for a lack of a match preview, but somehow this fixture has snuck up on all of us… still seething from back to back defeats in League and Champions League… today’s line up is:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Rosicky – Song – Wilshere

Nasri – Chamakh – Arshavin

With a bench of:

Szczesny, van Persie, Walcott, Denilson, Djourou, Gibbs, Bendtner…

And for Villa, it’s:

Friedel, Luke Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Ashley Young, Clark, Bannan, Downing, Pires, Carew.
Subs: Guzan, Ireland, Delfouneso, Beye, Hogg, Lichaj, Herd.

COME ON YOU REDS!!! (although we’re playing in yellow!)….

Boy do I hate November…

November is the one month of the year that I simply hate – the lesser number of fixtures, the better – down at Arsenal, it’s a bogey month – a month where we lose games that we wouldn’t expect to lose and a month when any form we previously had goes straight out of the window. A 6-0 win against Braga at the Emirates turns into a 2-0 defeat over there – with virtually the same team, give or take a little.

Many people thought that we’d get a massive reaction out of the team after the collapse against Sp*rs and personally, I don’t believe we did. I don’t believe we saw the fight that we want to see from the team. The collective spirit was missing, and worst of all, our actual ability to play football has deteriorated. Many people say Arsenal lack a “plan B”… but what exactly is our plan A? Pass it sideways? When shooting is possible, pass the buck to another player in worse position? What exactly is going to win us this league or any competition?

These players have only one target – that’s the Carling Cup. Djourou has been in the press talking about our desire to win a trophy – well, based on the last 3 defeats in the league and 2 defeats in the Champions League, we’re not ready to win either of those trophies.

“We want to win a trophy. That is the main focus of the team. We have the quality and luckily we are not too far from the top. I feel we can definitely win a trophy this season. It has been a difficult week, we have had two straight defeats but now we have to bounce back. And what better place than Villa? We have the quality to do it. Now it is how much we want it. We are big enough to stand up for ourselves and be ready for Villa. The lucky thing in football is that you can always do better in the next game.”

The only problem with Djourou’s statement is that we did have the opportunity to play better and qualify for the Champions League against Braga after the abysmal result against Sp*rs. The other unlucky thing, in the same manner, is that we can always do worse in our next game.

I don’t want to put a downer on the season, or rid us of all ambition, but if we are going to get anywhere this season, then something has to change.

News is that Cesc Fabregas is out for 2 weeks, so he’ll miss Villa, Wigan (in the Carling Cup), Fulham (at home) and Partizan (at home) in the Champions League – he should be back for the Manchester United game, so that’s good news – also good news to hear Aaron Ramsey coming through 45 minutes of the reserve game. He’ll still be a month or so away from a competitive game, but progress is progress. On the bad news front though, Eboue is out for a month now. I’ve kind of missed him in recent games – I was looking forward to seeing more of him – at least both of these players have a forced Winter break.

Arsene spoke on Cesc:

“It is a big blow because it will question how cautious we have to be in the future with him. Cesc has played 50 games a year since a young age. We may have to be more cautious with him, especially in the next two months.”

As long as we don’t rush anyone back, we should have some fresh players for the second half of this crazy season, and they could last the distance… the last thing we want to do is turn Cesc into a 15 games a season (RvP style) player…

I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully more enthused, more excited and with a big Aston Villa preview… til then…

Bad luck against Braga ends in a 2-0 defeat…

Braga versus Arsenal was a certain win right? For us, I meant!

November is a month I hate, simply because we lose way too many games – this month we have lost 4 games – yes, 4 games this month. Yesterday’s defeat against Braga was our second in succession in the Champions League – but in all honesty – how much bad luck can a team have? Regardless of bad luck or good luck, a team such ours should not concede those types of goals as we conceded yesterday. But in reality, did Braga out-tactic us?

First of all – please do not tell me it’s time for Arsene Wenger to retire. He’s the captain of our ship and yes, it sank today, but life is not over. Braga defended for 75 minutes and when Carlos Vela was fouled in the box and a certain penalty should have been given – it was not. 1-0 to the Arsenal became a frustrating evening as the home team broke on us – twice to make the score line look more impressive than it really was.

Arsene made 7 changes – but if you look at my predicted team and if you look at most other predicted teams, they were all the same. Before the game, I wanted Rosicky, Walcott and Bendtner to prove their worth – I wanted Djourou and Eboue to be given a run out – so in reality – Arsene did the sensible thing. The team was:

Fabianski

Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Gibbs

Wilshere – Denilson

Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky

Bendtner

And in my opinion, that is a team that should have been able to win the game. These players should have been hungry for the win – they really should have been eager to win – and we were the better side for the first 75 minutes. We asked all the questions… but yes, I admit, defensively we were caught out again. The lack of discipline when we want to so desperately win a game has come back to haunt us – again. It has happened time and time again.

Arsene was fuming after the game and layed into:

“It was a disappointing result as we played against a team who played in their own half. I felt we had back luck as well. We were punished when Eboue was kicked off the park and we had a penalty turned down. I would like to see what the fifth the official is doing. It has been proved again tonight that it is absolutely useless this system. It was a difficult performance. We needed to be patient. We didn’t create many chances. It was a difficult game against a team who used all the tricks to slow the game down. For us we needed not to make a mistake but unfortunately when we were down to 10 v 11 we were open at the back. We made a mistake and they took advantage of it. We did not communicate and that’s where we were punished.”

Bad luck comes in the form of the result as well as the injuries – Eboue will be out for 3 weeks now – but more importantly (no offence to Eboue), our captain Cesc could be out for a similar time. Cesc’s injuries have been far more regular this season – and considering the pre-match talk from Arsene about Cesc not even making this game, it was astonishing to see him start and even worse to see him get injured.

From a slightly depressed Arsenal fan, that’s me, signing off for now… back tomorrow with new enthusiasm…

Braga vs Arsenal – Match Preview

As I write this preview for tonight’s Champions League game against Braga, I write as a man with no soul, no mojo – for on Saturday at 4.50pm, it had been truly and drastically ripped out of myself. The illusion of an Arsenal side finally turning the corner and becoming a team capable of winning the league for the first time in 6 years, 7 years was blown to it’s reality – we simply do not have the mentally to win the league. Why win? You get paid £60k a week for playing your game, and when the prize that the club wants doesn’t come, you don’t get a penalty.

As a salesman, if someone said to you – come to work on time and I’ll give you £1000 every day – you would go to work. If they said that you’d get a £10 bonus if sold a car – what would you be good at? Getting to work on time or selling cars? These kids of ours are paid top top dollar, wages that even some of the best players in the world would not get paid. The lack of disparity in achieving something and merely turning up is obvious. Theo Walcott is on £60,000 a week and Cesc Fabregas is on £90,000 a week – at their ages, with no club honours to their name. Whether we win, lose or draw, these players get loads of money, whether they performance or not, contracts are rewarded on their potential. What has Walcott done to deserve such a figure? God knows.

And the problem of rewarding players for mediocracy is that they will deliver you mediocracy.

But, life goes on, lessons must be learnt. Yes, we’ve lost 3 out of the last 4 games, yes, we’ve lost at home to our most dearest rivals… but with the league being a different league this season, we could still come out on top…

Time to focus on tonight’s game – an away trip to Braga – a win against the team third in the CL group table would see us through to the next round – but a loss would see us drop to third in the group. We have to understand what an important game this is for us – if we don’t come away with a result, we’ll be in serious trouble, with only one game left in the group to survive.

Arsene has given us some team news ahead of the game and Clichy, Van Persie and Arshavin have not travelled to Portugal:

“I left Clichy behind because he has a small back problem and we will take the opportunity to clear that out. Arshavin [is not in the squad] because I want to give him a rest, he has played every single game recently and played for Russia on Tuesday night. And Van Persie [will not travel] so he can improve his fitness because he is back in the squad but is not 100 per cent fit at the moment – I mean his physical condition to fight in a top-level game. I think that [working hard on the training ground] is what he needs at the moment. If I take him to Braga and he is not 100 per cent and is on the bench and doesn’t come on then it is a waste of time and for three days, so I leave him behind and he will take the opportunity to work.”

Arsene comments raise the question why Van Persie hasn’t been playing reserve games for the last week or so, but I’m not the manager and I probably don’t know how these things work – but all I can say is that in other clubs, after long lay offs, all players play reserve games… Just saying…

Okie dokie, predicted team for tonight…

Fabianski

Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Koscielny, Denilson, Nasri, Bendtner and Vela

With Nasri looking tired after a lot of games, Arshavin rested and Wilshere recovered somewhat, the above team makes sense in my eyes – Koscielny was terrible on Saturday and has been all season and Eboue needs to play…

I don’t blame the manager for his side’s inability to hold onto the lead – I genuinely feel like he is trying his utmost best – but something is not quite right. Arsene spoke about his desire:

“I want this team to win so much that I am giving every drop of my blood to make sure this team wins. I want them to be successful because they deserve it, so of course it hurts when you get so close as we did on Saturday and you do not manage to do it. I just feel we have had two or three opportunities to be top of the league and we did not take it for different reasons.”

And you have to wonder when the penny will drop with this team. A side capable of beating Man City at their ground, knocking six past Braga on home soil, but at the same time losing to their rivals after being 2-0 up at HT and losing at Wigan being 2-0 with ten minutes to go. No one can say the Premier League is boring, that’s for sure…

Anyway, Champions League tonight… come on the Arsenal…!

The Last Thing We Need Is A Half Time Lead.

Morning. Straight to the point, Saturday was a big festering pile of donkey shit. I took out Foster from the fantasy league team, as playing against a Chelsea team on the rebound after divorcing Uncle Fester and getting canned at home he was bound to get a hiding. Instead he kept a clean sheet, made 145,023 saves and got man of the match. 11 points lost. Drogba as my captain got a whopping four points. For about 10 seconds there, in front of Stelling and the boys, I seriously contemplated ending it all right there and then after events earlier in the afternoon. But then I realised Brum had actually scored, Chelsea had been beaten and it seemed a little bit more bearable. Champions don’t lose back to back league games remember?

Not that we were able to capitalise of course – we suck shit these days, whenever we take a lead. You’ll have probably read 100 articles by now bemoaning our loss, covering ground often trampled. It was against spurs and at the end that twitchy stroke faced prick was able to walk on our pitch again. He should have been carted off with his head between his legs, but after the 4-4 and now again, we gave him reason to walk across the turf. That really drove the nail home.

Remember This?
Remember This?
Is there still any debate about the handball/penalty? Fabregas did it before against Liverpool, blatantly, in Feb of this year and got away with it. Take away the notion of intent for just a second – you cannot raise your arms in the penalty area. If you do, and the ball hits your arm, you open yourself to the risk of conceding a penalty. I’ve been taught this at every level of football I have played. It is beyond doubt that Fabregas would have been taught the same. Over and over again. When you’re leading 2-1 it is unthinkable that anyone would raise their arms in the wall, let alone above their heads. Even as a total accident without intent that will be given as a penalty 9 times out of 10. Now question the intent – he’s done it before, and in the slo-mo replays I’ve seen, it genuinely looks to me like Cesc is stretching to reach. It looks like intent, which means that the penalty will be given 9.9 times out of 10. Seriously annoyed about that, the players didn’t even jump, they put their hands up. What’s the point in putting Chamakh in your wall if he’s not going to try and head the fucking ball away? Baffling, and distressing.

It’s cheating and it was rightly punished. I could understand it if it was going in the net, like Suarez against Ghana – you could argue it was instinct, but on the edge of the 18 yard box? Jump and hope the keeper does his job.

But, that wasn’t the only problem was it? We can’t keep a lead – neatly surmised by Jacob Steinberg in The Guardian:

…And then they imploded, as they so often do. Already this season they have relinquished leads against Sunderland and Shakhtar Donetsk. Last year they drew 2-2 with West Ham after leading 2-0 with 16 minutes to go, and lost 3-2 to Wigan Athletic after leading 2-0 with 10 minutes left. This is a side that once contrived to draw 4-4 with Tottenham when they were 4-2 up in the 89th minute. It is not surprising, because it keeps on happening.

While there is much to admire about Arsenal’s football, they no longer know how to win and Arsène Wenger is incapable of instilling a maturity in the side. Surely he would have drummed home the importance of retaining their lead for as long as possible; within minutes of the restart, though, Tottenham were back in the game. Arsenal are too open, unable to shut up shop as champions must, lack leadership and concede too many soft goals.

And it’s not surprising is it? At 2-0 I wanted to text every Spud I knew “HAHAHA LOL 17+ YEARS, WANKERS”. But I didn’t. Because I knew we still had 45 minutes to play, and as Wigan showed, 45 minutes is more than enough for Arsenal to lose a game from a commanding lead.

How glad am I that I only wrote that message and didn’t send it?

I’ve said so many times on this blog (usually in the comments) that Arsenal have a team with enough depth, quality and experience to win the domestic league. I often get jumped on saying we can’t win it – but read carefully what I say – we have a team with enough depth, quality and experience to win it. I don’t think we will win it because obviously the style of football Arsenal play will never win a league again unless we start playing the defensive side intelligently.

We want to play with the beauty of Barcelona but with none of the work. Do you remember ‘that’ first half against Barca? They didn’t just play us off the park on the ball, they tracked, the worked and the bullied us into making mistakes. Every time our player had the ball, two of them closed him down.

Arsenal can play any team off the park – but they can’t get the ball back when they lose it. We just invite pressure. At 2-0 up would any other team in the league invite Everton onto them for 20 minutes? No, most of those teams would be in Evertons faces, taking the ball and keeping it.

Playing defensively, protecting a lead, is not about retreating into the penalty area and clearing the ball in a panic strewn mad hoof. It’s about pressing, standing your ground, giving them no space to move it about, and then holding it when you do get it. Counter attack if you like, BUT DON’T GIVE THE FUCKING BALL AWAY SO CHEAPLY.

Arsenal should have come out in the second half and played how we ended the first – Cesc Fabregas dictating the tempo, slowing the team down, concentrating on holding the ball for ten minutes. Spurs were always going to come out of the dressing room with fire in their bellies, all Arsenal needed to do was let it cool down again. Instead they gave Gareth “Better Than Messi” Bale the chance to score. It was a very well taken goal mind.

Until Arsenal learn when to temper the storm of attractive attacking play and learn to play keep ball for a bit (and I don’t mean with backheels Alex Song, I mean look where the fuck you are passing), until they learn to defend on the half way line instead of the goal line Arsenal will win nothing. Despite having what I sincerely believe to be one of, if not the, best squads in the premier league.

The only other positive was VDV scoring and getting two assists, 15 points for the fantasy league. What a shitty silver lining.

Arsenal 2 – 0 (First Half) 0 – 3 Sp*rs (Second Half)

A tale of two halves…

I have spent the last 6 hours in recovery mode in a mixed state of shock and confusion. I’m not sure exactly what I witnessed, or how such an event occurred. Just to re-confirm – we went 2-0 up at half time to a team that could barely make a pass and then in the second half we became the team that couldn’t make a pass and self-capitulated.

Let’s take a run through the line up and how the events unfolded:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Denilson – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Eboue, Djourou, Wlshere, Walcott, Rosicky, Van Persie

A win would take us to the top of the table, but a loss could see us go 5 points behind Chelsea if they won… as it turns out they failed to beat Birmingham which means, despite the loss, we are still just two points off the top of the table.

We went ahead in the first half through an excellent piece of play through Samir Nasri who wondered into the middle and collected a pass from deep and managed to get past Gomes and tap in from a very acute angle – it wasn’t a game in which we had a lot of chances, but we looked like we started to get going around the time we scored the goal. 1-0 became 2-0 when we broke well to combine with Arshavin out wide left and then to Chamakh who flicked the ball in to make it 2-0.

At that point, I thought that this was incredible – obviously very pleased with the result – but the best thing of the scoreline was that we had the team on the ropes – we needed to provide a knock out blow and get the third. I knew that after half time they would be a different proposition, but I don’t know if our team knew that…. because as you know it was a second half of crazyness. A half which saw us really not come out at all – we were so different – so slow, so confused and so slow to react.

In a way, we played in gear 2 during the first half and Sp*rs played in gear one, they accelerated to gear 3 and we simply didn’t have the energy to match it – despite Arsene’s claims of tiredness after a weekday international foray – one thing he has to realise is that that excuse is no longer valid when we play a top 6 / top 7 team as they also have a plethora of players on international duty too. The difference between the two halves was purely down to the will and want to win and the mental strength to do so.

That is absolutely our problem – mental strength – we have none. Well, we have none when it matters. To be 2-0 up at home against your rivals is a position that we need to see through. The second half unravelled as Gareth Bale used his pace to burst through and slotted away. A dubious decision from the referee saw us concede a penalty through a Cesc Fabregas handball – dubious to say the least , and Van Der Vaart converted from the spot. Kaboul put them into the lead with a header from a free kick and the whole reason for all of this was simply down to erratic behaviour in our defence – perhaps disorganisation due to the attempt to move forward and win…

The surprise inclusion of Koscielny ahead of Djourou proved to be a big factor in the loss as the Frenchman was responsible for some bad defending for Sp*rs first goal, actually pushed Cesc’s hand into the ball for the penalty and also gave away the free kick for the third – in fact, his performances this season have all resulted in us losing points – I think Arsene needs to realise this – he cannot be first choice.

Arsene spoke about the game after the game:

“We could not maintain the focus nor the urgency for 90 minutes because some players dropped. I believe as well that overall we delivered a performance expected in a game like that quality wise and if you look at the stats and the numbers it’s very difficult to understand how we lost this game. A drop of concentration, some basic errors, some bad luck as well because the penalty spot I think was no foul for them at the start. And on top of that, not only did we get the foul but we get the penalty where we are guilty of. But overall you are a bit speechless.  To re-analyze the game, it’s a mystery how we can lose a game like that.”

When asked whether he thought Arsenal were still in the hunt for the title…

“Yes of course. I’m convinced that we are it but there are opportunities in the championship that you want to take and today we put ourselves in the right position and we failed. We have to accept that. And that is mental more than football. If Tottenham had dominated the game and created 10 chances and they won the game, you would say, ‘okay, we have lost against the better team today.’ Today we were always in the position where we could win the game and we didn’t win it. And that is something that is difficult to swallow. They are tough. I believe there is a matter that exists in football as well – that is bad luck. How can you imagine that suddenly you get a free kick and then a penalty behind that when the free kick is missed? It is difficult. You cannot predict all but for me there is a mixture of fatigue in the second half and lack of cautiousness as well.”

At the moment, I feel more confident when we play away from home… with quite a few good victories on the road, and three losses in four at home… we have Braga on Tuesday and then Villa away, we have a chance to win some pride back…. and God do we need to…

For today, that’s it… over to Kieran tomorrow…

Arsenal vs Sp*rs – The North London Derby Preview

Morning fellow Gooners.

Tomorrow is a big big game and one that we are all looking forward to without a doubt. It’s the El Classico of North London – it’s Arsenal vs Sp*rs… this time round – we’re at the Emirates – this time round, we’re playing our full squad in the league – with three points at stake. Admittedly, our home form has not been great this season – with two defeats in just a few outings in the league – but what better way to change it than to  get one over our nearest and dearest rivals.

If we win on Saturday… we will go top of the league.

Nice hey? Beat Sp*rs and go top of the league. It’s been a week of Internationals, and as a result, we’ve had a few players popping over the lake to a few foreign countries and the lark. Clichy, Walcott, Sagna and Nasri didn’t have to go too far… Squillaci didn’t have to go anywhere… throw in 45 minutes for Robin, a bit longer for Maroune over in Northern Ireland and with the exception of Andrei, who played a 90 minute game, all of the team should be relatively relaxed and raring to go.

This is our biggest game of the season so far, well, at home, it definitely is.

Earlier in the season, we went to White Hart Lane and won 4-1. It was a magnificent game to watch, a marvel of football – and a key component to that victory was young Jack Wilshere – who is a doubt for the match, the player saying yesterday:

“Feeling better today, training tomorrow and hopefully selected for Saturday.”

And if Wilshere does recover in time, it’ll be boost – I’m sure he’ll be eager to show our local rivals what he’s made of – but if he doesn’t make it, then after Denilson second half performance against Everton, I’ll be happy for him to deputise – and the reason for Denilson good form is simply that his place in the team is not guaranteed and he has to fight for his spot. Which means every opportunity he gets to impress, he has to take it – and this is something that we’ve not really had at the Arsenal – competition for places – and I’m glad that Arsene has a dilemma of who to pick, three fit strikers is a first for Arsene.

And he’ll have to make that decision tomorrow – I’m sure Van Persie will be very keen to start the game tomorrow – but how do you leave out Maroune Chamakh, whose form has been the constant is our rise to 2nd in the table. Can he accommodate both? I’m not sure… well, I’m not sure in the 4-3-3… so, here’s my guesstimated lineup…

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Wilshere  - Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Gibbs, Eboue, Denilson, Rosicky, Walcott and Van Persie

So, in my opinion, and surely based on Wednesday’s performances, Nasri will be selected ahead of Walcott, and Van Persie remaining on the bench – a bit controversial, but where can he play without dropping the front four? With Braga away on Tuesday, it could be a good time to re-introduce Van Persie to the starting line up – in a game that if we won – we’d be through to the next stages of the Champions League…

One of Sp*rs players stands out and that’s the one they are now calling Bale-inho… an over-reaction of sorts, but credit where it’s due, the young Welshman has done very well in recent games to raise his profile… The player marking him Saturday will be Bacary Sagna, and the Frenchman commented on Bale:

“He’s doing very well at the moment but don’t put pressure on him too early. He will learn a lot, he’s only 21 so he will improve a lot in the next few years. But, at the moment, he’s one of the most dangerous wingers.”

In fact, Sagna still remembers last season’s 2-1 defeat on route to the title – well, non title for us… and talks about getting revenge for the defeat:

“We have to win because we lost the last derby and if we want to be competitive, we have to take the three points. Of course everyone is ready, everyone is focused, everyone is motivated. Now we have to do it. We have to think about Saturday, but first we have to rest because everyone played for their national teams.”

Very true Bacary, very true!

And tomorrow we will see the return to the Emirates of former captain William Gallas – I’m sure he’ll come back to a major chorus of boos – he didn’t really do much for us except upset everyone and he didn’t really get on with anyone – well, he definitely didn’t get on with Nasri.

Interesting to see Sagna come out in support of Gallas:

“I’m not angry at him because he signed for our rivals. He was always very professional and he always gave everything [during his time here]. Football is football, I’m not furious against him. He needed to leave to play football and that is what he loves. Even if the newspapers were talking about him because of his behaviour, [that] was his hunger because he wanted to win so much. Maybe he expressed it in a bad way but it was not bad at all because he wanted us to win. I’ve kept in touch with him. On the pitch there is a war but off the pitch we are all friends.He deserves a good reception because during the time he played for Arsenal he always did well.”

But I can understand why – the two boys are still mates – we all know how football works – you have friendships and when players leave your team, it doesn’t mean you’re no longer friends with them- unless you’re Adebayor, of course… but I have to say that Sagna is on his own there… I don’t think many fans will give Gallas a good reception!

Okay, there it is… Arsene will be giving his pre-match conference a little later today and we’ll hear a little about team news and his approach to the game… all that is left to say is… Come on you reds!!!!!!

England 1 – 2 France – How The Arsenal Players Faired…

Having just got back from a freezing night at Wembley, it’s time to reflect on what was a very strange night of football. Now whether you’re an Arsenal fan or an England or neither, then one thing that was evident, is that the players and tactics from the England first half display was completely abject. With my England hat on, I really have to question the set up – Barry and Henderson were completely useless in the middle and when you play a decent side and you have no middle, you’ll never get hold of the game – and that’s exactly what happened. We played a 4-4-2 with Gerrard up front and it didn’t work. The midfield was found out and that was one of the sole reasons why we lost the game.

Looking at the Arsenal players…. let’s take a look at each one, one by one…

Kieran Gibbs

For me, young Gibbsy had a decent game. He was quiet throughout the game and played quite a disciplined left back role. He didn’t have much protection from Milner as the young Man City midfielder moved inside in search of the ball. Gibbs hasn’t played too much in recent times, and the lack of match practice showed a little. In the first half, he didn’t go forward much at all, but did so much more in the second half and showed glimpses of his attacking abilities with a few good crosses and good movement before he was substituted.

Result: Good overall performance, did well in difficult circumstances.

Theo Walcott

Theo would be the first to admit that this wasn’t his best performance in an England shirt. In fact, for him, it was pretty much a non-event – I was quite disappointed with his overall performance. But in one way, it felt like he didn’t know what position he was playing in. He wasn’t playing in a 4-4-2 and he wasn’t playing in a 4-3-3. In a way, for me, it looked like he was playing like the old Theo Walcott, not the 2010 version. He didn’t protect Jagielka in the first half and really didn’t make an impression going forward. I hate to say it, but not a great performance at all.

Result: A night to forget

Bacary Sagna

The French right back was in magnificent form and was solid throughout the game. He got the assist on the second French goal and it was a great run and cross – generally, his crossing was very good. I feel that he is coming back to some of his best form and he kept Milner, Young, and anyone else who dared enter his area on the pitch very much at bay.

Result: Solid performance

Samir Nasri

Samir has shown this season for Arsenal that he has the bit between his teeth and he is very much in control of his own destiny. He was scored seven goals for us this season and his general build up play has been excellent. For France, he showed a similar form – his combination with Gourcuff was sensational, both players interchanging with such fluency. Nasri continually ran against the England defence and had them on the back foot all night.

Result: Bossed the game and showed a good level of maturity

A few of the other Arsenal players were playing last night, with Arshavin playing the full game as his side lost 2-0 at home to Belgium, Cesc and RvP both getting 45 minutes and Maroune Chamakh playing around 70 minutes and scoring a goal too. Djourou, Fabianski and Rosicky also in action – and at the time of writing, I am hearing that there are no new injuries!

Finally, on a non-Arsenal note – well done to Andy Carroll. I know he’s not the role model player, but he was the best England player on the pitch. With Heskey retired and the likes of Kevin Davies not the type of player I’d like to see play for England, suddenly Andy Carroll has put himself in the frame.