8 changes, game finishes Wigan 2 – 2 Arsenal

Okay, so you may wonder why I have put “8 changes” into the title of today’s blog – well, simply because surely 8 changes is too much, too much to change 8 players from a team that has just beaten the current champions and we’d finally found a team that gelled together and fought for each other wasn’t the best decision in the world. We could have gone on to win, and I probably wouldn’t have been writing this blog in this way, but we didn’t!

The line up was:

Fabianski

Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Eboue

Diaby – Denilson

Bendtner – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Djourou, Clichy, Wilshere, Walcott, Vela and Nasri

The game itself was interesting – I wouldn’t say we were in control at all and in fact, Wigan looked much more spritely than us and the desire to close down like we did at Chelsea had diminished to a degree, and the rotation I suppose didn’t help. But it wasn’t all that bad – we were creative and were able to open up their defence, but with Squillaci back in and Denilson in the holding role, the game was more open than it really should have been.

Wigan went ahead when Charles N’Zogbia tumbled, dived and cheated his way to a penalty – people pointing the finger at Koscielny, but I am really disappointing with the Wigan player – the desire to fall to the ground rather than stay on the ground – no surprise that the same player was involved in a clash later on that involved him getting sent off.

We equalised and went 2-1 through a smart finish from Arshavin and then a nice finish from Niklas Bendtner. Arshavin volleying in the equaliser with a scissor kick and then setting up Bendtner who finished well to make it 2-1 before the break. The second half was a bit of the same as the first half – with both teams having a lot of possession and creating chances – but the big fear was whether we could score a third to put the game to bed – and the longer we went without one, the more worried we all were.

Diaby was injured before the goals and the introduction of Wilshere had it’s impact, but he was eventually taken off as he was being protected. The aforementioned N’Zogbia headbutted our 18 year playmaker and was shown a straight red. But even with 10 men, Wigan showed desire to equalise and it came through an own goal through Squillaci. Nasri should have been awarded a penalty for a blatant handball, the same offence which saw Cesc concede a penalty last time out – the player furious on twitter about the different rules – one for United and one for us!

It is hard to criticise Arsene too much, we really wouldn’t have survived 4 games in 10 days unless we rested and rotated – and we were only 10 minutes away from the 3 points – but the thing is that we really need to win our next two games to ensure that we are primed claw back some ground.

Arsene spoke about the performance and said:

“We were 2-1 up and playing against ten men and we dropped two points. Overall, it was a difficult game with high levels of commitment from Wigan. They caught us a bit at the start and after that we came back into it a little bit. In the second half we didn’t do enough and we conceded two goals from two set pieces.”

Which was a little bit obvious:

“Credit to them, they didn’t give up. I thought we tried very hard. The pitch became more and more difficult for us to put passes together. They defended deeper in the second half and it was more difficult for us to find space. Wigan fought very hard today. I felt in the first half we had a great dominance and came back well but in the second half we didn’t produce enough or offer enough.”

And to top off the drop points, Diaby’s return was too early and he’s now suffered a set back…

“It is a calf strain. He is out for a while now. Some weeks I think”.

A somewhat depressing blog from me today – but all is not lost – 2 more games in this period and two wins would put smiles back on all our faces…

Wigan vs Arsenal Preview…

So off the high which was the Chelsea game and of course, the result, we move on Wigan, tonight, less than 48 hours after finishing off at the Emirates and it’s absolutely vital, beyond all vitalness – i.e. SUPER VITAL that we win up north today. And star of the show, Theo Waclott, talked about the super duper vitalness of winning tonight:

“We can’t dwell on this result. We could be disappointed if we win against Chelsea and then lose at Wigan. All the fans, you could sense the atmosphere, the fans were right up for it, just like the players were and we just didn’t let Chelsea play. We were ready and wanted to do it for our fans because in recent years we let them down in these big matches and we just need to build on that now.”

Super duper stuff.

And with 2 games in 48 hours and Cesc suspended after picking up his fifth card, I suspect changes and quite a few. I’d expect to see Squillaci in place of Djourou, Eboue in place of Sagna, Diaby and Denilson in place of Song & Wilshere and Rosicky, Arshavin & Chamakh all back in the fray.

My line up tonight is:

Fabianski

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Denilson – Diaby

Nasri – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Djourou, Sagna, Song,  Walcott, Van Persie and Bendtner That’s what I think anyway!! I may be completely wrong! What the team showed against Chelsea is that desire and application combined equal a result – no fear, just play, keep to the core values of your game and you can win.

Arsene spoke ahead of the game and said:

“Chelsea was big because of the table but also because of the future of the team. It was a big psychological hurdle.  We hope we can move on and become even stronger. It keeps us in touch with the top teams and it can strengthen the belief that we will have a word to say in this title race. Let’s see if we can turn up on Wednesday night now – that will be very useful.”

I’ll leave that at that tonight… I’ll be back for the second half, until then… adios!

Arsenal 3 – 1 Chelsea, Mental Barrier Broken…

Before anyone says anything about anything…. I just want to say, that we just beat a full strength Chelsea side – one that included Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba – we beat them 3-1 at our ground and it could have easily been more. Not only did they just have their spine all present, but they had first choice players like Cole, Mikel, Malouda, Kalou and Essien all in the game too!

The two line ups were:

Fabianski

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Szcznesy, Squillaci, Rosicky, Diaby, Arshavin, Chamakh and Bendtner

Chelsea’s team:

Cech

Ferreira – Ivanovic – Terry – Cole

Essien – Mikel – Lampard

Kalou – Drogba – Malouda

And it was a great result – 3-1 was a superb result against a team packed with big names, but like we have done before, lacking confidence.

What we did is that we played like Barcelona did when they beat Real Madrid – by pressing the opponent until we won the ball and making them make mistakes. It was an impressive performance around the pitch for all the players involved.

The first goal came at the best time, in the 44th minute – just before half time – and we very much deserved it – in fact we owed it to ourselves to score it – we had dominated the first half – emphatically – and that has happened so many times before – but a good piece of play between Wilshere and Song saw the latter lash the ball into the bottom of the net, left footed – across the keeper. A goal that Song deserved – he was held back for most of the game and timed his forward runs well.

It was clear that we had the upper hand and it was clear that we could put this game to bed if we continued in the second half as we left the first – and that’s exactly what we did with an awesome two goals in three minutes involving two players who really played well – Cesc and Walcott – the first came from good hold up from Van Persie which saw Essien inadvertently angle the ball in Walcott’s path who raced forward squared to Cesc and it was 2. Walcott saying later that they both play Fifa and that it was just a “simple X”… the amount of times, we’ll all said that!!! The second one came from good pressing from Theo who stole the ball from Malouda, passed to Cesc, who put the Englishman in, and he finishing with aplomb. 3-0.

Although they got one back from a header from Ivanovic, they never looked likely to go on from there. Our game was safe 3-1 to the good…

Arsene spoke about the maturity of the players and the game they played…

“We have matured. We’ve been frustrated in big games away from home his this season.We have been disciplined, matured and played for each other. The first goal played a vital part. The focus and discipline of the team was good, even when we had to be less adventurous at some stages. We were quite solid. They scored on a set-piece. Drogba takes them very, very well. In open play, we were solid. Let’s hope that it strengthens our belief that we can challenge for the championship and it strengthens our belief we’re on the right way. There’s still some room for improvement. I’m confident that will encourage the team to continue to practice very hard and to focus well together.”

Digest and relax, we’ll need your supporting energy again very soon as it’s Wigan away on Wednesday (tomorrow!)…

And here’s a quote from my dear friend JAT to give you some excitement:

“If we can go on a 10 game unbeaten run, we’ll be looking very, very good…”

And our away form relatively good and our big games at home, we could just do that!

Til then… Adios!

Arsenal vs Chelsea – Match Day Live, Arshavin, Rosicky, Chamakh dropped…

Evening All…

It’s match day live and Arsene has thrown a few surprises…

The line up is confirmed:

Fabianski

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Szcznesy, Squillaci, Rosicky, Diaby, Arshavin, Chamakh and Bendtner

Chelsea’s team:

Cech

Ferreira – Ivanovic – Terry – Cole

Essien – Mikel – Lampard

Kalou – Drogba – Malouda

Interesting… to say the least!

Pre Chelsea Build Up: Part 1 – Matchwinners…

Evening All,

Throughout the week, and throughout the various blogs which have been published this week… we’ve restrained from talking about the Chelsea game, as we didn’t want to start too early! But now it’s Saturday and Christmas day itself and suddenly we’re only 2 days away from the game, I think it’s safe to start talking about it.

For me, the way in which big games are won are by their match-winners and we saw against United, Park Ji Sung was the goalscorer by Nani was the match winner – we couldn’t deal with him all day and something was going to give. Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Chelsea had a match winner in Didier Drogba, who unfortunately made all the difference. And for Monday, the team with the more match winners will win the game.

Last season, our match winners were Cesc, Van Persie and Arshavin, but this season, we only have one match winner in Samir Nasri – I am talking about when a big team plays a big team, who will make the difference… The question is whether one of last season’s star players will step up their game and become a match winner, and of course, whether Chelsea will crowd out man of the moment, Nasri, from having much of an effect.

The team that plays on Monday should be relatively strong, and we are at home, so we do have those two advantages – and after the 2 week break, I think the line-up will be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Eboue, Koscielny, Denilson, Walcott, Chamakh and Rosicky…

I’ve chosen Szcznesy in goal as after playing well in against United, I don’t see Arsene taking him out of the team, despite the big gameness of this next fixture. With Cesc & Van Persie having had 2 weeks of extra training since their last outing, I’m sure they’ll both get the nod.

Arsene feels the game is a must-win… and I’d agree!!

“Of course, this is a must-win game. We have mixed feelings because we came out of both games against Chelsea and Man United this season thinking we could have won and that there wasn’t a difference between the teams. We have a good opportunity to show that in the coming months and that our improvement is bigger than any other team because we are a very young side. It’s about how well we respond to what happened to us at Chelsea and Man United that will be the decider for our season. We have played Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool away so our home form in these kind of games will be decisive. We are confident over taking Chelsea on at home. We face a big challenge. What we want is to produce an intelligent game full of dynamism. That is the only way we can win these big games.”

Our home form has been not so great with losses to West Brom, Newcastle and Sp*rs still prevalent in the mind – and despite 5 losses this season, we are somehow 2nd in the table! And if we think we’re bad, then Chelsea have been worse, as they’re behind us in the league.

“Chelsea have gone through a period where results are a bit less good but that can happen to anyone in this league. We have seen recently that any team, when you think they are on the brink of breaking through, can have a hiccup. Maybe it’s just the quality of the league. You never know whether it’s the best time to play Chelsea. Every game is specific and a new start. They have a little bit less confidence than they had in October but we know that winning will be down to our performance. We know that on Monday we will play against a top team and we do not expect any weakness on their side. We want to put a top-level performance in at the Emirates and show we are masters at home.”

And at the end of the day, it will come down to how many match winners Chelsea turn up with, and how many we do…

More tomorrow for a Boxing Day review of Monday’s game…

Enjoy your Christmas everyone…

Merry Christmas…

Evening All…

Before I go to sleep on this very snowy Christmas Eve… I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… It’s been a momentous year, and between the WOA site, the WOA readers and close friends, we have raised over £1000 for selected causes and charities – over £300 for Great Ormand Street through the site alone…

Enjoy, relax and spend time with your most important ones, remember those who aren’t as fortunate as us…

Have a great day and weekend…!

I’ll be back for a Chelsea preview very very soon…

Will we buy anyone in January?

As the end of the year draws near, it’s time to look ahead to January and look at our squad and speculate on what we need, where we need them and whether or not we’ll get them this January… with the snow enforced winter break – 2 weeks / 14 days without an Arsenal game… we bloggers have a fair amount of time on our hands (outside Christmas shopping) and Shakira concert going (how hot is that woman!)…

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, January sales…

So let’s go department by department…

The Goalkeeping Department

So, we’ve finally shift of the number one jersey from Almunia to Fabianski to Szcznesy. Rumours were rife that Szcznesy would start against Stoke had that game not be called off and this means it could be permanent. So, Szcznesy is our new number one, Fabianski is our number two… Almunia would surely be off and Mannone would come back to cover him, right?

Out: Almunia
In: Mannone (back from loan)

Defence

Defence is a conundrum… we are currently playing Squillaci and Koscielny when in reality Vermaelen and Djourou are probably the better defenders. We’re also playing Clichy at left back, and we all know very much that Gibbsy is the better of the two – if only he wasn’t always injured!

Out: None
In: None

Midfield

So, we probably need a better DM than Denilson and a less injury prone CM than Diaby… but we probably aren’t going to get either – with Ramsey and Diaby a month away from being back into first team action, I doubt we’re going to get any midfield re-enforcements. In fact, I know we’re not! I would eat a hat if we did – preferably a chocolate hat!

In: Ramsey back from injury like a new signing… Diaby back from injury like a new signing…
Out: None

Striker / Attacking Wingery

I woke up half dreaming and for some reason thought we had signed Ronaldinho… I thought it was a bit of a weird signing and then search the net and alas, it was all just a dream… well, kind of… remember, we have signed the “New Ronaldinho” in 18 year old Japanese midfielder / cum striker, Ryo Miyaichi…

In the attacking department, we have Robin Van Persie and Niklas Bendtner back to add into our squad, we have Walcott and Rosicky as backup for Nasri and Arshavin – the likelihood of us buying: zero – the only problem is that with Nasri aside, they are all badly off form…

In: Ryo Miyaichi
Out: None

And just in case you thought Arsene was going to surprise us all with a whirlwind signing… he’s not…

“Because we respect our budget. You look at the clubs who lose £100million or £150m and if we do that then we go bust. It’s as simple as that. We pay what we can afford. I’m amazed that people are amazed that we do that. I think what is surprising is that people don’t respect that. If I tell you we can win two more points but we lose £150m, what will you say? Win two more points. But when I ask a second question, where do we get the £150m in? Maybe you don’t have the same answer. The beauty of the competition and this club is to be successful while respecting the balance and the funds of financial balance and all the rest for me doesn’t look normal. People will maybe realise one day that it’s not as easy to stay at the top and as well to cope with financial compulsories that you have at the top. We face rivals who do not respect the financial fair play. Instead, of us being accused, maybe people should look somewhere else.”

Yep, Arsene ain’t going to spend any cash…

Til tomorrow, til tomorrow… is Wednesday too early to start previewing next Monday’s Chelsea clash?

Snowpocalypse Part 2

Well, this morning will be short and brief because nothing has happened. At all. Anywhere. Because of all the snow.

No Arsenal/Stoke, no United/Chelsea, no nothing.

We did draw Barca on Friday. It was pretty much a dead certainty. I’m one of those people that thinks “if we’re good enough to win it we need to beat everyone”. We certainly now need to beat Barca. We either will or we won’t, and we’ll either progress after one of the clubs greatest wins or we’ll get beaten and we’ll be out concentrating on the league and cup.

The fact is Arsenal are better than last season. We’ve added Chamakh, we’ve replaced Silvestre – but then Barca are better as well, so we will start the tie as underdogs.

Anyway, there are a good few weeks between now and then, hopefully it’ll warm up a bit.

Arsenal vs Stoke – Game postponed due to snow…

Afternoon All…

This morning,  I woke up randomly at 10am… looked out the window and thought… Yeeks, this game is going to be hard to get to… the snow is coming down big time… so I went back to sleep… and 10.30am I thought… I better check the website… the game is still on…

11am… Okay, I can’t sleep, need to check the game… BBC website says… Liverpool and Wigan games are off…

12am… Our game is still going on… Oh my gosh, how is this going to happen!!

So at 12… I went to Tesco… got the car out, de-iced it and warmed it up…

And then @Tottz82 called through to WOA HQ… THE GAME IS OFF!

The website officially announces:

MATCH POSTPONED

Further to a huge deluge of snow in north London starting over Emirates Stadium at 11.38am, the match referee Lee Mason made the decision at 12.07pm to postpone today’s match. Approximately three inches of snow fell over this half hour period and there continues to be heavy snowfall with no apparent let up. All tickets purchased for this match will be valid for the re-arranged fixture. Details of the rearranged fixture will be communicated in due course.

This is what the stadium looks like:

No game… and probably no games at all today…. Time to play Pro!

Arsenal vs Stoke, Beauty & The Beast…

After the crazy Friday which saw us draw Barcelona in the Champions League, it’s back to the normality of the Premiership…

Stoke for us will always be remember as a club whose manager told their player to “rough us up”, “show them who’s boss”… and before the encounter that saw Ryan Shawcross go through Aaron Ramsey like a bull in a china shop… Stoke did say they were going to play rough, and rough is what they are all about.

We all understand that football is physical, but there is a limit and for me, Stoke have crossed that limit several times and Shawcross has been the culprit on more than one occasion. The manager talked about the player earlier in the week and highlighted the need to play and not focus on Shawcross or the style that Stoke want to adopt – no excuses that we were bullied out of anything, just get on with the game…

“It is Arsenal against Stoke. Every game is different and it is a new start. We do not have any preconceived ideas before the game happens on any individual. We want to win the game, focus on it and respect our opponent as we always do. What happened in the past, happened in the past. We have come out on that – I don’t think there is any need to add any fuel on it and just focus on playing football as we always do and respecting our opponents.”

So, let me do just that…

Team news?

Szcznesy may just keep his place in team, as news is that Fabianski is not fit yet, he is only 80%… whilst Almunia has suffered a new ankle problem which will keep him out – Bendtner is about to become a dad – so he’s not included in the squad, and with no further games after Stoke until Chelsea on the 27th, we should be looking to play our strongest squad…

My predicted team is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy

Denilson – Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

I really think Arsene will play Djourou – he is so good in the air and Stoke will look to throw as many balls into the air as possible – and Denilson may be chosen ahead of Wilshere who could do with a game on the bench after quite a few games in succession recently.

Walcott will most likely start on the bench – as the form of Nasri is outstanding at the moment and until Walcott starts coming off the bench and making a difference, it’s his best place.

Arsene talked about Stoke and their threats…

“I think they have improved on the footballing side so they are a dangerous team for anybody. I certainly think they are offensively more dangerous than before because they have Kenwyne Jones, Ricardo Fuller, Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington. They are very dangerous on the flanks, with good crosses, and in the middle. When you play against Stoke you know you will need a very solid defensive game.”

We’ve been taken apart – well, I mean, we’ve been given the “Stoke effect” before, we need to be focussed and ready to battle, but at the same time ensure we play to our strengths, which is our passing game and don’t result in their game…

On Sunday, it’s Chelsea vs Manchester United – a game in which one of those two teams will drop points, and if we win against Stoke, we can somehow catipult ourselves back into the race.

Game on?

Why we will beat Barcelona… (I will regret this blog)…

It will be different. We will win. I will regret writing this post. Simple.

Last season we travelled to Barcelona and lost 4-1. On the night, we played the following team:

Almunia

Sagna – Vermaelen – Silvestre – Clichy

Denilson –  Diaby

Nasri – Rosicky – Walcott

Bendtner

This year, if all goes well, we will play this team:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Vermaelen – Koscielny – Gibbs

Wilshere – Ramsey / Song

Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

That’s quite a few reasons why we would stand a better chance…

Out of those two teams, only Nasri, Vermaelen and Sagna played last season.

So that;s 8 reasons why we could beat them. Plus they don’t have Ibrahimovic any more which means they won’t be able to do any long balls…

There I said it! Ha, come on the Arsenal…