Arsenal vs Partizan – CL Preview…

Tonight is a big night for all concerned down at the Emirates – we play Partizan Belgrade in a must win game… Technically, we can still qualify if results go our way – but when do results go our way? For me, there is nothing else required than a win. As I said in yesterday’s blog, the two away defeats were points we should have never have lost… but we are where we are and it’s time to put this one to bed.

Ahead of the game, Arsene has revealed the team news and there was some good news regarding our two midfielders Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas – whom are both back practising – which is absolutely brilliant news

“He was out to practise today. In fact he is still out there now. He has a small chance to play on Monday. That means it is a bit under 50 per cent at the moment. Diaby is out practising as well with him. He has a very small chance.”

If Cesc is available and 100% fit then that would be an awesome bonus for Monday’s game. A game that would really catapult us into the title race with both feet… but for tonight’s game, neither Diaby nor Cesc are available – news is that Djourou has a small strain and Koscielny has recovered from concussion to return to the starting line up. We may just see RvP back into the starting line up…


Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Nasri – Van Persie – Arshavin


With a bench of Szcznesy, Eboue, Gibbs, Denilson, Rosicky, Bendtner and Vela

It was interesting to see the pre-match press conference with Arshavin by Arsene’s side… he was in full chorus and talked about the position we find ourselves in the Champions League…

“We will get a difficult draw, but Arsenal want to win the Champions League and if you want to win it you have to play the best teams, like Barcelona and Real Madrid. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the last 16, the Quarter-Finals or the Semi-Finals. We’ve lost two games and now only have the chance to finish second, but what can we do? We have to win tomorrow and see what the draw will give us. I think we have no chance of topping the group. I think Shakhtar will be first. It’s disappointing but we always knew Shakhtar and Braga were good teams, especially at home. Unfortunately they showed that against us.”

The next thing he said was something which was brutally honest… he talked about our defensive frailties… and his contribution towards them – you know? The moments where we think, why isn’t Arshavin tracking back? He should come back and close the player down – at least he acknowledges this…

“We struggle in defence so we have to score more than we concede. It’s very frustrating and we’re trying to improve. Normally I can’t go through our defenders in training, but we don’t just blame our defenders. Sometimes I can’t run [back], and I let defenders cross so the forwards score a goal. So it doesn’t always depend on defenders. As a team we need to improve defensively.”

It’s funny how he just says it like that – but it’s true! He is a very talented footballer, but he needs to remain consistent, and needs to help out defensively where possible. One of the key elements to Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Madrid last week was the outstanding work-rate that all the players, including Iniesta, Villa and Messi put in. That is one of the key differences – the Barcelona trio never stopped running, they never gave up – where as our tracking of players and pressing of the opposition doesn’t happen like that up top.

Down at the Emirates tonight, it will be a massive game – a must win game and we’ll need the players on song and the fans cheering them on… all I can say is… come on you Arsenal!!!

  • gandiv

    Does anybody else think the 25 man squad rule is having a noticeable effect on the league. Chelsea, who’s strength in recent year was strength in depth, are seriously wounded after losing 2 players. teams like Bolton and Sunderland are able to focus on working with the players they have, instead of having to buy in January. The teams that sit in the relegation zone aren’t there because they don’t have the best players, they are just the teams with the least points [if that makes sense]. Last time wolves were in the Prem their squad couldn’t compete and were done by Feb. This season teams will be judged less on how much they can afford to spend and more on how much they could get out of the 25 men they had available. To anyone who disagrees, look at the squads of West Ham, Villa and Blackpool. Then look at where they are in the league.

  • Tony

    I wondered, what would happen if we did go out and buy three big time players in January for maybe £45m.

    First we would have to get rid of some players to balance the 25 list. We could survive until the summer, but after that, with some of the youngsters move up to 21 years of age, we would be stuck and they’d have to go. I imagine those calling for improvements in the squad wouldn’t mind seeing the end of Vela, Theo, Bendtner and the like.

    Second, we would have to persuade the selling clubs to sell. After all they have these top players who are undoubtedly delivering for them. Why should they sell to Arsenal? That’s an answer that is rarely answered, so we’d best slide over it.

    Although we do know they won’t move because they want to play for Wenger because as we know he is useless and hasn’t won the league for six years (as opposed to Liverpool 21 years, Tottenham 50 years, Manchester City sometime around the Crimea, and so forth). So they won’t be knocking at the door.

    No, the only reason that they will sell is because they need the money. But that’s all right, Arsenal have loads of money. (We might ask why Barca, Inter, AC Milan and the rest need the money, and why they are all teetering on the brink, but that would be inconvenient to the argument).

    Third, we would need to balance everyone’s playing demands – keeping other players (not those we have just ditched to make space in the 25) in reserve in case the new big three get injured at any time or lose form. That is essential but often difficult. Players like to play. If you are a reserve in the first team squad you will willingly stay put if you get some occasional games and you are young and you think your time will come. Bit if you are already a big name, you will expect to be making appearances. As it is we are already making 9 changes in some games to keep everyone happy.

    So let’s assume we get these players, and we fit them in the team, kick out some of the 25, and drop some first teamers into a reserve position. What next? Let’s say we win the league or the Euro Cup. Wonderful!

    Now fast forward to the summer of 2011. We have bought our players in January, we need to unload a few, and we are champions. What now?

    Well, in essence Man C, Man U and Chelsea are going to be a trifle cheesed off. They didn’t win the league. So what do they do? They go out and buy. Not just three players but five or six. Each. Neither club has much of a youth policy, so buying is the only option, and they want success. Now!

    Of course I don’t know if they will all spend the money. Man C will, because they are so far beyond the financial regulations they don’t care any more, but Chelsea seem to be trying to introduce an austerity package of their own and Man U’s owners and manager are playing a merry dance. It seems unlikely but it is possible the Glazers might want to introduce more debt into the system, in order to keep Sir F Word happy, but you never know.

    Oh and there is Bolton. Now so much in debt it makes the eyes water, they need to “push on” to secure a top five finish. Seriously. If you don’t believe me go and take a look at the article on Swiss Ramble about how much debt they have ratcheted up in the last few years. And with that debt level they need success. Now. (Honest I am not making this up).

    Which means that by August 2012, our major rivals plus a few minnows have bought new players. Arsenal already have their team, minus a few budding players who were getting on for being 21 and had to drop out of the 25. And we have a higher wages bill. What now?

    The challenge from the other clubs is greater, and it looks like we might not win the league again. So we’d better go out and buy some more players, except they want to be paid even more, and after the spending of the previous year we are getting a bit tight for cash. Never mind – football is run on debt. Let’s get into debt.

    And so it goes on and on, the chase for more players, higher transfers, higher wages, always having to upgrade.

    But surely, if it were all that easy and if this system worked, if the league could be bought year after year with new players and new players, Chelsea, Man U and Man C would have it sorted by now, and even Arry with the brown envelope and the Gross Domestic Product of the Virgin Islands should have put together a team that is at the top of the league each week. Why hasn’t he?

    Look at Chelsea (horrible I know, but hold your breath for a minute and take a look). Clearly they don’t have a replacement for John Terry – and can’t be guaranteed a win even with him in the team. Man City for all their billions can’t get a team that scores lots of goals and wins every game, and Man U are not striding away points ahead at the top of the league despite paying Rooney more than the earnings of the whole of Brazil in the 1996.

    Surely, if money worked, at least two of those clubs would make it work, this year, next year, every year, all the time. Surely if money worked better than our world-wide scouting and youth policies, surely we’d be miles behind by now.

    And that’s really my point: the methodology that the spend-spend-spend advocates want is one that doesn’t guarantee success, but is one from which there is no escape once you start down that road. Yes Chelsea have had a few years of success, but nothing more than we did when Wenger took the world by storm. The difference is they are struggling to find a way to sustain their achievements – Wenger knows how to do it.

    The point is, all these systems have their ups and downs. With our system we survive the downs because new players are always coming through. With their system, the money has gone and you can’t get it back – you always have to find more money to fund the losses.

    Even better we are now moving into a new phrase of our operation, and it is plain for those who want to see, to see. Consider the League Cup. Six years ago we were playing unknown 17 year olds in that competition, now we are playing mature players. Not because we have a change of policy but simply because the players who first came through the youth system have got older. We can make nine changes to our first team and still be picking 21 year olds.

    Having youngsters who push up and through into the team has a whole series of benefits.

    They tend to be slightly more patient (unless called Bentley)
    They cost us less to find, and so we can take up more of them
    They cost less in salaries while we work out if they are any good
    There is an endless stream of them available
    They surprise everyone (are you ready for Wellington Silva next month?)
    Put very simply, world-wide scouting and the youth project is sustainable year after year. The systems at Chelsea and Man City look sustainable because of the impact of one very rich benefactor – but that is dangerous because if he takes his toys away, the whole club comes down; and the financial rules are just around the corner.

    What’s more no system guarantees continual success, and when success does not come, there is a problem in the financial models because these models don’t include any sort of growth system. You buy in ready-made players, and if that doesn’t work you buy in ready-made players and if that doesn’t work you buy in ready-made players. Shevchenko? Adebayor?

    Proceed with this endless buying and you get,

    a) less in your wallet

    b) endless churn and no stability

    c) uncertainty within the club

    Sometimes you get league wins and the like, but overall the endless-buying model is not any more successful than the youth development model, and yet brings with it all the dangers of imminent collapse.

    Buying occasional players is a good idea when you see someone who wants to play for you, and who is available at the right price and will fit in with the team. But wholesale purchases suddenly in order to win the league now, no, not a chance.

    We have four squads, as has been noted here before: the “25″, the loan squad, the reserves, the youth.

    The loan squad tends to be a bit forgotten in all this – but just take a look…

    Benik Afobe – Huddersfield Town
    Nacer Barazite – Vitesse Arnhem
    Kyle Bartley – Sheffield United
    Francis Coquelin – Lorient
    Thomas Cruise – Carlisle United
    Cedric Evina – Oldham Athletic
    Samuel Galindo – Salamanca
    Gavin Hoyte – Lincoln City
    Henri Lansbury – Norwich City
    Vito Mannone – Hull
    Aaron Ramsey – Nottingham Forest
    Mark Randall – Rotherham Utd
    Armand Traore – Juventus
    Sanchez Watt – Leeds United
    OK, they won’t all make it, and some we might agree are just playing out time, but within there I can thing of four or five players who will become very serious Arsenal players in the future: Afobe, Coquelin, Cruise, Galindo, Lansbury, Ramsey. (That’s six, but Ramsey is a bit of an odd position.)

    Do you think those six would hang around if they saw the club buying in three extra players this January to sustain a push to winning the league? Maybe one or two, but not all of them

  • Kieran

    @ gandiv:
    No, because the only team affected this season were Manchester City.

    Chelsea, United, Arsenal and Liverpool, in fact City and Spurs as well were already under these rules due to their introduction to European competition in previous seasons. In fact, the European rules are more stringent that our new domestic rules.

  • tesa

    Wenger’s decision to play Cesc in that CL tie has backfired spectacularly. He wasn’t playing well enough at the time to drag the 2nd team through that night. In fact, he looked rather 2nd team himself. He should’ve been rested, and would have been workin his way back to full fitness about now. What I pray doesn’t happen is Wenger throwing him in to the mix half fit again for the United game now. Think we’ve got to take our chances without him, with nasri and Arsh seeming to like the extra responsibility on their heads. A half fit Cesc is not better than who would be playing in his place. Although would be tough to take mentally, a loss to United this season is not going to dump us out of the title race, and as such, think cesc should be left until his elg is 100% better, and even then eased back into things. We’re not the big club we think we are if we rely on him so much we throw him back into the ring half fit. There’s enough talent around to allow him to get fit.

  • Tm17

    I know we won and we should be happy with that.
    But a recurring problem for me is denilson he isn’t a bad
    Player but he isn’t good enough for arsenal, he falls at
    the faintest of touches, never actually try something always go for the easiest option and when he actually tries he doesn’t find the player

  • Sam

    Our next round opponent will be Spanish (Barca or Real) or German (Bayern or Schalk).

  • Gooner Get Ya

    When is the CL draw?

  • devday

    @ Gooner Get Ya:
    Friday 17th December my friend!

  • Gooner Get Ya

    @ devday:
    Thanks for that let’s hope for Schalke :-)