The morning (afternoon) after the night before…

Hi! This will be a quick one. Kieran cannot post today due to some internet failure, but might be posting something tomorrow, so apologies on his behalf.

So yesterday, huh? Before the game, I’m sure everyone’s thoughts were along the lines of: ‘It’s only Huddersfield. We should score at least 3!’. And after the first goal went in, I bet even the Huddersfield players might have feared for the worst!

But it is Arsenal, afterwards. We LOVE making things hard for ourselves. Majority of our games have to be pulsating, nail-biting, heart-attack-inducing, regardless of the opposition. Good value for money if we win,  I say! But yeah, in honour of this nature of ours, our dearest Mr Squillaci committed a silly foul in the first-half, a last-man foul according to the referee, leading to his dismissal.

I couldn’t watch the game on tv, so listened on the radio majority of the time, and from the moment Squillaci got sent off, it was all Huddersfield. A combination of poor defending, poor shooting accuracy, good defending, good goalkeeping meant we led at half-time. But the wave of pressure was relentless in the second half and they finally equalised.

The match was fairly comical on our part, what with us almost being reduced to 9 mine with Denilson I think it was, having pulled up injured, with either cramps or a hamstring injury. But like the trooper he is, he continued playing, not that he was able to contribute much, but better to play with 9 and a half men than 9 men, eh? Nasri got injured in similar fashion in the first half I think it was, and the club have confirmed that he’ll be out for two/three weeks. 2 months it is then. Massive shame though, as he’s most likely going to miss the Barca game at the Emirates! I’m beginning to see a pattern from last season…

But yeah, like with all good scripts, out hero came on later on and saved the day with a dodgily-won penalty, I hear. Regardless of how it was won, it was scored, meaning we avoided yet another cup replay! Poor huddersfield, though. They’d given us a run for our money. Although the behaviour of their players on Twitter afterwards suggests we ought to afford them no sympathy! But Benik Afobe’s on loan there at the moment, so I guess we have to play nice.

Regardless of the fact that we were pushed by a League One team, it was a cracking cup-tie. That’s how all cup-ties should be. And now it’s on the next round. We play Leyton Orient away in the 5th round, which should be another good game.  So long as we win, I do not mind there being unbelievable drama!

Enough about yesterday though, and today’s January 31st. Ring any bells? It probably won’t, seeing as we hardly ever participate! Today’s only the January transfer window deadline day. The window shuts at 11pm apparently. Very odd time. But I guess that gives clubs longer to sign players, or in our case, more time for those wanting a new signing to moan about our lack of activity.

I’m not going to worry about us signing or not signing anyone, but will definitely be following the action! You can too, here! Torres to Chelsea for £50m? Andy Carroll to Liverpool (£30m having been rejected already by Newcastle)?

Should be a good one! Just don’t go about expecting any Arsenal signings…

Arsenal 2 – 1 Huddersfield… Phew…!

Morning Peeps!

Kieran D will be posting later… I’m not sure what time it is back there in the UK, I think it’s still officially Sunday but over here is sunny Luxembourg, it’s Monday morning…! We made a right meal of that, didn’t we? Super summer signing Squillaci didn’t exactly cover himself in a blaze of glory either… I haven’t actually watched the game, so I can’t really give you a match report, but I’ll tell you what I know and give you my views of a few things…

The starting XI was a bit reserve and Arsene took the opportunity to rest a few players, considering the lower league opposition…

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Diaby

Arshavin - Nasri –  Bendtner

Chamakh

With a bench of Szczesny, Fabregas, Rosicky, van Persie, Walcott, Song, Wilshere

Almunia’s appearance was the first in 4 months and with Fabianski in the wars injury wise, the decision to let Almunia go has been halted and this game was designed to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do and of course to prove his fitness in case he is needed. For Everton’s game, I’d expect Szcznesy to start but Almunia to replace Shea on the bench.

Squillaci and Diaby were the other returnees, and there would obviously be an element of non-match fitness with a few players. Apparently the referee had a very odd game… in lieu of my own match report, here is a quick summary from the BBC…

Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to fire 10-man Arsenal into the FA Cup fifth round as the Gunners narrowly saw off League One Huddersfield. The hosts led when Peter Clarke diverted Nicklas Bendtner’s strike into his own net, before Sebastien Squillaci was sent off for a block on Jack Hunt. The red card changed the game and Alan Lee headed the Terriers level. But Fabregas slotted home a late winner from the penalty spot after Bendtner had been fouled by Jamie McCombe.

A people on yesterday’s blog and more people on twitter and facebook have been expressing a level of disappointment about the game, and the players chosen – and in fact, a security officer in Luxembourg recognised my Arsenal t-shirt and starting commenting to me that Arsenal struggled to beat Leeds, Ipswich and Huddersfield and slated Arsene for his team selection. Do people not get it? We have a squad – we need to use them and we need to keep everyone fit – when we play weaker teams that the top of the Premiership – we need to use these players. If we don’t then we will tire out the existing squad and get them injured – and then the fringe players will have no match fitness and it will all end is us losing games.

We know that Arsene has to do this, so let’s understand when we don’t win 6-0. We did win all those three games mentioned above, whilst resting key players, so lay off Arsene. He played Nasri today when most thought Rosicky would play and Nasri is out now for a month with a hamstring injury – you can’t always get it right, but it makes sense to rotate when you can.

Arsene summarised the game…

It was tough, tough, tough, because it had all the ingredients of a typical cup game. We played a little bit below par and Huddersfield is a good team, they have shown that today. They were efficient, they are always dangerous on set-pieces and crosses, they scored on a set-piece. It had the ingredients of a cup game as well because we were down to ten men so it became very difficult. In the end we had the quality just to make the difference and in the final 25 minutes I felt we had room to score goals. But we play so many games at the moment that sometimes we are not as sharp as we would want to be. That is what happened today.

With Squillaci getting sent off, it does pose another problem for our squad – as he will miss three games through suspension and when you already have your #1 centre back injured and the #2 and #3 playing every game in a row for most of the last 2 months, you kind of need your #4 not to get sent off in his first game back!

Arsene was asked about potentially buying a stop-gap, and was quite certain with his plans:

Not more, not less, because it’s three games. For us it’s good because we play three games in a week so it is only one week [that he will be out]. No [I am not likely to sign anyone before the deadline], I leave these headlines to all the other clubs, but at the moment no. I cannot tell you definitely because someone might knock at my door in the morning and says ‘I would like to play for you’ and he is a good player because I would sign him!

So there we have it – we’re back down to 2 centre backs… tomorrow we play again!

Adios Amigos!

Arsenal vs Huddersfield (FA Cup!) – Live

Morning Folks….

The team line up has been announced… let’s go straight to it:

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Diaby

Arshavin - Nasri –  Bendtner

Chamakh

With a bench of Szczesny, Fabregas, Rosicky, van Persie, Walcott, Song, Wilshere

The surprise inclusion in the first XI is Samir Nasri, who many thought who be rested, with Rosicky taking his place. Maybe the gaffer wants to have his style stamped on the game – and perhaps Rosicky is 100% match fit yet…

All that leaves me to say is “Come on you Reds……..!”…..!!

Weekend Ramblings….

Afternoon all…

With no game until tomorrow, I’m going to hold off the match preview for a while and concentrate of the lovely world of which our world is….. the world of Arsenal… There has been a lot happening this week and let’s start off with Carlos Vela’s loan move to West Brom….

Apparently, there is a small loan fee involved and obviously West Brom are picking up his wages – the good thing about this loan deal, is that Vela is at a team that try and play decent football. They do get the ball down and have a go, and Carlos Vela needs to be a team that does that. Vela is one of my favourite players down at the ‘Grove for what he has done in our team – but I admit that his form has not been amazing this season and a regular run of games will do him good.

“Carlos is a top quality player and at the moment we have too many strikers,” said Arsène Wenger. “He does not get the games he deserves and he needs to play.”

With the West Brom manager, Di Matteo saying:

“I’d like to officially welcome Carlos, who is an exciting signing for this club. Carlos is a new attacking option for us who can play both centrally and in the wide areas.”

I’m not sure exactly where he will play in the WBA team, but I hope it’s up front – I have always wanted him to be a stiker rather than a winger – but of course, either position (left or central) will benefit him. The key thing for Arsene is that he wanted Vela to go to a team that guaranteed him first team football and I really do hope he gets his fair share of games.

In other news, Arsene has officially declared Szcznesy as our number one goalkeeper. And that’s a rapid rise to the top for the young Pole. An excellent “seizing of an opportunity” and in reality, Arsene is right to keep faith in the stopper. He has played well, kept clean sheets and is

“At the moment Wojciech is number one. He has done nothing for me to take him out, but I can rotate the goalkeepers. In the cups I play sometimes different goalkeepers as well.”

Arsene also paid tribute to Almunia’s dedication, attitude and general ethic:

“He is under contract and as long as he is at the club we are happy to have him. I like him as a man and as a player and I have shown that in my decisions. I am happy that he is here. Almunia has not played for a long, long time. I don’t feel that any player is happy not to play.”

We should see Almunia in goal tomorrow against Huddersfield, and I’ll be back later for a proper preview of the game… with Diaby, Squillaci and Rosicky all set to return…

Adios for now mes amigos..

The Andy Gray Saga…

Morning All…

First of all, where has this week gone? And can you believe it’s Thursday…

Footballing life as we know it will never be the same with the recent departure of Andy Gray and Richard Keys from Sky Sports… love him or hate him, Andy Gray was definitely a presence on the box – and love his views or hate his views, they were always worth hearing… I know he is a Man United loving individual, who bias was all but plain to see – but I compare him with who else is doing a simple job and actually, there aren’t many better.

Jamie Redknapp is a really really annoying presenter – probably the most anti-Arsenal one out there – he seems to forget what he’s talking about half the time and somehow manage to blabber on about irrelevant topics whilst telling the world how amazing Sp*rs are… Paul Merson, well, he just doesn’t have a clue – and I say that even though he is one of our own…!

Chris Waddle, Stan Collymore and Robbie Savage are simply not with it enough – Waddle doesn’t really know much about how to commentate or present and literally makes mistakes everytime he talks. Collymore – well, he is just a pathetic excuse for a footballer let alone anything to do with football – and Robbie Savage, well, he simply doesn’t know enough about the Premiership clubs, players or coaches to warrant inclusion…

Then you’ve got the BBC’s lot – the Linekers, Hansens, Shearers et al… and are they really the people you want to be listening to on Monday Night Football? Lee Dixon is a massively dark horse, who actually makes sense and despite his years at the Arsenal is quite balanced in his views…

But despite the fallacies of Andy Gray and Richard Keys – for all their sins – I think I will miss them annoying me every week (if that makes sense)… yes, their comments were inappropriate, but is it really a sack-able offence? Who I am to judge anyway…

I’ll leave you with some fighting talk from Jack Wilshere – who was my man of the match earlier this week against Ipswich – a player who is simply sublime, and getting better game by game…

“There is a hunger among the players to win something – it has been so long that we have almost forgotten what it is like. We need to bring that back into the football club – this is a big football club and we need trophies. Any trophy is a trophy and if we can win one in February, it will give us confidence for the rest of the season. Before the game, everyone was saying this was a great opportunity – just get a goal and it’ll open up and it did. ”It would be massive for the Club – any trophy is a trophy and it has been five years since we won our last one. We know that if we win one, hopefully it’ll come along, and then it’ll open up more for us.”

And he also spoke about the last time we won a trophy:

“I was 13,” he recalled. I remember the game – I was sat at home with my family and Vieira scored the last penalty. You could see what it meant to them and we just want to do that again.  Being a member of the team, they [the older players] feel hungry for trophies and it rubs off on you. Even though I have only been here a year, I want to win trophies – that’s what this Club is about and we need to do that. We know we are going to Wembley now and we will see what happens in the other Semi-Final. We know that West Ham or Birmingham will be strong on the day. It’s a cup final and everyone wants to win those. We must look forward to our Premier League games now until then and when it comes along, get ready for that.”

And that team is Birmingham, after they managed to beat West Ham after extra time is a cracker of a game (so I heard) and it will be London vs the Midlands, Arsenal vs Birmingham on Sunday the 27th February… for our first trophy of the season… perhaps…

That’s it from me today… until tomorrow, Adios…

Arsenal 3 – 0 Ipswich, We’re Going To Wembley…

Morning All…

First thing is first – for the first time in quite a while, boys and girls, we’re going to Wembley… And in a typical Arsenal way – we made it dramatic, as dramatic as we could make it – 1-0 down from the first leg and a 0-0 first half… and it all boiled down to the second half of the second leg, when we finally clicked into gear…

Arsene sprung a few surprises  yesterday when he named the trio of Arshavin, Bendtner and Denilson in the line up – the “Arshbendilson”… as they have been referred to quite a bit… I was shocked to see all three of them, I really thought – yes, he may play one – but unlucky to find enough space in the starting line up for all three… But he did…

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Denilson

Bendtner – Cesc – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Shea, Song, Eboue, Gibbs, Walcott, Nasri and Chamakh

Ipswich had a game plan – which was to defend and defended in numbers, but when they had the opportunity – to attack and try and nick a goal. They kicked of the half with a shot from the half way line at goal. It wasn’t a night to remember for Mark Halsey, the referee, as he seemed on intent on giving Ipswich a 12th man, with a series of anti-Arsenal decisions, allowing a lot of rough tackling to take place from the Ipswich players.

It was a bit of stop-start first half, with Denilson and Bendtner showing why they aren’t first choice picks in the team – Arshavin, on the other hand, started much better than he had in recent games – aware of keeping possession and using the ball well – it was blindingly obvious that the Russian has lost a yard of pace in the last twelve months.

Van Persie had our first major chance, when a ball from the right connected well, but the Dutchman missed the target – shortly to be followed by a Cesc run that ended him being flattened in the penalty box, but nothing given. A clash of heads in our box saw Sagna leave the field and he was replaced by the slightly unstable Eboue…

There was a lot of goal mouth action and Van Persie hit the bar with a header and Cesc and Bendtner had shots and rebounds saved respectively… but it was level at the break and it would all be down to the last 45 of 180 minutes for us to win the tie…

I wonder what Arsene said at half time…

“I told them to keep our priorities right, that is continue to defend well and not expose ourselves too much by rushing our game. We needed to be calm, patient, even if we had to go into the last 20 minutes. We had to continue to believe in our game.”

And that was the plan… Bendtner and Arshavin switched sides, the Dane playing on the left… and just when you thought he couldn’t get any worse… he got much better… a great ball from Jack Wilshere put Bendtner in on goal, he went wide of the defender, switched back onto his right and then finished to the bottom right of the goal. Excellent goal and the best thing Bendtner has done in a while. You could see in his performance that he knows he is not playing well and the goal would have meant a lot to him…

“We rotate, I rotate from game to game because we play nine games in January and we played eight or nine in December as well. I show them as well that I have confidence in every player, no matter how big the game is. Of course sometimes when a player has not played for a few weeks, when he comes in he is not 100 per cent, but after a few games Bendtner is getting sharper and sharper.”

1-0 became 2-0 moments later as Koscielny connected with an excellent corner, and rammed the ball in the back of the net… it shows what could happen if a) we stopped playing our short corner routines and b) we actually beat the first man from a corner!

The relief around the stadium was evident all around – thank God… and a sense of Wembley was present… the sniff of a cup final… a chance of silverware was in the eyes… but we needed a third – and who else to score it – but our captain – who has been longing a goal in the last couple of games, and he deserved one. Arshavin cleverly going inside with Cesc overlapping and the Russian playing him in for Cesc to tuck the ball under the keeper.

It finished 3-0 and there were a lot of happy Gooners – credit to Ipswich for their travelling support and the song banter… a classic come back in the song department when the tractor boys echoed, “you only sing when you’re winning”, to which we replied… “We’ve only got one Song…”… Classic…

Arsene spoke after the game and said:

“Of course, the players were really up for it and focused. At the end we needed to be patient. You have to give credit to Ipswich over the two games, they defended with great attitude and great spirit and we needed tonight to be mature, calm, patient and of course not concede a goal. The fact we have stabilised our defensive record helped us to qualify.

“It meant a lot for the squad, for the team, and I must say they deserved to be rewarded because they have an outstanding attitude and spirit. They are on a natural development process and overall I think that in the last four games we scored three goals in every single game and conceded one so we are efficient on both sides. It was important to continue to believe, not to rush our game and not become nervous. We did that very well.”

He also spoke about how happy Cesc was to get to the final – I’m sure they all are very happy!!

Til tomorrow my friends… til tomorrow…

Arsenal vs Ipswich – Semi Final Second Leg Match Preview (0-1 agg)

Are you ready!???!??!?!!!!!!

I said………… Are you ready?!?!!

We are one game away from Wembley – one game away from a cup final and one game away from the opportunity to win our first trophy in a long while… 2005 to be precise… we need to win a trophy soon and when we win one…. surely it’ll be the start of something great!

Shall we go straight into team news!?

The big question is whether Arsene will play a strong line up… of course, we all presume that if he plays the same team as he did on Saturday that we will win with a canter… but the manager will definitely have some reservations about playing Van Persie is so many games in a row. Personally I think he will play Chamakh and why not? Chamakh has been playing very well this season and always does well when called upon.

It’s so tempting to play a reserve-ish side due to the fact that we’re playing lower league opposition – but this is a semi final and we have an FA cup game against Huddersfield now (no disrespect meant)… so I really think this could be a good team to play:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Chamakh

With a bench of Shea, Eboue, Clichy, Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner and Van Persie.

There is a possibility that with the thought of resting Van Persie against Huddersfield, he will play him against Ipswich, but shouldn’t the team above be able to beat Ipswich – the only real changes are Clichy for Gibbs and Chamakh for Van Persie… meaning if we’re not winning at half time, we have Van Persie, Arshavin and er…. okay, we just have Van Persie to call on…

Arsene said he will be totally focused on today’s game and will

“I want to do well for the Club in every single competition. To go to the Final we need to produce a very good game tonight and that is what I am focused on. What it means or not in my head is not important at all. I think this team is on a fantastic run, it has a great spirit, a great quality, and I want them to go as far as they can. That is the only important thing at the moment – to mobilise our resources in every single game. That is where our future lies. I don’t know [if one trophy will lead to another]. We want to win everything and at the moment tonight is the Carling Cup so we go for the Carling Cup. Sunday is the FA Cup so we go for the FA Cup. At the end of the season we will see whether we have won trophies but at the moment I think the most important [thing] is to live the moment for us, and not to be looking forward too much.”

Interesting words – it sounds like he could just field the same team that played against Wigan once again. But I’m glad that he is focused on today’s game as he’s right – it is the only game that matters right now… I totally believe that we can win the game and if we do, a trip to Wembley is looming. What a great day out that would be!

One person who is extremely confident about tonight’s match is our new #1, Szcznesy…

“We are confident for the second leg – we are Arsenal and believe we can beat anybody. We have a team from the Championship coming to the Emirates and they probably won’t fancy it too much. But we fancy our chances and are confident we will go through. They have a one-goal advantage, which they will try to defend, but as soon as we score the first goal it will be downhill for them.”

Good fighting talk Szcznezzers! (Somehow I managed to add more Z’s to his name)…

And in other news, in a strange twist of Arsene Wengerness, the gaffer talked about a potential transfer target – doesn’t that usually mean that he’s already signed him, in young Southampton prospect, Chamberlain… Apparently he’s the bees knees, plays on the wing and that’s a position we could really deal with and apparently, he’s only 17…

“We will try now,” Wenger said. “We need an agreement with Southampton. We need an agreement with the player, and we are not the only ones on the case. But we try as hard as we can as I like him as a player.”

With his dad also confirming that he’d like the player to go to Arsenal, a deal could be imminent…

But first tonight’s game!!!

Come on you Gooners!

The Hardest Hat Trick

Morning, before I start blabbing on about Arsenal (or professional football generally) I just wanted to say my Sunday league team, Dinamo Megahorse, beat top of the league York Medics yesterday, 2-1 away. I can’t feel my legs anymore, and we played like Manchester City at home in the Manchester derby with 10 men behind the ball. We won with the last kick of the game as well, final whistle went as we were celebrating. I love football sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever run as much in my life, their right wing was a tricksy little shit.

The only thing that let Sunday down was the terrible, terrible scheduling that led to Blackburn v West Brom as the only match of the day, I don’t want to be watching that awful shit. I mean I did, and it was, but still. I had the added bonus of seeing Robinson and Gamst Pedersen keeping a clean sheet for the fantasy team but I’ll be honest, now that Big Sam has gone to milk cows, Morton doesn’t seem to take all the free kicks and throw ins anymore. How’s he going to earn me a shit tonne of bonus points and assists now? I don’t think I like this little bald fella they’ve put in charge, and it’s not often I’ll bemoan the lack of Allardycian (prickish?) tactics in a team.

Robin Van Persie though, AMIRITE? He seems to have come back into top form pretty quickly. It’s actually exciting seeing Arsenal line up with him up front, not just because of his goals, but the way he brings in the sides and the midfield with his play. With RVP fully fit, anything could happen. There were a few dark days when we only had Arshavin up front, or Bendtner leading the line – don’t get me wrong, despite their critics they are both fine players, but neither of them comes close the RVP. Can you imagine where he would rank had it not been for his continuous injury record? 6 goals in 3 games, I only hope that form continues.

Alex Song deserves another mention. Despite a few wobbles in the early part of the season which resulted in the weekly ritual of shouting “GET BACK SONG, GET BACK”, Song has improved again this season. He started as a “best fit” in the DM role, but has since made it his own. His ability to use the ball and distribute it well often starts our attacks, and enables the players in front of him to launch attacks. There was a slight tendency to panic and clear at the start of the season that wasn’t present last year, but Song as since become part of an excellent midfield trio with Wilshere and Fabregas. Everyone knows the Spanish Jesus’s talents, inside out, but Wilshere is slowly forming an excellent partnership with both Fab and Song. Again, he provides to Arsenals midfield something we’ve lacked for a while, someone in the middle who takes the ball, makes space and passes it. With Song And Wilshere behind Fabregas, there is always someone in front of the back four, there is always someone to receive the ball (Jack in particular always shouting for it, always in space) and there is always someone to move forward with it.

The importance of the middle three cannot be over estimated, as the heart of the team they dictate the flow and pace of the game, able to dictate the tempo as they please. Would Diaby get into the middle three at the moment? Doubtful. Denilson is a bit part player, competent, but not as good. Solid cover, little else at this moment.

Anybody read or hear the stuff said by Andy Gray / Richard ‘Monkey’ Keys? Regardless of your opinions regarding females in refereeing (or indeed, assistant refereeing), some of the stuff they said was just plain hilarious. Cavemen in the extreme, it was just plain funny. Andy Gray is particularly terrible at understanding the rules of football – using terms such as “daylight between the players” (not in the rules), “wait for the offside player to touch the ball” (not in the rules) and most hilariously “the referee should apply common sense there” (no he fucking shouldn’t, he should apply the fucking rules). Seriously, for a man who doesn’t understand the offside law, to then berate a woman who appears to understand it very well, purely because she’s a woman…. well, it writes itself doesn’t it.

And finally, news abounds that Arsenal are very close to sealing the Oxlade-Chmaberlain deal with Southampton. Apparently he better than Walcott, stronger and more technical certainly… could be exciting times for the young lad and Arsenal. Sanchez Watt didn’t do much for Leeds, JET bagged an assist after playing right mid for Cardiff and both Ramsey/Lansbury were in the stands after they didn’t sign to Cardiff/Norwich in time to play. Kyle Bartley played, held together a makeshift back four for Sheffield United (average age 21) but lost 2-1. The plaudits that lad is picking up from opposition fans, most often “he kept them in it” are really really mouthwatering.

Kieran (@kieran_delaney)

Arsenal 3 – 0 Wigan: The Van Persie Show

Robin Van Persie. What can you say? His performance today was sublime. Take the goals away, and the player would still get an 8/10 for his general play, link up play and work rate alone – but add in his three goals and it’s a definite 10/10… even with missing a penalty! Arsene has shown faith in Van Persie and he’s rewarded him with 6 goals in the last 3 games.

The Dutchman lead the line in an otherwise unchanged line-up from the West Ham game (Sagna and Eboue aside) and the team lined-up as such:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc - Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Shea, Gibbs, Eboue, Denilson, Arshavin, Chamakh and Bendtner

We started like we finished against Leeds - in superb control and with flowing football. The first 9 minutes was probably the best 9 minutes of any start of any game this season – we cut Wigan open several times, testing the Wigan goalkeeper 4 times in the opening period. Nasri, Cesc, Walcott and Van Persie are a dream combination up front and were mesmerising the Wigan defence time and time again.

Van Persie has been in great form since his return to the side… and has really found his scoring boots – a great run by Walcott and a good shot from Van Persie nearly put us ahead… if it weren’t for the great keeping from the Wigan goalkeeper. But the first goal was coming and it was that man Van Persie who scored the opener with a great shot after Song did good work to drag the defenders out wide and then slid in RvP, who finished well, very well - and it was 1-0 to the Arsenal.

The frustrating thing for all of us is that we went in at half time with the scoreline only at 1-0 – Nasri, Cesc and Van Persie should and could have scored goals to extend our lead, but the keeper was outstanding – at the break, we went in having had 11 shots on target compared to Wigan’s 1, but the scoreline was only 1-0.

We started very badly in the second half and for the first team minutes of the second half, to be honest, it was all Wigan – to be fair to the two central defenders, they did very well to protect Szcznesy – who although didn’t have to do much, was commanding when called upon.

We started to get back into the game and started to take control of the game and it wasn’t long until we scored the second – to calm our nerves but the players nerves as well – and what a goal it was. Cesc with the free kick and he chose to play Robin straight in who finished with a first time volley. My text doesn’t do justice to the goal – it was simply sublime…

2 could have turned into 3 when Cesc was fouled in the area and Van Persie stood up to take the penalty – unusually for him, he blazed it over the bar… Arsene joking afterwards that he really didn’t expect such a poor penalty from his striker. But it did become three when a super ball over the defence but Theo through, who held the ball up nicely for Van Persie to score his first competitive hattrick in an Arsenal shirt.

Theo did have his moments – like when he forgot to shoot and decided to square it to a player who wasn’t there when one-on-one – and of course, a cameo of nonense from Arshavin was comical to watch, but overall, it was a great team performance, and well done to all of the team!

Arsene commented on Van Persie’s recent form and said:

He is back in form. He was already fit and sharp last week and overall we had a good team performance so he could finish a hat-trick. Of course it is important to have Robin at this level but we have plenty of offensive players. First of all let’s hope we can keep him fit until the end of the season. It is down to us to use him in the right proportion of the games we play.

And he also singled out Cesc for his role in the game:

I think he was outstanding. At the end of the game he was frustrated because he didn’t score but for me the ball he gave for the second goal was absolutely amazing. The second goal I could watch that and watch it and watch it again because it’s just pure class from the pass to the finish.

It was a great goal…

We have very important games in the two cup competitions and ideally we can rotate a little bit more – but first thing’s first and we need to win the game on Wednesday against Ipswich, and progress into the Carling Cup final…

Kieran D will be blogging tomorrow, and I’ll be back on Tuesday for a Ipswich preview!

Til then… Enjoy…

Arsenal vs Wigan Preview: Team Spirit, Defenders & Vermaelen…

Morning All…

These midweek games are keeping us bloggers very busy… the last blog was the match report from the Leeds away and before I can even finishing discussing the points from Wednesday’s game, it’s already time to think about Wigan! Before I do, if the bookies are to believed, then Gary Cahill is about to move down south from sunny Bolton to even sunnier London, and down to the Emirates… Bolton have signed David Wheater from Middlesborough and it may signal a move away from the club for Gary Cahill….

BUT… Arsene revealed today on the site that Thomas Vermaelen’s surgery was successful and he willing be back in training in two weeks… of course, it will be at least 6 weeks until he is back and fit and the Barcelona home game is out of the question, but the away game is certainly in that time frame…

Arsene commented on the surgery and said:

“It was not a real surgery, it is what you call a procedure. I am not a medical specialist but what they took off is what you call the plantaris tendon. This is a structure that is very rarely injured and they tell me many people do not have one at all. It’s a little tendon next to the Achilles tendon where he had the friction.”

That’s great news for us – to have such an awesome player back in for the run in could be an essential come back for us – not to disregard the excellent performances of Koscielny and Djourou but Vermaelen is out best centre back and to have him back would be a massive boost.

There was also some news on Squillaci – he’ll be back in about 7 days, the gaffer saying:

“Squillaci is not far away but he will not be completely ready for the weekend. He will be one week I think.”

So, based on those two interesting facts… do you think we will sign Gary Cahill? I seriously doubt it! The Bolton manager saying that they don’t want to sell Cahill but need re-enforcement in that area.

Okay, so on to team news and Denilson and Chamakh have slight knocks, so neither will start against Wigan, but Cesc and Van Persie should return to the side…

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Shea, Eboue, Gibbs, Denilson, Arshavin, Rosicky and Bendtner

That is the strongest side we can field and the desire to beat Wigan should be quite high considering we failed to beat them at the DW Stadium earlier in the year. I don’t see why Arsene wouldn’t field the strongest team at his disposal considering the new two games are against Ipswich and Huddersfield – both at home…

A special mention to Robin Van Persie, who has really come back into the team with some swagger and really made an impression on the team. Well done to the vice-captain and keep working hard… Good on you!

Come on you Gooners!

Leeds 1-3 Arsenal. That’s more like it!

Apologies first of all, for not having replied any comments on my last post, or even commented on any posts. Been crazy busy, and I have not, and still don’t, have my laptop with me, but hopefully by the end of next month, I should be more settled and shoud be able to contribute more often to the blog. Sincere apologies.

So, the game. The line-up for the game was very similar to the last game at Leeds, but with Koscielny coming in for Squillaci, and Nasri in for Rosicky. Theo and Cesc on the bench as well.

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny– Djourou – Gibbs

Denilson – Song

Bendtner – Nasri – Arshavin

Chamakh

I missed the start of the game, having been down to Southampton for a job interview, and First Capital Connect deciding not to run any fast trains today of all days, for whatever reason! Anyways, I only missed about a minute and a half, so it was not all bad.

But from where I started, Leeds were putting us under a whole load of pressure, with the defence having to be resolute. And next thing I know, we score! First attack I saw, a counter-attack, and Nasri had it in the back of the net. A bit fortunate, as the assist came from a Leeds player, but the finish was assured, sliding the ball past the ‘keeper at his near post. 5 minutes on the clock. Not a bad start at all, and it looked like we would go on and build from it.

We should have doubled our lead, first with Arshavin, a low cross in the box only just evading him, and a few minutes later, a similar chance fell to Bentdner from a Sagna cross, but the ball evaded him as well! If Nasri had not scored, it would have seemed like it’d be one of those days!

But the second goal duly came, but from an unlikely source! It was Sagna! His second goal this season, and what a strike it was! Very similar to his first effort this season as well! He probably got fed up of the crosses only just evading players and decided to have a go himself, cutting in towards the box from the right, and drilling an effort which schmeichel could only palm into the net. FIERCE! 0-2 love and cruising, it seemed! And with only 35 minutes having played.

One would have thought that would have killed Leeds off, but they came back strongly! With the pressure on us defensively, Arshavin tried to clear the ball, just to the left (or was what right? I get both confused all the time, sorry!) and he seemd to be fouled by the Leeds player, but the referee thought otherwise. Ball then got played to a Leeds player, about 30 yards out, and probably having just been inspired by Sagna (or his goal from a similar range in his last game), he hit the ball sweetly, the ball nestling into the top-corner, still on the rise! Fabulous goal! And sorry Sagna, it was a better one than yours. But it’s okay Sagna, I love you more. Well, I don’t love the Leeds player at all, but you get my point. Johnson it was, the Leeds goal-scorer. Life-long Arsenal fan I hear. Nice memento for him.

But the goal really lifted the crowd, and the Leeds players as well, and it was a good thing it was so close to half-time, as Leeds were really pumped after that goal. Well-deseved goal though it was, but they definitely did not deserve to be level.

1-2 at half-time fair result, but we had to ensure we didn’t let Leeds continue on the high on which they ended the first half.

So it was good to see that we started the second half very quickly out of the blocks, Song having an effort saved by the ‘keeper with about 30 seconds on the board! And from the resulting corner and free-kick, Nasri’s effort, although straight at the ‘keeper, was almost dropped back over the line! Great start. We even had a spate of 3 successive corners, but nothing came out of it.

With about 58 mintes on the clock, Cesc started to warm up. But Arshavin had a great chance to score, but his effort was wide! He was alone on the far left in the box, but when the ball was played to him, he lost his composure and blazed over. I thought he had a generally good game, but his shooting boots haven’t done the business for him.

Leeds did have one or two chances, but our goalie was largely untroubled, well, minus their goal. He had to be alert after an Arshavin back-header almost played a Leeds player in, but he was quick off his line.

With 25 minutes to go, Leeds made a substitution, and he almost scored with his first touch! But luckily the ball looped over the net. Heart-in-mouth moment. We made two substitutions shortly afterwards, with Arshavin and Chamakh coming off for van Persie and Cesc. Not a bad couple of subs to have! 20 minutes to go at this stage.

Fabregas in on the action straight away, having a go at a free-kick outside the box slightly towards the right, but he hit it just wide of the post!

But umm, 1-3 now! Great ball from Bendtner on the right, and with the ball just hanging there waiting to be headed, van Persie obliged and nodded it in! Why do I think that was his first touch (well, headers count as touches, don’t they?)? Either way, great goal, and definitely eased the pressure. I read a stat on twitter that apparently we’d won our last 2 or 3 matches at Elland Road, we’d won 1-4, so maybe we were simply trying to continue that trend! About 15 minutes left to get that 4th!

With about 7 or 8 minutes to go, Nasri got replaced, to a standing ovation, by Clichy. And with Cesc on and in the middle of midfield and Arshavin off, I’m guessing Gibbs then replaced Nasri on the left of the midfield. A bit confusing, I apologise…

Kitchen sink time with 90 minutes on the clock, with the Leeds goalie even going up. But with 4 minutes of injury-time having been added, he had to hotfoot it back!

We didn’t get the 4th goal in the end, but more importantly, we didn’t let Leeds score and put too much pressure on us in the closing stages, and we comfortably saw the game out. Cracking cup tie, but the right team won in the end.

I was impressed yet again with Djourou, as his anticipation was mostly on point. His presence is definitely a big plus at the back. Not much to say about individual performances, as we didn’t really need to get out of 3rd gear to win the game, but I am pretty sure that had we needed to put in more effort, we would have easily changed gears. Everyone did what they had to do. Shame we didn’t see Theo, but Arsene knows best!

Nasri was man of the match, well-deserved. Good to see van Persie getting on the scoresheet more often, and crucially not picking up any injuries in the process! It bodes well.

So with Leeds dispatched, up next is a home game against Huddersfield. We can with that at the first time of asking, no?