Leeds vs Arsenal – The Preview, The Pitch, The Probabilities…

Morning Folks…

Today is an important day – we have a cup game, a make or break cup game against the most hideous of teams in Leeds United. A team which have purposely ripped up their pitch so we can’t play on a decent pitch and have to change our style. It’s a terrible thing to do, but if the record books speak for themselves, we’ll go up to Elland Road and hammer them 4-1.

There is a big debate on whether Arsene should rotate or not, considering the result in the first game. Personally, with the pitch in such a state, I definitely don’t want Robin Van Persie to have any part of today’s game. The striker has come back to some really good form and I want him to keep fit for the rest of the season – if he can do so, they we will have a really good chance at winning things… I rather he played against Ipswich in the Carling Cup and helped us win the Carling Cup instead!

“It’s the sharpest he has been for a long time. Van Persie is a technical striker with short, sharp movements and [he] can bring other players in. In our system that is very important. He works hard for the team like all the other strikers and he is a left-footed player who gives different angles in the build up of the game. He depends on his physical sharpness.”

Injury for key player is all I see when I think about Elland Road, so I really hope we don’t risk RvP…

Talking about who is going to play… let’s take a look at the team that I think will play…

Szcznesy

Eboue – Song – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Wilshere

Arshavin – Rosicky – Vela

Chamakh

With a bench of Shea, Djourou, Ramsey, Cesc, Nasri, Walcott and Bendtner

I’ll explain my team choice….

There is no way in hell we can risk Djourou – he’s played way too much football in recent times… and considering we have 2 of our 4 centre backs injured and considering our fifth centre back was randomly sold a few weeks ago… can we risk injury prone Djourou – I wouldn’t. I would hate us to lose another centre back. Will Miquel play? I doubt it – Arsene had a chance in the first game and he didn’t take it, so I doubt he’ll put him in in the away leg…

I doubt Arsene will play Ramsey yet – he will most probably be eased into the first team via home games, and if we have Song at the back, then Denilson and Wilshere will come into the middle of the park. Personally, I feel like Denilson is going through the worst form of his career, but maybe he’ll come out of it – we need our squad players around in case of injury – so I won’t get on his back if Arsene plays him.

Up front, we have to drop Bendtner – he is the worst player we’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt this side of Christmas – and I know Arsene says that it’s because he’s not fit – but please give him some reserve games… Chamakh has done brilliantly for us and he really has to start… he’s got a hat-trick in him for sure… I don’t think Arsene will play Nasri or Walcott or Cesc, so think Arshavin, Rosicky and Vela will come in – they do have the ability to create and they need to perform. They need games and they need to be able to perform against Leeds – if one of NasWalCesc gets injured, then they need to come in and stand in – so today’s game is vital for them to find some form.

The massive I have is regarding centre backs and, if you’ve read yesterday’s post, Buying A Defender Could Win Us The Title, you’ll know my sentiments in greater detail.

Arsene did speak about it yesterday some more:

“No, it is still nowhere. We get many offers but, at the moment, nothing concrete. I cannot tell you [about the type of player] at the moment because it has to click in my head and nothing has happened yet. If you look at the centre backs we have, they are quality – Djourou, Squillaci, Koscielny, Vermaelen. The quality of the player coming in, what will it be? Is it a complement to the players we have already? It’s very difficult to predict.”

Arsene, you have to realise that the four you’ve mentioned are: Djourou – Injury Prone, Squillaci – Old & Error Prone (and injured for a month), Kosicelny – Inexperienced & Learning and finally Vermaelen –   terminally out of action (well for the next two months)…. We need another centre back and most of the available centre backs will be an addition to the current state of the squad…

Well, let’s not concentrate on that right now… we have a game to think about!!

Buying A Defender Could Win Us The Title…

Morning Fellow Gooners,

Today I am writing the blog with the help of “Lady WOA” who is talking to me about aliens and monsters and how they are in a film together. Whilst I maintain some sort of interest, I am actually thinking about the defensive crisis that is imminently looming. I’m not one who goes on about needing new signings and I do have a lot of faith in the current squad – but there are certain times when you need to buy to ensure that a crisis doesn’t happen – i.e. if two of your four centre backs are injured and the remaining two are injury prone and inexperienced.

With Nordtveit having left the club despite being our most promising youngster in summer and Miquel being promoted to the fringes of the first team despite never having played for our first team, we’re simply down to the two centre backs that we’ve seen in action for the last three games…

My main worry is that the two we have – although excellent at times – both have an error up their sleeve – we saw a bit of a shaky performance from Djourou in the last game against West Ham and we also saw a bit of a shaky performance from Koscielny against Leeds. Last season, our defensive mistakes were the undoing of us – we lose confidence and lose swagger. If either Djourou or Koscielny get injured or sent off, we have no other option…

Except the option of breaking our formidable midfield trio of Song – Wilshere – Cesc… “WilshCescSong”… doesn’t have the same ring as TheoNasVanCesc… but the last thing we want to see is Song going back into the defence and seeing Denilson come into midfield. Despite being quite pro-Denilson last season, I’ve done a complete u-turn this season and in light of the fact he has been our worst player this season, the thought of NOT having Song in the midfield and having Denilson in there – when it matters – and having Song in defence – doesn’t appeal to me at all!

We all know that we won’t see Squillaci for three weeks or so and we won’t see Vermaelen for the next 6 weeks – if his operations goes well… a big IF…

Vermaelen admitted yesterday that he is going under the knife…

“I’ll undergo this operation in Sweden. According to the specialist who will operate on me it’s a little tendon situated beside the Achilles tendon which is provoking the irritation.”

Arsene also commenting:

“It’s not a real surgery. It is to take out a little [tendon] next to his [Achilles] tendon. It is to open it a little bit and cut out the [tendon] that has been causing the friction. It is a procedure, that is the right medical term. We are very optimistic that [this will cure the problem]. But of course it is now what you call in football a little bit longer delay of four to six weeks.”

So, we have to buy…

Arsene, if you’re reading this, then there is no other option. Unless you honestly think the untried, untested and young Miquel is honestly an option, which I don’t think you do! Don’t live in the dreamland that we can make it through and Thomas Vermaelen will be back and fine soon – he hasn’t played since September!

Well… If I am correct, the gaffer did say that there was a chance that he’d be back in less than a month… er… dream land?

“Let’s count the weeks to Barcelona and you will know. I count a minimum of four weeks, maximum six, so it is not an unrealistic target.  But don’t forget as well he is a little bit in the situation of Aaron Ramsey, he has not played since the beginning of September, that means he will need some games to be completely fit.”

But the time is now to buy another centre back!

Squillaci is not good enough at this level, Djourou and Koscielny are good, but they would thrive learning off and playing with someone experienced… Arsene did say if he did buy it would have to be someone with Premiership experience.

Just imagine if we signed Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka from Bolton or Everton respectively – not the worst touts as signings – but it would send a huge message to our rivals. It would mean that we had backup whilst Vermaelen is out, and a long term replacement for Squillaci and more time to develop the likes of Miquel… Perfect signing, right?

It could just win us the title…

Wet Spam, Chopped.

Super Sunday yesterday ended up not being quite so super in the end then. 4 premiership games, 3 derbies and United/Spurs, meant that the day was destined to hold some kind of excitement. Except it didn’t really. 4 draws, the so called ‘game of the day’ ending 0-0. I guess that’s football.

Rewind to Saturday, and we returned to winning ways – Arsenal scored three against an unconvincing West Ham. The fact that we retained 66% possession away from home underlines just how dominant Arsenal were. Make no mistake, West Ham are at the foot of the table for a reason, and further lacked Parker, Noble (after getting injured) and patchy striker Piquionne. The players left were simply not able to compete in the middle of the pitch and most damagingly for them, allowed us to play passes across the pitch without interruption. That’s not to say it was a foregone conclusion. Twice recently we have had the greater share of possession and drawn/lost games.

However, Arsenal were different on Saturday, showing balance and poise in attack – Robin Van Persie looking again like his old self pre injuries, a destroyer and tormentor of defences. RVP offers us not only his ability to link play and bring the players either side of him into the game with smart and concise passing, he also offers a fantastic finishing ability, as marked by his first goal. I do not believe Bendtner or Chamakh would have scored that goal. I don’t believe either striker would have had the presence of mind to shout to Nasri to leave it either. Zonal Marking have an excellent article detailing the attacking aspect of our game.

Walcott often frustrates me, disappearing as he does behind defenders whilst calling for the ball. It does not matter how talented his team mates are, they will never gain the ability to pass through players. The best they can do is kick it into space, past or over defenders for him, yet occasionally he seems to get himself it tight positions surrounded by players and yet he still calls for an impossible ball. It shows a lack of awareness, so hopefully that is something he will learn. I only mention it because against West Ham, Walcott took advantage of a terrible Wayne Bridge and mercilessly exploited the space he found. Walcott was exceptional against West Ham, hopefully he will learn from that and start to present himself for his team mates more often. Using him to draw defenders is a waste of his talents.

Wilshere was also fantastic. He is developing into a fine player, gifted on the ball, creative, but able to challenge and break up play, he is a natural complement to Song and Fabregas is what is surely our strongest midfield trio. His ability to turn into space is wonderful and vital to Arsenal’s quick attacking.

Other Arsenal news includes Sanchez Watt scoring a great opener for Leeds courtesy of 101 Great Goals and breaking news that Arsenal have agreed a partnership with Dutch side Feyonoord which will see us loan them plenty of players awaiting work permits. Something to do with Holland’s apparent lack of fear of immigration. As forward thinking as they are, they have absolutely no problem with well paid sportsmen coming to their country and earning money, whilst paying plenty of tax towards the country’s coffers. More at the always excellent Young Guns.

Fast forward to Sunday, and my main rant of the day – the quality of pundits and commentators on TV. United had Rafael sent off for two bookable offences yesterday, and the pundits were clamouring to call it harsh. First, the player went in studs up, missed the ball and took out the player. Yellow card. Secondly he deliberately went across the back of the Spurs player in a cynical attempt to stop him running through to the goal. That is a booking. A yellow card. Two yellows = a red. The thing that really irritates me is when these people on TV say “it was harsh for a second yellow” like a second yellow should be only issued for a more severe infringement. A yellow card is a yellow card, there isn’t a sliding scale, a yellow card isn’t an orange card, somewhere between a yellow and a straight red, it’s just a yellow card. If that means players get sent off for time wasting or verbally abusing a referee, that’s fine, minor infringements they may be, but they are still yellow card offences. A player on a yellow doesn’t automatically get immunity from some rules. If a player without a booking would get booked, then so should a player with a booking. It really is very simple. Andy Gray is a tosser, and the perception that he must know best (pedalled by himself no less) because he used to play the game, is bollocks. He’s out of touch and doesn’t know the rules.

Very rarely does a referee get praise for the correct decision, yet players, managers, pundits and commentators are the first to jump on the ref when he gets a decision wrong. It’s sad to see Andy Gray leading the charge against a ref who according to the rules of the game got the decision absolutely right. When a pundit says “common sense” ignore him. He’s talking about the referee not applying the rules because he thinks he knows better. That’s not how football works. Football has rules, the referee is there to apply them. Suggesting the referee should ignore the rules, whether you agree with them or not, is 100% whimsical bullshit. The next time Andy Gray suggests the referee “uses a bit of common sense” or “that’s a harsh second yellow” I will actually try and climb into the telly to punch his face off.

West Ham 0 – 3 Arsenal: Game Analysis

Evening All.

A London derby, away…. 3 points on offer and 3 points duly earned…

The starting line up was as predicted:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

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

Rosicky was omitted in favour of Carlos Vela, and you would have to wonder why considering we had Chamakh and Bendtner on the bench too – either Carlos Vela is in the shop window and we’re trying to loan him to the highest bidder… or Rosicky had an injury or something niggling…

Of course, before the game there was a lot of speculation about whether or not Avram Grant would still be manager after the game – and potentially being replaced by Martin O’Neill – we weren’t sure whether that would be good for us or not, would the uncertainty galvanise the squad and would they be able to spring a result against all the odds. For me, the news that Scott Parker was not in the squad was big as he is one of their best players and it definitely gave the fans a lift before the game started.

We started the game very well, with an immediate seizing and control of the possession, from the outset, closing down and not letting West Ham have any space. The front four of Walcott, Cesc, Nasri and Van Persie has been our most successful attacking quartet so it was good to see them re-united… and it didn’t take too long for us to get in our groove, with Cesc combining well and becoming the central hub that is he forte.

We took the lead early on in the 13th minute, with a good move and goal – the ball going out to Walcott on the right, who squared it into the middle, with Nasri purposely leaving the ball for Van Persie – the Dutchman duly taking the opportunity and finishing with his right foot with pinpoint accuracy. It was an excellent goal with his “chocolate leg” as he calls it! But I am happy that he took it on with his right and he did so well to connect and score in one move. The dummy from Nasri sublime in the build up – with Theo making the right choices today.

It’s an interesting one, as Theo does have a Jekyll and Hyde-ness about his play – sometimes he makes the right decisions, plays well, shoots when he has to and sometimes he drips over the ball. But today was one of his more inspiring performances, picking out the right pass for RvP to slot the ball home.

Nasri was named the player of the month for December and he continued in his rich vein of form with some sublime inter-play with the rest of the team and although he starts on the left, his forays into the middle of the park and general movement is a big asset to the team. A drive through the centre saw him slip in Van Persie who struck against the bar – an excellent move, unlucky for it to not end in a goal. It was so important for us to capitalise on the domination we had, and we managed to get a second before half time.

Van Persie’s movement was sublime throughout the game, and he moved out wide a little to receive the ball, and was pushed a little further out – personally, I thought the ball was going over the line – but he kept it in and squared it into the middle where Bridge and Walcott were… a yard behind became a yard in front and little Theo’s pace out witted the lacklustre ex Man City defender and he nipped in to score the 2nd.

Djourou looked a little rusty to me, but he has played more games than his quota and perhaps it’s a little fatigue.

The second half was less explosive but we maintained the pressure and passing. The main talking point being the penalty – which was awarded when Walcott chased a loose-ish ball into the box and Wayne Bridge slid into him. Van Persie stood up and dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

At 3-0, there was no coming back for West Ham…

Arsene summarised the performance and commented on the flow of the game:

It became pretty comprehensive because I feel on the whole we had a very strong first half. That certainly affected West Ham’s morale and in the second half it looked as if it were a bit more flat. West Ham in the second half didn’t put us under pressure, didn’t really get out of their own half, and we always looked like we were closer to scoring the third goal than to conceding one. And from then on it became a comprehensive victory. But we had a good, mature performance today.

He also reflected on the games tomorrow and the pressure the other team will now be under:

I think it’s in our hands. In the fact that we play all of the big teams at home and that we have a strong run at home now. We have played many away games, so now we’ll see that it is down to us. Tomorrow we have many big games, but we have done the job today. So we can watch them in a relaxed way a little bit. But we are very interested in one because it is a big test for Tottenham and Man United tomorrow.

A good day’s work, time to enjoy… MOTD here we come!

West Ham Preview: We travel to Upton Park as Martin O’Neill Takes Over

Morning All…

Today is a MASSIVE game for us (note the capitals)… after our break of Premiership football, where we failed to beat Championship teams – twice… a break where Arsene tried to get some fringe players back to fitness and sharpness and a break where we’ve take a foot out of the Carling Cup final door… But none of that matters now – all that matters is today’s game. 3 points on offer, 3 points required. There is no need to tell you – West Ham is a tough place to go… and we will see what we’re made of now.

Arsene talked about the condition of the team and talked about going to Upton Park…

“I said we were naïve and had no spark. I don’t think I have anything to change on that statement. The players are conscious of that, it was a night off as you say. We are of course sorry and we want to put things right in the second leg. We had a completely average performance. But we will not play like that at West Ham. We want to win there. We respect the way that Ipswich played but now we want to play well at West Ham on Saturday. We are on a good run in the Premier League and we want to continue that. We have produced fantastic games, quality-wise, during the Christmas period. I think we switched off a bit mentally during the Cup games, I am confident we will switch on against West Ham.”

Let’s hope we lose the fatigue, are rejuvenated and focused for today’s game – tiredness and fatigue aren’t really an excuse in January, especially when we rotate up to 8 players at one time! On to team news for today and the manager confirmed that Fabianski is still injured and will not be available for selection today – although he did back him publicly as his number one, but was also complimentary to the younger Polish stopper, Szcznesy, who will be in goal today.

“Szczesny has presence, has size and has quality,” he said. “We are in a world of competition but, for me, at the moment it’s clear Fabianski is No 1”.

In addition to this revelation, we also know that Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie will return to the squad, so I expect the line up to be……………..

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of O’Shea, Gibbs, Denilson, Arshavin, Rosicky, Chamakh and Bendtner

I’m not going to re-ignite the “why has Chamakh been dropped” saga, or maybe I am – I really expected to see more of him in the last two games. What has he done wrong to deserve being dropped, and after scoring 10 goals this season, how has Bendtner been chosen ahead of him in recent times?

Today’s game has a bit more spice to it, with news coming in this morning that Martin O’Neill has been appointed manager of West Ham today… He’ll officially take over after today’s game and I’m not quite sure if it’s a good or bad thing for us – maybe the disruption behind the scenes will mean a little confusion on the pitch for them… but usually a new manager coming in does galvanise the team… let’s hope West Ham are the exception to the rule…

Okay… time to start tweeting away… all that is left to say is… come on you Gooners!!!!

Ipswich 1 – 0 Arsenal… Yes, we somehow self imploded!

It pains me to write this match report, as we really didn’t show up… and what I hate most out of the Arsenal is when we simply just don’t turn up, don’t play, don’t want to play and don’t have the desire to win a game, let alone take part.

It was clear that the players had devalued the games on two fronts:

  1. The feeling it was just the Carling Cup, so we could stroll through it
  2. The feeling that we can beat Ipswich at home, so why bother on the first leg

And for me, that’s disrespectful to the club…

Normally I summarise the game, the play and the general feeling, I talk about players to some degree but don’t normally give them a rating or such. But today I want to do the whole rating thing. I want to examine the XI players who couldn’t beat a Championship side that were thrashed 7-0 at home just a few days before our game…

The XI that started the game were:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs

Wilshere – Denilson

Walcott – Cesc – Arshavin

Bendtner

And it was a front three that are currently seriously off form. With Sagna, Song, Nasri, Chamakh and Van Persie – who have been so very impressive this season missing, there would be a certain lack of attacking prowess – but with Cesc in the team, we knew we could create…

Szcznesy – 6

For me, the young Polish stopper had his worst game as an Arsenal player. The occasion, rather than the opposition looks like it got to him. He seems over excited and never seemed comfortable all night. He didn’t alway come for balls that you would expect – he came for balls and missed them – Fabianski (early days) esque… and he even handled outside the box. It showed that he has a long way to go in quality and experience before he can become #1.

Eboue – 5

Eboue is really not the greatest defender in the world. He likes to attack… and against lower opposition teams, he feels like he doesn’t really need to defend. He is actually quite decent on the right wing, and he could play a big part in our attacking play – but you have to worry about him defensively.

Djourou – 7

In a game where we lost to lower opposition, you can’t blame your defenders, you need to blame your attackers. For me, Djourou was one of the few players who seemed interested and was galvanised to try and win the game. A sloppy moment when he waited for the keeper to come and get a ball that he should have dealt with, but he is really becoming a massive player at the back for us.

Koscielny – 6

Similar sentiments to Djourou. The commentators yesterday were talking about how good our two defenders were – but of course, that’s the last thing I wanted to hear! I wanted to hear how good our attackers were. Koscielny has been improving – he was a little shaky at the beginning of the season, but has now come back to some sort of form – although, I believe he was at fault for the goal – if you can’t win it, then clear it or track back better – positionally, always be aware of the lone strikers position.

Gibbs – 6

It wasn’t Gibbs’ finest evening in an Arsenal shirt, but he wasn’t helped defensively by Arshavin choosing randomly when to track back or not… and he wasn’t helped when he attacked, as the forward players just didn’t move. Still on his way to be great, but experience like this will help him.

Denilson – 4

This season – maybe because he is under the watchful eye of all media and fans more than he was a few seasons ago – it seems like everything he touches turn to mush. His passing was very bad, he tackling was completely off – to be honest, I don’t know if he would cut it in the Championship, let alone the Premiership!

Wilshere – 8

Little Jack was absolutely outstanding. His vision, his passing, his movement. He was my man of the match. Maybe he looked even better because everyone else looked so bad! It was a massive shame when he was replaced by Song – but he will be needed for the West Ham game, and we have to remember he is young and needs breaks!

Cesc – 7

Cesc started very well and had a solid game – some of his passes looked off – but I really don’t think that was his fault – the players around him, the attacking trio of Bendtner, Walcott and Arshavin just did not make the runs, did not follow the though process and basically let the captain down. He ended the game quite frustrated and you could see he just wanted to go it alone!

Arshavin – 5

I honestly think Arshavin has turned rubbish. This was a game where he had lesser opposition and to be honest, so quite bad defenders… it was a chance for him to redeem so face in front of the away support and cameras and fans and manager… but for me, he was a shadow of his former self. Arsene says we shouldn’t be worried about his form, but personally, we should be very worried!

Niklas Bendtner – 3

Yes, I am giving Niklas a 3. He was absolutely – beyond belief – quite bad, in fact, very very bad… he couldn’t control the ball, couldn’t pass properly, didn’t know what to do when he had the ball. Astonishing that he was picked for this game in my opinion. If we have a choice, then he should really be the player going on loan… not Vela.

Theo Walcott – 6

Theo was less than impressive, but he did try and that goes a long way in my book. But he still hasn’t got to the level that we should be expecting of him. But he did make runs, and did have a few shots and could have scored. Still think there is much more from him…

It was hard to write this blog as the anger levels were very high yesterday… but there we go, I’ve said it – that is how I feel and those are the player ratings! Time to do so mind clearing exercises and prep myself for the West Ham game!

Carling Cup Semi Final: Ipswich vs Arsenal – The Preview!

Morning Folks…

And its semi-final day today – the Carling Cup… a competition that we all want to win. We’ve got a talented group of players no doubt, but the desire to win something need homing – not just the desire, but the attitude and more importantly, the belief! West Ham won 2-1 in the other semi final yesterday to put one foot in the door, whilst I wouldn’t rule out Birmingham at all, as they have the away goal, and as we all know, St. Andrews is a tough place to go.

Down at the Grove, the main talking points have been about our lack of defenders, and whether or not Arsene will go into the market for another centre back. He did say if Vermaelen didn’t recover by the start of the transfer window, then he would go into the market, and now suddenly, Squillaci has a hamstring injury, whilst Vermaelen doesn’t look like he will be back for quite some time. For me, if we are seriously trying to win trophies, we’ve got to fill the void.

Johan Djourou has been impressive since his return to the first team, but we all know that an injury to him could be around the corner and if he is over used, then it will come sooner. With Squillaci and Vermaelen out, we are down to two players in Djourou and Koscielny. With Alex Song so impressive in midfield, I wouldn’t want him to drop back into defence and the other option being youth product, Ignasi Miquel, who was on the bench against Leeds, and is captain of the reserves…

For those of you who don’t know much about him, take a quick watch of this video:

The manager summarised the situation:

“Ideally it would be better if they were adapted to English football. If you need players now in January then you cannot wait three months before they can play. If the opportunity turns up we will fetch it but, if not, I believe we can cope. We always have people in mind and we check them out. We look everywhere. It’s difficult to find [them] at this period of the season but overall I feel at the moment we have so many games that it’s very important just to focus on the next one. We have solutions internally with Ignasi Miquel, with Alex Song who can play centre back and with Squillaci, who should come back very quickly. If we find somebody at the right level we will do it, if not we will continue like this.”

I think it will be a good shout to stick him in today – with Man United’s current dominance of the league, I think we’ll need Djourou for the league game on the weekend – we’re playing West Ham and they’re scrapping for their lives – so it will be important to ensure we can field our strongest side on the weekend, whilst also doing justice to our game tonight.

My line up for tonight’s game would be:

Szczęsny

Eboue – Miquel – Koscielny – Gibbs

Ramsey – Wilshere

Arshavin – Rosicky – Vela

Bendtner

With a bench of Fabianski, Djourou, Song, Denilson, Cesc, Walcott and Chamakh

Yes, I know it’s reserve and I know it’s the Carling Cup semi final, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry and the team selected should be able to do a job out there. It makes sense to play a slightly weakened team considering the opposition, and knowing we have a home game to fall back on… but all of the players (with the exception of Miquel) are international footballers who can definitely beat an Ipswich side that got hammered by Chelsea 7-0 on the weekend…

Following on from yesterday’s blog about Thierry Henry’s return to Arsenal, albeit just in a training capacity, Arsene Wenger moved to clarify the position of him at the club and additionally the benefit we will gain by having him around – although, we’ve only got him for 7 more days!

“[The arrangement is] for him to get fit and go back to the MLS. He was one of the greatest players this club has ever had, he has done a huge service to this club, and the only way we can pay him back is always to be welcome like we do with all our former players, when they want to get fit. We help them to get fit and that is what he is doing here. He is here until the 19th of January but no [he will not coach the strikers]. We are happy to speak with him every day, he is in the dressing room with the players, they are happy to have him back. He sees as well how much they have evolved since he has left the Club and he can help them to have confidence, he is a very intelligent boy who has massive experience. Of course he can help the players in the dressing room and that is what he does. But we are just happy to help him to get fit. He is happy to be back here.”

Anyway… I’ll leave you with that for today… I will hopefully be back later for Match Day Live…

And remember, you can always follow us on twitter, that is, of course, if you’re a tweetererer….

Thierry’s back, and it could be the start of something special…

Morning All…

The big news yesterday was the return of Thierry Henry. Yes, the great man is back, but as you may or may not know… yet… he’s back training with us only! The legend of Arsenal’s most recent past will spend the break from the MLS in America training with the Arsenal team.

The website announced yesterday:

The Gunners legend returned to London Colney on Monday to train with Arsène Wenger’s squad. The short-term arrangement will help Henry maintain his fitness ahead of the new MLS campaign, which begins in March.

Henry joined the New York Red Bulls last year and helped them reach the play-offs where they lost on aggregate to San Jose Earthquakes in November.

The former Arsenal captain scored a record 226 goals during a glittering career in north London and was a member of the ‘Invincibles’ squad that completed an unbeaten campaign in 2003/04.

For me, Thierry was one of the greatest at the Arsenal and one of the best players ever to have graced the Premiership. What he brought to the club – other than a phenomenal amount of goals and assists – was a certain swagger, a certain exuberance, a certain standard of excellence - based on sheer class, desire to play the game and desire to win. When Thierry left, he did leave a void in quite a few of those areas – something that we’re just beginning to fill in now.

Thierry coming back to train with us will give the existing players a massive boost – for players like Van Persie, Cesc, Clichy and Walcott will remember the times they trained with Thierry and played with him in games – the rest will remember his legend, what he brought to the club – new players to the team like Wilshere, Chamakh and Koscielny will learn something vital from the great man. The desire to win and the class you can have as a professional footballer.

I will always remember one thing about Thierry – he let his football do the talking. Remember this?

If he can instil some of that style, that panache and the calmness in front of goal in Van Persie, Chamakh, Bendtner and Walcott, then we that will be pretty awesome – and I think all the players are quite excited to have Thierry around for the next month or so!

In other news, our reserve team lost 10-1 to Aston Villa in what was their heaviest defeat as far as I can remember… but they were without a lot of their first teamers (does that make any sense) and were playing with 10 men for the best part of the whole game.

But in slightly more uplifting news… something we found out last week and were of course tweeting about furiously – the fact that Arsene Wenger won the “coach of the decade” award ahead of the likes of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. It’s a great tribute to all the hard work he has been doing behind the scenes at Arsenal, the players he has made, the style of football he has created… so from everyone at WOA…

Congratulations Mr. Wenger!

It’s a tribute that rightfully awards the best coach over the last 10 years with recognition. For me, spending vast amounts of Money (like Mourinho) on the likes of Essien and Drogba is one thing, spending £30m on Wayne Rooney (like Ferguson) is another…

But identifying talents from the lower leagues, such as Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey… nuturing talent like Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs – finding players like Van Persie for under £4m, as well as maintaining a standard of football, going through a season unbeaten and doing all of this whilst moving to a 60,000 seater stadium is a remarkable feat.

The tributes came in from some of the existing squad yesterday…

Cesc saying…

Congratulations to Mr Arsene Wenger for being nominated best coach of the decade. What an achievement that is. Proud to be one of his players.

Jack Wilshere added

“Congrats to my boss Mr Arsene Wenger, manager of the decade!! [A] pleasure to work with him.”

And just to top it all off, Cesc was quoted yesterday talking about his future at Arsenal:

“Why would I want to leave? It is fantastic here. It would be a dream to lift trophies for Arsenal. It has always been my wish. Afterwards you can always be attracted by something else, like a new objective, or new challenges because, for me, life is all about challenges. But my real challenge as captain of Arsenal is to bring this football club success. This is the biggest dream I can have. I want to end these five years without a trophy and, hopefully, I can do it this season.”

Fighting talk from our captain fantastic… Today’s blog has been quite a pleasant one, hasn’t it?

Til tomorrow, mes amigos…

Dirty Leeds. Living In Yorkshire.

Morning. So Arsenal drew with dirty Leeds. By the skin of our teeth, and living less than 30 minutes from Leeds it’s all I’ve heard about. When Leeds fans tell you they have a massive support it’s true – everyone in Yorkshire support Leeds because everything else is so dull and grey it’s the only thing to look forward to.

I just don’t understand why we took off Song, who was one of our only good performers on the day. I guess because we were sacrificing the DM position, but in reality we could have removed Denilson and pushed Song up. He might even have scored, so high is his stock. Denilson isn’t a DM, he’s simply not good enough at defending as the penalty will attest. I like the Brazillian and he has plenty of positives, but defending is still not one of them.

For an expert tactical analysis I point you towards Zonal Marking, samples:

…in Bendtner and Chamakh they had two players capable of challenging in the air. It did play into the hands of Leeds’ defenders, however, who were much keener on having an aerial battle than trying to cut out Arsenal’s slick passing game.

Overall, however, Arsenal’s combination of attackers didn’t work. Bendtner never looks completely comfortable on the wing – he takes too many touches on the ball and slows attacks down, and had a tendency to retreat with the ball, rather than taking on his man.

This week Glen Johnson has added his name to the list of “idiot footballers using Twitter to say stuff they shouldn’t really be saying”. Remember when Waddle said Walcott didn’t have a footballing brain? He held his head up, played better football and gave Waddle the chance to eat his words. Merse said Johnson was “a bag of fucking shit, a real grade A tosser who couldn’t play football if he had pint sized Zola inside him moving his limbs”. Or words to that effect. So instead of just being better at football Johnson has publicly attacked Merson for his addictions, addictions that so far Merson has overcome. It seems a little bit rich to belittle a man with a 50k a week gambling problem, when you’ve previously tried to steal a toilet seat from a B&Q in dartford whilst earning £30,000 a week. Seriously, who looks the bigger prick now Glen?

Kyle Bartley played the full 90 minutes against Aston Villa at the weekend and he looked by far and away their best player from the footage I saw. A slight error for one of Villa’s goals, he otherwise looked solid and his distribution from the back was excellent. An exciting prospect.

King Kenny, Saviour Of Liverpool, off to a great start. Lovely to see such a horrendous brain dead thug like Gerrard get the red card he deserved for such a dangerous challenge, and the penalty, whilst not a penalty in a million years, was sufficient to send Liverpool out. Liverpool are living in the past. They’re weighed down by their history, like a fucking anchor. It’s not the 80′s anymore – you’ve had a bad few years, just get on with it. Every time I hear a moron on 606 saying “Liverpool deserve to be at the top”, or “Liverpool fans deserve better” I want to drive round to his council house and piss through his letterbox whilst singing “you’ll clean this up alone”.

Finally, something to remember for when the Champions League resumes. The only people who can tackle Xavi, are Barca players.

Oh, and for more Arsenal related swears, follow me on Twitter: @kieran_delaney

Arsenal 1 – 1 Leeds (Cesc 1 – 1 Phil Dowd)

The end result was 1-1, but really it was Phil Dowd vs Arsenal, not Leeds.

Yes, Leeds played okay, but they are a Championship side and played like one – any XI versus XI is a match, but when you don’t play well and you have a nightmare of a referee, AND I mean, a nightmare of a referee, then it’s never going to be easy.

The line-up was strong, with a few key players such as Arshavin, Chamakh and Song – named in the first XI:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Gibbs

Denilson – Song

Arshavin – Rosicky – Bendtner

Chamakh

With a bench of Fabianski, Clichy, Miguel, Ramsey, Cesc, Vela and Walcott

Performance

The performance itself was disjointed to say the least. The line up included a few players, the likes of Eboue, Gibbs, Denilson, Rosicky, Arshavin and Bendtner who were all very rusty and all very out of sorts – without much game time between them, their rustiness was shown by a general lack of fitness, a general lack of passing and movement – but what do you expect from fringe players. But that’s no excuse – the XI was definitely good enough to cause more damage.

Niklas Bendtner

For me Niklas Bendtner was absolutely rubbish – if he can’t do it against Championship sides – at home! – then how can he be the world beater that he wants everyone to believe he is. We have had a huge amount of patience with Bendtner – when he was super rubbish and now he seems to have regressed back to his old self. Why on earth Arsene has so much faith in the player, I really don’t know. He seems to give him chance after chance after chance. Why was Chamakh not brought on against Man City and why was he taken off yesterday in preference of Niklas Bendtner?

For me, Bendtner should be going out on loan, not Carlos Vela – having said that, the Mexican’s recent contributions have been woeful – but at least he is a different option.

Denilson

Denilson has really played himself out of contention this season – he is a completely different player to the player he was last season. Yesterday he did all the basics wrong – his passing was off, his positioning was off, and the penalty he gave away was abysmal. Arsene has other players in Diaby, Wilshere and now Ramsey, so it’s not a problem position in terms of any necessity to play Denilson, but Arsene needs to get him back to some sort of form.

Phil Dowd

I try my best not to concentrate too much on refereeing decisions, but the performance of Phil Dowd is something that should never be allowed – the same fouls against us were not given, but against Leeds, were – twice, a Leeds striker was offside, but he referee and linesman continued play – niggling fouls were consistent but consistently not given by the referee, and a handball by Leeds int he first half again dismissed. But it’s not the obvious decisions that I am aggrieved with – it’s the non obvious one – the bias given to the away support, the 50/50 decision was always given Leeds way – what happened to proper refereeing?

Sanchez Watt

For me, Sanchez Watt proved that loan spells really do help. His performance was very good and he stood out amongst the Leeds players. Good on ya son and we see you back next season!

Theo Walcott

Theo is stupid. He fell over in the box and did what every Premiership footballer has done or will do – but why make such a big fuss about it? If you haven’t read what Theo said, take a read:

“I want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived. I was trying to win the penalty. I said to one of their players ‘would you have done it?’ and he said he probably would have. I am not the sort of player to do it but I own up to it and apologise. It is something I don’t want to see in my game. I have heard some players say if there is a slight touch go down and it can work both ways. It was one of those things. I am not happy with myself for doing that but I am happy that we got the draw. I had a little joke with the referee afterwards saying ‘that was my first dive, can you tell?’ I don’t have to own up to it and I can’t speak for other players but I have just expressed how I feel. I hope people respect that.”

No one in the world is going to respect that. No one Theo. You’ve told the world that you’re a cheat, some one who will try and cheat teams and con referees. Rooney does this every game – dives – wins penalties – him and Steven Gerrard are pathetic – but they would never admit it and that’s good for them… but Theo has put himself in a lot of hot water. No one is going to be talking about anything else today. Why did he do it? God only knows.

Arsene summed up the game well:

“I must say at first that it was a very difficult game because it was a real Cup game and Leeds were up for it, they played well. It was the kind of game where you felt that it was important not to go 1-0 down. When we were 1-0 down I felt that Wojciech kept us in the game with a good save on the header [from Becchio]. We looked like we would come back but we were short of time and it was important to keep the momentum and not to go out today because that would have been a shocker.”

We have a massive game on Wednesday – the Carling Cup and it’s the semi final… Kieran D will be back tomorrow, with a slightly different topic in mind…

Until then!

Arsenal vs Leeds – The Preview… (The FA Cup Preview)

Evening Folks…

A slightly later than usual blog… but as they say, better late than never…

The last couple of games have been quite intensive, kicking off with a great victory at Chelsea and following up with very entertaining draw at Wigan, but obviously followed up by the great victory at Birmingham – we were all frustrated at the home draw against Man City but delighted at the performance.

So with those games out of the way, it is good to have a few “easier” games – yes, I know I am falling into the trap of underestimating the opposition, but Leeds at home will be an opportunity for us to rotate and rest some players. I fully expect the players who come in to win the game – but we have to remember that Leeds will be up for this just as much as anyone.

Straight over to team news and Arsene spoke ahead of the game:

“Ramsey is in the squad and so is Carlos Vela. Gibbs is in the squad too. He is fit and ready to play. We have problems with Van Persie and Nasri but they are problems of days. They are not in the squad but they should be available next week. [They got] kicks, bruises and kicks [against Man City]. Certainly [I will rest] Wilshere and Koscielny, who have played many games recently. I will rotate a little bit but we will have a strong team with only one target – to win our game tomorrow. “

Thomas Vermaelen has been progressing well, and Arsene has talked about the desire to buy if he didn’t make it, but I know we’d all rather have a

“He is in a period where he is starting to run again and we will see how it goes. I think he will be back this time very soon.”

So who will we play? Well, here’s my team:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs

Ramsey – Denilson

Arshavin – Rosicky – Bendtner

Chamakh

It’s interesting, because I cannot see Arsene leaving Chamakh out again, or Vela, Rosicky or Arshavin, but then who misses out? Personally I think Bendtner will. I think he will be on the bench after being wholly disappointing against Man City – it’s unfair on Chamakh if he doesn’t start – 10 goals to his name, working so hard… only to be dropped when Van Persie and Bendtner return – I’m surprised he hasn’t said anything!

It could be Vela’s last game this season after Arsene admitted huge interest in the Mexican forward and it will do him good to go on loan. We’ve seen it before – his ability – his outstanding ability, but not so much in recent games – a good run of games will do him good!

“There are plenty of clubs [interested]. We have a choice and that is basically the problem because he has the choice as well.  At the moment we have requests from France, Spain and England which we have to sort out. There are about ten clubs interested. There are about three or four in the Premier League. I would prefer [him to stay in England] because for us it is easier to watch him and come to conclusions. It is much easier to compare in the Premier League than if he goes to another country. But we need him to feel comfortable to go where he would like to go.  When players of his quality [are available] on loan in a market that is very restricted money-wise, you have an abundance of clubs who want them.”

And joining him on loan could be Jay Emmanuel Thomas, who like Vela, is at the stage of his career where he needs regular football…

There is a lot more going on in the world of football at the moment, Beckham going to Sp*rs, other transfer stories… Arshavin’s contract situation, and the return of Ramsey, but I’ll have to reserve my thoughts on those for tomorrow, my friends, for now it is time to think FA Cup!

Come on you reds!