Tottz82 Exclusive: Friday frolicks and the elephant in the room

Afternoon Gooners, a Royal Wedding WOA special, I am your guest blogger for the day, HRH Tottz.

Ok, I’ll come clean there’s nothing special about today’s blog apart from my ‘special’ English grammar. The captain of the WOA ship, Dev, is away singing hymns and rubbing shoulders at Westminster Abbey, where do you think he was?

I was ready to get up this morning and write a quick fire update while being patriotic watching the Royal Wedding. However, after a fairly quiet dormant week for news at the Arsenal after the Bolton embarrassment, the Arsenal world has awoken like Jens Lehmann’s slumber after feasting on a man bear pig he killed with his own hands.

First place to start is with the boss, who had his press conference yesterday. Quotes that are worth immediate attention and comment as they are admission to what all fans have known for over a month, we have never recovered from losing in the Carling Cup Final.

‘Since we lost in the Carling Cup, everything has turned a little bit against us.’

‘When we were on all fronts this team had fought very well. I just feel that after the Carling Cup we continued to be absolutely spot-on with our attitude, but we missed a little bit of that subconscious belief which makes you win.’

Well there we go. Does it make you feel better hearing it out loud from the boss or does it frustrate you that the boss has actually admitted this? I can obviously only talk for myself and my reaction has elements of both appreciation for realisation and anger that it was allowed to happen.

I am a season ticket holder and travel to as many away games as logistically and financially possible. I was at the Carling Cup Final and it was a horrible, horrible day. The rain, queue to get into the pub and then watching the 90mins of the Arsenal we hate turning up. The cup final had been billed as the moment this squad ‘won something’; ‘the beginning of an era’ but as I have felt for a few years now, there is too much talk from the club and players to the press before the main event.

As the old adage says; Let your football do the talking…

[Post by By @Tottz82]

Thursday Round Up – El Classico, Transfers, Vermaelen & The March

Howdie Folks…

It’s day 2 for me without broadband, and the faithful Blackberry has to step in again and act as a USB modem. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry! It’s not 20Meg, it’s more like 0.5Meg, but it’ll do… until Sky sort out the broadband… if they ever do!

Back to football, and yesterday saw a feisty encounter between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu… it wasn’t the classic that you’d expect… until the last 10 minutes, when Messi scored a sublime solo effort to make it 2-0. It was an interesting affair, as the last couple of encounters have been – a lot of fouling, a lot of play acting and a lot of sulking from Ronaldo. Barcelona didn’t look as comfortable as they have and looked a bit nervous – but the decision from the officials to send off Pepe for a challenge that didn’t deserve a red. I actually feel sorry for Real Madrid and sorry for Mourinho – he’s worked hard, he didn’t deserve this!

Back to Arsenal and thank you all for comments, twitter messages and emails about the squad… it’s been interesting to listen and read through the comments and messages and there is a common consensus through the fans – whether or not the manager feels the same is another question all together…

Transfers

There have been a lot of comments saying that we don’t need a new goalkeeper any more as Szcznesy has proved he’s good enough – whilst I do agree that Szcznesy is the best of what we’ve got, the others aren’t much to go by. IE, of course Robin Van Persie is our best striker, because we have Chamakh and Bendtner – but should that stop us buying a world class striker? No, of course not – better players = a better squad. So for me, yes, we need a new goalkeeper to raise the bar, to challenge Szcznesy and to give us a credible option if our first choice keeper gets injured.

One or two comments have suggested that Koscielny would be more suited as a defensive midfielder and for me, I had my doubts – but seeing Pepe yesterday play for Real Madrid – a player who has played all of his top career as a defender – in midfield, made me double think this whole thing. If Arsene was watching the game, surely he must be thinking the same thing.

With Vermaelen back, Koscielny will be relegated to the subs bench next season and with the likelihood of additional defenders being brought in, it’s food for thought. It is clear that we need to strengthen defensively – Arsene has admitted it to, so we should see some changes. The majority of fans want a player like Gary Cahill brought in – I can see why – he gives 100%, is good in the air, commanding and also British – he’ll cost a fair amount, but we need better players. I’m not sure if he’s the right fit, but he certainly can’t be ruled out.

There is a big call for a proper winger – someone who could fit into the formation or a 442 and cause problems, attack players and dribble – something Arshavin and Walcott have clearly not mastered. In fact, there is a big call for moving back to a 442 with Theo and RvP up front. I’m sure we’ll discuss more soon…

The March

So, I keeping on hearing about the anti-Wenger march… The march was originally organised to be a peaceful one, but I fear that it will become a slightly more aggressive. I definitely agree with the content and press release that was issued, but I’m not sure if a march / protest is the right way of doing it!

A snippet of the press release:

We want to see Mr Wenger repeat his early successful years with the club.While we’re appreciative of what Mr Wenger has achieved for Arsenal in the past, we believe that the manager should be held accountable for the success of the team and not the club’s balance sheet. Itis felt by many fans that since the departure of David Dein, Mr Wenger has taken on too much responsibility at the club to the detriment of his team. As a major football club, Arsenal should be competing for and winning trophies.

I have to say it’s quite true – Arsene Wenger needs to concentrate back on the football side of things only, something I touched on in yesterday’s blog. He needs to focus on coaching and motivating the players – not worrying about the money side of things, or the balance sheet.

An interesting point that I whole heartedly agree with is:

Adopt practices of other Premier League clubs in moving away fans to the upper tiers i.e. moreexpensive seating, thereby providing more affordable seating for Arsenal supporters. As itstands, away fans have prime positions in the stadium at the lowest cost – to the detriment ofArsenal supporters.

I find it amazing how nice we have been by placing the away fans in the most central part of the stands and lower tier – when I go away to other stadiums, I often find myself stuck in the upper tier or the upper upper tier (in the case of Barcelona) and it allows the home fans more prominent space to take control of the game – something we lack at the Arsenal.

I’m sure we’ll speak more about this in the next week or so… but for now… I’ll leave you with some good news…

Vermaelen

Good news for all of us, Tommy V is back. He’ll be in action tonight in the reserves and it will be good to see how he fairs. He’s been out for the whole season, so we’ll have to be patient, but if he is back for next season, fully fit, then we’ve got a defensive re-enforcement!

Ins & Outs

Morning All…

The season isn’t technically over yet, but for most Arsenal fans, it has recently felt like it is – with the remaining games, it is highly unlikely that we will now finish in the top two. At the minimum, we should try and regain 2nd spot and ensure we don’t finish fourth. I can’t believe that I am writing this so soon after being a position to challenge.

In yesterday’s comments, it was interesting to see the views of others and it’s clear that there is a lot of voice in regards to changing players this summer. I know Arsene isn’t a massive fan of a lot of changes, but I really think that now, more than ever, the manager has to be ruthless both with his existing players and in the transfer market.

Forget the desire and want to save money and sacrifice the quality of the player. If we need to buy someone and it will cost £1m more than Arsene thinks it should then we need to do it anyway. As we’ve seen first hand, goalkeeping blunders this season have cost us dear. Almunia, Fabianksi and more recently Szcznesy have lost us points. If we had spent that extra £1m (reportedly) this summer, on a proper keeper, those points lost would have seen us still challenging. Yes, it’s speculation, but when you don’t buy a goalkeeper and then you have major goalkeeping issues all season, it isn’t hard to presume it’s correct to speculate.

Arsene has to change his “soft” methods in the transfer markets. Back in the day, the likes of David Dein would have been handling transfers, but now, Arsene has too much say in the bargaining process – something he shouldn’t worry himself with. £11m for Thierry Henry 10 years ago is similar to £27m on a top player in these markets. Back then, Arsene wouldn’t have been so close to the pennies to reject the deal – and it gave us a player who light up our stadium for years.

There is a lot of talk that Arshavin is a player who will be leaving this summer. His desire to leave may have increase more recently as his appearances have been limited to the substitute bench this close season. And Zenit – the club we bought him from have publicly stated they would love to take him back. Our manager and many a pundit talk about our lack of experience but in the run in, we’ve put our most experienced player in Arshavin, on the bench – and he’s the name that looks to leave the Emirates. Makes no sense to me.

Zenit St. Petersburg’s sporting director Igor Korneev said:

“Zenit’s doors are always open for Andrei. If his situation at Arsenal does not improve and he’s not comfortable in London, we can study this issue in time for next season”.

We’ll see what happens there.

The sentiment of many people is that a few players must move on, but more importantly, the players we bring in will make the biggest difference. The question is which players can make a difference? I’m been really trying to figure this out. It’s a tough one. Something that I want to get your opinion on… a little bit of football manager fun… for a £40m budget, who would you bring in that would make that difference that we really need?

Which player, which two players or which three players could come in on a relatively mediocre budget and turn our also rans into title winners?

I’ll join you in the comments later today to debate…

Game Over. New version required.

Howdie folks… A short blog today, as am writing this on the Eurostar on the way back from Paris and Marrakech. After a 6 hour delay in Morocco, I’m heading back considerably later than I thought I would!

This weekend and the game against Bolton was the final nail in the coffin. Another loss and another failure to get easy points – for a team that is trying to be Champions that is. 6 points from the last 7 games and only one win in 10 games. It’s not championship form – in fact it’s relegation form.

Personally, I am at a loss to how these same players can win some tough games home and away earlier in the season but crumble when it really counts. I recently talked about how our 4-5-1 formation and lack of adapting per game and during games affects – something relatively surprising in itself, especially from such an experienced manager… But more recently, I have begun to think it’s something much deeper.

The formation and personnel was good enough to get us into the position to win the league in the first place, so there must be more to it than that – and in addition it does put the manager’s lack of changing it into perspective.

Against Bolton our line up was our strongest team – Szcznesy, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Jack, Song, Cesc, Theo, Van Persie and Nasri. On paper, an unstoppable force capable of beating anyone. Personally I think Arsene is a little bewildered that despite our injuries getting better and us finally being able to field our first team, the results have been so bad. In fact, the more players we get back from injury, the worse our form gets!

Questions do come to mind…

Has the manager not been able to motivate the players?

To have such a talented group of players who have shown how good they are previously – but yet not be up for it when it counts – does that cite a lack of motivation? If playing good football and finishing in the top four good enough for the club, and the manager constantly repeats such a statement in the press – then does this filter to the players? Do they get demotivated by lack of the club’s ambition? When our players play badly but our manager backs them and continues to play them – we become a club and a team that accepts mediocrity.

Have the players let down the manager?

It’s clear to see that these players have the ability to play better – we all know that these players have other lives – the reason Niklas Bendtner was omitted from a crucial game in the run in was due to injury – but he’s out partying and clubbing. Cesc is too busy worrying about his twitter follower count and putting his want to play Barcelona ahead of himself keeping fit.

When called upon to deputise our second string has been woeful – not being able to beat the likes of Leyton Orient or Huddersfield is simply not good enough.

We have a massive wage bill, players on long term contracts and well looked after. In my opinion, they have let the manager down big time. They’ve cruised the recent games and in some games, they not tried hard enough. We have a big squad of under performers. It’s down to youth – but despite youth, you’d expect more from the players.

Is the squad simply not good enough?

Surely the biggest question. The fans have believed that the likes of the team that played against Bolton to be good enough to win titles. Last season’s excuse was injuries during the run in – but this season’s excuse is…

I have learnt that our first XI is simply not good enough – partially down to some of the formations and tactics but mentally and technically they are not the team that we think they are. Our first team is a big factor of experience away from being there – and our reserve players, the likes of Eboue, Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner and Chamakh aren’t good enough for the Arsenal. Before you say that I’m being harsh – the question to ask is whether any of the aforementioned list of players would get into United, Chelsea’s or even City’s first XI – the answer is hell no!

So where does that leave us next season? First, is Cesc staying? If not, replace him. Build a team with the rest of the first XI. Go back to 442. Get in a good number 2 – get in a world class striker and centre back. Get rid of the overpaid fringe players and make them hungry for success.

We are close to something, but we’ve got to figure out what that something is before we can make it happen!

Til tomorrow my friends…

Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal: Match Preview

Today we play Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium, kick off 4p.m.

We have lost Abou Diaby to a calf strain from the north London derby, so I expect to see the following line-up:

Szczesny

Sagna              Djourou               Koscielny             Clichy

Song               Wilshere

Cesc

Walcott            Van Persie           Nasri

 

On paper that is a team which should smash past a Bolton side which was torn apart by Stoke last week in the FA cup semi finals. You would expect their morale to be shattered after such a crushing defeat and the prospect of having to host Arsenal next should be a daunting one.

However, this is not the same Arsenal side that had the best away record in the first half of the season. If this match was 6 months ago I would be comfortable in thinking this was a near certain 3-pointer. A series of disappointing results since the Carling Cup final has left us with a weakened morale of our own to be worried about.

Arsene speaks about how to rectify this:

“It’s down to belief. Belief is the mother of the feeling and the feeling is the direct consequence of the motivation you put into your next game. If your belief is very low, your feeling is very low. What I think we can get from our performances is the belief that we have the quality.”

I believe we have the quality too. However, what I see is a team whose battery dies at around 65 minutes in each game. For me, this is the problem we face at the moment. This team is clearly exhausted, their season is over and they need a summer break. In every game a few traits can be seen consistently. One of them is a lack of creativity in the final third in the final 30 minutes of a match. For many, this exhaustion stems from not having a summer break. We never have a good season after a World Cup and I always worried this season would be the same. The World Cup, the pointless replays against lower league teams we played at the beginning of the year, the injuries to key players who haven’t been able to recover their best form. All these have killed our engine.

I disagree with people who say we don’t have good mental strength. I was at White Hart Lane on Wednesday and I saw a team who gave everything. Never once did I get the impression that one of our players didn’t know how important this game was for the club or the fans. While the last 30 minutes was painful to watch (they created chance after chance), I never felt it was happening because we didn’t care. The exhaustion caught up with us and the mistakes and loss of possession flowed from there.

On to today’s game and this is one we should win. However it is one of those games where we’ll need to score 3 or 4 to make sure it happens. I can foresee a good first half and a couple of goals, but then the second half will happen. I hate the second half.

Arsene’s take:

“Let’s just play for it first and have a go. For me it is important to give absolutely everything until the last game of the season and to be proud. Then, as I have said many times, if there has been somebody better we will have to accept that but, at the moment I don’t accept that there is somebody better.

I am convinced that if we win our five games we will win the Premier League.”

After yesterday’s result for Man Utd, I can’t see how we’ll win the Premier League now. 7 points from 12 will win the league for them. We have to keep going, try to win the last 5 games and see where it leaves us, but I don’t think that even the most optimistic Arsenal fan believes we will win it now. You could look at the fact both Chelsea and ourselves have to play them to give us a little hope. They also have two tough games against Schalke to play in between those games. You never know. Unfortunately I’ve been following this league for too long to really believe it will happen for us this year.

Nonetheless, here’s hoping for victory one out of five today.

So is the title race over? It’s the hope that kills…

So with Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Spurs, and us slipping down to 3rd on goal difference, it seems the title race is all but over. 5 games to go, and we’re how many points behind United? 6 points. Is it over? Who knows. 6 points is doable, but with our current inability to win games, even though we’re unbeaten in 17 league games (my counting’s is awful, but we haven’t lost in the league since the Old Trafford game), I’m worried we’ll just draw the rest of our games! Chelsea look more likely than us, seeing as they’ve finally remembered how to win games. United keep chugging along, picking up points here and there, no matter how undeserved. So what, are we destined to settle for 3rd place? Is that the way it’s going to pan out? Are we just going to take 3rd place lying down?

Ofcourse not!

This has been one hell of an unpredictable season! We started off with Chelsea blitzing all in their way, and it looked like all that’d be left to fight over at this stage of the season would be 2nd and beyond. Well, that obviously hasn’t panned out. It looks that way with Man U now, but the main reason we all love football, I’m sure, is it’s unpredictability. 5 games seems like not enough games to blow a 6-point lead, and they might well go on and win their 19th league title. But so long as there’s that possibility, we HAVE to be in the position to mop up. There’s no point in giving up now and letting them canter to a win. The only thing that’ll make them slip up is if someone puts pressure on them. Chelsea look like they’re definitely up for doing so, but we have to be as well. Man U still have to play us and Chelsea. Lose those 2, and there’s our 6 points. But as they say, it’s the hope that kills!

When United drew with Newcastle the other day, after our own draw with Liverpool, everyone felt back in the race! And we had to do was beat Spurs and get even more back into it! What a cracking game, but only one point from it felt like a killer blow. We really ought to have won that game. But there’s still hope left, meaning more opportunity to get crushed.  But that’s football. As Dev said, we’ve been given chance after chance, but keep blowing it. We are running out of chances, but so long as there’s still a chance… Sigh, it’s really the hope that kills.

I’d really love us to win the title, and I’m sure it’ll get even tighter, but we have no one to blame but ourselves, if we fall short. The title has been and is for the taking, but there just seems to be something that makes us fall just short. We seem pretty good at coming second-best nowadays, but that’s just how it feels, I certainly don’t believe it. All we can do now is win our remaining 5 games. Hard task. But if we want to be Champions, we have no choice. Two home games and 3 away games left. Personally I’m glad we have more away games than home games left, but that discussion is for another day. If we lose away to Bolton on Sunday, it’s definitely over. I don’t know if I’d rather we lost (or drew) on Sunday, ruling us out of the title race, than for us to win and get very close, then lose the title by a point on the final day, or something. If we aren’t going to win the title, isn’t it better to put us out of our misery as soon as possible? Maybe not.

There’s only two things we can really do. The players have to give their all for the rest of the season, regardless, and we as supporters have to give our all as well, regardless. Oh, there’s a third. Hope.

Short post today, because there is only so much one can say at this stage, it’s results that matter. 5 games, 5 wins. Nothing less. Let’s see how it goes, but as long as there’s still that possibility, we don’t have much choice than to continue in hope, and hope that it doesn’t kill!

We don’t deserve to be champions…

Yes, it’s a bold statement, but simply put, do we deserve to be Champions? Many people say that United are having one of their most boring unadventurous seasons, winning games that they’re not playing well in and therefore don’t really deserve to win the title. But, they’ve given us chance after chance after chance – but we’ve drawn five and won only one of our last 6 games. That’s 10 points dropped in the last 6 games.

We’ve been in winning positions in the last two league games, and yesterday by 2 goals, but have ended up drawing both games. The question remains – do we deserve to win the title?

Sp*rs 3 – 3 Arsenal

The line up yesterday was pretty strong – with a full compliment – Jack was rested and Vermaelen was the long term absentee.

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Diaby – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

The game kicked off in spectacular style – 3 goals in the opening 12 minutes. First, Walcott raced clear from a sublime through ball from Cesc and tucked the ball away Henryesque style. But Sp*rs hit back almost immediately through Van De Vaart. The third goal came from Nasri when he scored from just outside the area, and it was 2-1 after 12 minutes. It remained like that for the majority of the half but then five minutes before time, we scored our third – 3-1, when Walcott clipped the ball to the back post for Van Persie to slot home with a header. Three minutes later it was 3-2, as Huddlestone scored from range and at the break it was 3-2.

Having watched Arsenal many a time, and have seen us capitulate many times, I then put a bet on Tottenham to score next – and low and behold, our keeper conceded a penalty, Van Der Vaart put it away on the 70th minute, and for the next 20 minutes, I wondered how we would conspire to lose the game! The game ended 3-3 and it was another disappointing result, despite a much better performance than the weekend.

Arsene spoke after the game and talked about the positives:

“It’s not over. We’ll fight. Our mental strength is outstanding. We have faced criticism but this team deserves much more. I didn’t see any fail in our attitude, in our determination, in our quality. We just dropped physically in the second half.”

He also comments on the opponents and the number of games we’ve had in a row.

“We’ve had two games in three days, our recovery was a bit short. Tottenham are a good team and we have to accept they can score goals as well. Both sides could have won the game tonight but I didn’t see any failure in our attitude. We came here to score goals and played a team who are very good going forward.”

They’ll be more from Arsene tomorrow, but for the moment, we can forget about the game and wait patiently until the weekend to see what our title rivals do, and whether or not we’ll be given another chance. The liklihood is that the title is gone, but as Arsene said, let’s not give up all hope just yet…

In other football, Real Madrid won against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final and had their fair share of chances – it was good to see a team stand up to Barcelona and beat them… so congratulations to Mourinho and his Galacticos…

Speak tomorrow…

Sp*rs vs Arsenal Preview as United Draw…

As I write this, it’s the early hours of Wednesday morning… I’ve just got in to hear the great news that United drew at Newcastle to give us yet another chance to make it a fight rather than a wimper. The points dropped by United mean that we’re 7 points off the top, but with a game in hand. A win would see us close the gap to 4 points, with both teams having 5 games to go – not impossible, but not easy. The game in hand, of course, is tonight. We travel to Sp*rs tonight in a season which has seen our away form better our home form, and in a season where you would have to think that we have more chance of winning at White Hart Lane than we did at the Emirates…

Let’s take a look at team news – Fabianski and Vermaelen apart, we have a full compliment to choose from tonight. Bacary Sagna is back and Almunia has recovered from his knee injury. The gaffer spoke about the injury situation earlier and said:

“Basically on the injury news it is all going well. Sagna should be back in the squad and everybody else is alright. [Almunia and Denilson] will not be in the squad but they are available. Almunia is back in normal training, Denilson as well. It is more a question of decisions, of choice. Thomas [Vermaelen] is still not competitive but he works very hard and we can give him a competitive edge in training because it takes a while. Thomas is a player who works very hard, he wants always to improve and he will get that from training. There was a doubt about his knee but he should be alright to be available. He says he is now completely ready. We have now three midfielders – Wilshere played many games, Diaby and Song – so we will rotate a little bit from game to game.”

Great news that Sagna is back and with the exception of Thomas Vermaelen, this is our strongest squad:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Almunia, Eboue, Denilson, Diaby, Arshavin, Bendtner and Chamakh

It’s virtually our strongest squad against their strongest – and many will say it’s a big test of our team against theirs. If then do come out at us, it means we’ll have the space to exploit – the 4-5-1 formation has worked wonders away from home. For them, the likes of Bale and Lennon will play on each wing, with a centre of Modric, Huddlestone and Van Der Vaart with Crouch the lone central striker. It is a team that are much better than they were before, with some key players in key positions.

At the moment, it looks like we’ve mentally lost it – we’ve lost the energy and fight. A win against Sp*rs in their backyard could re-invigorate our season, and it could spur us on to finish well. At the same time, anything but a win, will be the nail in the coffin.

Our new #1 – fan’s favourite Szcznesy says that the team “owes us one”, with a good result against Sp*rs…

“They will drop points and we believe we are good enough to win every game from now until the end of the season. We go into everything to finish first. We are Arsenal Football Club, we don’t want to finish second and we definitely don’t want to finish third. We just think about winning. It’s a huge disappointment because with a minute to go we scored what we thought was a winning goal. It’s still possible for us to win the title but it’s a big disappointment because we have to say we dropped two points. “It is a very good game for us to come back from a big disappointment,” he said. “We owe it to the fans as well because they are obviously very disappointed about what happened. We owe the fans a result at White Hart Lane. I’m going to absolutely love [the atmosphere]. I love when the crowd is really loud and the game is very tense so I’m going to enjoy it.”

Don’t you just love the young stopper?

All that is left to say is… come on you reds!!! Let’s show the world we’ve still got that fight in us!!

Formations, Formations, Formations…

Morning All…

Kudos to @Kieran_Delaney for yesterday’s blog. Awesome post, over 40 comments when I wrote this, which is a fair amount. Some really good points made by some of the WOA readers. One area I want to touch on is the formation we’re currently playing. For all intents and purposes, Arsene called it 4-3-3. A little bit of a change of format, some questions have been asked to me today, and here are my answers…

Is the formation really 4-3-3…?

Personally, I don’t think it is a 4-3-3. It’s been created to accommodate Cesc – to allow him to play ahead of the midfield, with a striker and supported by two wingers. So in fact, it’s 4-2-3-1. From my point of it’s quite defensive. If Cesc is scoring and playing as a second striker, then it has it’s merits – but if Cesc is deep, then it can and sometimes does turn into a 4-5-1. The formation uses Cesc as the central hub of the team. If he is not playing well, it effects the whole team.

Recently we haven’t had the cutting edge, has the formation got anything to do with it?

I wouldn’t say it has directly, but it has been a contribute. At the moment, a few players are playing within themselves. Nasri hasn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of earlier in the season. Seeing his goal against Fulham in Sky’s showing of the PFA awards was a reminder of what he is capable of – he is a player who you have to think struggles with the formation. He started wide left yesterday and then ended up playing in the middle along side Cesc – he didn’t look comfortable.

Looking at other players such as Arshavin and Bendtner – they don’t excel in the wide positions – Bendtner out wide on the right looks lost. It looks like the formation isn’t right for the players, it looks like Arsene is trying to make it work – round holes, square pegs.

But it’s the same formation we’ve been playing all season, and we’ve done pretty well.

Our confidence has dipped and I’m sure we have an element of mental tiredness – after all, it’s been a long season in all four competitions. And therefore results haven’t been as good as they have been early in the season. Looking through our games, we’ve actually struggled at home all season with the current formation. Against a team that comes to defend, we’ve been unable to break them down – Man City, Sunderland, Blackburn and more recently Liverpool. Even the games we’ve won haven’t been won at a canter. The formation, however, does work away from home. As away from home, teams try to attack us, which in affect opens up more space – which is probably easier to exploit with an overloaded midfield.

But we’ve beaten Chelsea and Barcelona at home.

I’d probably say those 2 teams were the only 2 teams that didn’t come to the Emirates to defend – as a result, they were more like away games. With the opposition intent on attacking, it meant that the balance of play shifted a notch higher up the pitch, creating more space for our players – which does make it more like a 4-3-3.

So, why don’t we change formation?

It is easy to critise the formation and perhaps Arsene is keen on keeping it as it is – we’ve pushed it through to our youngsters and we’ve played it all season, so it’s unlikely the manager will change it. It has been odd that we’ve not experimented with changing it mid-game, but it’s down to the manager rather than anything else.

Why don’t we change the formation when Cesc isn’t available?

That has been a criticism of the manager recently – the reluctance to change formation even when Cesc isn’t available. In the Carling Cup final, Rosicky took his position and for me, the role was foreign to him. Many of the players do seem suited to a more orthodox 4-4-2 and perhaps have experience through their countries – although countries are now adapting and playing more formations including 4-3-3′s. Nasri and Diaby have also played in the “Cesc” role – and whilst they have deputised well, it’s not a natural position for midfielders – it’s hard for them to understand the position they should play.

Do you think we will play 4-4-2 next season?

With the like of Van Persie, Bendtner, Chamakh and Vela on our books, you could easily play 2 up front. However, the manager’s insistence this season to play 4-5-1 no matter what means that he obviously doesn’t like the formation. You have to think that a player like Van Persie would excel behind or along side a striker. Arsene’s quite stubborn in his ways and perhaps he’s determined to make it work.

One thing to think about is that Arsene has often said he thinks Walcott will play though the middle – which in our current formation is impossible. The only way Theo will play in the middle is if there is a change of formation. Changing formations does take a whole pre-season to get used to, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Will we play 4-4-2 if Cesc leaves?

If Cesc leaves, then that could be the deciding factor to revert formations. As the current formation is based around Cesc, if he leaves, we could introduce a striker, move Van Persie a little further back and keep Wilshere and Song holding.

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Finally, before I leave… Newcastle take on Man United today, and they do have the potential to beat them. Before we write off the title completely, let’s wait and see what happens tonight. If Man United win tonight, I think it’s gone, but if they lose or draw… then surely it’s game on?

Adios for now, thanks for tuning in…

WOOHO…. RUHOH!! Arsenal 1 – 0 Liverpool.

So that was messy – from the get go Arsenal looked like they didn’t know how to score again – how familiar is that? How often to Arsenal turn up, keep the ball, pass it across the middle and then pass it back across the middle and then pass it back across the middle and then pass it back across the middle and then pass it back across the middle…. and then lose the ball in the middle?

Essentially, Arsenal played OK yesterday – it wasn’t a great performance, but there weren’t any players who stood out for being particularly poor. Fabregas and Nasri look like they’ve lost something recently, and had quiet games again, but aside from that everybody on the pitch did their job. The problem we had is that we cannot break down a team set up to absorb our possessive pressure – we’ve lost 17 points at home this season because teams know that if they are organised, if they are bunched and the defend well, we will most likely huff and puff and then conceded a sloppy goal.

When Arsenal won their penalty, I had a sudden warm feeling – this is the stuff of champions! Win the game in the dying minutes, a game that we hadn’t done enough to win! It’s what champions do! WE COULD STILL WIN THE LEAGUE!

And then Eboue was a massive thundercunt.

I’m not suggesting for one second that the manager throw his players to the wolves, or put them to the sword publicly, but admitting that someone made a mistake, that he should never even have given Lucas the opportunity to go to ground would surely have served to give our players some responsibility. We weren’t cheated out of two points, and the Arsenal players need to take responsibility for that. Too often, we blame everybody else.

The frustrating thing about yesterday was that on reflection I thought that perhaps we deserved to win the game, hitting the crossbar and forcing a few saves, but in reality this morning, we didn’t apply nearly enough pressure on a jittery, flappy Reina (seriously, how anyone can suggest Arsenal buy him in the summer is beyond me, he’s toss).

Lets face it, it’s symptomatic of Arsenal’s game currently – we’ve lost our potent edge, our ruthlessness. It was on display at Birmingham, it was on display yesterday – we simply don’t know how to finish teams off whilst on top.

As always, the “Wenger out!” brigade are spreading their message today, neglecting to mention the fact that Arsene Wenger can be held on no way responsible for the referee playing 14 minutes of injury time when 8 were indicated, and can be in no way held accountable for Eboue making such an awful mistake. The fact remains, Eboue is our back up right back – you will not find a better right back who is prepared to make only 10 league appearances (mostly as a substitute). You cannot blame Wenger for that.

A draw with Liverpool is not a terrible result. The manner of the draw underlines the feelings of doubt and sure, it feels like a loss, but at the start of the season I’d have taken 2 points from Liverpool. And we have.

I’m not the kind of person who thinks we should keep the manager based on past achievements – but the simple fact of the matter is, with 6 games to go we’re 6 points off the top and we still have to play the league leaders – we can still win this.

Kieran @kieran_delaney

Arsenal vs Liverpool – Press Conference

Afternoon all, on a mild Friday afternoon.

It’s been a momentous and long week for all those connected to and involved with the Arsenal. Of course, the week started with a victory over Blackpool, then plunged into takeover madness with the increase in stake by Kroenke, which ultimately is now known to be to do with the sad death of director Danny Fiszman.

Arsene spoke on Fiszman’s courage in life and especially with his illness and said this:

“It is a very sad week because we closely followed his battle and I want to pay tribute to his absolutely extraordinary courage. The way he fought the illness was absolutely amazing and sometimes I wondered where he found the strength and desire to fight it. For the Club it is very sad news because he was a very influential man behind big decisions.  He was always a big influence and you had to be impressed by his huge intelligence and his capacity to analyse every single problem. For the Club it’s a big loss.”

Arsene was closer to him than me or you and if we feel a loss, sadness or confusion, it would be harder for a man such as Wenger to have such an ally, friend, business partner (as such) and overwhelming character no longer with him.

Team News

Arsene spoke yesterday and confirmed today in his press conference that Song and Djourou are both back, whilst Szcznesy should be available too.

“We have no [new injuries] but we have a big doubt on Sagna. Djourou and Wojciech are question marks. Will they be fit? That all has still to be decided. We have two more days to find out. It could be a possibility that they could be available.  It’s difficult to say [what their chances are]. We have a test today [Thursday], we have a big test to see how they survive the training session. That will be very important. Denilson and Song have a chance to be available as well.”

He followed that up today by saying the Song and Djouour are both available and it looks more likely than not that Szcznesy will be in goal – with Lehmann on the bench in lieu of the injured Almunia. If this is the case, then we should be able to field a relatively strong lineup, perhaps along these lines:

Szcznesy

Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Song

Walcott – Cesc – Nasri

Van Persie

With a bench of Lehmann, Squillaci, Gibbs, Diaby, Arshavin, Chamakh and Bendtner

Pretty strong hey? In fact, with the absence of Sagna and Vermaelen noted, it is our strongest side, is it not?

And what should that mean? Well, it should be a WIN WIN WIN… yes, Liverpool have had their moments – Man City and Man United victories were impressive – in fact, they do seem to perform against the big clubs – so we should expect a performance from them… but at the same time, we are at home against a team that won’t defend, with virtually our strongest squad. It shall be a big testimony of our title credentials – as to say, if we can’t beat this team at home, then we’re not worthy champions…

Liverpool will want to win this game, as they’re 5 points off the pace for 5th – which would see them qualify for Europe – so I wouldn’t consider them “lying down” for us an option whatsoever, despite their hatred for Man United!

And finally, I’ll leave you with the news that we’ve named the two bridges outside the Stadium by two of the most instrumental people, Ken Friar and the late Danny Fiszman. The North bridge will be renamed after Friar and the South bridge after Fiszman, with PHW talking about them:

“These two men have had a huge impact on Arsenal Football Club. This is a small way of recognising their efforts and ensuring their passion and commitment to this great football club will be remembered through time.”

And the website also mentioned:

The renaming of the bridges at Emirates Stadium is another development in the Club’s drive to celebrate its rich history. This has included illustrating key players  and events on walls and displays designed to turn Emirates Stadium into a visible stronghold of all things Arsenal.

Kudos to the club for acting on this and renaming the bridges.

Til tomorrow my friends, til tomorrow…