New Look Arsenal…

It’s been a long summer. We’ve seen some players leave whom we didn’t want to see go, and we’ve seen some players leave that we did want to leave. We’ve seen a handful of players come in through the last couple of weeks, but in the last 2 days, we’ve signed 5 big players, 3 first teamers and have finally added a little depth to our squad too.

After the huge defeat against United, with missing players and injuries galore, it showed quite obviously how thread bare our squad was – the back four against United, Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny and Traore will be replaced with Sagna, Mertersacker, Vermaelen, Santos… In fact our new first XI and bench could well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Santos

Song – Wilshere

Walcott – Arteta – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a bench of 7 from the following Fabianski, Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Frimpong, Diaby, Ramsey, Benayoun, Oxlade, Ryo Miyachi, Chamakh, Park, Rosicky, Arshavin

Suddenly from going from a very weak squad, the signing of 5 players has completely changed our squad.

Most Arsenal fans have a sense of relief and a renewed sense of faith in the squad. Arteta, although not a Cesc, is the closest thing in the Premiership to him and a proven quality player. The fee is believed to be in the region of about £8m – £10m, and considering the impact of the player and need for such a player in our squad, it’s a very good signing and something I am very pleased about. Arsene has had to act after the sales of Cesc & Nasri and also after the mega-rich clubs have bought their players and the deal for Arteta is very good in the circumstances.

If you look at the eleven above, that’s competitive and if you look at the players outside of it, there is some strength in depth… for each position, we have two players…

In fact, let’s take a look at our second XI / options for each position:

Fabianski

Jenkinson – Djourou / Miquel – Koscielny – Gibbs

Rosicky / Ramsey – Frimpong / Coquelin

Oxlade/Arshavin – Diaby – Benayoun/Ryo

Chamakh / Park

Not a bad bunch, hey? What are your thoughts on the transfers? Are we good enough to compete? Are we good enough for a title tilt? Has Arsene done the right thing? The right players? Are you excited?

Over to the comments, but I am definitely very excited now!

It’s happening… Mertesacker, Santos & Park Chu-Young…

Less than 36 hours left in the transfer window and it’s official… Sky, Twitter, Facebook and all blogs are going into over-drive… but this is a good kind of overdrive. It’s the kind of overdrive that we want… Arsenal are signings players…

Andre Santos, £6.2m

Yes, finally, a left back… considering Arsene’s excuse of letting Clichy go because he wanted Gibbs to have a chance… I suppose you have to say one thing to the media and do another, or perhaps Gibbs’ recent injury and the sale of Traore mean that it’s out of need rather than desire – or perhaps it was always intended… Santos looks like a proper player, someone who likes to play the game. He’s got a bag full of tricks (and more), and certainly falls into the mould of a typical Brazilian…

I couldn’t see any defending in that last video, but at least the boy looks like he offers a lot going forward. As Fenerbache aren’t in the Champions League, I believe he is eligible for the competition too, and at £6.2m, he looks like a very good acquisition… although only time will tell.

Per Mertesacker, £8m

News coming in from Sky Sports News is that the tall German defender is having a medical at Arsenal right now… A lot of fans would prefer we opted for the Englighness of Gary Cahill – but one thing to be aware of with Mertesacker is that he’s got 75 appearances for his country and is captain of Weder Bremen – a leader… and that’s exactly what we need.

Mertesacker and Vermaelen will be the obvious partnership with Koscielny third choice – but with the number of games we have and the amazing injury problems we’ll always have, I’m sure Koscielny will still play a vital role in our defence. The great form of Johan Djourou last season has completely disintegrated now and that means that he’s now fourth choice – but in all honesty, when you look at England vs Switzerland a couple of months ago and the games he’s played this season, that does make sense…

There is possibility that Samba or Cahill may also come in, but at this moment in time, perhaps the boss just wants to keep as many options open as possible – let’s hope

Park Chu-Young, £3m

The Monaco number 10 was on his way to Lille to replace Gervinho, until we swooped in… Although you should never judge a book by it’s cover, one does presume that a £3m transfer in this day and age won’t give you much in return…

Although Robin Van Persie did cost £3.5m and he’s not bad… But then again, why would Monaco sell so low if he was any good?

The signings are required, for sure, whether or not, they are adequate for us to compete will remain to be seen…

If indeed these three players come in and we can add one or two in midfield, we should have a decent squad… 34 hours to go…

Arsen-LOL

So yesterday was a sack of arse. Evra didn’t get Frimponged, and Arsenal conceded 8 goals. On the plus side, Ashley Young did get 20 points in my fantasy league team and Arsenal scored 2 goals at Old Trafford in the league for the first time since 1984. There are silver linings everywhere, even in a dog shit. Dogs eat tin foil sometimes.

The team missing 8 players looked fragile and weak – like last seasons Carling Cup teams that couldn’t beat Ipswich or Leeds. Like an old man with no legs and no arms who refuses help walking to the shops. He’s got ‘great mental strength’ you see. Unfortunately for him, mental strength won’t get him to places that ordinarily arms and legs would. Arsenal have a fairly good first 11, beyond that they have nothing, no spare arms and no spare legs. And like the man with no arms and legs they’ve been left sitting in a puddle of their own piss whilst everyone just gets on with their seasons, occasionally looking back to pity us.

Of the missing players, Sagna and Vermaelen would walk into any team in the league at the moment. Gibbs is a promising young defender and looks solid and would easily get into most teams. Song and Wilshere wouldn’t be turned away by anyone, and are both now integral to Arsenals team. The jury’s still out on Diaby, but he’d have been an improvement on Rosicky yesterday even if he had of had an off day. Gervinho would have improved the team in place of Arshavin or Walcott as both of them were toss, and Frimpong would have Frimponged Evra, so, he would have definitely started in any team I picked.

The kids, Jenkinson and Coquelin, were fine to an extent – Coquelin didn’t put a foot wrong and in fact was the only player in Rooney’s first free kick to actually try and head the ball or close down. Rosicky didn’t look back and the rest of the wall looked like slack jawed dolphins waiting for a treat like a bunch of passionless dickheads. Jenkinson wasn’t so great but then he’s 19, inexperienced, up against Evra/Young/Rooney and totally exposed by the void of talent that is Theo Walcott. Walcott was probably right when he had a go at Jenkinson – the lad was out of position. The question Walcott needs to ask himself is why wasn’t he covering? Fullbacks and wingers overlap, the winger needs to be mindful of a break in the full back is committed – that Jenkinson said to Walcott “yeah, where were you, fuck off” is to the lads immense credit. Walcott is a senior member of the team now and instead of helping Jenkinson he just hid and dished out advice. I’ve never been a Walcott fan, but he showed himself up in a bad light yesterday. Jenkinson will learn, Walcott has had a fair few years and is obviously incapable – he didn’t even try and work back. He offered Jenkinson absolutely no protection all match. Half the time he wasn’t even in his position. That’s fine but he can’t go round telling other people how to play when he hasn’t got a fucking clue himself. The amount of times they doubled up on Jenkinson was horrendous and it was possible because Walcott was at the other end of the pitch tossing one off. I’m not surprised Jenkinson thought he needed to go forward and play for Walcott and ended up over committing – incidentally he did better in Walcotts position than Walcott did, showing the bollocks to create a goal for RVP. When Walcott gave away the penalty, most of you probably heard my anguished screams. A serious cabbage – Denilson got shipped to Brazil for doing that, hopefully they’ll just put Theo out of his misery.

Jenkinson was also let down by another experienced “senior” player in Djourou. Djourou played like a lame horse with shot legs who’d been blindfolded – the sending off occurred because he too failed to play football properly. He stepped up to play offside near the half way line and left Jenkinson 10 yards behind his man desperately trying to get back. He did and the impish little shit in red fell off balance with the contact. It was a clear yellow, and Jenkinson deserved to walk. It’s a shame for the lad though because he was the only player at the point still giving a shit and still running. There are things you can teach a footballer, positioning etc and a knowledge that comes with experience. Jenkinson will pick both of these up – and there are things that only come from the heart like passion, effort and commitment. Jenkinson showed all of these so I’m not worried about him at all.

Traore in comparison was a lazy sack of shit who spent the entire game chewing gum and practicing his balance on the touchline. It’s no wonder he gets farmed out every season and never picked even when we’ve only got the tea lady to play left back otherwise. News breaks this morning that he’s signing for QPR today. Good, he played yesterday like he had a foot out of the door, I hope Joey Barton gives him a kicking in training. The problem that leaves us with is we only have a single left back in Gibbs, a player made of cobwebs and magic. If we don’t sign a left back now before the window closes it will be prove beyond doubt that Wenger has had a breakdown. Fingers crossed?

I’ve already mentioned Djourou, who for the first goal didn’t even want to head the ball. Where was the desire? Where was the belief and need to absolutely go through Welbeck like he wasn’t there, heading the ball into space? Instead he lifted his arms in front of his face and cried. The missed penalty summed our senior players up – a bollockless set of lazy shits. If Djourou had of tried defending, if Robin Van Persie had of scored the penalty, if Walcott had of helped Jenkinson on the right, if Rosicky had of looked back and given a shit when they scored their free kick instead of walking away without even looking, if Walcott handn’t of conceded a penalty… we wouldn’t have conceded 8 goals, we might even have got a result. In tough times, missing 8 players or not, you want the senior players to stand up and be counted. Not run off and hide. Of the youngsters, only Jenkinson really didn’t much wrong in getting sent off and as I’ve tried to reason, Djourou and Walcott need to take a large dose of that responsibility.

Our form guide since the Carling Cup final is DDDWDDWDDLWLLDDLL which is an anagram of BOTTLING TOSSERS. Until the Arsenal players group together, decide not to be lazy, decide not to be morons then it doesn’t matter if you have Gary Cahill coming in, or Kaka or any other player – the results will continue to go down the toilet. Even Gary Cahill, who most of you assure me is the answer to all of Arsenals problems, conceded 3 goals at the weekend because like poor Carl Jenkinson he was surrounded by muppets.

Anyway Wenger said yesterday: “I am very open to signing players if we find players who can strengthen the team. We have a lot of people working on that”. If? IF?? FUCKING IF? I could name quite a few players that wouldn’t have lost 8-2, even Stoke won’t be humiliated like that this season. But, on a level I think I understand what Wenger means and it’s what I’ve been saying for a long time – the footballers at AFC are becoming lazy dipshits, who don’t try, and who don’t care. Obvious exceptions like Wilshere and Frimpong aside, no one at the club seems to give a shit – that’s an appalling attitude to have and it’s not a culture or ethos that will be changed at all by buying players. We need to get our fucking heads up before we drown.

Kieran (@kieran_delaney)

Manchester United vs Arsenal Kids: Let’s make it happen…

Today is a massive game, a game if we win would be absolutely amazing – but a win is looking unlikely, simply because of the great degree of personnel unavailable… Not to be negative, but away at Old Trafford with our best team ever is hard, so with the likes of Miquel, Jenkinson and Coquelin all brought into the first team squad, we’re obviously very young…

As a quick reminder, Alex Song, Emmanuel Frimpong and Gervinho are all suspended for this game, whilst at least one centre back, most likely Vermaelen will also miss the game, and perhaps another in Djourou too…

My predicted line up if the two centre backs don’t make it is…

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Miquel – Koscielny – Sagna

Coquelin – Ramsey

Walcott – Rosicky – Arshavin

Van Persie

Quite far away from our main team, but nevertheless, whatever team that we put out, it will be a team to compete, and we have to get behind the team 100%. (And yes, with the exception of Van Persie and Sagna, this could easily have been a Carling Cup side of a couple of years ag0)…

I’ll update this post when the teams are announced, so stay tuned, and COME ON YOU GOONERS….!!

4 Days To Go…

4 days to go until the end of the transfer window… Arsene wants three players…

“I will try to strengthen the squad in depth because at the moment we are a bit short number-wise, but if we get two or three players in we have the quality to challenge.

My maths says that means we will sign a player today, play a game tomorrow, sign a player on Monday and then sign another on Tuesday… job done. Personally, I don’t think that it will happen… that’s way too many signings in such a short space of time… although the boss is right – we do need three players to be signed if we want to challenge and three significant signings. I don’t think I was the only one who thought we’d be close to the end of the transfer window and in desperate need of a signing or two… it seems to be our way of doing things… If previous seasons are anything to go by, then late bids in desperation often lead to disappointment - the attempted signing of Xabi Alonso all those years ago, and Pepe Reina from Liverpool as well as others have fallen through at the last minute and we’ve had no backup plan and going into the season short…

So, we’re four days before the end of the transfer window and we’re sending out bids left right and centre. Yesterday, news broke and was confirmed by both Bolton and Arsenal that we put in a bid for Gary Cahill – we’ve had all summer to do this – why on earth we have waited until August the 27th is beyond me… apparently the bid was £6m in cash now, £4m based on appearances and the loan of Miquel. It was turned down by Bolton and I can see why – they bought him for £6m from Aston Villa when he wasn’t very good and now he is much better….

The question is where do we strengthen and then with who…

Defence

Our defence has not been the greatest in the last couple of seasons and at the beginning of the season, Arsene was keen to add “defensive experience” – instead, we’ve sold Clichy, Eboue and bought in a 18-year boy from Charlton – Carl Jenkinson. Not exactly “defensive experience”, but I do like the acquisition and I think Jenkinson has something about him. With Kieran Gibbs injury prone, we have been playing Bacary Sagna at left back in the last couple of games – and for me, this spells it all out – we need a left back. We all know Armand Traore isn’t a very good left back – heck, we’re happy to let him go to whoever will buy him and surely that’s a testament to the fact he is not rated. Will be get a left back? I don’t think we will… But if we get a centre back, then we may have the option of Vermaelen at left back, which may just work…

We have 3 central defenders – Vermaelen, Djourou and Koscielny – all of which are injury prone and all of which have been injured in recent times. Only Vermaelen is really good enough for a top team and whilst the other two are good, Koscielny looks like he is getting better, they are both learning their trade. A new centre back to slot in with Vermaelen would be ideal and the recent bids for Gary Cahill show that perhaps that is the idea.

Midfield

With the departures of Cesc, Nasri and Denilson and the long term injuries to Diaby and Wilshere, we are very short in midfield – with Rosicky, Ramsey, Song and new boy Frimpong the only recognised central midfielders – we do have Lansbury too but I don’t think he is favoured by the manager despite being a massive fans favourite. An example of how thin our squad is – tomorrow, when we face Man United – no Song & Frimpong – we can only field Ramsey and Rosicky – the latter only able to really put in 45 minute shifts with any effect – I really don’t have a clue who will line up against United, but our lack of players is surely evident to the manager.

There has been some talk of signing M’Vila, but I’m not too sure, if the numbers quoted are accurate, I don’t think we’ll splash out £25m on any one… Scott Parker on loan for one year? Personally, I am not a fan of Parker, but hell, we’re so damn short, it may be worth a gamble… Who else is available? Will we go for a first teamer, but who? We desperately need a central midfielder, heck, if we only sign one player, it surely has to be someone for the middle of the park, and it’s quite obvious to the whole footballing world that it’s necessary!

Striker

With Van Persie named our new captain, we have a gem of a striker – but past that, we have Carlos Vela on loan, Niklas Bendtner on a self transfer request and quest to leave, which leaves the forlorn figure which is Maroune Chamakh as backup to Van Persie and well, that’s simply not good enough. We have signed the 19 year old Joel Campbell, but no one has a clue whether he’ll even get a work permit, let alone play a game…

I’d love to see us sign a striker – someone who can come off the bench and make a difference – I’d be very worried if we didn’t considering – and if Van Persie were to get injured (hell, that’s a certainty!), then we’d be short up front…

Arsene seems to agree (wow) and he said this (the first bit about the African Cup of Nations)…

“We lose Gervinho and Chamakh together so, first of all, it is important to strengthen up front. It is important that we find one midfielder and one defender as well. So we are still short of three bodies. My time has been taken up [by players going out] and it was a very difficult summer on that front because we had to face adversity, negativity, but it had to be done. Overall, we tried to do as well as we could.”

Well, Arsene, 4 days, 3 players… and United away… over to you…

Udinese 1 – 2 Arsenal: A New Era Is Born…

In the last couple of weeks, as an Arsenal fan, it’s been bad news after bad news, selling a player and then selling a player and of course, injuries and injuries… so, having only scored one goal so far prior to this game, there was a lot of crisis talk and a lot of negativity surrounding the game…

The boss announced the line up and we saw Jenkinson, Frimpong and Gervinho all start with Arshavin and Rosicky on the bench, youth chosen ahead of experience:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Djourou – Vermaelen – Sagna

Frimpong – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

The bench was quite thin, with Fabianski, Miquel, Traore, Rosicky, Oxlade, Arshavin, Chamakh

The Goals

Udinese went ahead the very busy and active Di Natale, who was a thorn in our side all night – in between Vermaelen and Djourou, he looped a header into the back of the net over the keeper. The game was 1-0 to Udinese at half time and we knew we needed a BIG second half. Rosicky for Frimpong saw a change in attacking onus and we levelled after Gervinho’s sublime dribbling down the left squared for Van Persie in the middle. And we went ahead when Walcott raced clear of the defence and slotted home from the left, Henryesque… at 2-1 to us, Udinese needed 3 and you couldn’t see them doing that!

And hat’s off to Szcznesy for a sublime penalty save in the 2nd half, something you have to find and watch!

Plus Points

Gervinho was outstanding and showed why Arsene brought him to the club – he is a Nasri replacement, for sure… and he will only get better for us. Theo is looking more like a complete player, dropping deep, playing around the pitch – playing more sensible and ranging his play. Alex Song was very good, giving 100% and dominating the midfield and of course, a shout out to Sagna, who shows if you are good, you can play anywhere on the pitch!

The Manager

The manager spoke after the game:

Yes, of course, because it was a massive game for us. I heard it enough yesterday in the press conferences to be convinced of it. We responded in a very positive way, even after being down 1-0. We had a fantastic second half and created chance after chance. I am very happy because we kept our composure when we were down 1-0. We kept dominating and playing the football we want to play.

And also highlighted the performance of Gervinho:

He was always dangerous. I told you yesterday, and many times, that he will be a big player for us. Sometimes the quality of the player is linked with the transfer amount and it is not always the case

The Draw

The draw will be held later today and we’re in pot one. Each group will consist of a team from each pot… here are the four pots…

Pot one – Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Porto, Inter Milan.

Pot two – Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Villarreal, AC Milan, Valencia, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, Benfica.

Pot three – Zenit St Petersburg, Man City, Olympiakos, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen, BATE Borisov, Basle, Lille.

Pot four – Borussia Dortmund, Trabzonspor, Dinamo Zagreb, Napoli, APOEL, Genk, Otelul Galati, Viktoria Plzen.

The hardest group would surely be Arsenal, Milan, Ajax, Dortmund… one thing to remember is that we can’t get Man City as teams from the same country are kept apart…

Til later, my friends…

Unlucky, Understrength, Understaffed

So, you’ll already know I am perennially optimistic. Take a look at the squad – lacking, certainly, but sewn with pockets of excitement, talent and an exciting future. I can be optimistic about the squad as it is, despite being dissapointed that we’re so lacking – I have a genuine belief that one or two additions to the squad could make us title winners – we have a good starting 11 right now, but nothing past that. The bench is empty, metaphorically, and we need fresh, experienced blood. We need to address deficiencies certainly, but in some cases the game on Saturday was a game that filled me with hope.

I am able to see the bright sides of Saturdays performance – at the back we were solid, TV5 was fantastic, Sagna was solid in an unfamiliar position and Jenkinson was great – threatening when required yet solid at the back. Considering our back four consisted of two league debutants, we were spectacular at the back. Now consider a third league debut immediately in front of them, Arsenal aquitted themselves fantastically well. Considering 2 of those players are back ups and a third was in the wrong position it bodes well for the future, defensively.

How many times have you seen a corner being lined up and had that sinking feeling that this is the goal the opposition will score? Not on Saturday, set pieces were no problem. There is a robustness to the team in set pieces that is unfamiliar and very welcome – it’s that change that we’ve all been begging for. Make no mistake, there are few teams in the league that will try and exploit the perceived aerial weaknesses in Arsenals game more than a Liverpool team with a solitary Andy Caroll up front – and we dealt with them all.

The game largely passed Nasri and Ramsey by, no doubt due the overwhelming presence of five Liverpool midfielders – however a special mention must go to Frimpong. That he was given a standing ovation despite being sent off tells you everything you need to know. He was solid in the tackle, clever in the pass, had a shot from distance that could have changed the game and generally ran the Arsenal team. He got sent off for a second yellow and despite the first being incredibly harsh, the challenge that saw him walk could easily have been a red, so we can’t have too many complaints. Remember when Jack started out in the Arsenal team and got sent off? He learned. I expect Frimpong will to. It’s a mouth watering prospect, as my Liverpool supporting collegue said this morning “£20m+ for Henderson looks like an awful deal when you see a player like Frimpong – if he hadn’t of been sent off he’d have been MOTM”. Quite.

In goal, with Wojciech Szczeny, Arsenal have one of the best keepers in the league. Commanding, strong, solid decision making and great reflexes – as in the Carling Cup final he will make mistakes, but those mistakes will be more than made up for with his presence in goal settling the team and the saves he makes. Any mistakes will become rarer to.

In some respects the result was flattering to Liverpool – the first goal was just that awful slice of luck that you always get served to you when your down. Face in a puddle, life always shits on your head. Miquel actually had the beating of an offside Saurez, expertly shepherding the ball away from him, only to see his clearance shank horribly of Ramsey into the goal. One down and shit happens.

They were always going to score a second against a tiring ten man Arsenal who were chasing the game – thank god it was fantasy league forward Suarez. I felt awful picking him, but I guess I was vindicated.

Arsenals problems were up front however. Van Persie was off the pace, and with no midfield to speak of with Nasri in Manchester already and Ramsey chasing shadows, Walcott was just not in the game. Two passes in the first 45 minutes outlined his performance – toss. Arshavin was hungrier and got far more involved, tracking back and eventually fashioning our best chance winning the ball in the area (a touch unfairly) and squaring for Van Persie whos shot struck Reina’s leg. Luck would have seen the ball go in, but Arsenal don’t have any luck at the moment. Unfortunately for Arshavin his distribution and passing were woeful. It’s a shame, because he showed everything on Saturday that he lacked at times last season – principally a hunger to be involved.

We created virtually nothing and that was frustrating, because without a cutting edge of any kind, we just wallowed and invited Liverpool onto us.

If Oxo-Chambers and Miyaichi are as good as Arsene keeps saying, why didn’t he throw them on? We’d created nothing, we were down to ten men and we were one nil down. Throw both of them on and let them prove something, shit or bust. Instead we went defensive, removing an attacker for Lansbury to replace the sent off Frimpong. We just wanted to see the game out in damage limitation mode.

And that is Arsenals problem right now.

Kieran Delaney @kieran_delaney

Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool. Bad start continues.

So. 2-0 to Liverpool. With the tweets flying about yesterday, some knew it was coming. I for one was confident we would win, but losing that match, unfortunately, was not surprising.

The starting XI was: Szczesny, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Sagna, Frimpong, Ramsey, Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, van Persie, with a bench of Fabianski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh, Miyaichi, Lansbury, Miquel, Bendtner.

Not a bad starting XI, but have a look at that bench! Lots of talent, no doubt, but not a lot of experience.

The big news was that Nasri was starting, and everyone wanted to know the sort of reception he’d get from the crowd, what with the whole twitter and Man City brouhaha. Also, with Cesc gone, it was also a chance to see how we’d cope, and which of the players are ready to step into his shoes.

We started off nervously, misplacing passes here and there, but so did Liverpool. But after a few minutes spent settling in, the chances came. Mainly for Liverpool in the beginning, with Szczesny literally being a beast, and dare I say it, we kinda defended alright to start with. Then Koscielny went down. Back spasms apparently. Couldn’t continue, so had to come off. He even had to be assisted down the tunnel, as he could not walk unaided. Coming on in his place was Miguel Ignasi. Making his Premier League debut. Not the most ideal of circumstances to be making your Premier League debut, but you have to take it as it comes, and I thought he did well!

I still thought we’d be fine at the stage. Hell, it was only 15 minutes in, and we’d largely restricted Liverpool. No real signs of danger. Except from card-happy referee, Mark Clattenburg, who ensured that Frimpong’s over-energetic self earned him a booking, with only about 7/8 minutes on the clock. Yes, Frimpong should not have squared up to the Liverpool player, but it shouldn’t have been a yellow. I remember tweeting at the time that if he wasn’t careful, he’s pick up a Red. He started off a bit rubbishly, but as the match went on, he got better and better.

Chances here and there in the first half, but neither team could find the back of the net. There was the mega-save from a Carroll header by Szczesny, and the odd save here and there. Raina wasn’t tested as much, as out moves seemed to break down in the final third. There was a fabulous effort from long range from Frimpong, but it was saved by Reina! Not too long afterwards, there was a brilliant run by Nasri, all the way from our half, but his effort was wide! Really good to see that the crowd were pretty much behind Nasri today, applauding him and willing him on. And he put a shift in, so good play by all concerned. But I really cannot remember any other chances. So honours even at half time. No complaints.

No changes from either side at half time, but Liverpool started the second half brighter. Robin did have a chance, after Arshavin bullied his way in the 6-yard box, but Robin’s effort was saved. Back and forth, back and forth. No goals. And then the signs of danger became full-blown danger, as Frimpong finally picked up his red. With 20 minutes to go. He had it coming, unfortunately. After his shaky start, he got more and more in the game, and he was almost faultless! The fault, ofcourse, being his umm, over-enthusiasm! He picked up his second yellow for a late challenge, and he was lucky it wasn’t a straight red. He definitely one of the bright spots of this season, even though the season hasn’t really got going! But he needs to watch it, though. I worry it won’t be his only Red card of the season. But he’s a bright kid, I’m sure he’ll learn from it. He’s DEEEEENCH, afterall! (Gosh, CANNOT believe I just did that…)

But seeing as things were pretty much even at that stage, the Red card naturally tipped the scales in Liverpool’s direction. They could have had a field day! But King Szczesny, the guy we could have ‘killed’, had Arsene bitten the bullet last season, came to our rescue! He made some top saves today, that you couldn’t help but feel especially bad for him, that we didn’t end up with a clean sheet. I bet if we weren’t down to 10, we probably would have. Szczesny is going to be our No. 1 (or 13) for a long long time! Have I mentioned that he’s brilliant?

Despite it all, he could not nothing about their first goal. *Sigh*. It was an own goal. Shouldn’t have counted though, as one of the Liverpool players was offside before Ignasi’s clearance bounced in off of Ramsey’s chest. But as they say with these things, it was “marginal”. That goal came about 12 minutes from time. We’d made our second substitution not long before, Lansbury coming on for Arshavin, who was unfortunately ineffective, with misplaced passes, and mistimed kicks! Would the real Andrei Arshavin please stand up? We need the real you back, Andrei. Honestly. Our final substitution came after the goal, with Bendtner replacing Theo, who’d had an anonymous game. Jose Enrique handled him quite well.  I hoped and prayed we’d get the equaliser, but we just couldn’t. Couldn’t find the right pass, the ball was falling right for us, nothing was working. The second goal wasn’t far off, and it even had an air of inevitability about it. Who scored, again? Oh yeah, Suarez. *sigh*. Definitely game over then, if it wasn’t already after the first goal. Then full-time. Our awful start to the season just got worse.

It was a bit of a strange match, this. Strange in the sense that it wasn’t your typical Arsenal home game. Liverpool actually had more of the possession! Our passing game was not on point. I don’t know the stats, but I bet Liverpool had more completed passes than us. I guess it was generally a tentative match, with a lot of unsure performances (apart from Frimpong who was all guns blazing, and Vermaelen who was his usual impeccable self).

The question has got to be how long can it last? It partly depends on what happens the rest of the window, but honestly,  I’m not holding my breath. We NEED to strengthen, but I’ve got to be prepared for the fact that it might not happen. And I’m not liking what might happen if we don’t. Things aren’t great right now, we all can see that. I bet (hope) Arsene sees it too. So I’ll try not to dwell on them, as there are actually positives we can focus on. Like how good a player Frimpong is going to be this season. Like how brilfantastamazing Vermaelen is! Yes, I had to create a new word! Excuse the cliche, but he totally had Carroll in his back pocket! I’ve got so much confidence seeing his name on the team sheet, and I’m sure the team do too. Miguel did quite well on his debut, I’d say. Apart from the own goal cock-up, which was just one of those things, he handled the ocassion well. He’s got good composure on the ball, but I’d rather he didn’t get thrown in the deep end like that too often. But well done, Iggy. Well done. I could be totally wide off the mark, but I think generally (at least while we still had 11 on the pitch!), we defended fairly well today. Yes, there were scary moments when we let Liverpool through, but I don’t remember being worried when Liverpool were in a dangerous position, that we’d sudddenly lay an egg and gift them a goal. I felt more confident in the defence, more than usual. Maybe that’s the Vermaelen effect, I don’t know, but I certainly felt so today. Our attack was a bit blunt today, unfortunately. Half chances here and there, but we didn’t quite have enough today.

It’s hard to tell how damaging today’s loss was/is, because it’s way too early. But it is proof that we need to strengthen. Also with the three players we’ll be missing next game, against United- Gervinho, Song and Frimpong, it’ll be an even weaker team playing, so we really should not expect any miracles. But Arsene could surprise us (haha) and sign two world-class non-teenage players during the week, and we’ll all of a sudden have a much better outlook! But don’t hold your breath! It’s Arsenal, we don’t do easy, especially when it comes to transfers.

Just to wrap up, I hope Koscielny gets better soon, as he really looked bad when he came off. And we’re travelling to Udinese mid-week. There’s no way we’re getting knocked out of the Champions League, is there? I’ll give up on football if it happens! Also, there’s no need to despair. Yet. We’re only 2 games into the season, and whatever happens against United next weekend won’t change much. We are struggling at the moment, but the good thing about struggles, is they don’t last forever! It’ll end soon, I promise. The window is still open. van Persie is still fit. BacMan is still world-class. Tommy V is still a beast. We don’t need a goalkeeper. Youngsters are stepping up. There’s still hope. We’ll be fine, just wait and see.

Arsenal vs Liverpool – Match Preview

It’s time for the second round of Premiership games this weekend, and the mighty Arsenal take on the mighty Liverpool… in what is a key game for supremacy and a real test for both teams to see how far they have both come…

In summer and January, Liverpool have spent over £100m bringing in players like Suarez, Carroll, Henderson, Downing and Adam, whereas Arsenal have done the opposite and sold Cesc, Eboue, Clichy and most likely Bendtner & Nasri, whilst loaning out a few players too…

Down at the Emirates, we have some serious injury concerns and some serious suspensions too, meaning the following players will miss the game:

  • Djourou (injury)
  • Gibbs (injury)
  • Traore (injury)
  • Song (suspension)
  • Rosicky (injury)
  • Wilshere (injury)
  • Gervinho (suspension)

If I said to Kenny Daglish at Liverpool that he’d face Arsenal on the 2nd day of the Premiership and they wouldn’t be able to field Song, Cesc, Nasri, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky or Wilshere – I’m sure he would have bitten my hand off…

And coupled with the Arsenal exodus this season, a likely line up could well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Jenkinson

Frimpong – Ramsey

Walcott – Miyachi – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Squillaci, Lansbury, Nasri, Chamakh, Oxlade, Bendtner

Although, Nasri & Bendtner won’t play – that’s for sure, and I doubt Oxlade will get any game time either…

Arsene spoke about the team news:

We have Song and Gervinho suspended. Diaby and Wilshere are injured. Djourou and Traore will not be available and Gibbs will not be available. Apart from that, the moral is strong and the belief is strong. I believe we have had a decent start. We will give Rosicky  a rest tomorrow. It is not a bad injury and he should be back with us on Monday but he is rested tomorrow. Miyachi came back from Japan yesterday and is in the squad. And Nasri - He is in the squad tomorrow and available to be picked to play.

The Nasri inclusion is a strange one, as we all thought he was close to being sold and perhaps, by now, we thought he would be sold – questions are raised – is there a possibility that he will not be sold? Is Arsene playing hard ball? Will he will sold before the game… will he play?

In my first eleven, I’ve tipped Miyachi to start – he was quite good in pre-season – although I don’t know whether he will start in the middle or the left – Arshavin can come inside and play in the middle but Miyachi’s energy may make for better tracking back…

It’s a tough one for Arsene, with key players out and sales to key parts of the squad… The Liverpool game will be a big big test, and I really do hope we come away with the three points…

Walcott [and all fans] question manager…

[Negative blog post alert]

It’s Thursday 18th August 2011… and roughly 12.5 days away from the close of the transfer window. As things stand, we have a serious lack of depth in our squad. Arsene promised experienced players at the beginning of the summer, but the main transfer activity has been the sales of Clichy, Eboue, Cesc and the departure of Denilson & Vela on loan… Nasri & Bendtner are also very close to the exit door and in reality, none of these players have been replaced.

If you exclude Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Miyachi from the first team – neither having played a premier league game in their lives, the only significant signing to note is Gervinho…

In reality, our team consists of the following players – and I’ve crossed out those who are injured or suspended…

Strikers:

  • Robin Van Persie
  • Maroune Chamakh

Wingers:

  • Arshavin
  • Gervinho
  • Walcott
  • Miyachi (awaiting clearance)

Attacking Midfielders:

  • Rosicky
  • Ramsey

Defensive Midfielders

  • Wilshere
  • Diaby
  • Frimpong
  • Song

Left Backs

  • Gibbs
  • Traore

Right Backs

  • Sagna
  • Jenkinson

Centre Backs

  • Vermaelen
  • Koscielny
  • Djourou
  • Squillaci

Goalkeepers

  • Szcznesy
  • Fabianksi
  • Mannone

Worried? I am… very worried… we’re thread bare, we hardly have any players to choose from for the game against Liverpool…

Walcott spoke in the press and really did question Arsene’s dealings in the transfer window…

‘Of course the players sometimes think, “What’s going on?”’. ‘But I’m sure the boss has got players coming in. I don’t know, but if you sell one of your best players… I’m sure he’s got some options coming in. ’He has picked up great players before. Only time will tell what he is going to do.  We’ve had a couple of injuries and we have to hope they are not too bad. We don’t want the squad to get lower and lower.’

The fact that the players are thinking “what’s going on?” is very worrying…

I’ll be back tomorrow for a Liverpool preview, I am just hoping for no more injuries…

[Negative blog post alert over]

Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese: And Breathe…

And breathe…

Yesterday was a very important game for us and two things that we needed to do before the game: score and keep a clean sheet, we did. There were some fears before the game that Rosicky and Koscielny would miss the game – coupled with the plethora of suspensions and other injuries, left our squad thread bare… but both the aforementioned players were passed fit and we managed to field the following line-up:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Ramsey – Song

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Chamakh

The bench was Fabianski, Djourou, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Arshavin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bendtner

The game was won by a good move just after 4 minutes, when Theo & Ramsey broke the defence, Ramsey going wide, and Sagna passing the ball into his path. Ramsey kept the ball under control and then swung the ball in for Walcott to volley into the back of the net. The goal was good and highly needed and it seemed to be the one thing we clung on to as Udinese came pouring forward in search of their equaliser. Personally I feel that we were lucky not to concede – but the luck was born out of sheer determination to keep a clean sheet – our defensive performance was amazing considering how badly positioned we were – Gervinho and Walcott did well tracking back, but not positionally – more in effort.

Defence

To not concede a goal was amazing – when I look back at the game and the number of chances Udinese, it’s incredible that they failed to score and that we kept a clean sheet. Sagna for me, was absolutely outstanding and the partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen seems to be gelling a bit better. One thing to note was the injuries to both Gibbs and his replacement Djourou – both hamstring injuries – meaning both players will miss the Liverpool game. With Jenkinson having made his debut yesterday, he could be thrusted into the weekend game from the start.

Positive points

Walcott looked like he had more hunger – it was like he has realised his responsibility in the team. “I have to win games”, rather than “Robin or Cesc will win the game”… type of attitude, which is what we need out of him. His runs were good – his goal was good and we need him to stay injury free this season. Gervinho also looked lively and I’m sure he will contribute a lot this season. Ramsey was also very good throughout the game – but I was very excited with him when he moved up to the “Cesc role” and was playing just behind the striker – he seems to prefer a more attacking role – and when Jack returns, I can see him playing more in that position. Another positive point is the introduction of Frimpong who looks like a very decent player – early days I know, but with Song’s suspension, we’ll see what he is made of soon enough…

Negative points

Chamakh is not the replacement for Robin Van Persie we need – his overall play lacks conviction and it’s very worrying to have him slot in when Van Persie is unavailable. More worrying is the lack in strength in depth – if Song / Ramsey are injured, who will come in? Will Lansbury, Frimpong, Miyachi win us the league? Hell no…  Another negative point is the injuries to Gibbs and Djourou – with Squillaci out of favour and Traore also injured, we’ve got no other options – Eboue’s gone too, so no cover at all – we’ll have to play Sagna, Kos, Vermaelen and Jenkinson on the weekend – we have no other options.

I often wonder whether the suspensions to Gervinho and Song and injuries to Diaby, Wilshere, Djourou and Gibbs are like God telling Arsene to buy… but the manager never seems to take these signs and go into the market.

After the game, Walcott spoke and was keen to emphasis the importance of keeping a clean sheet:

“The most important thing was the clean sheet. Our defence was solid again, like at the weekend (against Newcastle), and it’s nice to get the goal. They are a very strong team and we will find it difficult over there but I believe, if we play the same kind of football, we can get a result.”

And Aaron Ramsey, who played well too, echoed Theo’s sentiments:

“It was important to keep a clean sheet tonight. They were good opposition and it was a difficult test for us, but we have come through it and we have scored a goal. But it is far from over yet, we have still got another game to go and hopefully we can finish the job off out there. We dropped off a bit in the second half and there were gaps appearing, but we did well. We dug in and gave absolutely everything tonight. We have done well to keep another clean sheet, that’s two in two games, so hopefully now we can continue that. We believe we are capable of going over there and getting a win.”

And if you look at the team and the circumstances, I am sure you’ll agree that it was a very good victory. One that was hard to achieve with a young squad missing a lot of players – no Wilshere, Nasri or Van Persie, a few injuries through out the game and a few youngsters in the fray too… Well done to the team… We’ve got the second leg next Wednesday – it’s very important for us to do well over there – it will be hard, but we’ve got to give everything.

Onwards and upwards my friends…