Olympiacozzled… A hard earned victory…

Our beloved Arsenal were the only English team to win in Europe this week. Surely that deserves some respect? As much as we do, the media do seem to look down at Arsenal and not give us the credit we deserve. Yesterday we played a decent game, a tactical game, rode our luck at times, but came home with the three points. 9 players were missing through injury - Thomas Vermaelen, Sebastian Squillaci, John Djourou, Laurent Koscielny, Ignasi Miquel, Ryo Miyachi, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Yossi Benayoun, Theo Walcott and Gervinho – and additionally, three first team players in Gibbs, Ramsey & Van Persie started on the bench – which meant that we didn’t exactly have the ideal starting line up to crush a team, but we had a team that could do a job and that’s exactly what we did. We saw United without Rooney draw 3-3 at home to Basel, so with 12 players missing, it surely means we’ve done a good job!

The starting line up yesterday was Szczesny; Sagna, Song, Mertesacker, Santos; Frimpong, Arteta; Arshavin, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Chamakh and it was a bit of a risk and gamble from the manager to rotate. But it paid off – the players coming  in will be better for having played yesterday’s game and the one player who really impressed was Oxlade Chamberlain. I was discussing his name and what we call him with the infamous “Bob” yesterday and although he has Chamberlain on his back, isn’t “Oxlade” much better, it rhymes with blade which is a weapon, so much cooler… From now on, he is the Oxlade. Oxlizzle… okay, that’s going too far…

It was Oxlade himself who opened the scoring when he collected a pass and dribbled to the left of the penalty area before dispatching a left footed shot across the goal. We started well and Oxlade was in the centre of everything. He does look like a real gem. In fact, all the action happened in the first half hour – with some good play by Santos, crossing well and then receiving the ball when it came back out to score from the near post. Our defending was a little bit suspect – but it happens when you change the back four – which we did again, with Song & Santos coming in for Koscielny and Gibbs. We conceded a headed goal shortly after going 2-0 up and for the rest of the game, we rode our luck. Late cameos from Robin Van Persie and Aaron Ramsey added some extra attacking prowess near the end and the introduction of Gibbs – playing in front of Santos helped us see out a nervy last 20 minutes or so.

A win is a win is a win and despite the depleted squad, it was a good outing. The question of course, is whether we’ll have the likes of Gervinho and any one of our missing central defenders back for the game at White Hart Lane this weekend. It would be nice to have a slightly stronger squad for that game… against super favourites Sp*rs…

With Arsene Wenger serving his last game of his suspension, Pat Rice was calling the shots and spoke very highly of Oxlade after the game:

He can go inside, he can go outside, he’s got that injection of pace and I think what he needs now is to be consistent in his play. I am sure that is something he will be working on because he’s certainly not a stupid boy. He has good people around him and they are telling him all the right things. He is a very confident boy, a strong boy and he listens to what people tell him. I think he makes his own mind up because when you are a professional footballer loads of different coaches tell you lots of different things. What you have to do is pick out the best things that are applicable to you. That is something Alex will no doubt actually do. He is very friendly with Theo and no doubt he will give him the benefit of his experience as well. From Arsenal supporters’ point of view, they are going to be seeing a lot of this boy. Whenever he breaks in permanently he has a big, big challenge to now get in front of Theo. I know that Theo is a very strong-willed guy as well and he won’t give in easy. It all bodes well for England anyway.

Indeed, Alex’s performance bodes well for us and for England and it looks like his prominence is immediate and he could make a real impact this season. He’s another option we have at our disposal and direct competition for Theo Walcott, which is definitely needed. Competition for places is paramount to keep players on form and Theo’s been good but a little inconsistent this season.

We don’t know whether Theo will be back for the game on the weekend, but we will have to wait and see how the rest of the week pans out injury wise – if Theo doesn’t make it, then Oxlade could be thrown into the deep end (again) in the North London derby!

The man man for us this season has been Szcznesy, who had another commanding presence in goal yesterday and he was proud of the defending yesterday and spoke after the game himself:

It was a very tough game. We knew before the game that it was going to be a very tough game. I think you have to give credit to our defence for keeping the result at 2-1 because they did put pressure on us. It was a great defensive performance in the second half. We did very well. I think we lost the ball too many times in the middle of the park and that created some problems and they looked dangerous on the break. We won the first half, we were 2-1 up, it was all about keeping the result that way and we managed to do that. I think we knew what we had to do. We had to keep the ball as long as we can. I thought we looked the better side in the second half and deserved the win.

It’s very interesting to see the reliance we have on Szcznesy and very welcoming to Arsenal fans to actually have a decent keeper in between the sticks. He’s been on fire this season and has really won us some points. I remember the penalty save against Udinese and I have to say, that save make the biggest difference of any save he’s made.

It will soon be time to turn our  thoughts to the North London derby this Sunday – where we are not favourites for the win – don’t we do better as underdogs anyway?

Til tomorrow, enjoy the win…

Olympiacos and the NHS waiting room

Happy Wednesday Gooners.

Champions League Match Day 2 (as UEFA would like us to call it), Olympiacos are the opposition from Greece. Before we launch into a quick match preview, it’s worth recapping on the main story of the last 24hours; the operation of Jack Wilshere.

As Dev mentioned yesterday, Jack has had his operation and now faces 5 months out of action. With the medical team under growing pressure given the recent lengthy injuries of Vermaelen, Rosicky and the never ending saga of Diaby, Wenger was inevitably asked questions regarding Jack;

“It’s unfair because the club medical staff haven’t made any mistakes on that front,” he said. “It is unfortunate and we are all very sad at the club that it has happened to such a young boy.

“We were even more worried as it was a complicated procedure so it was a big relief yesterday for everybody at the club that the operation went well. I am convinced that the medical staff have not made any mistakes on this case.”

 

Some people need a scapegoat in every scenario. Whether it be an incompetent defender, a Russian winger or the weather, someone needs to have the finger pointed at them in today’s Arsenal world. The reason Jack has had the operation is due to a stress fracture in his ankle. What is a stress fracture?

A stress fracture occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture.

In other words Jack was over worked and over played in his first season, 44 starts in total. So who’s to blame now? The fact is it was our over reliance on a young gifted player and not letting his body recover. No Ramsey and Cesc in and out of the team, Jack was often ‘the first on the teamsheet’ due to a lack of options. We wish Jack a speedy recovery but suitably timed recovery.

Hurry up, they need the bed.

 

The RVP contract ‘drama’ rumbles on but for me we need to win games and get back to form, the contract can wait. Simples.

Olympiacos come to town tonight for our first home game in the Champions League. I’d like to tell you a load of facts about them and do some fancy analysis but I don’t know anything about them! What I do know is that Mellberg plays for them and that c*nt got the first competitive goal at the Emirates, so lets smash ‘em!

Team news is that our NHS medical team have informed us that Gervinho (muscle injury), Koscielny (ankle) and Walcott (knee) are all out and are currently sitting in A&E waiting for treatment.  Djourou (hamstring) and Benayoun (thigh) are both still out. The boss hinted that Song could play in defence so the team could look something like this:

 

Szcz

Sagna – Song – Mertsacker – Gibbs

Coquelin – Ramsey

Arteta

Rosicky   -  RVP  – Arshavin

 

I expect us to win at home but as the United game proved last night, take a team lightly at your peril in the Champions League. Plus I really hope if we need Chamakh (a barn door) to come on he doesn’t refuse. That would be really embarassing… ! Oh City, you can buy all the players in the world but you can never buy class.

Till the next time. Enjoy the game all! RED ARMY!!

 

 

 

Get more of me of twitter at @Tottz82

Sack Ferguson! Sack Mancini! Arsenal vs Olympiacos CL Preview

Last night, Bayern Munich beat Man City 2-0… and United drew 3-3 with Basel at home. Surely it’s the end of the road for Mancini? Surely Ferguson has lost the plot? Well, that’s the crazyness that Arsenal fans have had to ensure in recent times – after the Dortmund (Champions of Germany last season) 1-1 away draw, I was asked whom I’d like to replace Arsene Wenger with… Time for a little perspective, I think!

We have a huge game tonight in the Champions League against Greek team Olympiacos and we have an injury ravaged team – with a lot of players missing – in fact our injury list looks something like this:

  1. Thomas Vermaelen
  2. Sebastian Squillaci
  3. John Djourou
  4. Laurent Koscielny
  5. Ignasi Miquel
  6. Ryo Miyachi
  7. Jack Wilshere
  8. Abou Diaby
  9. Yossi Benayoun
  10. Theo Walcott
  11. Gervinho

That’s 11 players and 8 of them are first teamers…! The big question is who does that leave? Okay, let’s try and make a team from the remaining players:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Song – Gibbs

Frimpong – Ramsey

Rosicky – Arteta – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Jenkinson, Santos, Coquelin, Park, Oxlade, Chamakh

There is a case for Arsene trying out a few other faces, such as Oxlade or Park – we’ve seen Oxlade against Shrewsbury and he looked very good – but you have to remember, we’re talking about a league 2 side – which is basically the fourth division – versus a champion of a country in the Champions League.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, tonight’s game will be no pushover. We’ve seen in the two games yesterday, where both the Manchester teams failed to win. Olympiacos manager Ernesto Valverde came out with some fighting talk:

“Every time we have clubs playing against each other the one that will win is the one which imposes its own style of play and who will do it better. Usually the team that has to change its style for the other is the one that will lose. We have to face an opponent who is probably one of the toughest we could find ourselves against. They are a great team, we know that we are the underdogs but we are here to give a good impression and why not take something out of this game.”

I really do think Olympiacos will give us a run for our money and we have to be on top form to get past them – but we do have the home advantage, and we are a strong team and despite the eleven players out missing – to field the eleven that we are fielding show an incredible strength in depth.

It’s going to be a tough night at the Emirates, but we can do it – come on you reds, come on you Gunners!!

Don’t worry about Van Persie… And Let Me Tell You Why!

Robin Van Persie will have one year left on his contract in the summer.

The summer is not now – now is the present and now is all that counts. We in the business of winning football matches and right now, no-one should be discussing contracts. I wouldn’t put time into worrying about whether or not someone wants to talk about signing a new contract when the club haven’t even offered him one yet and we’re in the middle of a period where nothing is more important than the games we play.

The reason some supporters are maybe a little worried at the moment is because of the Nasri affair. But let me tell you one thing – Robin Van Persie & Samir Nasri are two different players and two different people all together. Nasri has had a trademark journey of not signing contracts and moving clubs – that how he left Marseille and ended up at Arsenal anyway. Whereas Robin Van Persie has joined the club and stayed for 7 years – through the hard times of when we haven’t won anything. He’s 28 and if he stays until the end of his contract, then he will play with us from age 21 to age 30.

But do I believe Robin Van Persie will sign a new contract? Yes, I do, but I believe it will be in summer, not now.

When asked about his contract Van Persie said:

“I still have almost two years until 2013. So, for the moment, that’s fine, but I don’t know. We will have to look. I’m happy with my contract, I’m good. That’s how it is, I can’t say much more. I can’t look into the future.”

And following on from that, he was asked whether he would prefer to sign now or later and he replied.

“Maybe leave it because the main thing for me is the team and that we play well. I do believe you have to look for a right moment to sit down and speak about your own stuff. It’s not only about me, it’s about the team. I don’t want to give the wrong message to speak about my own stuff while the others are a bit more important, especially now. I can’t see we are talking now because we are so busy. We have games every three or four days. I don’t think it’s clever to do that during the season. We have to see, I don’t know.”

Van Persie is our current captain and I believe he has a different mental make up than Samir Nasri – I think he has a closer relationship with the gaffer too. I really don’t think he will be sold next summer. He has had opportunities to leave when he wasn’t playing and more recently, I think his words throughout the summer and way in which he has carries himself. You can see him out there on the pitch – it’s clear he loves the club.

When he was handed the number 10, he said:

“I have never stopped believing in Arsenal. I love this club, this is my seventh year now. Arsenal gave me a chance to develop into a good player and I want to repay the Club and the fans and everyone with trophies. I love the way of thinking at Arsenal, the way of playing really stands out. I know two teams who play similar football; they are us and Barcelona. Some teams are trying but not really coming close. I speak to colleagues in the national team from different big teams which have a different way of thinking. But I prefer our way of thinking, very much. That’s why I believe and I don’t stop believing when things go against us.”

I’m convinced he will re-sign when the time is right. You can remind me that I’ve said this too…

And it’s fingers crossed time for Jack Wilshere – he had surgery on his right ankle and is now in a period of recovery. The BBC claims he will be out for 5 further months, but I think he will be back a little sooner. The statement from Arsenal read:

“Under the care of two world-renowned surgeons, Jack has had the stress fracture of his right ankle repaired. The initial indications are that the surgery has been successful and Jack will now undergo a prolonged period of rehabilitation.”

Good luck Jack…

Arsenal 3-0 Bolton: Centurion takes us back to winning ways

Ah, wasn’t yesterday just beautiful? It’s been a long time since we’ve scored 3 goals in a match (Blackburn doesn’t count, even though we scored 4, because uh, 2 were in the wrong net! ;) ), and actually managed to win! Pause for a second and remember how you felt at full-time… … Amazing feeling, right?

Anyways, on to what actually happened. The line-up for the match was almost as Dev predicted, with Gibbs coming in for Santos:

Szczesny

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Gibbs

Ramsey – Song

Walcott – Arteta – Gervinho

Van Persie

With Bolton struggling in the league, even worse than us, the 3 points were very important for both teams. Before the match, I was feeling umm, inspired, and thought I’d watch a player throughout, since I was at the game.  I’m not the most tactically aware person ever, and I’ve always wondered whether I watch matches “properly”, if you know what I mean. When I’m watching on tv or at the Ems, I just tend to follow the ball. But I’ve always wondered that maybe, just maybe, it might be worth looking else sometimes.? So just before kick-off, I decided to focus on Mertesacker, but it turned out to be a Mertesacker/Koscielny watch. But more about that later on.

So with a relatively strong team on, it was imperative to win, especially against a Bolton side who’d lost 4 games in a row. But unsurprisingly, we started a bit nervy, with Bolton having the first effort on target, drawing a smart safe from from Szczesny from a free-kick routine. The next chance was ours, Gervinho sent clear by Arteta, but he took too heavy a touch, and the Bolton ‘keeper was able to smother it.

There were a few chances in the first half for us, Robin van Persie seeming to be on a mission to get his 99th and 100th Arsenal goals. His first chance was from a free-kick, and instead of the usual blast-it-into-the-wall we’ve seen of late, Arteta touched it to Robin, who curled a sumptuous effort just wide! Jaaskelainen was nowhere near it! Theo set him up for another, but a Bolton player was there to block. But we weren’t able to take any, Bolton defending resolutely. I wouldn’t say the match was on a knife-edge at this point, because Bolton hadn’t really threatened, but we were all acutely aware of the fact that all it’d take would be one little mistake, and Bolton could easily score and take the lead, a la Yakubu’s goal last week and we’d be up against it, so no one was breathing easy.

But any nerves were certainly put to bed as soon as the second half started, Captain  Robin doing the business! 35 seconds in! Gervinho had been fouled in the build-up, but the ref played a brilliant advantage! Ramsey picked up the ball, found Robin on the edge of the box, who found his way into it (right side), and although he didn’t have much of an angle to work with, he was able to squeeze the ball past the ‘keeper at his near post. 1-0 Arsenal, 99 goals Robin, relief in the air! Great finish!

With Robin gunning for no. 100 (see what I did there?), the chances came, mostly for him. Quick first-time passes from Ramsey to Walcott, to Robin, almost to the back of the net, but Jaaskelainen was there. He was certainly a busy man! A chance did come for Walcott, after the excellent Ramsey sent him through, but David Wheater (who seemed to be everywhere!) was there to bring him down! On first watch, it seemed Theo had simply slipped, but he had actually been brought down by Wheater, and as he was the last man denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the ref had to show him a red card. I’ve never heard a louder cheer for a red than yesterday! It wasn’t hostile, though, but I guess from where I was sitting (which was at the opposite end), we definitely weren’t expecting it.

Bolton down to 10, and if there were any nerves remaining, pretty sure they evaporated at that point. Bolton really weren’t a threat with 11 men, and they definitely weren’t going to be a bigger threat. They only had one real chance the whole of the first half! But 1-0, as they say, is never a safe score. Especially with us!

Arteta could have made it 2-0 shortly after the red card, but his well-taken was just wide. He’d been set up by an under-pressure Robin, went for placement, but placed it wide. I mentioned that Bolton only had one chance in the first half. Again, only one chance in the second half, and it was a good one! We were caught on the counter, and Chris Eagles was clear, with Gibbs trying to catch up and make the tackle. He really should have with only Szczesny to beat, but he wasn’t the greatest of efforts, thank God, and Szczesny saved. Straight away, we then had the chance to score, Gervinho finding Robin, this time on the left, but his curling effort was just wide. More chances, Song this time finding Theo on the right, who lofted a nice ball over for Robin to head, but Jaaskelainen was there to deny him. Relentless, but still only 1-0.

Another chance again, this time from a corner, and from the  unlikeliest of sources, Koscielny trying his luck from outside the box, Jaaskelainen palming it away! I tried counting the number of saves Jaaskelainen had, when the highlights were being showed post-match at the Emirates, but I lost count at 8!

But finally finally, we scored the 2nd to but the game to bed, and it was a beaut! Robin’s 100th goal! Theo provided the assist, crossing a low ball towards Robin in the box, and with his standing leg, he somehow managed to flick it in. Genius! And what a way to get your 100th goal! An amazing landmark for an amazing servant of the club. Here’s hoping he gets another 100! (Stay fit Robin, please.)

Back to the match, and Theo really should have made it 3-0 when he found himself in acres of space, with only the ‘keeper to beat! but he took it took early, and Jaaskelainen saved. All together now: “Unlucky Theo”! Wanted him to get a goal badly, and that was the chance! Shame.

We finally made our first substitution, about 75 or so minutes in, Gervinho off, Arshavin on, and the second wasn’t far off, Arteta off, Rosicky on. Good to see him back playing. Theo got another chance to score, Robin setting him up, but his effort was well wide. Was hoping Robin would get his hat-trick, but he came off shortly after, to a well-deserved standing ovation, Chamakh coming on in his place. Only about 10 or so minutes left at the stage. Really wanted a third though, because we definitely did.

And it eventually came! From our part-time striker, Alex Song! Rosicky found Ramsey on the edge of the box, who in turn found Sagna on the right. Song was calling for the ball on the edge of the box, and Sagna duly found him. He took a touch, turned ever so slightly, and even though he was off-balance, he curled a sumptuous effort into the top right corner with his right foot! Sweet goal! Jaaskelainen wasn’t stopping that in a million years! 3 beautiful goals, and a very delighted Emirates faithful at full-time. A clean sheet to boot! What more could you ask for? Good display by the boys, and hopefully that’s the start of the turn-around.

 

Oh yes, I did say I did some Mertesacker/Koscielny watching, didn’t I? I made a few observations, things I’ve never noticed before, but for I know, you might already be aware of them. Just that I’d share, anyway. It’s actually a very good partnership, and I wonder who will have to drop to the bench when Vermaelen is back to full fitness.

I noticed that Mertesacker tends to spend more time on the ball. When Szczesny decides to pass the ball forward, he more often than not goes through Per, as opposed to Kos. Then Per takes the ball forward, mostly to the halfway line, then either finds a midfielder or Sagna, or sometimes even further. Kos did that maybe once or twice, but it seems it’s Per’s job to link up play with the midfield. He was sometimes caught out of position as a result, but someone tended to drop in to cover him.

Also, I noticed that Kos tends to stick to the left hand side/corner of the pitch. It’s almost like a defensive holding role, if that makes sense. Per moves about more often out of the two, with Kos more likely to stay back. He does take the initiative sometimes and goes forward, apart from the usual times when there’s a corner.

Another thing I noticed is that as Bolton were playing with just one upfront, it tended to be Kos marking the striker. Maybe that was just a Bolton thing, given how tall Per is, but Koscielny had a man on him all the time, with Per generally free, which is probably why he was able to move about in defence.

When it comes to actual defending, Kos is more likely to go for the tackle, He’s more comfortable tackling, Per heading. Not surprising!

I wish I had more observations for you, but that is all! :) It seems a good partnership, although Bolton hardly ever threatened. Maybe when next I get to watch both of them live, they have more work to do defensively, and we can see how good the partnership is!

Next up in the league, Spurs away. What are the odds we keep a clean sheet? Also, we’ve got Bolton again in the Carling Cup. I had a brief chat with Dev post game, and thinking about it now, I think I agree with him that our youngsters might just have enough to handle them. It’ll be tight, but we’ll be at the Emirates, so that might just be the edge we’ll need. Guess we’ll see.

Long way to go before that though, with Olympiacos up next on Wednesday. We’ve won two games in a row now, 2 different competitions, and hopefully we’ll make it 3 in 3 in 3 competitions! The signs are good. Come on Arsenal!

Arsenal vs Bolton: Match Preview…

Robin says this in the match day programme:

“We know we had a bad start, we all realise that, but we are still positive and that’s the only way to change things.”

And to be honest, as fans we’ve got to stay positive – we’ve lost a few players, but got quite a few other ones – for the players themselves, they have to remain positive too – they’re a decent group of players with some real talent there. Being negative will get us nowhere! These players will get better and they will gel but time is ticking away and starting with Bolton, a couple of wins will be required…

News is that we’ve got Rosicky, Ramsey & Sagna back in the squad and raring to go… which should see our line up be something like this:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Ramsey – Song

Walcott – Arteta – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Miquel, Gibbs, Rosicky, Oxlade, Park and Chamakh

When we played Blackburn, and Chamakh came on – I liked what I saw in terms of having one less midfielder and more attacker, losing Song out of the above team and adding Chamakh would give us more attacking impetuous, but I don’t see the manager doing anything of the sort. And with Oxlade playing so well against Shewsbury, there have been some calls for him to start. Yes, he played well, but Shrewsbury are a team from the fourth tier of English football. Is he ready for the Premier League – maybe, but not as a starter, when we have the experience that we do on the bench.

Back in the day, playing Bolton was a very scary affair – nowadays, perhaps less so… Owen Coyle’s teams tend to get the ball on the ground and play it around rather than opting for route one, and that will hopefully fall into our hands – although in recent times, those that have played football against us have done well… ahem… United.. ahem Blackburn ahem…

Van Persie took time out to talk about Bolton’s style and said:

“Bolton are a good side who have changed a lot in the last couple of years. They have gone for a new style since Owen Coyle has been there, and you can see that from the signings they have made too. He wants to play nice football and they are still developing into a different side. They had an amazing run last year when [Johan] Elmander was scoring all those goals, so it is within them. It’s still early for them and I rate them as a team. I respect them for the way they want to play, and I respect their players too. I’m a fan of Nigel Reo-Coker for example – he works hard and can do a bit of everything on the pitch.  So I like Bolton’s style now, and we will have to be at our best to get a result.”

And as captain, perhaps Van Persie is now at the stage where he can reflect on other teams qualities… and hopefully find their weaknesses too. I will quite exciting to see Gervinho in action too – despite a few wrong choices and missed chances, he has looked very good this season. Very direct and attacking and looks to have a decent amount of flair too.

All that is left to say is Come on you Gooners… let’s see what we’re made of, and let’s put the critics to bed and more importantly gets some points on the board!

Surely a defensive coach wouldn’t be a bad thing?

Arsene Wenger has been very quick to dismiss the need for any coaching re-enforcements this season and in fact was quite angry at suggestions that he needs a new member of the team, quipping to one reporter:

“I have just completed 30 years of coaching. I don’t want to answer this kind of question.”

But it could be the way in which the media have approach this one and of course, the inability of our board to recognise any failings that couple up with the dismissal of such an idea. I definitely think it will be a good idea, and why I am qualified to make such a comment. Well, it’s simple maths to me. Previously, we had a back four of:

Sagna – Gallas – Toure – Clichy

We’ve gone through mixes of this which have seen:

Sagna – Toure – Vermaelen – Clichy

And even now we’re kind of going between these back fours:

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

And

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs

What is evident there is that there have been several different players in each of those positions, and the outcome is pretty much the same with all of them… individual mistakes and problems communicating and playing as a unit…

Now let me take your mind back to 2005/2006 when a certain Arsenal side managed to make it all the way to the Champions League final with a makeshift defence which looked something like this:

Eboue – Toure – Senderos – Flamini

Four players who you will most likely cringe at if you saw them play at the back together

Former manager Terry Neill said this at the time:

“The ingredients are there. They have the qualities to do as well as their predecessors. They have good examples to follow in what the former players have done. Behind the scenes Martin Keown has been there on the training ground doing his coaching badges and I don’t think they could have had better mentors than Keown and Pat Rice. George Graham made sure the back four defended and kept clean sheets whereas Wenger likes his players to have the freedom and express it and go forward more. The famous back four had a long time together without the disruption of injuries, that makes this makeshift back four all the more remarkable.”

The key thing that was present was that Martin Keown was at the club taking his coaching badges at the time – and what a difference he looks to have made to 4 players who (with the exception of Senderos) are naturally defenders. If Keown’s presence can shake Eboue, Toure, Senderos & Flamini into an unpenetrable fortress, just imagine what he could do with the likes of a Mertersacker, Vermaelen, Sagna and Gibbs / Santos.

Surely it’s worth a go?

Hit or Miss?

Very interesting post from Tottz yesterday – it felt like we were there with him.

Interesting words from Gazidis also, publicly backing the manager which in itself seemed to cause more disruption than it did anything else. Yes, Arsene has been criticised, yes, we’ve had the worst start ever under his reigns – but does anyone really think that Arsene’s future is in doubt? Of course not – especially not after 5 games. For Gazidis to say what he said and back the manager, telling us his job is safe is odd… but then again, all of our communication is odd, scripted and on the same agenda…

On Tuesday night, we did see some of the hopefuls and today I’m talking to you about whether I thought they were hits or misses….

Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain – Hit

By the headlines that have been around the net, you probably already know that this 18 year old is a serious hit with me and most Arsenal fans around. His display won him the man of the match award, but it was his second half performance that really caught my eye. Having started the game a disciplined right sided winger, he ended the game as an all action midfielder, on the left, the right and central. At 18 years of age, he has a serious amount of talent in his armoury and he seems eager to use it…

That was his goal yesterday (apologies for the type of video, but it was all that was available)… and it was a bullet – it wasn’t the only shot he had, he had quite a few pings and a few crosses and cut backs – the accuracy of which looked very decent.

Oxlade spoke after the game:

I think it is a really good squad. I think we just need to keep plugging away and it will come right for us. There are a lot of quality, quality signings here and a lot of quality in the boys that are already here. We just need to gel together now and kick on. I think we have what it takes to get to the final in this competition and put in a good claim in the Premier League and the FA Cup too.

Now that’s what I’m talking about… Hard work and desire… bring it on…

Francis Coquelin – Hit

On loan last season, he’s come back with a bit of swagger. Debuted earlier this season against Manchester United in that awful defeat, but in the Carling Cup, he shows some great glimpses of quality both in defence and in attack. He sprayed some beautiful balls diagonally, right to left, left to right. He kept his cool when under pressure too and defensively, if it wasn’t for him, we’d surely have conceded one than one against the Shrews…

Park Chu-Young – The Jury Is Out

The Korean International recently scored a hat-trick for his country; when Arsene decided how to play the game this week, he changed his usual 4-2-3-1 formation and opted to accommodate Park into a 4-4-2. Perhaps thinking that it would get the best out of the striker. For the most part, Park had a solid game – but I didn’t see anything “super” about his quality. Early days in his Arsenal career, but he didn’t do anything to impress or un-impress. The jury is still out on the Korean, and let’s see what he made of in the next few games…

Ignasi Miquel – Hit

Miquel, our current reserve team captain, seems to have something about him. Partnered with an experienced arm in Johan Djourou, Miquel excelled and outshone his partner. Whether or not that was because of Djourou’s woeful form or whether he was actually good will be seen soon, but from what I saw, I think I’d prefer Miquel chosen ahead of Djourou!

Carl Jenkinson – Hit

Carl Jenkinson has surely played more games than he thought he would have including the Champions League and Premier League too. Arsene bought him from Charlton for £1m this season and you thought at that age and price tag, he wouldn’t be very good – well, he’s proved he will be a very good back up for Sagna this season. He does need games, but competitions like the Carling Cup will give him those chances. He did have a good understanding with Oxlade Chamberlain – perhaps a better one than with Theo Walcott…

All things point to a 4-4-2 very soon with Theo up front and Oxlade on the wings… early days in the season at the moment, so let’s just take it one game at a time… starting with Bolton this weekend… match preview coming tomorrow…

The Ox and Le Coq win it for The Arsenal

Here we are again, another blog by yours truly and another match to review… This time around its The Arsenal are at home to League two Shrewsbury in the 3rd round of the Carling Cup. Arsenal are not on a good run from any angle we lookat it. We’re shipping goals, showing no backbone and lacking the cutting edge up front to finish teams off. The sad fact is I could have written that line at anytime during the past 2 seasons and it would have rung true. So when are we going to see a change?

Gazidis was interviewed by the press yesterday and comforted many on the financial state of the club but warned that we could not compete against the Manchester clubs when it comes to their transfer dealings. But didn’t we move into a new stadium to compete financially against Man Utd at least? I agree we can’t compete against the billions City have at their disposal but we’re not asking the club to do this. The transfer aims for the majority of the fans I’ve spoken to over the summer was to buy suitable replacements for players about to depart and enhance the squad in area’s we’ve struggled in. The fact is we left it until the last minute and this has had a direct impact on our start to the season. I’m not here to argue if the 7 players signed this summer were right or wrong, time will answer that, but I am very confident having those players on the plane to China would have allowed them to settle in quicker and set the team up for the season start.

Gazidis also talking about Wenger.

“He is not broken. He did not suddenly become a bad manager or out of touch with the game. It is complete nonsense. “[Sacking him] is a route we are not going to go down.”

It seems the board are fully aware of the unrest out there and are directly responding to this by backing the manager. In my opinion, rightly so. Wenger has been more than just a first team coach for Arsenal Football Club over the last 14years; he has taken this into a new era and set the bar extremely high. This is a debate for other time, but for me, Wenger has earned the right to implement corrective action and turn things around. The pressure is truly on and it’s now down to him not to spoil his own legacy.

Back to the game… I’m actually at the game so instead of writing a retrospective blog at 1130pm at night half asleep, I’m going to give you a blow by blow feed as the action unfolds from the game. It’s something new but who knows it could work… Here we go;

Team for the night is;

Fabianski – Jennikson – Djourou – Miquel – Gibbs – Frimpong – Coquelin – Benayoun – AOC – Park – Chamakh

 

6min – double oooh! Chamakh goes close twice but great saves by the keeper!

13min – My word, they’re through on goal, player shoots, fabianski let’s it run through like he knows its going wide and it hits the post. Poor (or very good!) judgement.

14min  Arsenal aren’t doing well, Shrews fans are oleing their passes. Embarassing.

17min – Goal 1-0 Shrewsbury. A cross from our right and a simple unmarked header. Oh dear. Looks like Djourou left his man unmarked

29mins – They almost score again, this time directly from a corner. Arsenal are all over the place at the back. I fancy them to score again. When we get into their box no one wants to shoot. Sound familiar?

34min – Goal Arsenal 1-1. Cross comes into the box from Jenkinson and Gibbs, yes Gibbs header sneaks into the bottom corner. Keeper should have saved but it’s his first goal for the club. Phew!

Half time – Arsenal at it again. Defensively sloppy, hanging on but somehow level. When you play Arsenal you know you’ll have chances to score and Shrewsbury should have had 3. Not impressed.

49min – AOC goes close twice. One run beats 3 players in close proximity and the next is a shot which doesn’t quite make it. He’s not shy to attack, good stuff and encouraging.

60mins -GOAL! 2-1 Arsenal.  Shooooot! He does and scores! AOC picks it up and pops one in from 25yards under the keeper. He’s deserved that, top player.

68mins – AOC running the show, another run and a shot well saved by the keeper. I like him already.

79th min – GOAL! 3-1 Arsenal.  Ozyakup wins the tussle with the defender on the byline and pulls it back for Yossi who eventually tucks it away. Game over now surely?

90th min – AOC is replaced by Aneke and get a deserved standing ovation for a fantastic 2nd half and a great goal.

Final whistle , 3-1 to the Arsenal.

Ok that wasn’t a vintage Carling Cup performance but it’s a win that will give a lot of these players much needed confidence.

Stand out players for me were Oxlade Chamberlain and Coquelain, who also look quite alike from row 27. Le Coq works tirelessly, breaking up play, winning tackles and takes the ball forward with confidence.

A new star is born? Maybe. AOC is a real prospect and tonight was evidence to why Wenger agreed to shell out 12m upfront for him. He takes players on, beats them with ease and can pick out the final ball and when the crowd wanted him to ‘shooooot’ he was more than happy to. His goal was an opportunist effort which completely shocked the keeper. Theo better watch out. Seriously.

At the back the problems still remain. Fabianski did not command his box and Djourou seems to have forgotten how to play football let alone defend. He is a man very low on confidence and relied on Miquel to bail him out of some tight spots.

At the end of the day it’s a win. We next invite Bolton to the Arsenal then Olympiacos. 2 more similar results will allow us to build.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog, different format but hopefully as informative!

Enjoy your day.

 

Feel free to follow me on twitter @ Tottz82, feedback welcome.

Arsenal vs Shrewsbury Town – Carling Cup Preview

We’ve managed our way in Europe, choked our way around the league, but today it’s time for something very different – it’s time for our new batch of young hopeful’s to take on their Carling Cup destinies. The way I look at the beginning is not to look at it – after 8 players out and 8 players in, it will take some time for us to gel. I’m not a Wenger out neither am I a AKB (Arsene Knows Best)… I’m somewhere in between. Yes, we have lost 3 out of our first 5 games, but things will change and we will get better. Simple as. How long it will take us to get better is another question.

For now, we have a rest from the league and we have a chance to see our latest batch of youngsters and fringe players and I for one am very keen to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo Miyachi and Park Chu-Young. All of whom I hope will start. Although AOC will most likely play right midfield, Arsene Wenger has been very keen to distance AOC and Theo Walcott, insisting both players are very different:

“They are quite similar types of players but Walcott is a bit more a striker and Oxlade-Chamberlain is more a midfielder. He [Oxlade-Chamberlain] likes more to be in the build-up of things and Walcott is more a guy who makes intelligent runs. So they are not that similar as players but they have some similarities physically already. They look the same size, the same type of player. But I believe that Oxlade-Chamberlain could be a central midfielder one day and Walcott a central striker one day. That shows the difference between the two players. I don’t know [if the comparisons are fair] but you can’t stop that.”

Is that the nice way of saying the AOC actually has a footballing brain?

My predicted line up is:

Fabianski

Jenkinson – Djourou – Miquel – Gibbs

Oxlade – Frimpong – Coquelin – Miyachi

Park - Chamakh

I see the mix of players I’ve mentioned playing, because they all need game time – I think 90 minutes under Chamakh’s belt will do him wonders, and a glimpse of what Park can do will do wonders for our squad depth. One thing you may have noticed is that I’ve reverted to a 4-4-2 and why on earth have I done that, you may ask? I’ve been a big fan of the 4-4-2 and despite telling you all that Arsene has been quite stubborn with his 4-3-3 / 4-5-1, rumours are that he will revert to a 4-4-2 against Shrewsbury.

I really hope it’s true…

Time to forget about the silly old league, it’s time to see what our kids & reserves are made of… come on you Gooners!

What can I say?

I’ve been putting up with Arsenal jokes 4-3 weeks. And they don’t get any funnier.

In fairness, you can take the two own goals and the offside goal (Yakubu’s second), give Arsenal the penalty they should have had when Theo was upended, and score any of the chances from the last five minutes and the result might have been different – but in any case you just can’t concede four goals and expect to come away with a point or better.

Song’s own goal was unfortunate, but it happened in slow motion. Why wasn’t he jumping forward to meet the ball and head it skyward? That it dropped in the box at all is an obvious sign of trouble. Unfortunate for Song because up until then he’d been excellent again, but this is a player who occasionally plays at the back. Head the ball. Head the opposition. Head the ground if you have to but do not let the ball bounce. No bounce on the grass and certainly no bounce off your knee into the goal.

Yakubu’s second was offside, but in any case, offside or not, a player in front of Yakubu stops that ball getting to him and stops him scoring. Easy, and if the lino flags then that’s fine and if the lino doesn’t flag that’s also fine because the ball hasn’t got to the striker anyway, because you’ve defended it.

We created enough chances to win the match, that much is true. And we took three of them. But we conspired to concede four, so even scoring three goals made no difference.

I’m actually bemused really – although I said months ago “spending money and bringing in new players won’t change anything” and so far it hasn’t changed anything. Throwing away the lead twice and conceding two own goals? How very Arsenal.

In any case, it could be worse, we could still have Denilson in the squad.