Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal. Yeah, that’s not a typo!

Arsenal FC! By far the greatest team, the world has ever seen! And it’s Arsenal!

There’s only one team in London!

As you can tell, I’m not yet over our win, and I’m pretty much sure you aren’t, either!

I recorded the match, and for once, I don’t have to hit ‘delete’ straight after! I’m currently watching it again!

The line-up was exactly as predicted by Dev:

 

Szczesny

Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

This was a very massive game, no doubt about it, the media not failing to remind us that this was a big test in determining whether we have really turned the corner. Funny enough, I didn’t think much about the game before-hand, as I busied myself doing other things, so much so that I didn’t realise Drogba was suspended until just before kick-off! If anything, that fact alone made me confident that we’d win, and couple it with the fact that we’ve got the best striker in the league in van Persie, who’s in the form of his life, there was no way in hell, I felt, that we were going to lose!

Chelsea actually started well in the opening minutes, their first chance coming less than 2 minutes on the clock, after some slack defending, but we responded with a half-chance, Ramsey chasing a Robin throw-in all the way down the byline and feeding it into the box, but no Arsenal player was anywhere near. Chelsea then almost scored, if not for the big boot of Mertesacker. They cut us open again, but Szczesny was able to smother the cross. Chelsea had the most of the early excahnges, but out of nowhere, we had two quick-fire chances, both brought about by Theo.

First was brought about when an absolutely delightful ball from Ramsey found Theo in acres of space down the right. He skipped past Cole easily, and laid on a dolly for Gervinho, but he somehow managed to put it wide! It was harder to miss than score! Less than a minute afterwards, Song found Theo, and he laid another one this time for Ramsey, but it was just a little bit too high, and he could only toe-poke it high and wide.

But you can tell and you know what happened next. Frank Lampard popped up with his fat head (okay, it’s not fat, but I feel like being rude!) and stooped in to head it in, after Mertesacker had missed his header. Boo! The commentators were nice enough to remind us that the last time we won at Stamford Bridge, we had to come back from a goal down. We weren’t completely outplayed at this stage, but all we could manage really, were half-chances. Sturridge really should have made it two, with only 29 minutes on the clock, but the sight of Szczesny frightened the hell out of him, so he had to mess it up. Good lad!

Less than 10 minutes later, we equalised! Who else, but our talisman!? Ramsey again played a delightful ball to Gervinho, completely eliminating the Chelsea centre-backs, and with Cech coming out to smother the ball, he intelligently and unselfishly passed back to Robin to slide into an empty net. Beautiful goal! More importantly, an equalising goal! Sturridge thought he’d scored not too long afterwards, but he was just offside! Phew!

Thought we’d make it to half-time level, but we conceded just before, thanks to our trusty achilles heel. What, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Set-pieces! Chelsea got a corner, and just as the commentator was reminding us about that fact, we proceeded to do just that, Mr Terry the villain, sorry, scorer, after a Mertesacker slip. And it was halftime.

Santos was terrible, and Mertesacker kept tripping on his feet. We really had to step it up in the second half defensively.

But we started brightly though, and had two chances in the opening minute of the second half, Cech sticking out a foot to deny Robin, and then Ramsey’s clever chip/lob was just over, after some lovely footwork by Gervinho. We were rewarded though, equalising yet again, with only 3 minutes played, from the unlikeliest of scorers, given the game he’d had so far! Song found SANTOS in ACRES of space, and I guess no one was expecting it, but he just had a straight and unopposed run at goal, finishing under Cech! Great stuff! Now, if only he could up the ante defensively… And he did! Seems the goal did a massive amount for his confidence, and he was getting the tackles in and winning the ball cleanly. Complete turn-around from the first half.

We almost undid ourselves though, Szczesny almost getting himself sent off almost immediately, after barging into Ashley Cole. But he only got a yellow, as it was outside the box, and it wasn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity, or whatever the rule is! Chelsea almost took the lead from the resulting corner, but Szczesny redeemed himself, pushing the ball past the post.

Goal number 3 came not long after, and what a goal! Theo had the ball, and began his usual foray towards goal. He tripped, the Chelsea defenders stared, he picked himself up, ghosted past Terry and Ivanovic, and fired an unstoppable effort past Cech! 2-3 to us at the Bridge! Unbelievable! Great solo goal! So much for us being a one-man team, eh!? Only 55 minutes on the clock! It was pretty much like ping-pong at this point, and we almost made it 2-4, with Ramsey causing all kinds of havoc in the Chelsea box! He was almost brought down by Cole, but he stayed on his feet and managed to get his shot in, but Cech was there deny him.

Still the chances came, but mainly for us. Made the first sub on 75 minutes, Jenkinson coming off for Djourou, who was playing at right-back. Like for like substitution, and Theo came off for Rosicky, 3 minutes after.

But it having being pingpong, it only made sense for it to be Chelsea who got the next goal! And it was a beauty! But this isn’t an Arsenal blog, so I won’t be describing it in detail! Good goal by Mata, and nothing Szczesny could do to stop it. It was just one of those screamers we concede ever so often. Top goal. Disinfecting my hands now.

Anyways, 10 minutes still to play, lots of time to score more goals, no? Was proper shitting myself at this stage though, wanted the ref to blow the whistle there and then, ignore the clock! Actually, I’d been shitting myself since Theo scored, a whole 30 minutes from time! Interesting stat came up when the score was still 3-3, and apparently we’d both had 11 attempts, 7 on target for Chelsea, and only 4 on target for us. Certainly didn’t feel that way all match!

And then came the best moment of the match! Terry slips (he never learns, does he?!) under absolutely zero pressure (okay, it was a poor back pass from Malouda), and pretty much gifts Robin the goal, as he was there to mop up, rounding Cech and slotting it in. 2 goals scored by Robin, both after having rounded Cech! Great stuff! 85 minutes on the clock. full-time whistle please, referee?

We made our third and final sub shortly afterwards, the one and only Tommy V coming on for Gervinho. Great to see him back playing in the league, even if it was only for a few minutes. It’s been ages, Tommy V! I’m actually not sure what position he played. We had 5 defenders on at this point.

There was still time to score a 5th, though! Counter-attacking  football, Rosicky finding Arteta, who then slides the ball out left to Robin, and what a finish! No stopping that, Mr Cech, with the ball swerving in the air! Bend it like van Persie! Great goal for his hattrick, and surprisingly, only his 5th goal against Chelsea, after scoring a double three years ago in the same fixture.

And the came the full-time whistle!

What. A. Bloody. Match! What a way for Arsene to get his 500th win as Arsenal boss!

28 goals in 27 league games for Robin. Amazing! Apparently he’s now the premier league topscorer, this season. Please injury-gods, keep him fit all season!

There really is no need to do much analysis after that match, just sit back and enjoy it result. Stand out performances though by Ramsey, and ofcourse Robin. Theo was brilliant, and Santos finally showed us what he’s made of in the second half. I’d like to see more of the 2nd-half Santos, not the first-half one. I think Djourou did well, and Kos was magnificent. Song too did well. Generally a good team performance, and I guess the fact that we won showed that we were able to carry the few who weren’t at their best.

Wish I could go out tonight and celebrate this win, but I’ve got an annoying cold, so can’t. Booo! Anyways, I hope this win does give us the boost we need, not so much in terms of results, but in terms of performances, as we’ve actually had a good run of late- 8 wins in the last 10 games in all competition. I’m sure we’ll push on from here.

Up next, Marseille at the Emirates. Won’t be an easy match, but we’re on such a high, and I hope we can carry that into the match. Brilliant stuff.

I’ll be off now, but would just like to say (again)- THERE’S ONLY ONE, TEAM IN LONDON!

Chelsea vs Arsenal – The Preview

This season has been a mixed bag of goodies – well, goodies, baddies and randomness. But throughout the season, our two Achilles heels have been our away form and playing any decent team. 3 of our 4 losses have been top six teams – United, Liverpool and Sp*rs.

Away at Chelsea, it sounds like a tough one for us, but considering our recent improvements, we should go into the game with a bit more confidence than previous games. It’s Chelsea first and then Marseille at home on Tuesday. The boss spoke about the two games earlier today:

“That’s why it is such an important game for us at Chelsea. We play two cup games in the next two games – one at Chelsea and one on Tuesday night that can qualify us as well [for the Champions League knockout stage]. So let’s go step by step. Chelsea is a very important game for us but still I believe the only way to succeed is to focus on the quality of our performance, play our game well and the consequence is that you have a chance to win the game.”

Chelsea will be favourites for sure, they are at home, and have just come off the back off a league defeat to QPR, and an unconvincing win against Everton in the Carling Cup. They are a team full of quality players, but due to their recent bout of sending offs, they will be without Drogba and Bosingwa – although having the likes of Fernando Torres as backup shows the strength of their team.

Team news for us sees the surprise return of Thomas Vermaelen, who is available for the game, despite coming off with a calf strain against Bolton midweek – there has been a lot of debate whether to break up the Koscielny-Mertersacker partnership but after listening to Arsene, I don’t think the vice captain will start.

We had good news about Vermaelen in the game against Bolton the other night. It was just cramp [that forced him to come off] so that’s good news. He will certainly be in the squad at Chelsea. I don’t know yet whether he will start, I have to think about that. I feel physically he is not completely ready because he had problems to finish the game against Bolton, but he is close. We play two games in three days and I will have to evaluate the whole situation. But Thomas always wants to play.

I think Arsene is more likely not to gamble on TV5, but looking at the opposition, he and Koscielny would probably be a better combination. Torres, Anelka and Sturridge all have pace and are tricky which may cause Mertersacker a few problems. In other positive injury news, reports from the manager confirmed that Carl Jenkinson is back training – weeks ahead of schedule – but perhaps not quite ready for this game…

I will know more [about Jenkinson's fitness] after training on Friday. Jenkinson was alright yesterday, but I don’t know if I will take him or not. It depends how well he does in training today.

Digesting the current injuries and injury returnees, my guestimated line up is:

Szcznesy

Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a strong bench of Fabianski,  Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Arshavin, Park, Chamakh

Arshavin was very impressive behind the striker in the Carling Cup, but we probably won’t see a repeat of that against Chelsea. We may need him deployed in that role against Marseille at home instead. Arshavin seems to be better at home than away at the moment.

It will be a very hard game tomorrow, and with the performances against bigger teams this season not being very good, we are underdogs. But that’s the way we like it – and let’s hope we spring a surprise…

Til tomorrow… Come on you Gooners!!

 

AGM: Was that really an AGM?

Yesterday was the AGM (the annual one, not the ones in between)… and it was an informative AGM to some degree but at the same time, it was a bit of a run of the mill marketing exercise from the management. I don’t mean to devalue the meeting, but hearing Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis, Peter Hill Wood and Arsene Wenger say pretty much the same thing, but in 4 different ways isn’t quite what an AGM is all about.

Putting that aside, the fact that they all did come and listen to the questions and the fact that we had so many representatives down there was quite impressive. Our ever present @j1mm7t was present and reporting live from The Emirates. The start of the AGM was a little more heated that you would have thought – particularly towards Ivan Gazidis and Peter Hill Wood.

The problem of course is down to our start of the season, and multiple losses – coupled with the departure of Nasri & Cesc to two teams who seem to be doing very well… but in the last month, our form has turned around and the mood has changed a bit. Perhaps it’s quite timely that this AGM didn’t happen a month ago.

Arsene summed up the start of the season, and it did seem to add perspective to what has been an awful start.

“Not many people at the moment are behind us, but I believe we can be a positive surprise so let’s stand behind the team this season. We started at the Emirates this season with a very difficult environment because people were very sceptical, but they understood two things – firstly if they do not get behind the team we have no chance, and secondly they have realised that this team has the right attitude and spirit. Even during the difficult periods in the last few home games, the fans have been absolutely fantastic and behind the team. It is time to realise that, yes, times are more difficult, but yes we can still be successful under one condition, that we all stand behind the team, and are united. Then at the end of the season, we will see where we stand. If we give absolutely everything and fight together for every single game in every single competition we can still look back at the end of the season and be proud of our attitude and what we have achieved,” he said.

And the boss is right – but the major question is why we had these issues. Why did it take all summer to sort out a very simple set of transfers. The problem is that this mad management of transfers seems to happen every year. Either we don’t strengthen in the right places or we strengthen too late and find ourselves a month behind the rest of the Premiership.

After the AGM, the interviews with the supporters who attended were clearly abject, with many supporters questioning the direction. I personally think that’s a bit harsh on the management – it seems like a lot of people want everything and forget the efforts that it will take to get there.

The speeches at the AGM have been made public & free on Arsenal’s website, so check it out if you can:

http://player.arsenal.com/home/player/1117-wenger-at-the-agm

I’ll be back tomorrow for the big Chelsea vs Arsenal preview…

Arsenal: Learnings This Week…

At the office, every week an item on the agenda is “learnings from the week”, and in most businesses, it’s an important part of their processes for self improvement and world domination…

Down at the Arsenal, we’ve been taught a few lessons this season, without a doubt and when we look back at the start of the season, it’s fair to say that things have improved and there is more discipline and a sense of unity about the squad. We’ve just had a decent run of 7 wins out of the last 8 games, and the big test is against Chelsea this weekend, whereby a good performance and a point would go a long way to understanding where we have come in the last month… but before all of that… the big question is – what have we learnt this week. Of course, by this week, I am referring to the two games, firstly against Stoke and then more recently against Bolton…

Learning #1: Van Persie is very important

Now that is what I call stating the obvious! Quite obviously against Stoke, we lacked a level of sharpness up front and that sharpness came into the game with the introduction of Van Persie. The problem is that Van Persie will get injured and when he does, we need to ensure someone can come in and make a difference or at least ensure we have an attacking threat. The good thing is that Gervinho looks very exciting, so does Park. But so far in the league, it’s been Chamakh who has been chosen and to be honest, he has been worryingly bad.

Learning #2: Arshavin through the middle is better

The performance from Arshavin against Bolton was probably the best all round performance from the Russian in the last twelve months.

He scurried and closed down, he had a turn of pace about him, he looked switched on, he was a threat for the entire game.

“I have to say that the experienced players took charge of the game and made the difference. Andrey loves to play behind the strikers and he scored a goal and gave an assist. He is an exceptional talent, everyone knows that. He loses the ball sometimes because he takes a gamble because he is a creative player.”

His goal was a very obvious reminder to us all that shooting is a good thing… there have been many times whereby we’ve been in a similar position but tried to pass – good to see Arshavin being direct – in all fairness, he is always quite direct and playing in the middle may make him more dangerous.

Learning #3: Vermaelen may get injured again (but is very good)

Vermaelen hasn’t played that much football in the last couple of months let alone the year. He played against Bolton and show moments of defensive magic. However, he got injured and had a calf strain. This is something that we will have to learn to accept and he will be in and out of the team a lot this season. News yesterday was that he has recovered from his injury and can play this weekend…

“I feel great. I trained yesterday with the team and I felt good straight away so I felt confident for tonight. Personally I don’t believe in that [needing games to regain sharpness]. If I come back from injury after a long time I don’t believe in coming back and getting rhythm. I think it is just in your head and a mental thing – if you are a football player you have to be there straight away. That’s why I wanted to play today and I think it’s good. It was a good game for us, we fought hard and it was a deserved win for us I think.

But there is a massive question that all Arsenal fans are asking each other – do we put Vermaelen back into the centre of defence against Chelsea? The partnership of Koscielny & Mertersacker has started to grow and is it wise to break up that partnership?

If we don’t break it up – do we play Vermaelen at left back – four centre backs across the back in Vermaelen – Koscielny –  Mertersacker – Djourou – but obviously this will have some affect on our forward play.

Learning #4: Park Ju Young could be the back up for Van Persie

If you watched the game on Wednesday, you will have seen a very spirited performance from the Korean. Arsene took time out after the game to comment on his peformance:

For me I am very pleased with his performance. He had a very, very good game. He has shown intelligence in his link play with others. The quality of his movement was exceptional and his finishing is absolutely fantastic. He has shown tonight that he is a very, very good player. He is ready to play in league games, yes. Compared to the player who played in the first match [against Shrewsbury] where he was a bit inhibited, tonight I felt he played with freedom and has showed what a good player he is.

I’d like to see more of him. If we’re winning a game (and can rest RvP) or need an extra striker, perhaps Park is the answer rather than the somewhat not-so-useful Chamakh…

Learning #5: Chamakh is definitely not the back up for Van Persie

What has happened to the Chamakh that scored 10 goals in 15 at the beginning of last season. Indeed, he went for first choice to third overnight, but still, we have to expect more from an International player who plays for Arsenal on the wages he gets. Arsene did come out with a plethora of excuses about Chamakh’s performance after the Stoke game:

I think he worked very hard. He is running after a goal at the moment. I felt there were two or three occasions in the first half where he was nearly there on crosses and just didn’t get in front of Shawcross. I am pleased with his effort. I think he knows in his mind that at the moment Van Persie is untouchable. Because we play with two wingers it is very difficult to play with two strikers because you are too open in the middle of the park. So unless I change the system it will be him or Van Persie. It is difficult. But he will get confidence by playing games and scoring goals like all strikers.

Arsene says this, but of course, it’s a problem that can’t be solved – well, it could have been solved if Chamakh got a nod against Bolton – he would have gained some level of “playing games and scoring goals” – but it’s obvious that Arsene doesn’t really fancy the player and obvious that he prefers Park – actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Park overtake Chamakh in the pecking order…

Let’s hope we’ve learnt from the last week and take our learnings in the next game… the big one…!

Til tomorrow…

‘One nil down, Two one up…’

Morning all,

I’m at the game so another match day blog from moi.

Bolton were the visitors to The Emirates in the Carling Cup. As always Arsenal rang out the changes giving a few reserves and youth players a chance plus a certain Belgian defender a chance to gain further fitness after his Achilles injury.

Bolton have been struggling horribly in the league but this was still an all premiership tie we had to be wary of.

On the way to the Tollington pub and talk in the press and between fans had been about the recent race allegations from John Terry, Suarez and even Cesc, following Kanoute’s sending off over the weekend. The fact is racism and xenaphobia has NO place in modern football but with the internet/twitter a dangerous vehicle for rumours and opinions, a small accusation or apparent lip read can quickly escalate into a major story. The Terry story is being esculated by the minute with The FA set to launch an enquiry, it could be an interesting few weeks for all the clubs involved.

The team for last night was;

v Bolton: Fabianski, Yennaris, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Miquel, Frimpong, Coquelin, Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Park.

TV5 is back! A debut for Yennaris and another chance to see the Ox in action.

Game time;

Not bad for a tenner eh?

 

We’re off and running… Come on The Arsenal!

5mins gone; Good atmosphere, Bolton have fielded a strong team.

10min ; Arsenal controlling the game, Ox has a pop shot that deflects for a corner.

13mins: A great crossfield ball from Frimpong, Ox breaks wide into the box but one touch too many and cross is over hit.

25mins: As Bolton grow into the game, Park picks the ball up and fires in a great shot saved by the keeper.

26mins; Bolton’s Kakuta breaks free, swivels in the box and has a shot saved low by Fabianski.

28mins; Squillaci booked for another silly foul. Games a bit flat now, Bolton happy for us to present them with their chances, I’m sure we will too.

35min, Shava touches a free kick to TV who stings the keeps gloves with a beauty of a shot.

Ps; the raining is falling but the winter hip flask is out. (Drink responsibly kids)

40min, Shava feeds a sideways pass to Park who tries to pass it into the net from the edge of the box but saved again by the keeper. Park is warming up and he’s not afraid to shoot…

Half time, Arsenal ahead on points but goals win games.

47min: FFS! Wakey wakey Arsenal…. 1-0 Bolton. They walk straight through after Frimpong gives it away and ex-gooner Muamba fires it into the roof of the net from a short pass in the box. Sloppy

55mins … They’re awake!… Arsenal 1-1 Bolton.. Yossi knocks it to shava on the right of the box. Shava jinks right left and then arrows it into the opposite bottom corner, keeper static. A great shot from Shava, that’s more like it

58mins – I can’t keep up! Arsenal 2-1 Bolton.. Shava again breaks through the middle and feeds Park on the left who curls a beauty into the top corner… Henry is that you???! A top goal, I told you earlier he was warming up.

60mins… The ref floors Shava! Seriously, he needs treatment!

65mins: Arsenal doing well now, Bolton bit shocked at being at 2-1 down so quickly. Confidence is on Arsenal’s side.

70mins: Ox who’s not been subdued, battles through but shot is blocked twice.

73mins – Fabianski keeps out a free kick at the near post. Pressure from Bolton is still there. Arsenal need to hold strong here.

76mins – Ryo on for Ox.

78 – Fabianski makes a couples of good saves. The first one on one and the other from a scramble after a corner. Big ten mins ahead.

85mins – TV5 makes way for Daniel Boatang. A good 85mins for TV5, won some aerial duals, one fantastic 50 50 he had no right to win and was organising the inexperienced players around him.

86min – Bolton player skies it high high over the goal from 6 yards out, a lucky escape.

90mins – Fantastic! Ryo jumps in to tackle a goal bound shot for a corner. Cahil rises high but puts it over the goal.

Game over. Arsenal into the 5th round of the Carling Cup.

A great win for Arsenal, a vastly inexperienced team played pretty much a Bolton first team tonight.  A prime example of the spirit on display was Miquel, who played out of position at left back but was determined not to let the team down. Coquelin, Frimpong and the Ox didn’t star as maybe the fans wanted them too but again they were playing experienced players compared to those at Shrewsbury.

In the end the more experienced players stepped up in the 2nd half when we were a goal down. Shava was fantastic for 30mins, a constant menace resulting in a goal and an assist. Not even the referee couldn’t keep him down! Yossi battled away and has the fantastic knack of holding onto the ball until the right moment, he is also a calming influence on the players around him.

The one who stood out for me was Park. Only his 2nd start but a drastic improvement from when I saw him against Shrewsbury. Wenger talked about him almost being ready before the game and that was apparent last night. He seemed a lot fitter and sharper with a real eye for goal. He ghost’s into spaces and isn’t afraid to shoot. I’ve described his goal as Henry-esque and it truly was, running on the ball with a right foot curler into the top corner. I’d reward him with a start against Marseille.

 
Last word is for the over 50k strong crowd in attendance. They provided a great atmosphere and really got behind the team. Given it’s half term this week, it was fantastic to see so many young excited Gooners in attendance, I’m glad you all got the result you wanted and a couple of cracking goals.

Up the Arsenal!!

Till next time.

Feel free to comment & follow on twitter – @Tottz82

Carling Cup Preview: Arsenal vs Bolton…

The BIG news of the day is the return of Thomas Vermaelen to the squad. When Arsene said he was coming back soon, we all just thought “yeah right, of course he’ll be back”, and in reality none of us expected him to come back in time for when scheduled. But he is back and will start tonight – and perhaps at left back…

“We want to win so there is no perfect game [to bring a player back] but Thomas has worked very hard physically so he should be ready. I have not decided who will start yet but we will try to find a good mixture. Vermaelen might play, Squillaci might play and of course Fabianski too. We will have an experienced team out there but of course some young players.”

My predicted line up is…

Fabianski

Yennaris - Squillaci – Miquel – Vermaelen

Frimpong – Coquelin

Oxlade – Benayoun – Arshavin

Park

The captain for the night will be Vermaelen if he starts, or Arshavin if Vermaelen doesn’t start. I think the inclusion of Arshavin is a good idea – the player isn’t starting much for the first team and could do with some game time. Also, some experience is needed in the squad. I am also keen to see Miyaichi in action but in reality, patience is a virtue – he must be out of form in the reserves or something for him not to feature this season.

The bench should be Mannone, Boateng, Ozyakup, Meade, Miyaichi, Watt, Aneke.

I am surprised not to see Rosicky or Chamakh on the bench – in fact, I am surprised that Chamakh hasn’t started this game. If the player is number two to Robin Van Persie in the striking order, then surely he should have some game time. Game time = goals = confidence = can do a job when Van Persie is injured.

I think Arsene Wenger was in a super-jinxing mode when he last spoke, as all the stories on the site are stories which basically jinx each one of our players!

  • Coquelin is making a name for himself
  • Vermaelen is back
  • Ramsey will score double figures
  • Frimpong will be a top player
  • Van Persie is in good shape
  • We’re looking much more stable at the back

When I read all of those, all I think is…. JINX!

Having said that though, Francis Coquelin has actually been very impressive in his various games so far this season, and it will be good to see him in action. The quality of youngsters coming through at the moment is top top, and the playerm, who has been with us for 3 years now, spoke to Arsenal Player yesterday:

“I didn’t expect to play that much at the beginning of the season. I came back from the [Under-20] World Cup and then played straight away at Manchester United, which was a really hard game. He [Arsène Wenger] gave me another chance in the Carling Cup and I grabbed it. I think I have done quite well.  Against Tottenham again it was a really tough game. I am a bit disappointed because we came out of those two games with two defeats – I think we could have done better at White Hart Lane.  But overall I was pleased to play and hopefully I can get more games. I just try to do my job – tackle, keep the ball and play things easy. Obviously you are always happy to receive a man of the match award but it is about the team.”

Personally, I am looking forward to the performance of Park & Oxlade – these two players have potential for sure – Oxlade having started a few and scored a few for club & country and Park having scored a bucket load for country. Arsene has been keen to protect Oxlade and also mentioned several times that Park needs time to adapt.

Tickets are still available if you want to go, they are just £20 a ticket.

It’s going to be an exciting night at the Emirates… come on you reds!!

Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke: 6 wins out of 7…

7th in the table, 2 points behind Liverpool, on the way up the table. Nice. Before I start my match report of our game, I’d like to just confirm that we have won six of our last seven games. For any Man United fans reading this blog, then just to re-iterate, that we have 1-6 of our last seven games…. I couldn’t resist that joke!

Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke

With games coming thick and fast, Arsene decided to rest Robin Van Persie for the game, Maroune Chamakh replacing him in the starting line up. Gervinho took Arshavin’s place and Ramsey taking Rosicky’s place. With Jenkinson & Sagna out injured, Johan Djourou took control of right back, for an eleven that looked like this:

Szcznesy

Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Song – Arteta

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Chamakh

With a bench of Fabianski, Frimpong, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Park, Van Persie.

The game was an interesting one – the two teams had an obvious dislike for each other – managers, players and fans – and it was always going to be a feisty affair. Stoke came to defend and “nick a point”, and for most of the game, they stayed deep and kept their shape. Ramsey, Arteta and Song played most of their game in the opposition half and it was of those probing patient games. Our goal came when the excellent Gervinho darted in the middle of the Stoke defence and Ramsey lofted a ball over into his path. The Ivorian finished well with his left foot and put us 1-0 up. Despite their defensive stance, Stoke were always dangerous – and especially with set pieces and especially through the annoying tall Peter Crouch – and it was he who eventually equalised after a bit of pinballs in our area…

1-1, 25 minutes to go – queue man of the moment, Robin Van Persie. Substitute appearance replacing the very much not in form Maroune Chamakh, and before we knew it, we were 3-1 up – massive credit goes to Gervinho for his work rate and his runs around the box. First, he popped up on the right and edged past the Stoke defender to square into Van Persie whose back post to near post run was superb, and the Dutch International scored from short range. A sense of relief around the stadium and shortly afterwards, Gervinho popped up on the left, Arshavin (as a sub for the shockingly bad Walcott), slipped the ball into his bath – and the Ivorian squared for Van Persie again and then it was 3-1 to the Arsenal…

Arsene summed up the performance and summarised it quite well.

We had a solid team performance where you could see that the team improves defensively, especially against a team that is challenging like Stoke. We looked much more solid defensively and we had a good start to the game until they equalised. Then I felt we became a bit nervous and we needed half time to calm down and then come back. The second half basically was all us, especially after the first 15 minutes, and then the problem was to score goals. Van Persie can do that better than many people and he did it when he came on. Overall it was a good, spirited performance and the crowd feels that this team wants to do well because they stood behind the team again and that is very positive. They feel that the team is ready to put effort in. Of course Robin with the two goals deserves a massive credit but I feel Gervinho as well had a very lively game, a very influential game.

There is a feeling of over-reliance on Van Persie, but when you have a striker who scores and scores and scores, you’ll tend to play him as much as possible. I’m sure he’ll be rested for tomorrow’s game, and I’m sure we’ll see a mix of Chamakh, Park and Oxlade around the striking berths… Two other players who were immense were Alex Song and Gervinho, both were very on top of their game.

Alex Song was captain for the day, and he looked very much energised by the role. The defensive midfielder commented on his captaincy and said:

I am very proud. If somebody had said to me six or seven years ago that I would be captain for Arsenal I would never believe them. But today I am very happy because I can show to the boss that I am one of the leaders in the team – we have many players who can do the job. We conceded stupid goals at the start of the season but now we are stronger at the back. That is why we need to improve every week. We saw today that a free-kick [cost us] and that was basic defending. It is very good for us to be stronger and try to defend together. That is what we did in the second half and we took our opportunities. It will come in time.

6 wins out of the last 7… we move quickly to tomorrows game against Bolton and then the big one against Chelsea on Sunday…

Let the games role on…

Arsenal vs Stoke: Monster Preview

It’s the weekend. That means football, football and lots more football… It all kicks off this weekend with Wolves vs Sunderland and all ends with Liverpool vs Norwich today, but due to the Europa exploits of Stoke, we play our game on Sunday at 1.30pm and thanks to the big Manchester derby, we’re not even on TV!

As every Gooner and every football fan is aware, we haven’t had the greatest start to a season. In fact, we have had the worst start to any season under Arsene Wenger… However, we have quietly gone about our business and now won 5 out of the last 6 games – yes, they are just stats, but wins bread confidence and hopefully the recent run of games, including our win against Marseille mid week will inspire us and help move on the level we want to be. We currently sit in 10th position on 10 points. The first target is fourth, currently occupied by Newcastle, with 16 points. 6 points in the current gap, although there are a lot of teams in and around the top and of course, it early early days.

Arsenal vs Stoke

Tomorrow sees us take on Stoke and every time I think Stoke, I think Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Shawcross – both are likely to start tomorrow. Ramsey has not been in the team recently and Rosicky has played quite well, but you have to consider that Ramsey is the long term option for our midfield and will regain his place in the team. He does offer an attacking threat when he plays further up field and is a slippery customer. It’s a good problem to have, obviously… options and more options are great, and we saw with some devastating effect what quality from the bench can achieve.

Team news ahead of tomorrow’s game see our second right back, Carl Jenkinson, out for the next two to three weeks, and considering his recent performances, it’s unlucky for the lad, as he has played well. I really do like the way he bombs forward and have been very impressed with the level of crossing and crossing speed & accuracy he delivers. Arsene hinted that Djourou and Koscielny are his two options to replace Jenkinson, but considering Djourou has played there in recent games and considering the promising partnership of Koscielny and Mertersacker, I doubt that Koscielny will be moved out. Arsene also confirmed that Vermaelen should be back soon, although I think he’ll be very short for the Chelsea game, which is of course, next weekend!

My predicted line up is:

Szcznesy

Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Squillaci, Coquelin, Frimpong, Rosicky, Arshavin, (Chamakh, Park, Benayoun or Oxlade)

Actually, I have no idea who will be on the bench…

Stoke will be no easy game either – they are a proper side who will test us at our game, at the counter attacking game and the long ball, and we’ll have to be at our aerial and tactical best against them to come out with all three point. Last season, I would have said that having Djourou in the side would add extra height and resistance the aerial bombardment. But now, after 4 months of poor form from the Swiss defender, I don’t have the same feeling as I did this time last year about him in the team.

Arsene was quick to point out the progression of Stoke. They have risen very rapidly from the Championship to the Premiership and have done very well to stay in the league and make an impression on the league. Their home form has been very good and of course, they have beaten us before – but not just us, they’ve also beaten the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and drawn with Man United too.

“Financially it means they have moved up. When you buy Crouch that means financially they have made a big effort. That means now they are in a different category of clubs, yes of course. They are a good team, especially offensively. Pennant, Etherington, Walters, Crouch, Jerome – offensively they have huge potential. They are always difficult at the back to beat because the back four is stable and doesn’t push forward too much. They go for a more direct game, that’s why it is difficult to get them out of position. But at home we have always done well against them and that is what we want to continue to do.”

The interesting thing about Stoke is that they adapt to survive, and when they first got promoted, they brought a bit of the old Wimbledon mentality to their game, long throws, overloading areas, and long balls into the box. But doing so with a game plan. But something they have developed since their promotion is the ability to play the game too, ball on the floor – and by mixing it up it has devastating affects. We’ve got to hope they have calmed down on their physical approach too… no more career threatening challenges please…

Our game has also changed considerably, and we perhaps don’t have the “adapt to survive” attitude that could be introduced, but instead we have the “keep it the same” attitude and we will come good. Our displays of football this season have seemed more laboured and not as flowing as previous seasons, but I believe this is down to a lot of change of personnel. If you change the entire squad, which is effectively what we did, it will take time to get the players playing in the same way as our previous players and style has been. Arsene believes it will come in time, and despite some decent victories, he was keen to point this out yesterday.

“[Our football] doesn’t trouble me too much at the moment. But you will see that, with confidence, this team will be very creative. I do not want to convince that we play in a fantastically eye-catching way at the moment but I believe as well the critics have gone a bit overboard. We have played exceptionally well in the past and they are used to that kind of game. Now, because we have bad results, people have just put in their mind that we have a bad team. However if you analyse deeper our games and, if you watch them again, then although we have some improvements still to make it is not as bad as people say. We had to become a bit more stable defensively. After you concede eight goals it’s always a shock for a team. But we have gone through a stage where we had first to settle down again and be more stable defensively. When we get our confidence back we can be more eye-catching than we are at the moment.”

Personally, eye-catching or not, the 3 points next tomorrow are the most vital.

Bring it on….!!

Smash & Grab & Confidence Growing…

A great end to a cagey night out in Marseille…. without a doubt… super sub Aaron Ramsey scored a 92nd minute winner to give us all the three points, and considering it’s an away game in the Champions League, considering Marseille had a real go at us, considering a point away is a good result, the win is just awesome! I can’t remember the last time that we were on the end of a last minute winner… and it feels good!! I do remember that game, when Henry scored from an Eboue cross, as we beat Man United 2-1 at home after going 1-0 down… ah, the memories…

Apologies for lack of blog yesterday – I’ve been convinced to go snowboarding with @Tottz82 and co in December this year, and yesterday was the compulsory purchasing day of ski and snowboarding apparel…

I’ll be back again tomorrow with my take on Arsene’s pre match press conference, but a quick word on Koscielny – he was absolutely outstanding against Marseille – very commanding across the back and he and Mertersacker look like they’re getting to know each other very well.

Arsene singled him out for praise and commented on what he thought was a man of the match performance:

“I believe he was certainly Man of the Match in that game. You saw in that game what we want from Laurent – he was commanding and playing with authority. That is something that has come out of the game last night. When he had the ball he was calm, he read the game well and got in front of the strikers to save many dangerous situations. I would say he was surprised coming from France at the physical intensity of the game here but he has got that now and I think he is very commanding. He had a very good game against Sunderland and again in Marseille. I always thought he would become a great central defender. He is getting there.”

After posting this one, I am already starting the next post, so it will be with you tomorrow morning sharpish!

Vermaelen leads the way before Marseille.

Morning all,

After a short holiday, a normal blogging service by yours truly resumes. Plenty to look at from yesterday and a quick preview of matchday 3 in the Champions League, Marseille away.

The next line may confuse you so read it carefully, ‘Arsenal first team player signs contract extension…’.

No seriously, Thomas Vermaelen has signed a contract extension to his current, believed to be 4 more years.

Vermaelen said:

“I am really happy to have signed a new contract with Arsenal. I always had the intention to stay here. I feel there is a big belief in me from the Club, from the boss and from the fans and that is one of the reasons why I stayed. Arsenal is a fantastic Club. We have great supporters, we’re doing well financially and we are playing with some quality young players now and they will develop, which is very good for the future.”

Fantastically on the same day, the now financially sound Thomas Vermaelen, (5 starts last season) signs a new deal, Arsenal also announced the opening of a brand new Medical Centre (Diaby House) at the training ground. Colin Lewin revealed, ‘The new equipment will help as much with preventing new injuries’.

We hope and we pray.

All jokes aside Vermaelen signing a new contract is fantastic news on a number of levels for the club. Firstly TV5 is one of the best defenders in the league, yes I know he’s had an injury ravaged 18months but we have to believe he will get back to his best sooner rather than later. In Tommy’s debut season in the premiership he was voted in the PFA team of the year and he is still only 25. The guy is a class act and him and Mertesacker have the making of a great partnership.

Secondly, TV5 signing sends a message out to other players entering the ‘negotiation’ period of their contract, namely RVP and Theo. I truly don’t believe the fact that TV5 and RVP are buddies will have any bearing on RVP’s contract decision, he’s a professional player and he won’t base the decision of his final ‘primetime’ contract on the back of a friendship. Ask Cesc.

On to tonight’s game, a sexy French tie in store, Marseille in the Stade Velodrome. Marseille currently are suffering in the league, sitting 15th and with big players struggling to perform to the level they should be… sound familiar?! No real surprises in the squad news, Ramsey does return from ‘hamstring fatigue’, Coquelin is preferred away from home to Frimpong again (Not Dench) and Gibbs is facing 2 weeks out with an abdominal strain. Santos should deputise.

I expect the team to be:

Szcz

Jennkinson – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Santos

Arteta – Song – Ramsey

Walcott – RVP – Gervinho.

I know little about Marseille but I do know they have some potentially class players who could win a glamour tie like this in an instance.  Given both team’s current form, I imagine both teams have players who have the (in)ability to ‘lose’ the game in an instance for their respective teams. Marseille have a strong defensive record in the Champions League having kept 7 clean sheets in 8 games, therefore chances maybe scarce tonight so we can’t afford to be wasteful in front of goal if opportunities do fall our way. I’m expecting an extremely cagey game tonight from two teams slightly low on confidence, with that in mind I fancy a draw.

Other another note, it was Marseille’s corruption in the early 90’s when Le boss was in charge of Monaco that left more than bitter taste in his mouth and stain on the whole of European football. On top of that, Marseille have give us the greed of Na$ri & Flamini and the grotesqueness of Drogba. So I hope we completely smash them to bits.

Come on The Arsenal!!!

Enjoy it Gooners.

Comments welcome on twitter, @tottz82

3 Points In The League, Now Time For The Champions League

3 Points In The League

3 points are three points. Against Sunderland, we made it much harder than it should have been, but in the end, the moment of magic from Robin Van Persie won us the game. I’ve been overly critical of Robin’s ability at free kicks, but when you see him do that, it’s clear he has the quality and considering Arteta, Walcott and Santos had taken the worst three free kicks of the weekend before RvP stepped up, it’s surprising that the captain wasn’t at the helm for all of the previous ones. I’m sure he’ll be back to first choice free kick taker now. But at least there are options, even though not great ones…

Talking about Theo, I was again confused by his display on the weekend. He looks like he doesn’t know what to do a lot of the time. When he gets the ball, it’s… “er… run? cross… er? what do I do?…”, and considering the time he has been with us, you have to wonder why he is still so inconsistent. Stats will tell us that he has scored and assisted a few, but in games like the one against Sunderland, surely his possession play – i.e. giving the ball away a lot – is a problem.

With Arshavin starting to resemble some sort of form now, should he be rewarded with Theo’s place now? Gervinho, The Arsh & Van Persie?

Van Persie has been in super great form and there is a genuine worry about where we would be if he got injured. Arsene praised him highly after his performance against Sunderland:

“Well, he scored two goals. I think you have to analyse the game a little bit to see how important he is. The first goal was a good display of the team and the second chance he made the difference just because of his skill, which was exceptional.”

Perhaps we are over-reacting – Van Persie plays now as he is the best striker, but if injured, the likes of Gervinho, Park & Chamakh will obviously have to play in that role. Because we haven’t seen a lot of them, it’s obviously harder for us to understand the depth we have. But with the number of games we have in the next two weeks, I’m sure we’ll see more of all of them…

Champions League Preview

Many people say the Champions League should only be for Champions – but surely then it would have only five decent teams in it, right? The Champions of England, Spain, Italy, France & Germany… But tomorrow, we take on Marseille, away, and they have become a serious contender in European football. They current top the group on six points, having beaten both Dortmund and Olympiakos. We really have to play to the best our our ability to beat them and to be totally honest, our away form has been very worrying this season. It’s strange how football works – last year, our away form was incredible as a season, but this season, it’s been the opposite. Udinese aside, we’ve failed to win any away games this season and lost the last three on the bounce…

Marseille will be a tricky place, but the returning and impressive Rosicky was keen to stress that we are going for the jugular.

“It must be our aim to win the group, especially after what happened to us last year when we were not top of the group. In the last three games we messed up. Marseille are a direct contender for us who would like to qualify from the group as well. It’s a big game and we want to be successful there. It looks like it will be between us, Dortmund and Marseille so it will be a vital game for us.”

Whereas Arsene highlighted their impressive Champions League start at the expense of their league form… ahem…

“Marseille is a good team but they are under pressure a little bit like we are in the league because they didn’t start as strong as they would have expected. That puts more pressure on you. They have done well in the Champions League, certainly, because it is a competition where there is a bit less expectation and they are less under pressure. They are a quality team.”

No doubt, they are a quality team… and it’s another big away test for us. If we can produce a good performance, it may have a positive affect on the rest of our season.

After his mid-season break, our beloved Tottz is back tomorrow for his latest digest… til then…