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:
Djourou – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Santos
Arteta – Song
Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho
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….!!