We finish 3rd… into the Champions League… (Happy St. Totteringham’s Day)

What an exciting day of football for pretty much every one in the league… Congratulations to Robin Van Persie and the rest of the boys for pulling out an epic victory to claim 3rd place in the league, which guarantees us Champions League football next season…

Happy St. Totteringham’s Day

Indeed, the day where Sp*rs cannot finish above Arsenal…

Van der Vaart: “There is no chance of Arsenal finishing above Spurs. We’re better.”

And today is a great day indeed Vaartmeister…

 

And another look at the table please….

 

Now in all this excitement and all of these jokes about Sp*rs, I haven’t really commented on the game yet. A game which actually shows how far we are away from where we need to be. Yes, we without Arteta, Wilshere & Diaby… but there is a lot which needs to be done to this squad to get it competing on with the top two…

More to follow…

West Brom vs Arsenal: The Finale

Today is the day. It’s the finale.

It’s a long time since this much was decided on the final day of the season. We’re in 3rd now, but by the end of today, we could finish 3rd, 4th or 5th… Man City or Man United will win the league. The only thing decided already this season is Chelsea finishing 6th, Wolves & Blackburn relegated… We need to beat West Brom, simple as, Sp*rs have a home game against Martin Jol’s Fulham, which I would only expect them to win. Newcastle do face a tough trip to Everton in a game where an Everton win would see them finish above Liverpool, some incentive there.

Today’s fixtures

  • Chelsea v Blackburn
  • Everton v Newcastle
  • Man City v QPR
  • Norwich v Aston Villa
  • Stoke v Bolton
  • Sunderland v Man Utd
  • Swansea v Liverpool
  • Tottenham v Fulham
  • West Brom v Arsenal
  • Wigan v Wolves

At the top, you’d have to think QPR would be fighting for their lives. A win at City would see them safe and in the Premiership next season. A loss, and a Bolton win would see them relegated. I don’t want City to win the title, especially Mr Nasri, but this whole league is becoming a lesser of two evils scenario! Today’s game at The Hawthorns is not televised, so it’s going to be streamed or listened to… As mentioned before, there are 3 scenarios of where we can finish in the league… The BBC have some it up perfectly, so here we go:

Arsenal will finish third: if they win; if they draw and Tottenham fail to win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham lose and Newcastle fail to win; or if they lose by a single goal, Tottenham draw or lose, and Newcastle fail to win.

Arsenal will finish fourth: if they draw and Tottenham win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham win and Newcastle fail to win; if they lose (by any margin), Tottenham lose and Newcastle win; if they lose by a single goal, Tottenham draw and Newcastle win; or if they lose by two or more goals, Tottenham draw and Newcastle fail to win.

The doomsday scenario of Arsenal finishing fifth can only occur if they lose (by any margin) and Tottenham and Newcastle both win; or if they lose by two or more goals, Tottenham draw and Newcastle win.

Ouch would be the order of the day if we don’t finish 3rd. 3 points from 12 in the last four games is a terrible collapse.

Arsene spoke about today and it’s in our hands…

“We have gone through all scenarios. We have the possibility of securing third spot on Sunday and we just want to take it. After that, we will face the consequences. We have a fantastic position, we are switched on and, if we win the game, we don’t have to think about anything else. The rules are the rules, you know them at the start of the season and you have to accept them. But we want to finish third, we have the potential to do it, so let’s do it. The consequences if you don’t, you deal with after the game. You just have to look at it as an opportunity you want to take. For us it is just about finding the right mixture – to be focused, combative and relaxed but especially to be faithful to play our football. Because, at the end of the day, it will be down to playing well, no matter what is at stake.”

True words from Arsene, but today something very big is at stake, a great big whopping £45M of lossed revenue to be precise (yes, some of that can be recouped with a successful Europa League run)… We’ve heard in circles that the club always work out their finances to include the possibility of not qualifying for the Champions League, but in reality, a club like us cannot afford not to be in the Champions League…

  • The money coming in from UEFA works out at approximately £27m
  • Player retention is increased
  • Player attraction is increased
  • Match Day revenues are increased
  • Additional bonuses and sponsorship comes in from the Champions League

Read more here on the Arsenal Supporters Trust Website – Analysis of The Financial Position of Arsenal Football Club.

So, less discussion about the consequences, and more discussion on the game… and today it’s West Brom vs Arsenal. Roy Hodgson has been appointed England manager and today it’s his last game in charge of WBA. I’m sure the players and staff would like to wish him well with a win but we have to ensure that we don’t let that happen.

Team news ahead of the games sees Theo Walcott back in the fold. He’s had an indifferent season, but he does work well with Robin Van Persie, and today, going forward, that could the key:

Szcznesy 

Coquelin – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Song – Ramsey

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

I’ve chosen Ramsey as he’s the only player who naturally fits in here… Oxlade has been knocking on the door, but in reality, all of his excellent performances have come whilst on the wing, rather than in the middle. If we move Rosicky back to help out Song, then Oxlade could fit in in a front four of Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho and Van Persie – maybe not the ideal time to start trying out new players in unfamiliar positions?

The kick off’s all kick off at 3pm. It’s going to be a crazy & exciting day of football, that’s for sure.

Come on you Gooners!

 

Who would have thought, hey?

Who would have thought, Bayern Munich vs Chelsea in the Champions League final… Everyone thought it would be a Real Madrid vs Barcelona final, but perhaps that was their downfall. It’s weird. I’m British. Chelsea are an English club, so shouldn’t be obvious who I support? Well, I ain’t supporting Chelsea, that’s for sure. Hell no, I don’t want Chelsea to become the first London club to win the Champions League… definitely not.

It looks like I’ll throw away my country loyalty and become German for the day. Ribery, Robben, Schweinstiger… I’m in. Send me a shirt.

So right now, the emergence of Di Matteo has re-energized Chelsea and it looks like it is having a similar effect to when Guardiola took over at Barcelona a few years back. The enthusiasm shown by  the management rubs off on the players. I look at my beloved Arsenal and wonder where the raw enthusiasm is. We had a lot more fire in our belly when Thierry was around, that’s for sure – but then again, it makes me think, do players need these types of people, or moments to lift them. Especially with the Arsenal – our players are at a certain level, and what Arsene does, and does well is make players better than they are. In reality, would Walcott get ahead of Ozil, Ronaldo, Robben, Ribery, etc, etc? If not, how would a team like us ever get past the “big boys”.

It’s strange to see Chelsea in the Champions League final, especially considering how badly their form has been. But as much as you hate Chelsea, one thing you can’t deny is the quality of players is there. Not exactly dynamic or exciting, but there are a group of players who can play. Pre-madonna’s maybe, but they do have ability. And with ability, you can achieve anything.

Looking at our squad, we have a few key players who we’ve missed this season in Wilshere and Diaby, and unfortunately for us, we never got going after the summer exodus. If I were Arsene, I would be trying my darn best to sort it out this summer. To look at the players that we need and recruit early. One thing United do and do well is buy early, embed in their team and train, so by the time the season starts, they have a solid team who all know each other. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But down at the Grove, we always seem to start the season without the right players, without the right signings, without half a team due to injury or to pre-season tournaments. And this Summer sounds like it could similar with the Olympics and Euros… I’d really like us to buy early, train early and have a group of players fit and raring to go come August the 8th.

We’ve got a good spine in Szcznesy, Vermaelen, Wilshere & Van Persie and great players in Sagna, Koscielny and Areta – but we are are missing the world class winger, the world class central midfielder and a real partner for Vermaelen. We are missing the strength in depth that allows us to rest players. Our current XI is good, could be better, but it’s good, but if we lose Van Persie or Vermaelen, then the people coming in are not good enough.

Szcznesy spoke about the rest of the season and the ambition for next:

“When you play for this Club you want to win trophies. This Club deserves trophies and we didn’t get any this year so it’s always disappointing. I think the quality is there. We all know it – we have the quality to fight for trophies in Europe and this country. It’s just consistency that has been a bit of a problem for us this year. But the team’s getting more experienced and hopefully we’ve got the experience to win trophies next year. I think if you look over the last couple of months we’re probably one of the best teams in the Premier League. So we’ve got three games to go and we need to win all three and we’ll finish third.”

We will be back in action on Saturday and Stoke away is probably the hardest game we’ve had for a while (strange I say that considering the recent two results), but we will really really really need to be on top of our game if we want to get the three points on the weekend. The team news should be out tomorrow, let’s see who’s fit and available…

Til tomorrow…

Arsenal 3 – 0 Milan (3-4 agg): A Valiant Effort…

Beating Milan 3-0 at the Emirates is an amazing feat. Beating them under the pressure to beat them is another thing altogether and getting so close to overturning such a big deficit is a valiant effort to say the least. It was an uphill task in the first place and it had “frustrating game” written all over it.

We were depleted and the only team we could play was the one that we all presumed we’d play:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Jenkinson / Gibbs

Song – Rosicky

Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho

Van Persie

It made sense.

The stadium was electric with hope. It was focused, excited and the crowd had belief. The belief increased after 6 minutes and beyond everyone’s expectations, Koscielny nodded in from a corner. 1-0 to the Arsenal and so early on, game on friend. Milan were potent in the previous round and a lot of that was due to our inability to perform. They do have players capable of scoring at any time and Ibra was trying his best to ensure Milan got one goal, a killer punch, but our defence was solid and credit to Szcznesy for some good saves.

But then it was 2.

We’d been attacking well and a marauding run by Walcott ended with a cut back which was only cleared to Rosicky who scored his second goal in the last three games. Bang wallop in the goal.

Wave after wave gave the crowd hope and before half time, an excellent run through the defence saw Oxlade being brought down in the area and after some deliberation, the ref pointed to the spot. Van Persie duly tucked away his 32nd goal of the season.

Half time, 3-0.

Three goals before half time meant that there was a buzz about the Emirates – a real hope that we could do the impossible. But that is where the blog ends – the second half was that “frustating game” that we all didn’t want. Arsene threw on Chamakh and Park but nothing we could do could penetrate Milan’s defence in the second half.

We had chances, for sure, with Gervinho striking at goal and Van Persie unable to turn in the rebound. There was an inevitability about the last ten minutes where we looked exhausted, we gave a lot a spirited performance, but not enough. We ended the game 3-0 and the fourth was a goal too much.

Arsene was very proud of the performance, as I am sure we all are…

They can only be proud of their performance. I felt we were a bit short. We had no midfielders at all on the bench. We suffered a little bit when we got tired in the second half. We were a bit more fatigued. I’m sure we would have scored two or three more goals in the second half. But to put the performance in is fantastic spirit and restored some pride after our first tie. Unfortunately we go out.”

Arsene also singled out Oxlade and Rosicky as two outstanding players on the night, and I’d have to agree:

For a guy who has never played at the top level in central midfield, he started in a Champions League game and he did well. He tired a bit in the second half after his injury, and he got less of the ball than he did in the first half. When he got the ball, you always think something could happen. He can play all of the places across the pitch, in midfield to wide. You could see he has suffered physically, but also that he has the class to be in there. I have to give credit to Tomas Rosicky for that. He was again outstanding here. In all of these games, he was one of the most influential players, and he does not always get the credit he deserves, so I would like to take this opportunity to give him credit.

We are on a good run at the moment, and today’s game was testimony to the form we’ve been in recently. We need to take this form into the Newcastle game this weekend and keep at it until the end of the season.

All I can say is well done boys…!

Arsenal vs Milan: Mission Impossible…

Tomorrow sees us play AC Milan having suffered a 4-0 defeat at the San Siro.

It is really mission impossible.

I’ll start with quote from Arsene and then share my thoughts with you afterwards:

“I can see on your [reporters’] faces a lot of scepticism, so it is important we do not share that. It is important we have a strong belief and that we show we have enough belief to make what looks impossible, possible. We do not have to speculate on any weakness of Milan because they are a good side.  But we know that only one thing gives us a chance, and that is to play a top-class performance for 90 minutes. That is what we will try to put in.  The task is a very high one, the level of the performance that is demanded is very high as well, but we want to be top-level performers and that is what the target is tomorrow.”

The task, should we choose to accept it is to beat Milan by 5 clear goals, or 6 if they score. It means we need to win 5-0 tomorrow or 6-1 or any difference by 5 goals. Simple as. Personally, I think it’s a stone too far away. In Milan, we didn’t need to concede the last two goals, but we had a broken mentality, we were mentally weak, and went home with nothing, well -4.

Tomorrow, the motivation will be there, I’m sure – it will be one of those games that we have nothing to lose. And “nothing to lose” is a good type of game to play. Arsene will play everyone who can possibly play and make a difference. What would you do if you were Arsene? Would you rest the first team and resign the loss, would you risk the first team against a team that have the likes of Gattuso and other battlers in their ranks? We’ve finally got to fourth place in the league – any major injuries could disrupt our top 3 / 4 challenge – but then again, we could get injured against Newcastle or Milan – they say you should never play the game in fear of injury.

Arsene commented on whether or not he would rest the team:

“It is not an argument for us. We want to have a real go tomorrow, we want to make it possible. I would not be very credible to tell you we want to score five goals and then leave Robin van Persie out. We will not accept going out of the Champions League because we want to stay in. We will give it our best shot tomorrow.”

Which makes me think Arsene will go for broke. Are we capable of scoring 5 goals? Yes. Are Milan capable of conceding 5 goals? Maybe. So based on the injuries, we know we’ve lost Arteta, Benayoun and Diaby, we know we already have Ramsey, Coquelin and Wilshere out… it’s going to be a thread bare midfield, but I think we’ll see the following line up:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Jenkinson / Gibbs

Song – Rosicky

Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho

Van Persie

Gibbs is a doubt, and if he doesn’t make it, then I’d expect to see Jenkinson deployed at left back. I think the boss will choose Oxlade behind Van Persie, rather than throw a Chamakh or Park in – both players severely lacking match practice for sure.

Tomorrow really is mission impossible. If we do it, it will be our greatest victory in the modern era. If we don’t, let’s not over-react. The one thing I pray for is no injuries. No matter what happens, it will be a great atmosphere at the Emirates tomorrow night for sure…

Til then…

Milan vs Arsenal: The Champions League Preview

After the dramatic win on the weekend, we’ve had a sudden, but different outlook on the rest of the season. Whereas a week or two ago, we were looking at 7th, finishing outside of Europe, we’re now 4th and ready to push forward in the league to solidify 4th as ours. We have recently been given back some of our injured players, and the rise of Oxlade and the return of Henry to the club have added some additional strength in depth to the squad. It’s told, and our results have been a little better for it.

Tomorrow, we take on Milan – at the San Siro – and it’s a chance to showcase our talents and re-establish the faith. It is certainly the tie of the round, and it’s a game that will be watched by millions. Vice captain, Thomas Vermaelen is really excited about the tie – as he should be, and spoke about it to the press:

“We are all really excited. It is a big game – an important one too – so it’s a good one to look forward to. For everybody it will be special so it will be a great evening.  Of course they have a great history and they have won it a few times. They still have some good players and they are a solid team. They are also doing well in Serie A. It won’t be easy but I am confident that we can qualify. The San Siro is a great stadium of course and it will be a great evening. I think it is probably the best game of the round and a lot of people will be watching.”

And that’s right – it’s a profile game with some big names – outside of our squad, the pitch will entertain the likes of Pato, Robinho and Ibrahimovic, and we all know what they can do. It’s up to us to stop them, and with Per Mertersacker out through injury, it looks like Koscielny and Vermaelen will be our central defensive partnership with either Coquelin or Gibbs playing at left back.

The line up could well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Coquelin

Song – Arteta

Walcott – Rosicky – Oxlade

Van Persie

Rosicky has been preferred to Ramsey in recent games, and the Welshman has looked jaded recently – his cameo appearances are good though and coming off the bench, he can add a lot.

It’s Henry’s last game (for the forseeable future) as an Arsenal player, and although he’ll be on the bench, I think we’ll see a glimpse of him… it’s his farewell game after all… but the player is fully focused:

“I have not thought about it. I just want to help Arsenal on the night. I am an Arsenal player for one more game. Milan is Milan. It is another type of game and it is never easy to win away in the Champions League. All we wanted was momentum [from the Sunderland game], to try to get wins and clean sheets.”

It will be sad to see Henry go, it’s been very nice having him around recently. But, go he must do… but he’ll be back. I don’t know when, he probably doesn’t know when… But he’ll be back!

Tomorrow is the Milan game, let’s get behind the team.

Tottz is back as usual for tomorrow’s blog… so until then Milan, have fun!

I’m Offski, as Arsenal get Milan in the Champions League…

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls,

Today, myself and fellow WOA writer @Tottz82 will embark on a mission with  @i_am_jai and @bhavnishpatel to show the world how to ski… the blog, cleverly titled, I’m Off-Ski… getit? Meanwhile, back in the wonderful world of Arsenal… we have drawn Milan in the Champions League… and that’s one of the toughest of the group for sure…

Arsene before the draw:

“You cannot avoid anybody. You would say Basel but they were a very difficult opponent for Manchester United. So you take the draw as it comes, analyse it and plan for the game. The Italian teams have a history but you don’t know how it will go.”

The draw in full was:

  • Lyon v APOEL Nicosia
  • Napoli v Chelsea
  • AC Milan v Arsenal
  • Basle v Bayern Munich
  • Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona
  • CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid
  • Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica
  • Marseille v Inter Milan

Each one of the ties is favoured to one team – I’ve bolded the team I think will win the two legs overall – but for us, it’s a very tough tie. AC Milan have improved a lot in the last couple of years and can now boast the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho up front, with the likes of Mexes in defence, not to forget the likes of Van Bommel in midfield. We’ll have to be on top of our game.

David Miles, club secretary said:

“It’s probably the pick of the round. They’ll be two fantastic games. If I’m being honest, there are some other teams I would have preferred. Last time we played them in season 07-08, we actually went through after winning 2-0 in the San Siro so our recent history against them is good.”

The pick of the round, it is…

With Milan secretary also keen to praise the magnitude of the tie…

“Tie of the round. For the quality and the appeal of the two clubs it is a fantastic tie. Last time we lost 2-0 to Arsenal at the San Siro and we were knocked out by Tottenham last year. We are determined to go through. Last year we had lots of injuries but right now we are in a better status than Arsenal. But lots can change in two months. They have a great player in Robin van Persie and Arsene Wenger is a great coach.”

Lots of things can change in two months, that is for sure… first, we need a good old fashion victory against title rivals Man City, starting this weekend…

But for now, I’m offski…

Arsenal 2 – 1 Dortmund: Home & Dry…

Morning Folks… 2-1 to the Arsenal, Van Persie scores two… three points on the board, now top of the group with 11 points and a game to go. This is what we call “job done”… Job done to the point where we can send out the youth to Greece in the final game, win, lose or draw and still finish top. Arsenal were supposed to be the team that wouldn’t be able to make it through to the next round… after the away draw to Dortmund, questions were raised about whether we’d be able to make it through, whereas Chelsea, Man City & Man United were supposed to make it through at a canter. Now we’re through and the other three could all be kicked out by the time the group stages are over, suggests the media didn’t quite get their prediction right – but it also suggests that we are quietly carrying on with our business of winning games.

Yesterday’s line up was:

Szcznesy

Koscielny – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

And on the bench was the returning Abou Diaby, who replaced the injured Rosicky – along side… Fabianski, Frimpong, Benayoun, Chamakh, Djourou and Arshavin…

With Robin Van Persie in such great form, he just seems to score and score and score. Another two goals yesterday for the Dutchman means he’s scored a whopping 38 goals this calendar year. All that I can say on that is………. wow…….. and also… just imagine if we’d had him fully fit for the last five years….

Arsene spoke on Robin’s form and said:

He is in a period where of course he doesn’t have to look for goals – they just come naturally for him. He is always in the right place at the right moment and he got two goals again tonight from positions that look easy but they are not. He just understands the game so well.

Arteta joined in with the praise:

“We all know how good he is. Robin keeps performing and scoring goals, making the difference. At the moment he is level with any striker in the world, his numbers are unbelievable in the past eight or nine months. For me, it is just a natural talent. Sometimes he looks as if he does not try, but beats players and scores and unbelievable goal. Robin is on fire, he is making the difference. Hopefully he can continue to do that and people can talk about him all the time, because that means we are winning.”

We did get a little sloppy in the final few minutes of the game, and conceded a goal we didn’t need to – I got a little bit worried, but the ref blue the whistle very quickly after their goal, which didn’t allow for another attempt… phew…

All in all, I really felt the performance was a very professional and disciplined performance. The defence was shaky at times, but it stood strong and did well – Dortmund are a very good side, let’s not forget that. Alex Song played very well throughout the game and at the moment, he is becoming one of the first names on the team sheet outside of Robin. Arteta, too, as a partner has been a good compliment to the Cameroonian. Thank God Cameroon didn’t qualify for the African Nations Cup… Koscielny looked very good at right back again, and it’s clear to see that he’s really making a name for himself at the moment. He tired by the last ten minutes and we put Djourou on for him, but overall, he has really impressed me this season…

On the other side is the mercurial Gervinho, who brings so much to the team in terms of skills, pace and pressure on the defence. However, in the last few games, he has had a lot of one-on-ones and good chances to score, but he seems to fluff his chances a lot. We all know that if Van Persie got injured, we’d most likely move him into the middle and have Arshavin on the left (as we did in pre-season) but his inability to finish his chances is very worrying at the moment. Let’s hope he starts maturing in front of goal soon, goals from him could be vital from left mid or from the middle…

There is a bit of a feel good factor about our team at the moment, and that’s very good. I’ve been waiting for this moment all weekend, and we need to continue our good form this weekend by beating Fulham… as they say, as we say… come on you Gooners!

Time to finish the job… Dortmund (h)

Morning Gooners,

The champions league is back and it’s a big match day too. At stake tonight is qualification to the knockout stage and a win would mean we go through top of our group. You’d like to think we’ve learnt our lesson from last year about why topping the group is slightly advantageous. The task at hand is by no means a formality as we face a Dortmund team full of confidence after beating the Bayern Munich 1-0 in their own back yard. Dortmund need to win their two remaining games to qualify for the next stage so expect them to be ready to battle for their lives.

Right enough worrying about ze Germans, we’re not exactly in the worst form going into this game. 5 league wins in a row but more importantly we’ve got our mojo back. We’re now watching at Arsenal team who are more direct in attack, not afraid to use very competent and pacey wingers; a central trio who are working in tandem with each other in front a stable line and a striker who’s not playing too bad right now I must say. The negative amongst you (and there are a few out there!) will point to the Mertesacker mistake versus Norwich as proof we’re defensively poor, not true. Mertesacker made a mistake, caught in two minds and got punished. Sky would have you believe he’s the new Bramble but for the rest of the game he was calm and controlled. With Vermaelen back and Santos growing in confidence in every game, the team can trust this defence.

My personal favourite man, Szczesney agrees:

“I can feel the improvement in defence. I think it has been the defensive work from the whole team; starting with the strikers, midfielders, defenders and myself.”

“Being vocal is my job, my job as a keeper is to talk to my defenders,”

“I feel like they trust in me, and when I say something they listen. I am just doing my job.”

Dortmund won’t come and sit deep waiting to attack us on the break, they’ll close out build up play down like Marseille did but when they have possession of the ball, they come at us.  We need to make sure we’re careful in possession and ensure Gervinho and Walcott are always exploiting their pace in behind their defence. I wrote a couple of weeks ago on here that the balance Gervinho and Theo offer gives us a far greater attacking dimension than we’ve had for a couple of years. They both switch wings with comfort and are a real threat when they pop up in the centre forward position. With Ramsey’s confidence growing in every game, I’m looking forward to a game of real quality. I think we’ll be unchanged from the team that beat Norwich with Diaby on the bench for the first time this season, great news for the big man who’s got the talent but cruel luck with injuries.

The Dortmund danger man, Gotze, has been our papers recently with The Arsenal apparently pushing for £30million move in January, mind games or some truth? Who knows.

Enjoy the game everyone… feel free to post score predictions!

Robin Van Deadly

 

Come on The Arsenal!

 

On twitter – @tottz82

Be warned, it’s November.

First of all apologies for the quick fire blog this morning. My night was somewhat prolonged last night after a friend offered me a lift to save me time leaving the stadium but then made both of us waiting outside an hour after the game for our golden chariot. Sometimes it’s just easier to stick to your original plan in life… lesson firmly learnt. Never the less I did meet Giles Grimandi and give that Spuds player Benoit Esso-ekotto (or whatever) a good stare out as he walked away from watching our game.

Anyway enough of my life, back to The Arsenal . After the amazing scenes of Saturday afternoon, it maybe wasn’t that surprising that we came down to earth with a small and sobering bump. With Marseille getting back to some sort of form in Ligue 1, with 3 wins in a row, their confidence was higher going into this game.

The team from last night was:

Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos, Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Gervinho. Park.

It was Marseille that started the brighter with a couple of shots whistling past the post and curling over the bar from the latest new Henry, Remy. They immediately showed more attacking threat than they did for the entire game in Marseille.

Arsenal did eventually create a clear opening when Theo was put through on the right but his shot was saved low by their keeper.

The entertainment of the first half was the ever uber confident Szcz deciding to do a Cruyff turn not once, but TWICE on a Marseille player on the right edge of his box after a back pass. The guy has confidence/cockiness like I’ve never seen before but I do love it. He will soon get caught out and drop a clanger but he’s almost earned the right to do this and learn from it. In other words I’m saying he’s earned one f*ck up!

The first half was an end to end battle with both defences being opened up through the pace of the attacks. Next to spurn an opening was Ramsey, who got underneath a cross 3 or 4 yard outside of the goal.  Remy went close again and Ramsey has the best chance of the half but seemed to wait an eternity before shooting it into the defender when clean through.

The second half was nowhere near a classic and my notes on the 2nd half are nonexistent. Marseille seemed full of energy and determined not to give us any room in midfield. As soon as a red shirt picked up the ball, they were surrounded by 2 players cutting off the options. Frustrating to watch if you’re an Arsenal fan but encouraging if you’re a fat looking water carrier. The only event of note for me was from the substitute RVP who tried to lob a standing keeper (a la Bergkamp) but it was comfortably saved.

In the end Arsenal and Marseille shared the spoils with a point a piece with a 0-0 draw. Not the worst result in the world but not the best. In my opinion, 4 points home and away to Marseille is acceptable. Some will say we should always win this kind of game at home but having picked up all 3 points away, a point at home is just about tolerable.

 

The boss said:

We defended very well and tried very hard but lacked the quality in the final third to finish off our chances. We had a few in the first half. Aaron Ramsey had two and Robin van Persie in the second half as well. Overall it was a very difficult game. Marseille were physically very impressive and closed us down at every opportunity. We lacked match sharpness after our performance at Chelsea on Saturday.

Leaving Robin on the bench was a gamble that did not come off, but he was very tired after Saturday’s efforts. I took the gamble to rest him although he had the chance to score when he came on, which would have been the perfect play. Now we want to win the Dortmund game at home, but overall we are in a good position. It was also important that we kept a clean sheet tonight.

RVP being on the bench was no surprise to anyone in the pub beforehand.  After Park’s goal last Tuesday and RVP’s miracle work on Saturday, it was sensible change. If Ramsey and Gervinho had converted their chances in the first half, the gamble would have paid off.

For me there were two standout players, Song and Vermaelen. Song had his work cut out against an extremely combative and determined Marseille midfield. He was a very effective screen for the defence and won more 50 50’s than lost. He is often given a hard time for taking the ball forward and losing it but he wants to help the team create when they need it, I’m sure there were no complaints when he set up Santos’ goal against Chelsea.

Vermaelen looks like he’s ready to make up for lost time. He clicked very well with Mertesacker and was willing to close down Marseille attackers while Pers held the line. TV won countless 50 50’s and a couple of key last ditch tackles. With Koscielny on the bench too, our centre back options don’t look too bad.

I really don’t think we need to over analyse this point today, yes it could have been more but after the buzz of Chelsea , a slightly lacklustre display shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. We are still in complete control of our group and have Dortmund at home next. A win against Dortmund and we’re through as probable winners.  Next up is WBA in the league; let’s concentrate on getting 3 points at home.

Have a good Wednesday and mind you don’t fall over like John Terry.

 

Follow me if you really really want @Tottz82

 

 

Arsenal vs Marseille, A Win & We’re Through!

After the thrilling encounter at the bridge against Chelsea, our attentions must turn to Marseille. A fortunate win against the French side away means we top the group with 7 points. A win against Marseille today at the Emirates will see us rise to 10 points, which will qualify us for the next round. We’d have to then pick up another 2 points from the remaining two games to ensure we’re first… but first thing is first, let’s try our best to get the three points tonight…

Against Marseille, we were lucky to come away with three points due to the pressure the home team put on us, but then again you make your own luck… and we capitalised on our chances through Aaron Ramsey – whose eye for goal could be a very good blessing in disguise – he’s confident he can score double figures – which I would love him to do – especially if Gervinho, Walcott and Arteta can also do the same! Arsene singled out the progress of Aaron Ramsey yesterday and proclaimed that there is much more to come:

“He is on the way up. We speak about Robin van Persie but Aaron was out for one year when he was just getting into the team. That is tremendous. It is completely normal that he improves now because he is young. And there is still a lot of improvement for him. Secondly he is back to his full physical potential which is huge. We see that when we analyse the games. The worry we had is that he might be touched by being out for such a long time when it comes to the challenges. I have been impressed by the way he dealt with the whole situation.”

Over to the team news and despite the importance of the game, I think Arsene will still rest & rotate a little bit. We know Chamakh is out of the squad with a knee injury and I’d expect Park to come in and replace him; well, I expect Park to start and Van Persie to be rested, but we will see what happens. It may be an opportunity for Vermaelen to come back into the team, so my line up is as follows:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Santos

Rosicky – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Arshavin

Park

With a bench of Fabianski, Djourou, Mertersacker, Arteta, Frimpong, Gervinho, Van Persie

The reason I’ve included Rosicky in the starting line up is down to the sheer number of games that Arteta has played in a row recently and this is an ideal time to rest him ahead of the home game against WBA. I may be wrong with Gervinho and Van Persie, they may get a start as they’ve both had a rest now – but it’s a perfect time to start Park, at home, in Champions League group of which we are top of. We may have to play a stronger team than I’ve put out simply down to the fact that Marseille are a very good team and if we do win tonight, it will take us to 10 points.

In other news, Stan Kroenke visited the training ground yesterday. He met the players, spent time with the manager and staff and then had a long interview with Arsenal.com, take a read if you have time, but in short, he was very complementary of Arsene Wenger and what he has brought to the club:

“Arsène has been here 15 years and you look at what the Club had as assets and revenues back then. It’s fantastic the growth that has occurred within the Club. It has been done very responsibly and they have the record for participating in the Champions League for the most consecutive years. For long-term stability and an approach to excellence, I think that’s unsurpassed really.

We’ve got a long way to turn the season around, but we’re making progress and last weekend’s win was a very important win for us. We will see where we are in the next couple of weeks, but we have two home games now – first tonight against Marseille and then on the weekend against WBA. Two wins out of those two games and both CL qualification and Premier League ascendency will be ours!

All that is left to say… is… come on you Gooners!!!