Sunderland 2 – 0 Arsenal: All time low…

It’s a cold day in February… and it’s a cold day for the Arsenal.

Having lost 4-0 to AC Milan midweek and then 2-0 to Sunderland yesterday, as an Arsenal fan, it really does feel like an all time low. It was a weird game. We started well. We seemed to have a lot of gusto, will and our formation was solid, but it seems “self-destruction” is the ailment of the moment. We played Fabianski ahead of Szcznesy, as it was a cup game, but the rest of the team seemed line a decent collection of players. Gibbs missing out, meant that the fit again Coquelin took his place at left back and we lined up as follows:

Fabianski

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Coquelin

Arteta – Song

Oxlade – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

We did start really well, but 8 minutes into the game, Coquelin got injured. Not good considering our options on the bench and his injury meant the return of Squillaci to the team, Vermaelen out to left back. And with Djourou and Squillaci (our 4th and 5th choice centre backs) at the back, we literally lost the plot. The worry down the centre of defence was very bad, Vermaelen playing out of position also unbalancing the team – and honestly, we never recovered. Morale was very low considering the Milan game, and Sunderland capitalised on that fact by “having a go”. They were over physical and the referee was very lenient on them, but that is something we have come to expect. In reality, when we had the ball, we didn’t do too much with it.

Arsene said a fair bit in the press; he seems to have felt that we were totally committed and gave 100%. I’m not too sure. I think we carried over the poor attitude and poor performance from the Milan game. But the boss did say this – very worrying that Arsene has to say things like this. You know it’s bad!

“At the moment it is best to let people talk, criticise, analyse and destroy and on our side it is important to show internal strength and resilience and come out with a strong performance in our next game.”

It’s been 24 hours (or there abouts) since the loss, and you’ve probably read it all – well about the game at least. But the problems we have at the club are quite big at the moment. It’s obvious that there is a serious lack of confidence and a seriously low morale. We feel sorry for ourselves and it’s not a good place for us to be. But the interesting thing is that we have a mismatch of random and not so good players. The fact that we’re buying players on the cheap and paying them loads is a really detrimental type of management. And that where it all starts. The board’s lack of desire, the manager’s new style of management and the excuses that come out.

Yes, we have a stadium debt to pay off – but that has got nothing to with the lack of self motivation in Europe last week. I mean, have you ever seen 11 players more disinterested in a game? And the question you have to ask yourself is where does the severe lack of desire come from? As a player, on tens of thousands of pounds a week, and a club that accepts poor performances and mediocrity, where does the desire to win come from? It has to come from within and without leadership and inner desire to win, it leaves us short of something – and that something is what has caused us to lose so many games this season.

The next question is how do we fix it? Well, really, it’s an attitude change. If the board and the manager don’t change their attitude and approach, we will soon turn in a very mid-table club. The board need to want to win, there needs to be the desire to push forward. The pressure to win and want to win has to come from the manager too – the philosophy of the bargain, or the hope of potential, is something we need to abandoned. Arsene brought in Benayoun this summer after the fans called for experience. But that’s not what we meant. We meant someone who can win games and has experience of leading teams to victory.

We’re out of the Carling Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League. We’re fourth in the Premiership and we’re lucky that we are fourth – it’s not down to us that we’re fourth – we’ve been lucky that other teams below us haven’t been great this season either – but that’s not for us to worry about. This season has been a shambles and it’s pretty much all lost. We have to play for fourth. But then we have to rebuild properly in the summer. Attendances at the Emirates are at an all time low, the performances do not excited. We literally only have one world class player in Van Persie.

We have 6 days until the North London Derby. Arsenal owe us a performance, simple as.

Sunderland vs Arsenal Preview

Today is a day where we can change the mood. On Wednesday, we literally didn’t turn up – it’s the worst performance I have ever seen in Arsene’s reign – I’d say it was worse than the 8-2 at Old Trafford, because then, we tried, whereas on Wednesday, we literally didn’t even try.

“You can find 100 explanations [why] we had a poor performance and an off day. We lost against a good Milan team, not an exceptional one. Unfortunately we were punished severely.”

Exactly, an average Milan side beat a very poor Arsenal side. I am not going to analyse it any further today, for we need the focus, the fans and the players all on today’s game.

The FA Cup, Sunderland vs Arsenal

Today is a BIG game. The players know it – the post Milan news was that the manager was livid after the game. The FA cup is our last chance of a trophy this year and he wants the team to react in the right way today and get back to winning ways. I’d expect us to field the strongest possible team today. The boss spoke yesterday on how important the game is – the defeat on Wednesday effectively means that we are in two competitions now – the cup and the race for fourth. To be honest, I don’t think we have the squad that good enough to compete for the European Cup – in fact, if Milan can beat us 4-0 this season, just wonder what would have happened if we played Barcelona – hold on, perhaps we may have given a cr*p if we played them – but the defeat in Milan showed us that the lack of confidence, the desire to compete wasn’t there – so better we’re out now, so at least we can concentrate on salvaging our season.

“It is more important now. It was always important but, because we had a big disappointment in the last game, it becomes more important. The Champions League and FA Cup can collide a bit and, schedule-wise, you see that again this year – you go to Milan, you go to Sunderland. But especially after what happened on Wednesday night it is important to have a great performance. We are in fourth position and we have an opportunity to qualify for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. It is important that we are up for it and do not feel sorry for ourselves because of that [one] performance. It can still be a positive week and we will see how we deal with the Milan game in the second leg later. What is important now, first of all, is not only the FA Cup but as well the response and the mental attitude of our team. They are at stake as well. That is something that is very important for us.”

Arsene spoke of rotating the team and refreshing a few positions, I think he has to have a hard look at the squad – it’s a strange one because we played 9 of our first choice squad against Milan, with only Wilshere & Gervinho the players who would have played if fit… But looking at today’s game, we need to focus on playing an attacking formation – a 4-3-3. With Gervinho back, Oxlade rested and Koscielny injured, my guess at the line up is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Song – Arteta

Oxlade – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

Arsene is going to start Gervinho I’m sure – he can be very effective and after the loss in the ACN finals, I’m sure he will be eager to put on a show.

“He was very down when I spoke with him on Monday, now he is better and hopefully he can contribute on Saturday. We don’t know [what impact the Africa Cup of Nations will have]. I see Yaya Toure played on Thursday night for Manchester City and sometimes the best thing to get things out of your system is to play a game and have a performance. When you are young it is important to focus on the next game and show you are a good player.”

With Gervinho back, I hope it adds an extra level of pace and directness to our game. We no longer have Henry in the ranks, and I have to say that he did pass expectations in his performances when he was here, and we have a few different players in the squad now – Oxlade having proved he can make a difference at this level. But we do need more than just players – we need the desire that was missing in Milan. The desire that flows through the team at every level. The desire that make you win the first ball AND the second.

On the game, Arsene did give us some fighting talk.

“We have put together a good series of results and we can consider that night was just an off-day. Therefore we are focused on what we have done well recently because we go into a battle now in which we need confidence, belief and great commitment.”

Let’s believe.

Until tomorrow, adios for now…

Arsenal vs Aston Villa – The Big FA Cup Preview

Happy weekend to all… It’s been a funny old week, with a lot of realisation. Realisation that things have changed, realisation that we’re quite far off fourth, realisation that we’ve just not been good enough – and realisation that we, as fans, aren’t being very good fans at the moment. Calling for Wenger’s head is not what we should be doing really… after all the man has done. I have to presume that we don’t know the full facts concerning our ability to purchase players and yes, I know every team has them, but the amount of key personnel out through injury in the last five years has been absolutely crazy.

The news that Jack Wilshere could be out for the rest of the season is very worrying. He is our engine – and since last season, to lose Cesc, Nasri, Jack & Diaby from a squad would not be easy for any manager to deal with. With Jack in the “red zone” from last season, you have to wonder why he played in the Emirates cup in the first place… We have to hope we get Arteta back soon, as without him, our midfield is very unbalanced. Arsene spoke about Jack and told us that there is no return date…

He has had a little setback that is under investigation at the moment so I cannot give you how long he will be out for. At the moment he is seeing a specialist and as soon as we know more we will communicate. It sets him back a little bit but for how long I don’t know.  It is the same foot but a different problem to the injury he had surgery on back in September. But is it an inflammation? We have to wait a little bit.

The good news is that we do have a lot of players returning – news is that Sagna, Gibbs, Arteta and Henry will all be back after the Villa game, and Oxlade and Coquelin are already back. Much better news. Although, it makes it very confusing to know who will play tomorrow, but let’s give it a go:

Szcznesy

Coquelin – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Miquel

Song – Ramsey

Walcott – Rosicky – Arshavin

Van Persie

After last week, I think Arsene will not start Oxlade, but perhaps give him 30 minutes or so. The fans do want to see him, he is one of the form players at the moment. However, Arshavin is a player that Arsene is keen on getting back to some sort of form. I think the trick for Arshavin is to move him just behind the striker, and allow him a little bit of central action – he has played here before and looked much better than when he is out wide. It’s a little baffling why he’s playing on the left. Perhaps it is his work rate, or perhaps it’s his lack of defensive discipline, but whether he plays on the left or in the centre, he still won’t offer the defensive cover, so what’s worse? No defensive cover for a full back or none in the middle of the park when you have two midfielders covering you?

It’s a tough set of decisions for Arsene, as we do have a mid-week game – this week it’s Bolton away on Wednesday – so do you risk Van Persie in a cup game? Well, with no real alternatives – Chamakh gone, Henry missing, it may not be a choice that Arsene has – Park did start the Leeds game. But that was more down Van Persie’s holiday than anything else. I wouldn’t mind trying Park out again against Villa and if it’s not working at half time, then put Van Persie on. After Bolton on Wednesday, we have an early kick off against Blackburn on Saturday. Let’s take a look at our next series of fixtures quickly…

  • Aston Villa (home), Sunday 29th Jan
  • Bolton (away), Wednesday 1st Feb
  • Blackburn (home), Saturday 4th Feb
  • Sunderland (away), Saturday 11th Feb
  • AC Milan (away), Wednesday 15th Feb
  • Sp*rs (home), Sunday 26th Feb
  • Liverpool (away), Saturday 3rd March
  • AC Milan (home), Tuesday 6th March

If you ask me, that’s a pretty tough series of games; and that’s the conundrum for Arsene – he has three priorities – finishing in the top four, wining the FA cup and winning the Champions League. So perhaps tomorrow’s line up may include a few more reserve players, perhaps we will see a start for Benayoun and / or Park? We will have to wait until tomorrow to see how Arsene handles it… I just hope for a good game of football. We desperately need a win, and the best way to win a game is to play your best side – a win tomorrow and it could spark the confidence we need for the next series of games.

The love fest for Oxlade Chamberlain has continued, and this time it’s the gaffer who’s been praising him:

“He looks to have [the same fearlessness as Rooney]. Now he has to show that he can play all the time but I believe he can. We have produced more players in the last 15 years than all of the top clubs in Europe put together and we are not scared to play players when they are of the level. I believe he has [that level]. Oxlade-Chamberlain operated in a wide position for much of last Sunday’s game but he was equally adept when drifting in off the flank. Wenger thinks he can play in a number of roles.  He can play centrally as well but he has grown up as a winger. And now I think as well he can play central midfield because he can produce a long pass, he can dribble. At that age, you know, you start first on the wing.”

He is the one talent who you have a certain interest in, the one who you think could really make a difference, the one who could win a game…

We’ll leave it at that for now – all eyes on tomorrow and the big game… til then, ciao for now.

Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds: Henry Inspires Us To Victory

Today’s blog is a little late… but as Thierry says… better late than never.

It was an amazing night for all Arsenal fans, and a night to be remembered for a hero’s welcome, the return of a legend and a great inspirational night. Thierry Henry loves the club, he was a quality footballer, and still is. He may have lost some pace and patience, but he still has the class that he developed at Arsenal and still has the va-va-voom that made him the player he was. His movement and goal was reminiscent of the old Thierry and showed he still has talent.

He spoke in length after the game and it’s very much worthy of a read…

“I guess it was always going to be surreal. It was one of the best moments because it is the first time that I wore the Arsenal shirt being a fan.  I became a fan when I left the club so now I know exactly how it feels to score for the club that you support. So, great emotions. As I said earlier on to some of the guys in the dressing room, two weeks ago I was on holiday in Mexico on the beach and here I am scoring the winner against Leeds. Obviously I am going to grab some headlines and stuff like that but Nico Yennaris and Ignasi Miquel at the back, along with some of the other guys, played really well. I was at the end of a great move but as I said many times, it is all about the team. We went through and that is the most important thing. I always want more so I don’t know if it is going to be a goal, a pass or a tackle. I said so many times, I am not here to be a hero. I am here to be another player, to help the squad and that is it to be honest. I didn’t plan a comeback.  I didn’t plan to come on, I didn’t plan to score! That, maybe I did! But joking apart, I never thought I was going to be here, talking to you after a game so scoring a winner for the club that I love, I am actually dreaming right now. It was the first time that I played for Arsenal being a fan. Before, I would have died out there for the club, but now I am a fan it was mixed emotions. It was almost unreal.”

It was very surreal for myself, and I’m sure for all Arsenal fans. Thierry is a true living and playing legend…

Yesterday, I was very happy with what happened, as Thierry’s emotional celebration summed up his love for the club. But on a slightly negative note, it does sum up the lack of strength in depth in the squad and the lack of quality. Chamakh is the player that most papers targeted showing how bad he is in comparison to Henry. Chamakh has 1 goal is something like 429 minutes, whereas Henry has 1 goal in 22 minutes. Interesting stat, but there is much more to the equation than meets the eye. We’ve been lucky to have had a lot of attacking options previously – players like Henry, Bergkamp, Van Persie, Reyes as well as quality reserves & youth. Where we are at the moment is worlds apart – we don’t have a plethora of attacking talent. And the existing squad is quite young and inexperienced. Theo Walcott has been with us for a lot time, but he is not an Henry, a Pires or a Ljungberg.

The fact that Henry, aged 34, can come back and immediately go to #2 in the striking pecking orders basically sums up what I am trying to say. Personally, I believe we need an injection of players, and we’re one Van Persie injury away of being very average. It’s a risk that a club like ours shouldn’t take. The reason that Man City have Aguero, Ballotelli, Dzeko and Tevez is because they need options. If Aguero gets injured, then there needs to be someone who can come in a do a job. Arsene needs to invest in a striker, in a proper player. Theoretically, he should have significant funds available considering our budgets and then sales of players.

Looking at the team that played on Monday – I was surprised to see Benayoun miss out and was also very surprised to see Alex Song and Mikel Arteta play 90 minutes – the latter being an ever present in our team and for me, he was the man of the match. He was good going forward, excellent defending and he link play was amazing. Let’s hope he can stay fit the rest of the season!

We’ve got Swansea on Sunday and that is a huge game for us – it’s away and I don’t think it will be that easy – Van Persie will be back – Theo will start – and Henry will be on the bench…

You’ll get your weekly dose of Tottz82 tomorrow, in the meanwhile, watch this again and again:

FA Cup: Arsenal vs Leeds… Thierry Returns…

Tomorrow, we face Leeds in the FA Cup… and tomorrow also marks the return of Thierry Henry to the playing squad. I am a massive fan of Henry – he is a legend – but I kind of feel that the return of the former hero is overshadowing everything else at the moment. There are a lot of things going on at the club and despite massive attention needed on those areas, the world seems to be focused on the return of the King. Don’t get me wrong – I am eager to see him in action, I am keen for him to help the squad, to fill in the gap. I hope at the end of his loan spell, we see a rejuvenated Chamakh and an exciting Gervinho re-join the squad. I’m hoping our full backs, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby return and we have no further injuries for the reason of the season.

But, in reality, I doubt that will happen.

I’m an optimist, which means that even now, 12 points of the top, I still have a feint title hope. It’s not like we haven’t clawed back a 12 point lead before. United & Chelsea don’t look great, so there is scope to catch them.

Whilst we look good, it’s obvious that we lack any serious strength in depth – there is a culture of saving the pennies at the club, and this means it’s unlikely we’ll ever sign a player to replace an injured one. Despite the plethora of injured fall backs and the sales of Eboue, Clichy and Traore, there is no desire to purchase a player. Despite the fact that the boss only trusts Robin Van Persie and doesn’t rate Chamakh or Park at all, there is no desire to bring in another forward that can actually compete at this level.

Tomorrow, we will play Leeds and for me, the FA cup could be our only real chance of a trophy this season. We have seen what one win can do to a squad and I’d love for us to start winning trophies again, and soon.

Over the Christmas and New Years period, we played a serious amount of games, but from now until the Champions League kicks back in, we don’t have hardly as many games, going back to one a week – with the next game after Leeds on Sunday at home against Swansea. For that reason, I don’t expect a massive overhaul of players in the first eleven, but I do expect some changes. Robin for example, will certainly be rested, and I think Arteta will be too.

Henry will play, but I’m not sure for how long… Arsene confirming.

“I’m pleased [to sign Henry] because it took a little while to get the paperwork done, but finally it is done. He works hard, but he is a bit behind physically. In one or two weeks he will be fine. He will be involved against Leeds. At the moment 90 minutes is a bit long for him because he has not played for a long time.”

Let’s have a look at a predicted line up:

Szcznesy

Coquelin – Metersacker – Squillaci – Miquel

Song – Rosicky

Oxlade – Benayoun – Arshavin

Park

With a bench of Almunia, Koscielny, Ramsey, Henry, Walcott, Arteta, Van Persie, Yennaris

That would make – resting Van Persie and Arteta, starting with a lot of fringe players, and giving our star of the back line, Koscielny, a rest too. The line up gives us options to change the game if we need to. Walcott, Henry and Van Persie are all good attacking options and Ramsey, Arteta and Koscielny defensive ones if needed. We could have done with the likes of Frimpong, Lansbury or Vela for this game, but hey, they’re on loan and therefore a non-discussion!

Update: Van Persie is actually on holiday in Dubai and therefore will not be at the game.

Mr Keown was in the press earlier today and gave a resounding verdict on Henry’s return:

 “I saw him train with Arsenal on a corporate day and I saw the reaction from Arsene. There was a glint in his eye and I wondered if he would bring him back. At the beginning of the season, Arsenal had lost a gumshield and were lying on the floor on their backs. Now, they’re on our feet and I think Thierry can deliver a knockout punch. He is the best athlete I’ve ever seen with a pair of boots on.”

I hope the former Gunner is right!

Today we have a very tasty FA cup clash up in Manchester when Man United play Man City at City’s ground – kick off at 1pm. Will be a cracker….

Until tomorrow, have fun…

Man United vs Arsenal FA Cup Preview

A couple of weeks ago, we were fighting on all fronts.

Our nerves got to the better of us in the Carling Cup final – the referee got to the better of us in the Barcelona game (I’ll stick to that story) and now we turn our attention to Man United and the FA Cup in a game that will surely be the nail in the media coffin if we lose, but could rejuvenate our young soles into a title winning team, if we do win… The pre-match conference was way too much Barcelona-y-fied, so we’ve not yet focused on the away trip to Old Trafford as much as I would have liked. The boss did tell us that Van Persie is fit and would travel and would start tomorrow – but Cesc, Walcott and Song are all out for the next couple of games. With three of our four keepers out for quite a while, Almunia is the only fit one we have, so will start and Vermaelen has none or little chance of returning this side of May!

So, the line up will be interesting – I would love for Eboue to start on the right hand side of midfield – the recent inclusion of Rosicky has meant a severe lack of pace compared to Theo Walcott, and the Ivorian could come in and provide that pace. I’d also like to see Arshavin start for this game, as he’s deserves to be in the first team – he’s really knucked down and tried to make a difference recently and it was a shame that he didn’t have longer against Barcelona.

Arsene’s team will be:

Almunia

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Denilson

Nasri – Diaby – Arshavin

Van Persie

With a bench of Shea, Eboue, Squillaci, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsey and Bendtner

Whereas, my team would be:

Almunia

Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy

Wilshere – Ramsey

Eboue – Nasri – Arshavin

Van Persie

My team gives Ramsey the game everyone wants him to have and if it goes well, will give us the option of using Ramsey for the rest of the season. Additionally, Nasri in the middle will work – he did it last season when Cesc was out – he’s scored two goals against United from that position – and with Eboue, we get more pace.

For Man United, Park, Ferdinand and Nani are touted as definitely out – but they will have the likes of Vidic, Scholes, Rooney, Berbatov etc to call on… I think their line up will be:

Van Der Sar

Rafael – Smalling – Vidic – Evra

Valencia – Fletcher –  Carrick – Giggs

Rooney – Berbatov

It’ll be 4-4-2 for the home side, with the likes of Anderson and Scholes also fit and in contention…

So, onwards and upwards fellow Gooners, time to get our shooting boots on and time to get one over our oldest and fiercest rivals… Come on you Gooners!

Arsenal 5 – 0 Leyton Orient – A New Team Emerges…

Yesterday was the rebirth of a few players – a few players who know that they will know feature heavily in the run in to the end of the season and we’re starting to see some match fitness too – players like Denilson, Diaby, Bendtner and Rosicky stood out against Leyton Orient in a whopping 5-0 victory. Smiles all around and a good result considering the weekend’s result.

Then I realised that we were playing a league 2 side at home and realised that the performance was adequate and the scoreline appropriate for the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we did better than we did against Leeds and Huddersfield, but considering the lack of ability that Orient showed at their place, the result was pretty much forgone conclusion.

The line up was:

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Miguel – Clichy

Denilson – Diaby

Bendtner – Rosicky – Henderson

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Djourou, Sagna, Clichy, Nasri, Arshavin and Wilshere

In was a decent debut for Henderson of course – playing in decent team, showing good vision, passing and pace, he certainly has shown he could be an option for future games if called upon.

We scored 5, we defended well, Almunia was okay, Miguel showed flashes of real brilliance at the back – which is good sign. Our new boy Henderson did well and showed that we have a few more options if required, dispute the multitude of loans…

Bendtner scored a hatrick – the first a looping header, the second an excellent individual goal and the third from the penalty spot – whilst Chamakh got one – good considering we’ve lost RvP for the foreseeable future and then Clichy rattled one in with 15 minutes to go.

The stand out player / partnership was Diaby – Denilson – probably the best games they’ve had in a while – and despite the inferior opposition, it was a good display from them both – they’ll both be needed in the next few weeks!

Arsene spoke about the game and said:

It was important that we had a response tonight after what happened over the weekend. We did it in a professional way, we were always focused. We didn’t give them any chances and overall it was a normal victory. If you look back we have a long run of positive results but it was important that we didn’t let ourselves down tonight. We gave ourselves a good chance to focus on the coming weeks because we have now Sunderland on Saturday and Barcelona on Tuesday, then the Quarter-Final of the FA Cup. This keeps us focused.

And finally he touched on the two fit strikers, and commented on their goal contribution:

We have lost Van Persie so for Bendtner and Chamakh to score is very important, they now have a level of confidence that we need to be successful in the big games. You need your strikers to take any chance and tonight Bendtner did that very well.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Sunderland preview… and Debs and Kieran will take over on the weekend as I’ll be off on my next trip… this time to Luxembourg (more on that tomorrow!!)…

The Season Continues…

Indeed, my friends, the season continues and no matter how disappointed we all are – we have to put the recent final defeat behind us and focus on the games ahead. The recent loss of Walcott & Cesc as well as the even more recent loss of Van Persie has put us into a very precarious position in terms of personnel in the next 3 weeks or so. Our first choice players will have to consist of Bendtner, Arshavin, Rosicky and Chamakh – players who have not performed well at all in the last couple of games (Arshavin aside). I’ve been raving about the difference between last year and this – talking about the players who we will have this season compared to last – but up to the lead up to the game – suddenly we’re dropping like flies.

We need to decide which competitions we want to win and then focus on them. The Carling Cup has been an obvious distraction. It’s meant we’ve used more of the first team that we should have – it’s had counter effects on our league form and also the team we choose for the FA Cup – 2 replays already… and the fatigue and injury is evident for all to see. I’m confused to why we have so many players on loan and also confused to see why we want to go for all trophies with a relatively small squad.

Where we are right now, personally, we need to focus on one competition – unfortunately for us, we have 4 games in the next 10 days ranging all the three competitions… so we’ll see how Arsene prioritises in the next week or so. Focused on the Premiership is the obvious thing, considering Man United’s recent loss to Chelsea. We’re 4 points behind them with a game in hand and it’s essential that we win our games in hand and really give it a go.

Check out the run in for both clubs:

United

Currently on 60 points, with ten games to play.

  1. Liverpool (a)
  2. Bolton (h)
  3. West Ham (a)
  4. Fulham (h)
  5. Newcastle (a)
  6. Everton (h)
  7. Arsenal (a)
  8. Chelsea (h)
  9. Blackburn (a)
  10. Blackpool (h)

Arsenal

Currently on 56 points, with eleven games to play.

  1. Sunderland (h)
  2. West Brom (a)
  3. Blackburn (h)
  4. Blackpool (a)
  5. Liverpool (h)
  6. Sp*rs (a)
  7. Bolton (a)
  8. United (h)
  9. Stoke (a)
  10. Aston Villa (h)
  11. Fulham (a)

Our run in looks relatively easier than United’s but with the number of games we’ve played, the fact that we are the Arsenal and the injuries we have got too – who knows which is the easiest run in? Outside of the Premiership, the next game is Leyton Orient away and it would be nice to win the game – at the same time, United away is the next one if we do win it – one of the hardest games of the season, a game where our first team failed to turn up to…

We’ve got injuries to Song and Koscielny for the game, so it looks like we might just give Miguel another run out… My predicted line up for the game is:

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Miguel – Gibbs

Denilson – Diaby

Bendtner – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Djourou, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri and a youth product, perhaps?

All that is left to say, is that we all need to keep the faith, not over-react, back our team and get a win against Leyton Orient!!

Leyton Orient v Arsenal – The Preview

From Barcelona at the Emirates to Leyton Orient at the Matchroom Stadium – those are the two ends of the spectrum and this game will help us to land back on planet Earth and focus us back to our bread and butter – the domestic leagues and cups! So, off to Leyton Orient, and hopefully it will ground us, as we’ve got a few games between now and the Barcelona away leg and it’s important we focus on each game at a time.

Arsene is someone who normally prepares quite a lot, but rather surprisingly, he has admitted that he hasn’t had too much time to prepare yet for the match today – despite banging on earlier this week that we must focus on all our games one by one…

“We always try to prepare properly,” he said. “That gives you a guarantee to be at a certain level but, of course, it does not guarantee that you qualify.  This is the charm of the game. To be successful in the end, you need to go through in these kinds of matches. It is a mental test of how much we want to win. If you want to win, you have to play well at Orient. We have had reports of their games and we watched them a little bit against MK Dons. They have a good left back and they have a striker who looks dangerous, Alex Revell. So you see we always look after our opponent. To be fair I have had no time [since Barcelona to find out about Orient]. We watched 30 minutes of the first half against MK Dons and I will watch the rest this afternoon.”

Being a lower division side, you have to think that Arsene is taking a little for granted, but he has done a little homework, which is good, unusual to talk about in the press conference, but nevertheless, he’s going to try and be on top of them by the time we get there…

Team news ahead of the game is that Squillaci will play – Djourou was injured, but is back in contention now – and Koscielny is exhausted after the Barcelona game. Both Djourou and Koscielny have formed a very good partnership and it’s an ideal time to ease Squillaci back into the team after his second half performance against Newcastle. One of the key players will be rested, but we won’t find out who until later today. Personally, I’d like to see Djourou rested as he is more injury prone and has had a few scares most recently. Diaby is still suspended and it is an opportunity for Arsene to rest as many as he can…

My predicted line up is…

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs

Wilshere – Denilson

Bendtner – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Djourou, Song, Walcott, Cesc & Van Persie

There is enough quality on the pitch to win the game and of course, failing that, there is definitely enough quality on the bench to come on and make a difference. It will be tremendously hard for us to take this game as seriously as the tie itself deserves, after the heroics of midweek, but with Jack Wilshere in the middle of a team who is full of players who want to become first team regulars, there should be a good level of desire within the team…

I’ll leave you with a few words from our new number 1, Szcznesy, who everyone is glad to see between the sticks and the boy himself wants to stay number one for as long as possible:

“That’s my target really [a decade], that’s my goal,” said the stopper. “I would love to [do that] but I know I have a few others that want to have the No 1 shirt. I’m going to have to be at my very best to keep it. If I am given the chance to stay the No 1 I would be very happy to [continue]. There is very good competition at the Club so I can’t say there is no threat. I know that I have to be at my very best because if there is any slip up or drop in my performance, other goalkeepers will be happy to take my place. I can’t demand playing time at a Club like this being 20-year-old. I know that when my chance came I had to take it with both hands and try to take the No 1 spot.”

Good stuff Wojciech… keep on playing well and you’ll be the fans choice too!

So, all hands on deck – time of the team to get back to domestic affairs and put half a dozen past Leyton Orient…

Come on you reds!!!!!!!!

Arsenal 2 – 1 Huddersfield… Phew…!

Morning Peeps!

Kieran D will be posting later… I’m not sure what time it is back there in the UK, I think it’s still officially Sunday but over here is sunny Luxembourg, it’s Monday morning…! We made a right meal of that, didn’t we? Super summer signing Squillaci didn’t exactly cover himself in a blaze of glory either… I haven’t actually watched the game, so I can’t really give you a match report, but I’ll tell you what I know and give you my views of a few things…

The starting XI was a bit reserve and Arsene took the opportunity to rest a few players, considering the lower league opposition…

Almunia

Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs

Denilson – Diaby

Arshavin - Nasri –  Bendtner

Chamakh

With a bench of Szczesny, Fabregas, Rosicky, van Persie, Walcott, Song, Wilshere

Almunia’s appearance was the first in 4 months and with Fabianski in the wars injury wise, the decision to let Almunia go has been halted and this game was designed to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do and of course to prove his fitness in case he is needed. For Everton’s game, I’d expect Szcznesy to start but Almunia to replace Shea on the bench.

Squillaci and Diaby were the other returnees, and there would obviously be an element of non-match fitness with a few players. Apparently the referee had a very odd game… in lieu of my own match report, here is a quick summary from the BBC…

Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to fire 10-man Arsenal into the FA Cup fifth round as the Gunners narrowly saw off League One Huddersfield. The hosts led when Peter Clarke diverted Nicklas Bendtner’s strike into his own net, before Sebastien Squillaci was sent off for a block on Jack Hunt. The red card changed the game and Alan Lee headed the Terriers level. But Fabregas slotted home a late winner from the penalty spot after Bendtner had been fouled by Jamie McCombe.

A people on yesterday’s blog and more people on twitter and facebook have been expressing a level of disappointment about the game, and the players chosen – and in fact, a security officer in Luxembourg recognised my Arsenal t-shirt and starting commenting to me that Arsenal struggled to beat Leeds, Ipswich and Huddersfield and slated Arsene for his team selection. Do people not get it? We have a squad – we need to use them and we need to keep everyone fit – when we play weaker teams that the top of the Premiership – we need to use these players. If we don’t then we will tire out the existing squad and get them injured – and then the fringe players will have no match fitness and it will all end is us losing games.

We know that Arsene has to do this, so let’s understand when we don’t win 6-0. We did win all those three games mentioned above, whilst resting key players, so lay off Arsene. He played Nasri today when most thought Rosicky would play and Nasri is out now for a month with a hamstring injury – you can’t always get it right, but it makes sense to rotate when you can.

Arsene summarised the game…

It was tough, tough, tough, because it had all the ingredients of a typical cup game. We played a little bit below par and Huddersfield is a good team, they have shown that today. They were efficient, they are always dangerous on set-pieces and crosses, they scored on a set-piece. It had the ingredients of a cup game as well because we were down to ten men so it became very difficult. In the end we had the quality just to make the difference and in the final 25 minutes I felt we had room to score goals. But we play so many games at the moment that sometimes we are not as sharp as we would want to be. That is what happened today.

With Squillaci getting sent off, it does pose another problem for our squad – as he will miss three games through suspension and when you already have your #1 centre back injured and the #2 and #3 playing every game in a row for most of the last 2 months, you kind of need your #4 not to get sent off in his first game back!

Arsene was asked about potentially buying a stop-gap, and was quite certain with his plans:

Not more, not less, because it’s three games. For us it’s good because we play three games in a week so it is only one week [that he will be out]. No [I am not likely to sign anyone before the deadline], I leave these headlines to all the other clubs, but at the moment no. I cannot tell you definitely because someone might knock at my door in the morning and says ‘I would like to play for you’ and he is a good player because I would sign him!

So there we have it – we’re back down to 2 centre backs… tomorrow we play again!

Adios Amigos!