Arsenal vs WBA: A Very Small Preview!

Just a quick blog to say Happy December! It’s not been the best November and December so far, but I really think it’ll change today and we’ll win for the first time since I can remember.

There is lot of noise about Walcott and Sagna and their contracts and both are out injured today. With the return of Rosicky, we could see a slightly different line up today, or let’s hope we do, I’d prefer Gervinho on the bench today and Giroud in the starting line up…

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Rosicky – Cazorla

Giroud

With Podolski out with a strain or hamstring injury (depending on what you read)…. the above line up has a decent balance of aggression and skill. Gervinho, Arshavin and Chamakh on the bench if things go terribly wrong.

I’ll be back after the game with a bigger blog and hopefully I’ll be talking about our great win and excellent performance…!

Blog Suspended Until Players Can Be Bothered…

This blog is officially suspended until our players, manager and club can actually be bothered. *

£7m per year for Arsene, £2m for Gazidis and about £3-4m per player per year. And we get this rubbish? The entire wage budget of the Swansea team was the same as Vermaelen, Cazorla and Arsene. And they showed up and kicked our arses in more than one way.

* The blog is not actually suspended, but I’ll wait a day or two until I calm myself down…

Arsenal vs Swansea – The must win game…

The start of each blog this winter has been….

After a disappointing [loss / draw], we find ourselves… and today is the same… we find ourselves on the upper echelons of mid-table but a whopping 12 points behind the leaders. At this stage of the season, that’s a massive gap. We know United, Chelsea and City will drop points, but the problem is that so will we and we’re actually dropping many more…

We’ve heard a bunch of excuses this season… depleted squads, international breaks, suspensions, tiredness, tough trips, many games… in reality, fair enough to those excuses, but at the end of the day, every club has the same issues, and they seem to deal with them. Tomorrow we play Swansea. A team who are playing well, and have some talented players. It’s up to us to start winning games and we have to play out of our skin to get the three points.

Ahead of the game, we understand that Sagna has picked up a knock and Koscielny’s out until the New Year. As a result, the team will have another back four (how many this season?)… the team could be:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Walcott – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

With a bench of Mannone, Coquelin, Djourou, Ramsey, Oxlade, Gervinho, Arshavin

Walcott is the one player who seems to make a massive difference to the team at the moment. When he plays he bring a threat and we’d be foolish to let him go to another club on a free next year. We’d be foolish to lose him at all even at a cost… he is starting to remind me of a young Thierry Henry. He will be very good in the next 3 years, that’s for sure.

Theo is a Gooner and I can’t see him anywhere else, he seems to be enjoying his game at the moment too:

“Those are the sort of positions [at Everton] that this season and in the last few seasons I have been quite deadly in,” he said. “When given a little sniff I am able to take it now. The goals [I have scored] show that. I think I scored 11 last season and 13 the year before. Not just that, but my general play [is getting better] as well. The assists are coming now, which is fantastic, and I am enjoying my football. I am very happy with the way I have started and it has got to continue. Hopefully I will take it into Saturday’s game.”

We’ve seen a lot of very good players leave recently, and I hope the manager and the player give us a Christmas gift by announcing his stay, but for the moment, let’s see if he can add to his goal tally tomorrow…

Til then…

Everton v Arsenal: El Preview

After the disappointing draw to Aston Villa on the weekend, today we’re in the Merseyside at Goodison Park to take on high flying Everton. We need to win this game, without a shadow of a doubt, to ensure we gain some ground… for the moment, just don’t look at the table, it’s too worrying…

We have Rosicky back in training, although not match fit, he will help the team when he’s back. It will be good to be able to rest Cazorla once in a while, that’s for sure. The injury news ahead of tonight’s game is Diaby (thigh), Santos (abdominal), Rosicky (match fitness), Fabianski (ankle).

Therefore, I think it makes a lot of sense that the line up we’ll see tonight will be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Gervinho – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

With Walcott recovering / recovered, and Oxlade hugely unimpressive in the last game, Gervinho will most likely get the nod on the right of midfield. It will be good to see him start on the wing for a game. Although a lot of people think he’s a headless chicken, I prefer him on the wing than up front, that’s for sure.

The bench could be: Mannone, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Coquelin, Walcott, Oxlade and Arshavin.

Arsene was full of praise for David Moyes and predicted that they will be up there in contention with us for the coveted fourth spot…

At the beginning of the season, they were winning game after game and I still believe they will be one of the contenders for fourth. However, at the same time, the season is long. Everton have already shown that they can beat teams like Man United at home but they drew against Norwich over the weekend as well. So it’s very difficult to predict but I do feel they will be one of the contenders.

Today is surely a battle for 4th (not the war, just the battle)…

Yes we need to be fighting for a high league position, but realistically, we’re way off that at the moment, so it comes down to the game in front of us. We need to win tonight, and that’s that. It doesn’t matter about the league, it matters about today’s game. Simple as.

Til tomorrow, come on you reds!

Aston Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal: Stalemate…

Normality resumed yesterday with an evenly matched game against Aston Villa. The problem I have is that we were evenly matched. We shouldn’t be evenly matched, we should be superior… we shouldn’t be drawing against the 17th placed team in the league, and failing to score.

With Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen on the bench, we lacked a level of urgency in our game in the first half. Was the fact that we rested three key players a sign to the rest of the squad that this could be an easy game? I don’t know, but questions have been seriously asked after the event…

We expected a difficult game because we played a very tense game last Saturday against Tottenham. We had a Champions League game on Wednesday night and we knew [that] when you play away from home after the Champions League, it’s a difficult game. You have to say Aston Villa did fight very hard. They had some chances as well. We controlled them quite well. I think we had room to win the game but we lacked a little bit of accuracy in our final ball today. I cannot fault my team for the spirit we have shown for 90 minutes. We lacked a little bit [of] sharpness in the final third.

There were a lot of questions to why Arsene didn’t bring on Jack. On the Arsenal web site there are a few normal quotes about why he was rested and didn’t come on. Apparently he was tired and Arsene didn’t want to risk him. Although when he asked by journalists, he didn’t react quite the right way, suggesting that perhaps he was aware that he didn’t quite get it right… why else would he react the way he did?

“What is the thinking behind the substitution? I will not explain every decision I make. I have managed for 30 years at the top level and I have to convince you [journalists] I can manage the team? I don’t want to comment on that. I do my job and do my best for the club. Why should I create a rift? I have given you the answer. I leave it to you to judge. I try to be as good as I can be. You are all great managers! I read the newspapers every day and I can tell you that you are always great managers! You judge the game for the papers and I sit here and explain to you our game. How many games have you managed? I promise you if you manage one I will sit in the stands and chant ‘you know what you are doing!’ You can discuss every substitution. You think what you want. I do my job and I let people judge it. I do that every day and I do my best every day. I know why I do it.”

The way he reacted showed too many signs of weakness. He needed to keep his calm but he failed to do so. It’s a shame, but it’s a sign of the pressure he’s under and the mistakes he is making, week in and week out. There has been a lot of talk about Arsene and where his state of mind is. Rants like this don’t help.

We weren’t quite there against Villa and with Ramsey in a deeper midfield lying position, we always look vulnerable. Arteta works well with Diaby, Coquelin or Jack, but not Ramsey and it’s strange that we can all see that but Arsene cannot.

It was a bore draw weekend for some others too as Benitez’s Chelsea drew 0-0 with Man City and Swansea held Liverpool to a 0-0 at the Liberty Stadium. Games every 3 days seems to be catching up with a few of us, except the likes of Sp*rs and Man United who both won 3-1.

Personally, I thought we had more of a chance to beating Aston Villa than we did of high-flying Everton, and by resting some players and drawing against Villa, it seems like a missed chance. The same Villa that United beat a couple of weeks ago at Villa Park and the same Villa who lost 5-0 at Man City last week.

It’s a little embarrassing explaining the results and explaining the team selections and substitutions. I believe in Arsene, but it would be nice for him to get it right now and again…

Til tomorrow…

Preview: Villa vs The Arsenal…. As Emirates Deal Is Announced

Arsenal announced today that we’ve signed a mega £150m deal for the sponsorship of our shirts for the next five years. That works out at £30m per season, which dwarfs the previous deal that came in at £12.5m. It’s something that Gazidis and Wenger have been talking about and something that they believe would happen, so it’s good to see one of the first negotiations take place.

Good work for the commercial team, and let’s hope it’s one of many to come. If we can keep on doing this and start making positive bank statements without selling players, we may be able to actually buy / spend more than we take in every year… And that could and possibly should start with Theo Walcott. I don’t know how much he is after, but I doubt it’s mega-bucks. I’ve heard it’s close and potentially if they’re not too far apart, we can sort this out now…

Talking about Theo, he’s still out injured, and possibly likely to be injured for Wednesday too – the gaffer summarizing the injury situation:

Santos is out for 10 days with an abdominal strain. Oxlade-Chamberlain looks alright. Theo [Walcott] is out for Saturday, but has a chance for Wednesday at Everton.

However, the boss did talk in depth about Rosicky and the injuries he’s had… and how happy he is to potentially have him back in the squad:

He should be back with us on Monday. He started in team training on Monday. Last year from January to the end of the season he was one of the most influential players in our squad. I hope he can repeat that because until now we haven’t seen him and he was injured at the European Championship. He has a similar injury to Scott Parker, they had operations at the same time and they will come back basically at the same time. It is very difficult [mentally] for him, because Tomas is a guy who loves to play, who is happy on a football pitch. When you have been injured as many times as he has been, it is not easy to take.

It will be good to have Rosicky back, he is a good player, and an intelligent one. He can create opportunities that others can’t and can move forward with aggression and positivity that helps us win games. Simple as, we need numbers, and Rosicky can add to a midfield that’s lost Song and Diaby and is really stretching the likes of Arteta and Cazorla, as they’ve had no rest at all!

Based on Arsene’s team news, the potential line up at Villa Park may well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Metersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Gervinho – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

I think Gervinho will start as Oxlade has a little niggle and I think the boss will keep him on the bench for the moment, I also think Gibbs will be on the bench and be introduced as a substitute if we’re doing okay, rather than going into the first team, considering the 4 players and goalkeeper named above look to be on top of their game…

It’s a vitally important game for us, with Chelsea playing Man City and a potential banana skin for United at QPR (who Harry may be managing come Sunday)… 3 points this weekend could be a very good and important 3 points… especially with a tricky tie at Everton mid-week.

Come on you Gooners!

Arsenal 2 – 0 Montpellier: We’re through…!

It’s been an interesting week in the world of football, that’s for sure. Man City getting knocked out of the Champions League was big news and Chelsea defeat to Juventus yesterday also putting Chelsea on the edge, resulting in the departure of Roberto Di Matteo. It made the evening even more telling – the Champions League is no mug’s game, it’s proper teams versus proper teams. Home games don’t necessarily mean home victories, and we saw that when we played Schalke here last time out.

 

Tonight’s game was very very important, and the team line up saw Oxlade in for Walcott and the likes of Gibbs and Gervinho on the bench:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Mertersacker  Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

We didn’t quite get going until the second half, but the first half did show us a few things… The back four seems more balanced with the four players in the line up. I’m not sure who will give way for Gibbs on the weekend, all three centre backs (including the captain) showing good form – but I think Mertersacker and Koscielny are the best partnership.
The stand out player today was Wilshere – he was everywhere, and he just brings so much energy to the midfield – he’s an inspiration to the rest of the rest of the team. And it was fitting that he scored the first goal… some excellent play and an excellent header down into Jack’s path followed by a sublime lift over the keeper from the midfielder.
And it was Giroud who was involved again, for an amazing goal. A one-two with Podolski saw the German strike an excellent finish – RvPesque to be honest. I can’t describe it – you have to watch it:
It’s a great goal. I can watch it time and time again. It reminds me of what RvP was doing last season. If Podolski can start reproducing this game in and game out, it will be a really good catapult up the various tables & competitions we’re trying to win!
Arsene spoke after the game and praised Jack:

“He’s getting strong physically. Tonight he got in the box – he’s the complete midfielder you know. I believe he can defend well, attack well and these kinds of matches will give him confidence.”

We’ve got one more game in the league which could make the difference between finishing first or second… but in reality, either position has a certain level of difficulty:

“We will try to finish top of the group. You always feel a bit guilty if you don’t do it. There are groups where you have Dortmund first, Real Madrid second – you don’t really know what is the best. In this competition you just want to get to the next round and win the game. That’s all you can do. Now of course we go into a cup (knock-out) competition which is a little bit different. We have some time and it’s important we go into March with our best team available.”

A great goal from Podolski, a great performance by Jack, a clean sheet, progression to the next round. Happy days for the Arsenal, and time to rest and recuperate for the Villa game…
Til tomorrow…

Arsenal vs Montpellier Preview

Arsenal 5 – 2 Sp*rs: Papering over the cracks….

How can you not be happy after a 5-2 win against your biggest rivals…? Well, I for one am super happy… An amazing victory and bragging rights to the Arsenal. It was a nervy game from the build up to the end, credit where credit is due, and Sp*rs have a decent crop of players at the moment and they certainly showed it when they started the game. But thank God, Adebayor went mad, tried to maim Cazorla, and at 11 versus 10, we had it in us to come out eventual winners. But you have to admit, we did turn on the style, and perhaps it was the luck we needed.

Despite the maim attempt, Cazorla was certainly the man of the match along with Walcott, with the two players seemingly unplayable. Credit were credit is due, and winning the game was the important factor and we raised our game when it was needed. (Picture courtesy of Tottz82). My title says “papering over the cracks”, because I think we’re still a long way from getting into a position to challenge… the first 10 – 15 minutes showed us that we’re a little behind Sp*rs in terms of squad gelling. The midfield without Song doesn’t quite flow defensively yet…

Arsenal vs Montpellier Preview

Tomorrow we take on Montpellier at the Emirates and we really need to kick on and take our form into this game. After the draw against Schalke, it’s very important that we get the three points on the board. We have some good team news ahead of the game, with the news that Gervinho and Gibbs are both back in the squad; the manager saying:

From Saturday, we have [almost] the same squad. But one player who will miss Wednesday’s game is Walcott. It’s the injury he got during the game with his shoulder. We have to scan that today and see if there is no damage. He will be out for tomorrow but it should be short-term. We will miss Santos as well, who has an abdominal muscle strain. The two players coming in the squad are Gervinho and Gibbs. Gervinho had quite a bad ankle strain. Kieran Gibbs as well was out for a while.

Theo’s got a problem with his shoulder, which is a recurrence of his previous injury. Let’s hope it’s not serious. With the return of Oxlade, we can hopefully compensate for the loss of Theo – who is probably in the best form of his life…

My guess at the starting XI:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

There is a slight worry that we seem to play the same players every week, twice a week, surely they’ll start getting injured, one by one… maybe with the return of Gervinho and perhaps if we can get Coquelin involved a bit more, we can rotate a little. Of course, the most important thing is winning the game. For that reason, I doubt we will rotate tomorrow, but maybe against Villa on the weekend, we should try and shake it up a little. Having said that, we need to win that game too!

But one game at a time… and let’s start with the very important game tomorrow… come on you Gooners!

Arsenal vs Sp*rs: The 2012 North London Derby…

Tomorrow is a HUGE game… when I mean HUGE, I mean HUGE…

Arsenal vs Sp*rs

We’re in a precarious position in the league, we actually behind Sp*rs in the league, we’re the lowest we’ve ever been at this stage under Arsene Wenger, we’ve had the worst start under Arsene Wenger and tomorrow, we play Sp*rs. And we play them at home.

Nothing short of a win is required, demand and more importantly needed, and therefore, it’s essential that we play to the best of our abilities, from defence to attack. We’ve played poorly and conceded goals for fun this season, but tomorrow is where we have to get everything right.

Arsene spoke this morning ahead of the game and distanced the occasion from the fact we need the three points:

“This year is important. Every London derby is important. As well, we dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results. That’s why, of course, it’s a good opportunity to do that tomorrow. The distance is not big. It’s early in the season. First of all, we play at the Emirates. We know that it’s important we are strong there. As well, for us, a successful season is down to consistency of results. At the moment that’s what we are looking for.”

Team News

He also touched upon team news, and there is bad news concerning Kieran Gibbs, who we now understand is out injured for a while. Rosicky, Diaby and Gibbs are classified as long term injuries, so who knows when we’ll get any of them back. In slightly (possibly) better news, we may see the return of Szcznesy to the first team. Mannone has played the majority of this season and to be honest, he’s shown he’s not Premier League quality – the return of the keeper would be duly welcome. Gervinho and Sagna look to miss the game and but may be back for Montpellier.

As a result, I believe the team could well be (players in brackets are having late fitness tests):

Mannone (Szcznesy)

Jenkinson (Sagna) – Koscielny – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Ramsey (Walcott) – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

Wit Walcott, Sagna and Szcznesy having fitness tests tomorrow morning

It will be interesting to see how the players fair in the NLD, this is new for players such as Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud and will they know the intensity and rivalry required to push on?

Jack Wilshere

It was interesting to hear the boss talk about Wilshere and how much the NLD means to him… a little Ging up for the player… as if he needed it!

“Jack arrived here at the age of nine years old and that means this game is in his heart, in his brain, for the whole season every year,” said Wenger. From the youth teams up, the rivalry exists.”

Tomorrow is so important, it may give me a sleepless night tonight… very exciting and if you’re going to the game, please be the 12th man!

Til tomorrow… Come on you Gunners…

Arsenal 3 – 3 Fulham: Where has our Arsenal gone?

I’m sorry, but I can’t endure this week in and week out. It’s horrible, it’s not on, and as an Arsenal fan, it’s torture. How can we have a team as bad as this, where we simply cannot do anything. This season is by far the worst season for Arsenal and Arsene. Despite the random victories… the general consensus is that we can’t really play that well.

In this league, you get what you deserve and we deserved only a point from this game.

Arsene decided to re-instate Coquelin to the starting XI and continue with Vermealen and Podolski on the left. The starting line up was:

Mannone

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Coquelin

Walcott – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

Ramsey and Santos aren’t in favour with the fans and the manager left them both on the bench. It looked like the best team we could field, which says something quite big  about the quality or lack of quality that we have at the Arsenal. We were very fortunate to go 2-0 up with goals from Giroud and Podolski. Walcott being instrumental in the game. An assist from the Englishman and another one for Arteta.

But from 2-0 up, we found ourselves 2-2 at half time. Some shocking defending and some shocking goalkeeping allowed Berbatov and Kacaniklicto show their class, with Ruiz pulling the string. Their first came from a corner when Berba knocked it in – unmarked 10 yards out – and the equaliser through Kacaniklic when Berba threw the ball back in the middle.

Some silly defending saw Arteta in trouble in the box and all he could do was foul his man, conceding a penalty, which saw Fulham go 3-2 up.

The man of the moment, Olivier Giroud soon equalised through some excellent work which saw him through on goal. He hit the post and the ball went out to Theo who spun it onto the head of Giroud who equalised with a thumping header.

And at 3-3, you expected us to press on – that we did… but we couldn’t find the break-through. On the 94th minute, we were fortunately awarded a penalty. Did we deserve it? No. Could we score it? Let’s see. My faith of our team made me send the following tweet before the penalty was taken.

Is that a penalty to Arsenal on the 94th minute? No way. Does anyone on the pitch have the bottle to take it? Nope. Doubt it.

And Arteta duly stepped up and fluffed it. 3-3 it ended.

Arsene spoke about the game afterwards and looked at the positives:

It was frustrating because we had the opportunities to win the game. We were caught in a bit too comfortable a position because we did the most difficult thing – we scored two goals to go 2-0 up, we were at home and yet at half-time we found ourselves at 2-2. At that moment we lacked urgency defensively. In the second half we gave absolutely everything and I have to give credit to the players, in the last three games what they have done physically is amazing. Even at 3-2 down we didn’t give up and continued to go forward and we had the chances to win the game.

My thoughts?

Well, personally, I don’t think we’re good enough at the moment. We’re not quite hitting the heights as we should. Conceding three goals at home is not good – it’s simple. We’re missing Alex Song. Arteta is suffering. The rest of the team are struggling.

I’d prefer to see one or two players come in and add to the team. We’re not going to do much with the current team, it doesn’t quite have the cutting edge that we need. We’ve got a lot of quality, don’t get me wrong, but the team is missing the special something or someone to drive the team forward and protect the back four.

Is Jack Wilshere the savior? Only time will tell.

Til tomorrow.

Arsenal vs Fulham: The Preview

After a crazy couple of weeks in the Premiership, Capital One Cup and mid-week’s epic collection of wins, draws and losses in the Champions League, we’re back to the main-stay of the Premiership. Our form has been a little erratic, with a loss last time out to Manchester United and a draw to Schalke mid-week.

The signs of improvement are there, but it’s down to us to improve our results in terms of points on the board. And it’s start tomorrow with our game against Fulham.

Arsenal vs Fulham

We’ve got Giroud and Walcott working now, which is a massive bonus for the team. It will be good to see how they continue to work together and to see if they can continue their recent work. Walcott is currently the top scorer followed by Giroud, which does lave the ever-present Podolski as a big question mark for me. He has seriously under-performed considering his start. Personally, I don’t think he’s suited for the left wing. He seems to me to be more of a striker than a winger.

With Oxlade potentially back in the fray, I’d rest Podolski and get him G’d up for the big North London derby. It’s strange to see Podolski’s sudden loss of form, but it’s quite reminiscent at his time playing for Bayern. He was deploy in a similar role and it was largely noneffective. For Cologne, given a central role, he flourished. With Gervinho, Walcott and Oxlade out in recent times, it did make sense to play him there, but now some of them are back (Gervinho is still 2 weeks away), perhaps he can move central.

In other team news – Szcznesy is back and raring to go! Although not quite back enough for him to start – I’m sure we’ll see him on the bench and prepped ready to return next week too.

Based on the team news I’ve heard, I think the line up could be:

Mannone

Sagna – Mertersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Coquelin

Walcott – Cazorla – Oxlade

Giroud

But, knowing the manager, I think he’ll play Ramsey instead of Coquelin and Podolski instead of Oxlade…

On Walcott’s contract situation, Arsene has spoken out:

“My desire is to keep Theo. We do what’s needed to keep him and hopefully [as] I told you many times, we can sort this situation out very soon. Very soon is before the end of December – one way or another, that is for sure. I don’t want to go into any details but you can believe me [that] we do the maximum we can to keep our best players.”

It’s so important for us to keep Theo; without turning this blog into a Theo contract blog, he is our top scorer this season, we’ve been training him to be good for the last 7 years. He’s finally getting somewhere, it would be criminal to let him go!

Tomorrow, against Fulham, we face a team in some sort of form – they’re currently level on points with us – both of us on 15 points and a win is very much needed!

I’ll leave you with some opta stats:

  • Arsenal have made their worst start in the Premier League under Arsene Wenger, taking just 15 points from their opening 10 games.
  • Fulham have lost 12 points from winning positions this season, more than any other side.
  • 38% of the 13 Premier League own goals this season have benefitted either Fulham (3) or Arsenal (2)

Time to correct some of those records, I think!