Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

Evening all…

This is probably the worst time to choose to write my first blog on the new look WOA site… but nevertheless, it is time… I’ll start by reflecting on today’s game against Sp*rs… the game was typical of the team at the moment, and three points sum up the game:

  1. Slow start
  2. Conceding silly goals
  3. Second half come back

Typical of a lot of games this season, and we fail to pick up the three points again…

At points in the game, it was very clear that we have a better team, but for the first half, our mental state was not in the correct zone and we really didn’t grab the game by it’s horns. We had a lot of possession, and to be fair the better chances in the first half, but we weren’t quite at the races until the game was out of our sight. Why? Let’s take a look and the key reasons – not just for this game, but I believe the undercurrent to our whole season.

Szcznesy’s Form

The keeper definitely got a great future ahead of him, but he’s a bit erratic and a little too cocky. He is capable of world class saves, and he’s won us quite a few points this season – Sunderland away comes to mind, when we could have easily conceded if it was not for the Polish stopper – but at the same time, he has no real competition and lapses of concentration mean that he undermines himself. His form is a Jekyll and Hyde and you have to think that this happens because he has too much license to roam around and do Cryuff turns. A better discipline from management and a serious threat from anther goalkeeper would be exactly what he needs.

The Central Defenders

We have three very good defenders in Mertersacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny. I say “very good”, but not excellent. Starting with Mertersacker – he is a great reader of the game in a one on one or long ball situation, but he doesn’t quite like the ball with pace and for some reason seems to not quite understand the offside trap. His lack of pace is a thorn in our defence sometimes – but having said that, he’s probably been better than the other two. Koscielny is having second seasons syndrome, he is generally excellent – he is actually one of my favourite players – but at the same time, a little clumsy and he seems to have a mistake in him at all times. And then you have our captain and unfortunately, I think the pressure of being captain is too much for him. He was Mr Reliable, but I don’t think anyone would disagree if I were to say that this is his worst season in an Arsenal shirt. A no nonsense defender with a strong mentality, a defender that no-ones likes to play against is what we need, and then one of the current three to compliment him.

Too much expectation from Jack

Without of a shadow of a doubt, there is way too much expectation on Jack at the moment. You could see against Sp*rs that there was an expectation for him to create something out of nothing and to carry the team and if he can’t then we don’t seem to be able to do anything… we need more personalities in the team.

Giroud

He’s our main striker but unfortunately for me, he just isn’t the number one we need up front. He’s miles behind the likes of Van Persie, Eduardo, Henry and even Ade… I watched the Real Sociedad game and Carlos Vela was so much better than Giroud, it was crazy. He doesn’t seem to ever stamp his authority on a game. Today he had the ball in very good areas and he just seemed to play like it was a training game. There was no fire in his belly, no desire to be the best and win the game for his team.

Tactics

Now this is definitely Arsene’s fault… playing the wrong players against the wrong teams. Today, Podolski, Rosicky and Koscielny should have started ahead of Giroud, Ramsey and Metersacker – yes, easy to say in hindsight, but I think most people agreed that before the game too…! Taking off Jenkinson and moving Ramsey to right back is just bizarre. Not just today, but most games, there is a weird surprise in the team selection. Every year their is a weird selection of personnel, a weird recruitment and selling policy which has resulted in a very unbalanced squad and a really laboring to achieve anything.

Can we scrape into the top 4? It’s going to be hard…

We’re fifth now and 5 points behind 4th. It’s not impossible, but baring in mind the above, it won’t be easy. We do have a series of winnable games, but when you lose to Swansea and Norwich, then you can’t consider any game as winnable unless we actually go out and try and win and bring home the three points.

The remaining league fixtures are:

  • Swansea (a)
  • Reading (h)
  • WBA (a)
  • Norwich (h)
  • Everton (h)
  • Fulham (a)
  • Man United (h)
  • QPR (a)
  • Wigan (h)
  • Newcastle (a)

We have a better squad than every team in the next 10 games except Man United. We can go on a run. Will we? We’ll have to wait and see. We have to wait for 13 days until we take on Swansea. And that game won’t be easy at all…

Welcome back to WOA and from now on, we’ll be blogging once per Sunday and once midweek, around Weds or Thurs… and instead of mini-blogs, we’re turning into more of a digest, a summary and a discussion…

Let’s discuss!

Happy New Year…

Happy New Year to all the Gooners out there… It’s been a mixed year for all of us, the highs and lows of being an Arsenal fan… but have we been entertained…? Hell yeah…! Let the footballing Gods be good to us, let Arsene do his magic and let’s get behind the team.

We face a mixed bag Southampton today who on their day can do anything, but can be equally bad… for us, it doesn’t matter how they play, it matters what we can do… Theo and Oxlade are very much looking forward to this game and when asked about the game, young Theo was literally giddy with excitement…

“It will be a very tough occasion against Southampton, but it is one I am really looking forward to. I am probably going to wrap myself in bubble wrap for the next few days! It will be a very special moment for me and Alex [Oxlade-Chamberlain], and also for some of the fans to see us come back to the club.”

It will be an interesting one tonight, as Theo has seized his opportunity as the main striker, through the middle, which is preventing the on-form Giroud from re-gaining his spot. With us in good form at the moment, you don’t want to change what’s working, which means I think we’ll see the French striker on the bench.

The injury news is Fabianski (ankle), Diaby (match fitness), Santos (match fitness), Mertesacker (doubt – sickness)… and therefore, the predicted line up is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

I don’t think it’ll be another 7-3 but I do think this game has goals in it… The team is starting to gel, and having a relatively consistent back four / five (give or take) does help us a lot.

There is of course, the worry that Theo hasn’t signed his contract yet and he is now available to sign on a Bosman for a club outside the UK. BUT, let’s not worry about that until tomorrow…. we have a very important game today and that’s all that matters right now!

Come on you Gooners!!

Arsenal vs Newcastle Preview

After a week off, we find ourselves with a home game against a team who have been struggling of late – for us, we’ve seen 3 wins in 3 to get some sort of credible flight up the table, but just as easily as we’ve got there, we can fall out of it very quickly. With Sp*rs and Everton both winning in the festive period, we’ve already trickled down the table a little…

The good news for us is that we’re at home, we’re rested and we’ve got Giroud and Rosicky back in the fold. Apparently Diaby and Santos are about a week or so away too, so that’s good news for us. It will be interesting to see what happens if we ever do have Rosicky, Cazorla, Wilshere and Diaby in the same team – that would be one seriously talented group of players.

My line up is:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

Cazorla has been in the papers talking about his partnership with Wilshere and has been very positive:

“He has amazing potential,” Cazorla told Arsenal Player. “I did not know him well when I arrived because he was not at the training sessions due to his injury, and everyone was already talking about him, saying that when he returned, the team would improve, and that has been the case.

“Every day he is gaining more confidence, he is forgetting about the injury, and he is a key player that can influence the result in a game, and thus, we are all very happy to see him 100 per cent again.

“He was out for a long time and it was an injury that takes time to heal. It is always hard to come back from injury, especially if it is very long. You always have that fear up until you start getting your confidence back, and you start getting back to your old self, and he has done that quickly.”

Rosicky has also shown glimpses of great football since he’s been back. Something to very much look forward to. Newcastle are no rollovers of course, with Cisse and Demba Ba, they will always have a goal threat.

Tomorrow’s game is BIG, and it’s up to us to ensure that we take it as seriously as we can and take home the three points…

Reading 2 – 5 Arsenal: We’re back…

From a very low low to a very high high in the space of a week… today we were awesome. It was great to see – the old Arsenal were back in full force, and we looked the part. Our play was quick, dynamic and creative and the line up was spot on. It was great to see players playing with confidence and playing well together…

It was Theo Walcott’s first game up front, and it seemed to work well, with the England International very lively – pulling the ready defence apart at every opportunity… the line up was:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Mertersacker – Vemaelen (c) – Gibbs

Arteta – Wilshere

Oxlade – Cazorla – Podolski

Walcott

Walcott’s movement was a problem for the Reading defence and there was a good level of interaction between the front four. It was eventually Podolski who opened the scoring with a good finish from close range when he controlled a cross and tucked it in with a great left footed finish…

It was then Cazorla’s time to steal the limelight – with Walcott as a foil, Cazorla was afforded more space and the Spaniard took full advantage, making it 2-0 from a header, 3-0 from a swivel and shot and his third and Arsenal’s fourth from a great overload on the hour mark. Reading got one back and then two, but Theo scored our fifth with an acute left footed strike after some good build up from that man, Cazorla.

It was a great game and a great team performance, and the manager was delighted.

The target was to win and we won in a convincing way. You can only give one answer – on the pitch. Success came with the quality of our game. We played and didn’t bother about the rest. We focused on the quality of our game and played. I think it was in continuity of the game we played gainst West Brom. That’s what we did again tonight.

We’re up to fifth now and it’s important we concentrate on getting better and better and better each game. We can’t rest on our laurels and think we’ve done anything good yet – this was just one game – we need to ensure we can push on and beat Wigan on Saturday. The club is on a knife edge, the fans are on a knife edge too and right now, we have no room to go wrong.

Short blog today, more analysis tomorrow…

Bradford 1 – 1 Arsenal, Bradford win 4-3 on penalties…

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that I thought we’d play a weakish team, but tonight’s game saw one of the strongest line-up’s in the history of the Capital One Cup. We played Bradford – a league two side – and the eleven players chosen were:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Metersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Gibbs

Coquelin – Wilshere

Ramsey – Cazorla – Podolski

Gervinho

Wenger rested only Arteta, but made the same mistakes as he’s done before – the same mistakes that saw us lose against the likes of Norwich and others…

  • Don’t play Ramsey on the right
  • Don’t play Gervinho up front
  • Don’t play so many central midfielders (Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, Coquelin) in the same team
  • Don’t play Podolski out wide

It doesn’t matter who the opposition is, but if you play round pegs in square holes, then you’re going to have a problem. By playing reserve squads in the past, it was a fail safe mechanism. If we lost, it was because we played a reserve side. If we won, it was great because we rested our main players and our reserves / kids got a run out.

However, today we played our best team and lost (albeit on penalties) to Bradford.

Examine anything you wish, but this is unforgivable. I don’t think any other team in the top ten in the Premier League would have lost to Bradford if they played their top side.

I’m not going to start battering the team or the manager, but this season is a massive turning season. I’ve heard more anti-Wenger than ever before and people who were pro-Wenger are now doubting him. With the exception of Jack Wilshere, I don’t think any fan really “loves” any player…

The stats were eventually amazingly in our favour, but with players playing in different positions and all sorts inability to play, it doesn’t really matter. Normally I’m not one for talking about players, but this group is the worst under Wenger and we has to seriously figure out who will fight for the cause and who will won’t.

The answer is to buy. We won’t get anywhere with this group. I don’t know how we got to this stage and the problem is, I don’t think Arsene does either.

According to Arsene, credit to Braford…

“We had many, many chances, their keeper had a great game and we could not convert out chances,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “When you go out it is never good enough. We lost on penalties against a team who defended well. We have to give credit to Bradford. I cannot fault the effort of the team, they gave everything for 120 minutes.”

Ouch, right?

Til tomorrow…

Bradford v Arsenal… The Preview

We travel to Bradford tomorrow for a game that we could win and should go out to win… and if we do win it, we’ll be in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup… maybe, just maybe, we could win something? No? Too much for us to handle… okay, never mind… just send out the kids then!

Arsene has Thomas Eisfeld in the squad for tonight’s match and he’ll be joined with a fullish squad. Which is great news, as it looks like we’re taking the game seriously… well, as seriously as we can with resting our main players. Arsene spoke about the team available and said:

“The only new player who is not available is Olivier Giroud. He got a kick on his back on Saturday. He has not recovered and he will be out. We will have an experience squad at Bradford. We have a good recovery time ahead of the game at Reading on Monday. So we can use the players we want to use. Theo is still out. Along with Diaby, Santos, Koscielny. Vito Mannonis back in the squad. Nico Yennaris has a back problem and Ignasi Miguel has a thigh problem.”

Based on manager’s verdict, I think we’ll be looking at the following line up:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c) – Meade

Coquelin – Ramsey

Gervinho – Rosicky – Arshavin

Chamakh

Not a bad line up and it will see the likes of Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Sagna, Oxlade, Walcott, Podolski, Giroud etc all rested ahead of the important league game with Reading next Monday. The likes of Mertersacker and Vermaelen will have to play as far as I can see Miquel, Djourou and Koscielny are all injured and Squillaci is, well, Squillaci. Eisfield is in the squad and although I don’t think he’ll start, I’m pretty sure he’ll be on the bench…

“I heard they beat Wigan in the last round, so it should be hard if they’ve beaten a Premier League team. In Germany we say that cup games have their own rules, because anyone can beat anyone. At the moment, I’m very happy. I don’t know what the coaches think. Of course I hope I get the chance to play in the game, it would make me really pleased.”

We’ll see what we have in store for us tonight, but a win would go a long way to getting some confidence back into the squad.

The Weekend

The weekend has finished, the games have been played. We’re now only 2 points behind Sp*rs, 5 points behind Chelsea and the battle for fourth is truly on…

Man United are a whopping 15 points ahead of us, and in all reality, no title this season… but the season isn’t over – we can still salvage fourth or possibly third if we go on a run, and we are still in three other competitions, which perhaps we need to start focusing on.

The game with West Brom was a little controversial as we were awarded a penalty that looked like it shouldn’t have been awarded. I’m not going to dwell on that right now, but the victory was much needed. It didn’t matter how it happened, it was needed. We will need to now build on this win and add some consistency to our game and our results. In actual fact, we played better than I thought, we passed the ball around well and we really got in and around them.

Le Boss spoke today and said:

“I am very pleased because the team has shown a resolute attitude, determination, togetherness and quality in our game going forward and we defended well. It is good to see your team when their backs are to the wall. You can see that the players turned up, like Arteta – who missed a penalty [against Fulham] – he took two penalties today, so that is very positive. You could see that they had decided to win the game and nobody else could do it, that is what pleased me the most. The only decision I have certainly made is to leave Sagna out because he played with a bad ankle [against West Brom]. We will put a team out with experienced players who have quality and who have a chance to win the game.”

Reading away, next Monday, then Wigan away, games we should win follow that, I really hope we can start putting a run of games together very soon…

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…