Our injury line up looks awesome….

After two weeks of Internationals, Internationals & Internationals (and the signing of Ozil)… we find ourselves at match day… it’s Sunderland vs Arsenal at the stadium of light… Bring it on…

For the last two weeks, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ve been looking forward to this game, but as today has grown closer and closer and we’ve seen our players taking knocks, being subbed, it looks like we’re going to find it hard to field a strong side today. In the England game mid-week, Wilshere and Walcott were targetted by the opposition… Ramsey was injured and Rosicky was taken out clean… the good news is that Wilshere, Walcott and Ramsey have recovered to take part in today’s game, but the bad news is that we have some injury and illness doubts…

Injury doubts today: Mertersacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Diaby, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain

Will we see Ozil debut? Or won’t we?

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…

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…!

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!

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 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 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!