West Brom vs Arsenal: The Finale

Today is the day. It’s the finale.

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

Today’s fixtures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szcznesy 

Coquelin – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Song – Ramsey

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

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

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

Come on you Gooners!

 

Let’s get Stoked up for 3rd…

Stoke vs Arsenal

Probably the worst title for a blog ever… or maybe the best title for a blog ever… either way, it’s probably the biggest game of our season today. A win will really push us forward in the race for 3rd place – a loss, and it won’t be up to us. A loss, and we could finish as low as 6th.

I’ll start today’s blog with an Arsene quote:

“Yes I believe we deserve to be third, considering what we have gone through. We haven’t stolen the points from anybody. We have 65 overall right now and if we manage to play well in our last three games I think we’ll get there and deserve to be there.”

My opinion is that we will only deserve to be there if we finish there. In reality, it doesn’t matter what we have gone through – the record books only show the final position. Stoke has not been a great ground for us – we’ve lost a few games there and Aaron Ramsey lost a year of his career up there too. So today, it’s all about ensuring that we’re ready, mentally and physically – both attributes have been waning in the last few weeks, and that’s down to a small starting XI, lack of rotation and an overuse of key members. We’ve lost Arteta and Walcott for the rest of the season, and surely that was down to the over-use of both players.

Injury news, see Walcott (hamstring), Arteta (ankle), Mertesacker (ankle), Wilshere (ankle) Frimpong (knee) all out… which means, it’s a toss up between Diaby, Ramsey, Song & Rosicky for the centre of midfield, and personally, I think we’ll see this line up:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Diaby – Song

Oxlade – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

With a bench of Fabianski, Santos, Djourou, Ramsey, Benayoun, Chamakh and Park…

Vice captain, Thomas Vermaelen was in the news yesterday and he was focusing on the defensive part of the game and the key consideration required for corners and set pieces:

“It is always a hard game when we go there, you know it is going to be a battle. If there is a battle, sometimes you have to fight back. But the main thing is to play our own game, with quick passing. That is the way to score.  Of course we must fight for every ball but the main thing is to keep to our own game and score a lot of goals. We always want to defend well as a team, we have to do that on Saturday,” he said. “It won’t be easy, and we have to be focused on set pieces.”

And it will be up to the front three to provide the spark, penetration and goals – Gervinho owes us a game – he’s been pretty ineffective since since the African Cup of Nations, and he needs to get going again – I think we’ll see both Gervinho and Oxlade play the last three games – and in a way, that would make a lot of sense as they are fresh – and considering the likes of Song & Van Persie are running on empty – a fresh mind and body – or two – could really help up front right now.

It’s a 3pm kick off, Game 36 of 38.

All that is left to say is… Come on you Gunners!!!!

It’s Arsenal vs Chelsea in a game for…

Today is one of those days that girls love. Well, let me rephrase that. Has a girl or group of girls ever said “ooh, I can’t wait, it’s a Hollyoaks omnibus, then I’ve got Gossip Girl, and then after that it’s Bridesmaids..”….? Well today it the footballing equivalent that all guys love… It’s Saturday Sports Day!

We kick off with a rather early one, Arsenal vs Chelsea, and we’re in desperate need of a win. Today is a 6 pointer but every means of the word. Then we’ve got some huge ass rugby game (or so I’m told), followed by a continuation in the race for survival and Champions League when QPR take on Sp*rs at Loftus Road… And just when you thought you couldn’t handle any more… BANG… Barcelona vs Real Madrid at the Nou Camp… in a season where the result actually matters.

Today’s first game is so important for us. A loss and Chelsea are 4 points behind us, Sp*rs & Newcastle both 1 point behind us and they’ll all have a game in hand, meaning we could end up 5th or 6th. A win and it’s a completely different affair – we’ll be 8 points clear of Sp*rs and Newcastle and 10 of Chelsea… with 3 games to go…

But the boss is keen not to worry too much about combinations and permutations of who wins what, when and how and has basically said, let’s keep it simple and win against Chelsea and go from there…

“We are in a position where we do not have to calculate too much,” he said. “We want to win our next game and that is the only way we can secure our qualification. We have done remarkably well in the last two months and we want to take advantage of the run we have created and show that against Chelsea.”

So, let’s take a look at potential team line ups – although we will actually know if about 2 hours… I think it’s relatively obvious who will come in for who… With Koscielny back and Benayoun suspended, I think we’ll see this line up:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Song – Ramsey

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

I think we’ll see Diaby, Santos, Coquelin and the Ox on the bench, as Diaby and Coquelin are just coming back from injuries, this game back me a game too soon. I actually think this game is primed for the Ox to start – he played very well against Man United and it could be the type of game he could excel in…

Any who, I will leave today’s blog at that and probably be back at full time… til then. Come on you Gooners!!

 

 

 

 

6 games to go, can we finish third?

Howdie Folks…

A massive thanks to Debs and Tottz for their excellent blogs in my absence – my travels have taken me to Dallas, New Orleans, Miami and Brussels in the last 2 weeks – but you don’t really care too much about where I’ve been, really, do you? Of course you do, don’t, do! What’s more important though, is how Arsenal have done and where we are in the league. The mighty Tottz will be blogging in time for Wednesday morning, so I’ll keep my installment very quick. Let’s have a look at the league table…

Making for interesting reading doesn’t it? Liverpool languishing mid-table, 4 points adrift (1 if they win today) of Everton and Newcastle ahead of Chelsea. This league is no picnic in the park and despite our excellent form (minus the QPR game), no game is a given. We have Wolves away tomorrow (Weds) and even though they are bottom of the league, it will still be a very tough game. In fact, maybe a little tougher than a team like Villa (who Van Persie said was such an easy game), who aren’t fighting for much. Wolves are bottom and fighting for their lives…

Arteta echoed the way in which we need to look at the game:

“I don’t think it will be easy at Wolves. We have some good examples this year when we have dropped points against teams near the bottom. We have to go there with the right mentality and the right approach and sense of pride. When you’re playing away from home, there are no easy games in the Premier League.”

Has the lesson been learnt?

Arsenal vs Wolves

Team news ahead of tomorrow’s game is that Gibbs, Gervinho and Mertersacker are all out, and with Koscielny suspended, it’s won’t be a perfect back four – but I do expect the line up to be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Santos

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Rosicky – Oxlade

Van Persie

Benayoun, Ramsey and Park on the bench…

Over to you Tottz! Speak later my fellow gooners! The question is… can we finish third?

Revenge…

No matter what anyone says, we owe Man City some sort of revenge…

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing them lost – well actually, I do get a lot of satisfaction from Chelsea losing… and even more from Sp*rs losing, but hey, I’m getting sidetracked here…

Revenge!

Ah yes, Man City, Money Bags City…

And the worst part about City? They actually have players that I like to watch – in Aguero, Silva, Yaya, Johnson and Hart, they have five players, who as a football fan, I like to watch – and that’s annoying. A few years ago, when Chelsea started to try and buy the world, they filled up their team with players who no one really liked to watch, who’d care about Lampard, Drogba etc?

But we are the Arsenal, and we hate Man City. They pipped us to 3rd last season and then nicked Samir Nasri from us… and now after a season of mediocracy from them, they’re now after our prized possession in Robin Van Persie.

Arsenal vs Man City, Sunday 8th April, 4pm

Sunday is the day, a day whereby we’ll field our strongest team, a game where we’ll have to be on top of our game and a game where we can ill afford to lose. We should go into the game with one thing on our mind… revenge... the will to win.

Robin Van Persie has been inspirational this season and he’ll surely lead the line. Arsene talked about his performance this season and how he instills confidence in other players:

“I must say Robin van Persie has done an outstanding job of leading the team, as have many players – people like Vermaelen, Arteta, Song, Sagna – I don’t want to leave people out but the senior players have played a big part in setting the tone in the squad. It keeps the spirit high. When you are suffering, you are ready to suffer a little bit more knowing that you just have to find one chance and there is a guy there who can win us the game.”

The starting line up should contain all the senior players – Song at 24 is considered a senior player – and he has raised his game up this season that is for sure.

The line up? Surely it picks itself – but I would like to see either Oxlade or Gervinho deployed down the left flank. As much as I like Rosicky and Ramsey, they should not be on the pitch at the same time if we’re playing Song & Arteta:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

For this one, I’d leave Ramsey and Oxlade on the bench and bring them in if we need them / when we need them… For Man City, they’ll have Aguero back for this one and will pretty much be at full strength, but we are the Arsenal, we’ve got our first team raring to go – we owe them one, and I think the crowd will be jeered up for this one…

Revenge my friends, revenge!

3 points, my friends, 3 points…

Til tomorrow…

Aston Villa Me Up Baby!

Morning All…

Today is officially match day and there is nothing quite like a game when you’re on a run of form, when the sun is out and when the opponent is Aston Villa. The Villans have been very poor under Alex McLeish and they’ve really been quite average. They did indeed lose a sizeable amount of talent in the summer with the various sales they’ve had – but any team with the likes of Charles N’Zobia, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent should be able to score goals. And despute their average-ness this season, that’s the major worry to be honest. They can score goals. I’d expect them to sit back and defend until they can break, and break they will do with pace.

What does this mean? Well, it means we’re going to have to be patient for sure. Away games are different, and Everton came at us, allowing us space – but against Villa it will be different. They will pack their half – two banks of four and maybe 4-5-1 with a lone striker. I’d expect them to be a little aggressive too if McLeish and the way he primed Birmingham are anything to go by.

The team news ahead of the game is that we’ve got no new injuries to worry about and we do have Squillaci & Diaby back in contention if need be…

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Ramsey – Gervinho

Van Persie

It’s been interesting in recent weeks to see the rotation of Gervinho, Rosicky and Oxlade in the team. Personally for this game, I think Rosicky will be rested – especially after his exertions in recent weeks. I also think Gervinho will get a run out – he needs one – and if he does well, it will give us more options for the run in…

Arsene spoke about our recent run, and there was a sense of satisfaction in his voice…

“Am I surprised? No. But pleased? Yes. People questioned our attitude because we lost some games [in January] from leading situations at Fulham and Swansea. Recently it has been the reverse. But in the Fulham game, we’d played Saturday-Monday, finished with ten men and had no full-backs at the time. Since then we have more options and a bit better plan. That has allowed the team to feel more confident. At that time [this comeback] was difficult to predict. But I knew one thing – we wouldn’t give up. We were ready to fight until the end of the season and that’s all we promised ourselves.

And the comment about more options is very much true. Rosicky has had an excellent revival of form and you have to give the boy credit for the turn around. Oxlade has given himself every chance of being selected with some great performances and of course, the original replacement for Nasri, Gervinho is back in the squad, albeit suffering from a loss in confidence.

It’s Sp*rs vs Chelsea first and a draw is a good result for us – and a win for us too obviously!

I’ll be back after the game for a post-match digest… until then, enjoy the football…

Arsenal vs Newcastle, The Preview

Howdie Folks,

I have to say that the Premier league is a crazy competition. A few weeks ago, we were looking at the possibility of not getting a UEFA cup spot next year, but a few weeks on, after wins against Liverpool and Sp*rs and a win but more importantly a valiant effort against Milan in the Champions League, we’re suddenly looking in much better shape.

This weekend has seen Man City lose but more importantly for us, seen Liverpool and Sp*rs lose. And Liverpool seem to be dropping off the radar a little, leaving three clubs – Sp*rs, Chelsea and ourselves. Chelsea are now level on points with us, but we have better goal difference, but to put a long story short, we’re pretty much joint 4th. And we obviously want to be clear by some points. With Sp*rs slump in form continuing, it means that we could get to one point from them if we beat Newcastle on Monday.

Who would have though hey? I would be a happy man if we finished third – third means guaranteed qualification for the Champions League and ultimately, it would allow us to plan better for the summer, plan better in terms of fixtures, competitions, the transfer market and more.

Things may already be changing in terms of our recruitment policy, with the interest we have in Lucas Podolski. Arsene is not usually someone who comments on players if they have not yet been signed, but last week, he devulged some information on the Cologne striker:

‘He is a good football player above all. He can play for us because he can play central, he can play right and he can play on the left. He has 96 caps for Germany and is 26 years old which is the best age. He is available at a reasonable price if we can reach an agreement, but at the moment we are nowhere near. I don’t want to disappoint people and let down their expectations. Let us first see what we can do.’

Interesting words from the gaffer and if he does join, it sounds like he will play  alongside Van Persie, meaning that it could lead to change in formation. Podolski got sent off on the weekend for a headbutt, maybe that will lower his price?

For now though, it’s a matter of Arsenal vs Newcastle.

Newcastle are no mugs this season, and the duo of Cisse and Demba Ba are capable of scoring at any time if we let them. We need to be on top top form to ensure we can win tomorrow. It’s essential that we do not let our recent wins get to our head. We need to be up for this game both defensively and attackingly – and team news from Arsene over the weekend is that we have Arteta, Ramsey and Santos back in the squad.

Personally, I’d like to see Rosicky maintain his position behind Van Persie – he’s been in excellent form in the last few games and deserves the recognition and place in the starting line up… My XI would be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Song

Walcott – Rosicky – Gervinho

Van Persie

With the likes of Santos and Oxlade on the bench with Chamakh and Park (if things go unbearably wrong). There is a lot of calls for Oxlade to start, but we must not forget that we have Gervinho, whose first half of the season, we should remember, he really was someone who I thought would come on leaps and bounds and he is such a talented player, that a run in the team would give him more confidence and get him back to the form he was in earlier in the season.

Arsene spoke on Oxlade and whether he would start against Newcastle and the boss said:

“His feet are on the ground but we have to manage him in a responsible way as well. The problem when you have a talented player like that is that everybody wants him to play every single game. If you do that then he will be injured.

Fair enough, and where we have options like Walcott & Gervinho, perhaps Oxlade should be on the bench for now. Someone who can come on a make a difference if needed. Someone who can learn, watch and absorb. There is no doubt that the player has a lot of talent, but Arsene is right, he has to be managed in the right way.

That’s my digest for now, big game tomorrow. A win will see us 1 point behind Sp*rs. Let’s make it happen!

 

x

Arsenal vs Milan: Mission Impossible…

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

It is really mission impossible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Jenkinson / Gibbs

Song – Rosicky

Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho

Van Persie

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

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

Til then…

Liverpool vs Arsenal: The Preview

First of all, apologies for lack of blog in the last couple of days.

3 birthdays, 2 hospitals (don’t worry, everyone is okay) and 1 baby = me out of action for a considerable about of time.

I’m back from today and what a day to be back….

Liverpool vs Arsenal, 12:45 kick off…

Which is literally in about 3 hours from now! I’ll kick off with a quote from captain fantastic, Robin Van Persie:

That result meant that we won three Premier League games in a row in February. The Spurs game came after a really good late win at Sunderland, while you saw our attacking capabilities in the 7-1 win over Blackburn. We have lots of challenges and interesting games ahead, facing Liverpool and Newcastle early in March, but that’s what you love about being a footballer – it’s good fun and you can only thrive on it.

And part of our recent uplift in Premier League form (let’s not talk about the FA cup or CL)… is down to the players on the pitch enjoying themselves – which is a very important part to the way in which form works. Today is a pivotal game. We’re currently 4th in the league table – and we want to stay there – well, 3rd would be a better aim, but you catch my drift – it’s all about qualifying for the Champions League. If we could get the three points today, it would see a 10 point gap between us and Liverpool, and you’d have to say that it would therefore knock them out of the race, leaving 3rd, 4th and 5th to be fought out between us, Chelski and Sp*rs…

But a loss could equally catapult Liverpool back into the reckoning. For us, this season, this game is a 6-pointer!

Looking at team news, the official injury list reads as such:

Vermaelen (doubt – ankle), Van Persie (doubt – groin), Rosicky (doubt – back), Ramsey (ankle), Santos (ankle). Mertesacker (ankle), Coquelin (hamstring), Djourou (thigh), Squillaci (groin), Wilshere (ankle).

Alex Song hasn’t yet returned from International duty, so it’s a little worrying getting a first XI today. If all the injuries are confirmed, then the kind of team we will be playing will be:

Szcznesy

Jenkinson – Sagna – Koscielny – Gibbs

Arteta – Benayoun

Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho

Chamakh

And to be honest, that team looks very unbalanced and very poor… holes everywhere…

Personally, I think Van Persie, Vermaelen and Diaby could all be back in contention, so if that is the case, then we could potentially field this team:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs

Arteta – Diaby

Walcott – Oxlade – Gervinho

Van Persie

Much stronger spine there…! But the one player I hope that does come back and mysteriously able to place is Alex Song, as without him, we don’t have any real defensive cover.

Arsene commented on Liverpool’s poor home form, which does give us a little hope:

“Liverpool are a team who are in the fight for the Champions League places, and that’s why this game is so vital for us,” said Wenger at Friday’s press conference. “They always have a big support and I have a big respect for their crowd always because they are behind their team. You know when you get up there that you have to be prepared for a game with a big pace and a big drive from Liverpool. So you want to play your game and not hide.

But this game strikes me as one that means form goes out of the window. It’s a fight for fourth. The real test is today.

Come on you Gooners!

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…

Milan vs Arsenal: The Champions League Preview

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

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

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

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

The line up could well be:

Szcznesy

Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Coquelin

Song – Arteta

Walcott – Rosicky – Oxlade

Van Persie

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

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

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

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

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

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