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!

Schalke 2 – 2 Arsenal: We’d have taken it before the game…

It’s all been quite negative in the press in regards to Arsenal. The players, the manager and the board have all been criticized heavily by the fans and media. Fans haven’t quite been too nice about the team or to each other, but that is what happens when things don’t go the way we want them to go.

I’ve been saying for a while that we have a plethora of players, and they do need time to gel. Tonight we played another change in personnel and this time we saw Vermaelen move to left back. I agreed with the decision before the game and we all thought that the switch would give us some defensively stability against a team who we knew would attack.

With Theo Walcott a surprise starter, considering the news he was ill before the game, the line up was:

Mannone

Sagna – Koscielny – Mertersacker – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Wilshere

Walcott – Cazorla – Podolski

Giroud

And the inclusion of Walcott paid off as he was involved in everything. He is relatively fresh compared to the rest of the team as he’s not played too much the season, and it was no surprise that he scored the first goal of the game hovering around Giroud who latched on a mis-judged back header fluffing his chance, only for Walcott to knock the ball in.

It was soon 2-0 when Podolski threw in another great cross to the head of a diving Giroud who added another goal to his season tally. For me, the movement forward was a good sign. However, to be honest, it was against the run of play, as the home team had been playing very well up until the two goals.

But as individual mistakes have been costing us this season, it struck again a minute before half time, when Cazorla slipped just before the centre circle, giving the ball away, three passes later, the ball is in front of Huntelaar, and it’s 2-1 to the Arsenal – Koscielny accidently keeping two Schalke players on-side.

Schalke stepped it up in the second half and when Vermaelen forgot he was a left back, he left Farfan free on the right of midfield, and then conceded an own goal trying to rush to block him. 2-2.

At 2-2, neither team took many risks and both teams had good chances. Before the game, we’d have taken the draw – the key thing now is to beat Montpellier in the next game.

Arsene spoke after the game and was pleased with the performance, believing the team is gelling well.

For us it was important first of all not to lose and if possible to win. We managed the first part, not the second one. I felt that overall we played reasonably well, but dropped physically in the second half. The regret we have is that we conceded the goal just before half time and we missed the [Theo Walcott] chance at the end of the game. I think the two, of course, have a big impact on the result overall. Schalke never gave up and worked hard. I believe we have shown a good response to Saturday’s game and you feel the team is getting better. I think in one month, if we continue to develop, we will be there.

We now return to the Premiership with a key game against Fulham on the weekend. We’ll be without Jack, but hopefully we’ll have enough in us to get a very important three points in the league…

More tomorrow amigos.

 

 

 

Schalke vs Arsenal – It ain’t going to be easy….

Howdie Folks…

Firstly a massive thank you to Jat85 and Debs for some excellent blogging in my absence, whilst I was relaxing in the sun in Thailand. Some excellent blogs, and some great comments. Awesome stuff.

I’ll speak in more detail after the game, but pre-game injury news is as follows:

Ramsey (groin), Gibbs (thigh), Rosicky (tendon), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip), Gervinho (ankle), Fabianski (ankle), Diaby (thigh), Walcott (flu)

What does that mean for us? Well, it means that we’re actually down to our bare bones… There is news coming in that Vermaelen may be moved to left back, which may see the following formation:

Mannone

Sagna – Metersacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen (c)

Arteta – Coquelin

Cazorla – Wilshere – Podolski

Giroud

I don’t think we have any other options, although Walcott may have a last check to see if he can play. Personally, I think the above team is actually more balanced with Vermaelen left back and Coquelin in the middle than the team we played against Man United.

The bench would be Shea, Santos, Frimpong, Jenkinson, Gnarby, Arshavin, Chamakh.

Let’s see if I’m right… I’ll be back post match.

Man U 2-1 Arsenal. Inevitable loss? I don’t know.

So after the high of Reading (after an incredible low, of course), the question was whether we could build on that. But that was always going to difficult, not only because we were at Old Trafford- our record there has been awful of late- but because e starting line-up was always going to be different.

JAT’s line-up in the pre-match blog was spot in. A few people were disappointed Theo wasn’t starting, but after 120 minutes midweek, was there any doubt as to him bing on the bench? I don’t think so.

Mannone

Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Santos

Ramsey Cazorla Wilshere Arteta Podolski

Giroud

But anyways, having said all that, we started the match pretty much the same way we did against Reading. Nervy, edgy, sloppy, and any other negative words ending in y you can think of. United on the other hand, were anything but.

And unsurprisingly, they took the lead early on. Disappointing to concede, especially so early on, but even more disappointing was the fact that it came from a mistake from our Captain, Tommy V.  A cross came in from the right, an air kick from Tommy V, unfortunately, and who was there to fire it in, if not runaway boy, Robin van Persie? All I can say and will say about it and him, is well done for not celebrating. 1-0 Man U.

You’d think there’d be a reaction, but in my opinion, there wasn’t much of one. United looked the more likely to score, and in all honesty, they probably should and could have scored more, but a combo of poor finishing and a few good saves from Mannone saved our blushes. Real fears from a few that we’d get a hammering, but I won’t mention the 8-2 from last year, because to me, that was a one-off. Oh damn, I just did!

United bossed the first half from start to finish, and I don’t think we even managed a shot on target. Poor poor half, and we could count ourselves lucky thinkwell were only 1-0. “Theo! Theo! Theo!” was the cry from the away fans, and there was no doubting that we needed something different. Oh, I almost forgot United’s penalty! Towards the end of the first half, Cazorla was adjudged to have handled on the edge from a cross, but I think he was unlucky. Bit of a moot point in the end, as Rooney’s effort hit the left hand side of the post and went being for a goal kick. Mannone guessed the right way, but I don’t know if he’d have stopped that, was it on target. Massive let off for us.

We started the second half a little bit better- well, we couldn’t have started it any worse than the first! United were threatening, as usual, but at least we could string more passes together. Not so much in the final third, however. Vermaelen slipped again, and Man U almost punished us. We really struggled to create chances, and Arsene had no choice but to bring Theo on, earlier than the usual 75 minutes in. He did make a difference, but not terribly much.

The second goal, which had been coming, eventually came. This time from Evra. Annoying that the two goals we conceded were from two players who we’d rather not to have scored against us, but hey ho, that’s life! Would have said that was the final nail in the coffin, but given the Reading match, and indeed the way the season has gone, with 2-0 seemingly not a safe result. But then again, it’s Arsenal we’re talking about. You just never know. Not that we were threatening or anything.

But if that didn’t spell the end, Jack getting sent off 4 minutes later definitely was it. He’d been yellow carded in the first half, and a late tackle on Evra was enough for a second yellow. Welcome back, Jack. Just shows that he’s still rusty and we can’t expect too much from him just yet.

With us frown to 19, it was just a case of avoiding conceding more goals, and maybe getting one for ourselves. And if we could get one back early enough, maybe we could make something of it. Gotta say though, that although United were comfortable in the first half, they definitely didn’t get it as easy in the second half. Of course they created more than us, even before Jack got sent off, but it wasn’t a walk over. But then you could argue that they were two up so didn’t need to do too much, but I still felt that if we could nick one early enough, you never know. Theo had a chance, but he was unlucky. The match wore off and it looked like it’d end a disappointing 2-0, but Cazorla popped up with just injury time to go and curled a superb effort in. I think we deserved that. Of course there wasn’t enough time to get the equaliser, but I think 2-1 was a fair result.

Would it have been different were jack hadn’t been sent off? We’ll never know. There was the sense, at the end of the match, that the result was inevitable, but football isn’t like that, and if we’d shown more fight from the get go, it could well have been a different result. I’m not going to bother looking at where we lie in the table- it’s probably depressing! But if there’s any consolation, I’m sure we were even far back at the same stage last season.  Not ideal, all the same.

Big game coming up on Tuesday in the league, but I hope the team can brush off this defeat and actually pull out the win against Shalke. We definitely need it. Chin up, guys.

Don’t Abuse The Traitor: Man Utd v Arsenal Preview

There’s only one place to begin with a preview of the game against Man Utd. This game is the first time RVP faces Arsenal since his highly controversial move to Manchester in the summer. The manager has openly declared that respect should be shown to Van Persie. He also says that every time we face Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor, and will no doubt say the same about Walcott when he leaves in the new year (a dead cert for me I’m afraid). I understand he has to say this – he can’t say to our fans that they should go out and abuse the player. However, if he thinks anything BUT vile abuse will be hurled at the dutchman then he is very naive indeed.

I believe that the manager has less reason, on this occasion, to suggest we should respect Van Persie. This is because of the statement he submitted on his personal website, doubting the manager and his ambitions for the club. This is a player who spent 8 seasons at Arsenal, returning perhaps a season and a half of consistent and injury-free brilliance. But what about the other 6 and a half seasons? Those were largely spent in the treatment room, picking up a nice paycheck no doubt. 3 seasons ago who would have bought him? A player with class and loads of potential, but would many clubs have been willing to spend money on a player and pay huge wages only for him to lay on the physio table most of the time? Last season, he was deservedly awarded player of the year. But he owed it to Arsenal and moreover Arsene Wenger to repay the loyalty shown to him for all the seasons beforehand where he had played a bit-part role at best. What hurt about the transfer were two things. The open criticism of the club; completely unnecessary and done to force a transfer against the wishes of the club that he owed so much to. But the salt in the wound was that the transfer was to Man Utd.

I believe that Arsenal fans, if being honest with themselves, accepted that RVP was a player who deserved to win titles that perhaps he may not have succeeded in doing so at Arsenal, given his age. We would have reluctantly accepted a transfer to Italy or Spain where he could be a domestic and european champion with one of the big clubs on the continent. But to publicly question Arsenal in order to agitate a transfer to Man Utd was possibly the most disrespectful act by any player to have played for this club. More so than Adebayor’s celebration at the Etihad a few years ago. Arsenal fans have every right to let him know what they think of him, and I’m sure the travelling contingent on Saturday will duly oblige.

On to the game itself, this is without doubt our biggest test of the season so far. As glorious as the result against Reading was, that first half was unquestionably our worst performance of the season. Yes we showed spirit and determination to come back and win the game, but there is no way Utd will afford us the same luxury should we get off to a similar start. At the start of the season our defence was one of the best in the league. People were talking about ‘the Steve Bould effect’ helping us to keep consecutive clean sheets. To have a chance of getting anything from the game on Saturday we have got to find some of that steel again. Even then, it may not be enough.

It seems as though the players who played on Tuesday will be rested, with a big game away to Schalke coming up next week. So, my predicted line up is:

 

Mannone

Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Santos

Ramsey Cazorla Wilshere Arteta Podolski

Giroud

I have been enjoying the buzz off the back of the Reading game for as long as possible, but unfortunately there comes a time when you have to come back down to earth and look ahead. Comparing our recent form against theirs, it is hard to see where a positive result could come from. Our defence has been leaking sloppy goals for quite a few games now and last season’s fixture showed us how ruthless Utd can be when faced with vulnerable opponents. Off the back of a great result against Chelsea, they are going to come flying out of the blocks. As I said earlier, our best chance of a result is to find the defensive discipline we had earlier in the season, and we must take any/every goalscoring opportunity we get.

The game is live on Sky Sports and kicks off at 12:45pm. Debs will be providing us with a review of the game and I hope she has some good stuff to talk about! Come on you Gunners, let’s punish the traitor.

Reading 5-7 Arsenal

Wow! When I wrote yesterday’s match preview I had no idea what an incredible evening I was in for. A rollercoaster of emotions for 120 crazy minutes ended in Arsenal coming back from 4-0 down to win the tie 7-5 and progress to the Quarter Finals. I said to a mate after the game that I didn’t know where to start writing this review. He said to start at the beginning (duh!), so I will.

I spoke yesterday about the need to make sure we avoid a blip after the two defeats last week. However we managed to find the self-destruct button and press it time and time again in a dreadful first half. For the first goal, Theo gave the ball away needlessly in midfield, the second was another Koscielny own goal, the third was a poor flap by the goalkeeper and the fourth was a cross not dealt with. 4-0 down and we were out of the competition. That familiar feeling of doom and gloom descended and the fans were chanting ‘We want our Arsenal back!’.

To have a chance of an improbable comeback, we needed a goal before half time. Thankfully we got it, Arshavin threading a perfect pass through to Walcott, who took a nice first touch and dinked it over the keeper to hand us a lifeline. Many will call that the turning point of the game. For me however, it was the introduction of Giroud midway through the second half. A few minutes after coming on, he brilliantly guided a header from a corner into the goal. His fighting spirit and extra bit of quality changed the dynamics of the game in our favour heavily, and we started to dominate. At 4-2 with 25 minutes to go, the comeback seemed more possible, but we all wanted that third goal as soon as possible. In the 89th minute it was still 4-2 and with so little time left, you felt that game was beyond us. Koscielny made amends with his own goal earlier by scoring a tidy header from a corner, and we went into 4 minutes of added time needing another goal to take the game to extra time.

Reading time-wasted most of the 4 minutes, making a substitution, holding the ball in the corners. My friends and I were making our way down the stairs, conceding defeat. It was so typical of Arsenal to bring it back to 4-3 just to tease us. As we were approaching the exit, 5 minutes into stoppage time, a ball was lofted into the box. Chamakh headed it down to Walcott who was suddenly one on one with the goalkeeper. The miracle goal, as it was later referred to by the manager, happened. Walcott struck the ball into the far corner, Chris Gunter on the line handballed it, it rolled over the line, and Gunter kicked it out. At this point we all believed it was a goal. Luckily Carl Jenkinson was there to smash it home and ensure there would be no controversy. At this point, the fans erupted, the place went absolutely mental, and we must have set the world record for the biggest ever mosh pit. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, we had done it, come back from 4-0 down to nick an equaliser in ‘Fergie time’.

We had to make our way back to our seats for another 30 minutes of this madness. Coquelin and Giroud thought it meant a replay, throwing their shirts into the crowd. The look on Giroud’s face when he was told there was another 30 minutes coming was priceless. Having come back from 4-0 down, the psychological edge had shifted entirely over to us. Reading were shattered, emotionally and physically, and our young legs seemed more likely to prevail. Late in the first half of extra time Marouane Chamakh completed a fantastic move with a tidy finish. Chamakh flicked it through to Arshavin, who played a 1-2 with Giroud before laying it into the path of Chamakh who smashed it home at the near post. 5-4 to the Arsenal and the first time we’d had a lead in the game.

It felt like it was all over at this point, but with the way the game had gone we weren’t surprised to see even more drama. 5 minutes before the end Pogrebnyak equalised for Reading and we were bracing ourselves for penalties. 120 minutes were up and two minutes’ stoppage time would be added. Koscielny started a move, playing the ball out to the left and busting a gut to get into the box. The ball ended up out wide with Arshavin, who drove his run into the box and shot into the far corner. The ball was cleared off the line but Theo was on hand to hammer it home. That world record mosh pit was reaffirmed, delirium on the faces of every single one of us. If that didn’t put the nail in the coffin (and this coffin required a few nails), Chamakh finished it a few moments later, running on to a clearance and beautifully lobbing the goalkeeper from 30 yards. Game over.

I have been to some amazing games and my favourites will always be knocking out Milan at the San Siro and beating Barca at the Emirates, but as a football match, this is the greatest by a long way. The neutral must have loved every minute of it, Arsenal and Reading fans will have suffered highs and lows, and the League Cup had just had its most historic game of all time. We left the ground scratching our heads. What just happened? It’s one of those games where, before the match, you want a relaxed 3-0 victory. Afterwards you are happy for things to have gone the way they did.

A few individual performances stood out for me. I think every player had a bad first half, but for the rest of the game I thought Arshavin had a magnificent game. He is a risk-taker, we know this by now. The result is things he tries often do not work out. But he tries and tries, and drives forward with every opportunity. He felt more and more dangerous the longer the game went on and for me the winning 6-5 goal belongs to him, even though Walcott put it in eventually. Olivier Grioud changed the game. He came on and added stability going forward that we were lacking. He was back defending, and fighting at the front. His header was world class and he is doing everything right to become a legend at the club. Marouane Chamakh had a good game for me. He was chasing down balls in their half, he won most of his aerial duels, and both his goals were finished beautifully.

The man of the match award has got to go to Walcott. Three goals, three assists says it all. His first goal was a delightful finish, his second took the game to extra time and his third won it for us. Give the man his contract, he’s our top goalscorer this season and has made less than a handful of starts. Someone pointed out an interesting stat. He must be the first person to have scored a hattrick with all three goals coming in different stoppages (45+2, 90+6, 120+1). That alone shows you how much of a crazy game this was.

A lot of people on the radio after were moaning about the defensive display. It was disastrous in the first half, yes. But I’m not going to dwell on that. This was one of the greatest games in Arsenal and League Cup history. Let’s enjoy it for a few days before worrying about the game at the weekend.

One final point I’d like to make is Sky were showing people leaving, claiming they’d had enough at 4-0 and were on their way home. I’m sure one or two did leave but most people were beating the crowds to get a half time pint in. One guy who was shown on Sky even tweeted himself at the game during extra time. How do Sky know where people are going merely by showing someone walking down a flight of stairs? Anyway, from what I’ve read the away fans got all the credit they deserved.

It was a night to savour. Strange, weird, brilliant. I think I’m going to have to watch the highlights again for the 5th time to try and figure it all out.

 

 

Reading v Arsenal, Capital One Cup 4th Round Preview

Tonight we take on Reading at the Madejski Stadium in a game that was rumoured to be the return of Jack Wilshere. We were all grateful for his early return against QPR at the weekend. After the game the manager confirmed he would be resting Jack in the week, to see how he responds after a long absence, and to (we hope) allow him to recover in time for the game at Old Trafford on Saturday.

It had been a difficult week with defeats against Norwich and Schalke in quick succession. So much so that I was really looking forward to the League Cup match. A game which will feature some fringe and reserve players, and a game in which you expect the commitment and urgency to be miles better than what we saw in those two defeats just mentioned. The QPR victory was, of course, welcomed with open arms, and the hope is that it represents the end of a two-game blip, and the beginning of an unbeaten run in what is looking like a very, very testing November. And November always seems to be a troublesome period for The Arsenal.

The performance against QPR was nowhere near what we were producing before the international break, but it was noticeably better than the utter rubbish we saw last week. When you’re down, the only way is up. Looking ahead to the game tonight, you would expect to see a completely different first XI to the game at the weekend. Here is my guess on what the lineup will be:

Martinez

Jenkinson Koscielny Djourou Miquel

Walcott Gnabry Frimpong Coquelin Arshavin

Giroud

On the official website, Szczesny is seen training with the squad for this game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start ahead of Martinez, to get him back in the swing of things as quickly as possible.  Walcott played only 10 minutes on Saturday and with The Ox seemingly still injured I reckon Theo will start this one. A team along those lines would certainly cause problems, but our defence is by no means watertight at the moment so it could be a close one.

In the past we have seen some fantastic performances from our League Cup teams and I expect this to be an entertaining game with a few goals. Reading scored, but also shipped, three goals at the weekend and with our pacy youngsters I’m predicting more of the same. The game is the featured match on Sky Sports so it will be available to watch live to viewers in the UK. No need to find a dodgy stream for this one thankfully.

Reading will field their strongest team, but we are more than capable of overcoming them. Last week at the AGM Arsene quite rightly labelled this competition as our lowest priority. Realistically speaking, however, this and the FA Cup appear yet again to be our most likely chances of silverware, so here’s hoping we can progress to the Quarter Finals.

I will be at the game tonight and will be tweeting live from the match with photos and comments. I hope to provide a positive review tomorrow! Until then.

jat85

Twitter: @j1mm7t