Sunday, 19 February 2012
Its happened again but who didn't see that coming? We all saw it coming but at the same time, we had some hope that this would be the season where we managed to not crash out of all competitions in the space of a week. I will admit, i didn't see the drubbing in Milan coming, i thought we would at least score and still be in the tie for the home leg. We are all but out of the Champions League as even if we could manage to score 5 goals, we ain't going to be keeping a clean sheet.
We were always going to be in trouble when after the injuries during the Sunderland game, left us with Squillaci and Djourou in the center of defence. The main issue is that we lack any sort of creativity in the middle of the park, Ramsey is not at the correct level yet and needs to be learning from someone more senior and the inconsistent performances of Walcott, Gervinho and Chamberlain means that we struggle to create clear cut chances. In fairness, we can't be expecting Chamberlain to be the answer each week and it is easy to forget how young Walcott is, while Gervinho is in his first season and come back from an international tournament.
I think Wenger got the tactics wrong against Sunderland, especially in his substitutions even though he was forced to take off the injured players. I would have actually brought Chamakh on instead of Walcott. We were chasing the game and Sunderland were sitting back with a bank of 4 and then a bank of 5 in front of that. There was never going to be space for Walcott to make runs in behind the defence and as he was asked to play upfront, he doesn't have the physical presence to hold up the ball. In my opinion this meant he was fairly anonymous. If Chamakh had gone up front i think we could have at least someone who could be getting on the end of crosses, especially with Chamberlain out wide who has a great cross on him. In fairness though, i don't think any of this would have made a difference, i don't think we would have won the game.
One thing i can never understand is how every other team can hassle and harry Arsenal but we can't do it to other teams. Why can't we push high up the pitch and run after every player the same as Sunderland where doing against us. We have better players than Sunderland and if we had won the ball high up the pitch then we would have been straight on their back 4 and it would have been much easier to break them down. Instead we pass the ball slowly and let them form their bank of 4 and 5 and its impossible to break down without the creativity of a player like Fabregas. Then when we lose the ball, we drop back instead of getting at them and making them nervous. It is one of the main points that bugs me when watching Arsenal. It feels like they don't have the commitment and desire to win the game and that the opposition wants it more than us.
The question i find myself asking this morning is where do we actually go from here? We are in a massive rut and while it is clearly obvious what needs to be done in terms of buying players, i don't think it is obvious as to what can be done to get those players in. I just can't see Wenger spending the money in the summer and i have no idea if that is down to his own stubbornness or whether he doesn't have the money from the board. I find it staggering at how we have ended up in this position, we have so many players who need to be shipped out the club and a whole host of new players who need to come in. It was always said that we were 1 or 2 players away from being a top team and now i would say we are at least 3 if not 4. I would include a tough midfielder, winger and a world class striker and creative midfield player.
The disappointing thing is that we have missed out on top class players who were available during the summer for relatively little, namely Mata who would have thrived in the Ramsey role and provided another dimension to our team. We really miss a leader in the middle of the park who will take the game by the horns and i think that is where Wilshere would come in but the trouble is, we have missed him this season and we don't have a replacement. Arteta is good but he is not of the same quality and while he can do a job for the odd game, i don't think he can do it week in week out against the very top opposition.
We have such a tough run of fixtures coming up against all our rivals for the champions league spots apart from Chelsea, who are in their own free fall right now although with Drogba back they are bound to start picking up form again. I imagine Wenger will not even attempt to win the second leg of the Champions league against Milan and field a weakened team with some strong players on the bench just in case we were to get a couple of early goals. I don't think we can afford to risk players like Van Persie when the race for 4th is so close. Hopefully the injuries from the weekend aren't too bad and we can get a couple of players back in time for the Spurs game as we are woefully short right now.
I think the spurs game is a good game to be coming up next though, there is no way the players will not be up for the fight and we will need nothing less than a win if we are to have any realistic chance of catching spurs up this season. If we win, then the drama of this weeks football will feel more of a distant memory. If we lose then i am sure there will be more than booing ringing out around the Emirates stadium.
Monday, 13 February 2012
That was not an impressive performance at all, but at least we got the 3 points which is pretty much the only thing that matters at the moment. If we did that in every game until the end of the season i think we would all be happy, although i don't know how healthy our hearts and finger nails would be by the end of it.
Wenger put out the strongest team possible with the exception of a recognised left back and potentially Ramsey instead of Rosicky in midfield. The team did alright but we never really looked like creating anything and with Walcott and the Ox having below par games it was always going to be difficult to create clear cut opportunities. There were so many times when the Ox cut in and i would have loved to have seen Santos marauding up the left flank to provide width. Vermaelen doesn't do this at all and it severely hampers our style of play.
I think the injury Mertesacker got will be a good thing for the team, providing Gibbs is fit and roughly ready to start and doesn't break down again straight away. It will mean that Vermaelen can go back to central defence with Koscielny, which is something we have all wanted to see. Their goal which came from the Mertesacker injury was an absolute freak of nature and as Wenger said, you can't plan for it and you can't expect Sunderland to stop the game, it was just one of those things. Luckily we managed to get two goals as Sunderland offered absolutely nothing going forward at all.
I thought Henry was awful and i have actually thought he has been pretty appalling his whole time since his return, but at the same time he has now got 3 goals, 2 of which have won us games. I think there are three main problems with his return, 1) He doesn't actually do anything when he comes on the pitch, against Sunderland he did nothing for 25 minutes until the goal 2) He looks as if he wants more time on the ball, something which the premier league doesn't offer. I kinda get the feeling, that he feels he deserves more time because of who he is 3) Somehow after points 1 and 2, he is better than our other options and he is only a stop gap solution that will have to leave after the Milan game.
I think it will be interesting to see who lines up against Milan on Wednesday after the Ox had his first poor game where he really was in the pocket of the Sunderland right back all game. Arshavin played well when he came on and his cross for the Henry goal was sublime. Whether he will get a chance to start against Milan i don't know as the defensive side of the game will be so important.
I thought the pitch looked awful and it probably didn't help our passing game at all, whether that is all down to the cold weather we have had recently or whether Sunderland just can't look after some grass, i do not know. I would say it is the later though as i am sure Arsenal's pitch is looking immaculate still. Hopefully they can sort it out by next week when we travel up their again for what will be a even tougher game and one that is just as important.
Last of all, Ryo Miyaichi played 45 minutes for his loan club Bolton on the weekend and from the highlights he looked like he did alright for his debut. Drifted in and out of the game but looked confident running with the ball and was never shy at taking a player on. Hopefully it will be the start of a good loan spell, where he can get some decent playing time and really develop as a player. If he can really progress, then our options for next season are not looking too bad on the wings, with Walcott, Gervinho and Chamberlain providing the other options as i assume Arshavin will leave. I would say that we would still need to buy a winger though....Hazard anyone? i think wishful thinking.
That is it for today, we have started our tough week well and got the first result we needed which has moved us into the top 4 after Chelsea lost 2-0 to Everton, Liverpool lost to Man Utd and Newcastle got an absolute battering from Spurs. Lets hope we get some good news on the injury front before Milan and that we won't be too tired
Have a good Monday everyone.
Friday, 10 February 2012
So tomorrow or today, depending on when this gets posted up on the blog, marks the start to what will be a season deciding week. How often has an Arsenal fan said that not only this season but in all of the last 6 seasons, whether it saw us challenging for the title or fourth. On this occasion we are fighting for fourth, an advantage to take into the second leg of the champions league and a quarter final spot in the FA Cup. If we get it right, then we will all be looking rather rosy and life as a gooner won't look nearly as bad. If we get it wrong, i fear for Wenger and the abuse that he will get at the following home match. The first match in our epic week, sees us travel to Sunderland, not the ideal trip before a big away champions league match but one we have to do nonetheless.
We had a tough game against them earlier in the season that saw the tale of two stunning free kicks, thankfully it was Van Persie's (as it has so often been this season) free kick which gave us the victory. That was playing Sunderland while they were in poor form, this time we face them under the resurgent tutoring of Martin O'Neill. He is not a manager i particularly like and i am sure most Arsenal fans don't like him but credit where credit is due, he knows how to pick a team up and make them perform to their strengths. It will be a difficult match but one that i think we can win, especially as we have the helping hand of not playing midweek. Sunderland had their tough midweek fixture which went to extra time which is why i am quietly confident that we can get a good a win, when the Sunderland legs start to tire.
There is good news on the injury front as we have no new injuries going into the game and we can welcome back Chamakh and Gibbs to the fold. I don't see Gibbs starting the game as he hasn't had any match time for a while and we all know his injury record. I see him coming off the bench when we have a lead to sit in front of Vermaelen at left back and just get 15-20 minutes under his belt, where he then could be thrown in against Milan in midweek. Chamakh i can only assume will take Park's place on the bench which doesn't really change that much, although i could see him coming on to rest Van Persie providing we are winning of course.
I don't really want to guess the team as i can see so many different options with such a big game in midweek. I can see Coquelin keeping his place but can quite easily see Sagna coming in for two games with Coquelin playing in the FA Cup game. I can see Arshavin or Henry starting with Chamberlain being used as an impact player. I can even see Chamakh playing upfront to give Van Persie a rest before two big cup games. Either Ramsey or Rosicky will play this weekend and be rotated out for Milan. I can also see Wenger keeping the exact team that beat Blackburn so comfortably. See why i don't want to try and predict it?
This is a big weekend though, a lot of the top teams face each other and it provides us with a great opportunity to catch/overtake our rivals. Man Utd face Liverpool, Chelsea go away to Everton, Spurs host Newcastle. By the end of the weekend we could be sitting in 4th place and 8 points behind Spurs. We could also be 13 points behind Spurs, 6 points off 4th and sitting 7th. It is amazing how the situation can change so dramatically in just a weekend of football. Hopefully it will be the former and we will be full of confidence going into the Milan game.
I am confident we will win tomorrow, mainly because of the renewed confidence after Blackburn, Van Persie and the Ox's confidence and the fact Sunderland will bound to be tired after their midweek efforts. I expect it to be a close game where its maybe 1-1 until the 70th minute but then for our fitness to slowly take over and over power them and for us to steal a 2-1 victory. Hopefully i am wrong and we can comfortably go 4-0 up by half time and bring on Gibbs and Chamakh for a run out and rest some key players. I some how don't think it will be that easy though.
I hope all the traveling fans have fun on their travels and i am sure they will be in full force.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
So the big news from yesterday is that Capello has resigned as England manager. I don't really follow England that much as right now they play awful football and the team is full of players that i don't really like. My gut feeling is that Harry will take the offer at the end of the season and Pearce will step in for now, until the end of the season.
If i was Harry Redknapp i would not go anywhere near that England job right now. It is obvious that if he wanted it later in his career, he could get it as England seem to love him. He has most certainly led Spurs to Champions League football again and if he can keep his squad together for next season (which isn't certain), then it would be interesting to see how he does next season. England has so many controversial players in the squad right now and players coming to the end of their careers yet still get picked. I would wait until the next world cup to take over, when players like Wilshere, Ox and Sturridge will be making up the team instead of Terry, Ferdinand and Lampard.
Enough of England though. In Arsenal news, Djourou has signed a new contract which is a good thing, even if some people say it isn't. He is not first choice CB and he understands that and is willing to fight to become first choice. That can only be a good thing for the club and the fact he is fourth choice, means he is a very good fourth choice to have. I remember when he was the stability player in our team and since then, he has had a few bad games and also been playing out of position a lot which is something that not every player can do. Admittedly, he is not the Arsenal player that people want to be signing a new contract right now, which could be part of the problem, but nonetheless i take it as a welcome surprise.
Sunderland has won their FA Cup replay against Middlesbrough after extra time. This means we will face them twice in a week, while also traveling to Milan in mid-week for a huge champions league tie. It was good that the FA Cup tie went to extra time as it means a few of their players will have tired legs and without Bendtner upfront, they can't really rotate right now. I have also heard a rumour that Sessagnon limped off, which would be good if he was out of the weekend game. It is no doubt going to be a really tough game and not the easiest time to have such a tough trip of away games over the course of 7 days.
It is the type of week where in previous seasons we have gone into it with all the hope in the world and been left crushed and knocked out of every competition. This season is going to be different though, we are going to go destroy Sunderland on the weekend and be able to take players off to rest them, then go and get a 3-1 win at the San Siro before sneaking a 1-0 against Sunderland in the FA cup, sound good? yeah it does.
I will bring the Sunderland Preview tomorrow after we get all the team news and Wenger's views on other bits and bobs today. Have a good one.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
First, we must start off with the bad news which is that Frimpong has injured his knee and will be out for 6-9 months. It is the same knee that he injured last time and that is a real blow as he looked to a regular in the Wolves side for the rest of the season and also a fan favourite. This means he won't be back until probably September/October time and then even after that he has to regain his fitness and match sharpness. It will be interesting to see if this is just another very unlucky injury or whether now he has done it twice, that it could be something of a regular occurrence. We shall have to hope it is just a random unlucky injury that something more continually serious.
Wenger has been talking about Hazard and how much he loves him which i guess is good news as i would love to see him at Arsenal but i just can't see it happening. I think that Arshavin will go in the summer and that means we need another winger to come into the squad and Hazard would certainly fit the bill. He is on the pricey side though and potentially without Champions League football, Wenger leaving and Van Persie going in search of silverware, we might lose that same big name pull factor. It will be interesting to see if Wenger changes his tactic in the transfer market if he does stay. There is no doubt about it, that if he signed Hazard it would definitely go down well with the fan base.
The rumour of Park being denied a loan spell has been denied by his agent. To be fair, i never even heard this rumour. His agent has come out and said that if he doesn't get more playing time he will be looking to move in the summer. I think it has to be one of the most pointless signings of the summer. £2-3 million on a player that doesn't even get any remote game time. Plus i imagine he will be hard to sell anyway with his military service starting in 18 months. Who wants to buy a player to play for a year, who hasn't played in the last year. Arsenal are probably the only team who would buy that player and we already have him.
Liverpool and Spurs drew last night which was probably an alright result for us. I would have probably liked Liverpool to have won the game, purely because i think they will drop more points in the remainder of the season. We are now ahead of Liverpool in the table and 10 points behind Spurs which is still a long way to go in catching up terms but they have some tough games coming up and more injuries than i thought. As long as they have Parker though, they will always look solid and pick up points. The amount of times last night he put in a last ditch tackle was quite unbelievable.
The final point of today's post is that Dalglish still hasn't learned a thing from the Suarez situation as he once again came out last night and said he shouldn't have been banned. Words cannot describe how stupid that man is, so i am not even going to try.
Monday, 6 February 2012
My apologies for not posting in a while, i have been hugely busy and away from my computer. Since i have been away though, we have done rather well and destroyed a pretty dire looking Blackburn team. If we had got anything other than a win, i would have truly worried for our confidence for the games ahead. Instead we got a massive 7-1 win, with Van Persie netting a hat trick, Ox getting 2 and Henry & Arteta picking picking up one each. A nice mixture of players scoring, although i was surprised Wenger left Van Persie on for the whole game. The players now have a weeks rest before what will be a big week for the club this season, when we face three tough away trips to Sunderland, Milan and i would guess Sunderland again in the FA Cup.
I thought Walcott and the Ox where terrific on the wings and always had the full backs in confusion about whether they should get close or stand back. It will be great when Gervinho returns, as he can also take a ball past the full back and will provide us with options. I would personally choose Gervinho and Chamberlain and have Walcott on the bench but i imagine it would be Chamberlain to make way once Gervinho returns in a months time. It was good that we could rest Song and Koscielny as they have played a lot of minutes and are vital to our team.
Chelsea falling apart from 3-0 was amusing to watch and they could have easily lost the game in the end. It might just be me, but i feel there was not enough made out of the fact they lost a 3-0 lead at home. If that was us and it has been on a number of occasions unfortunately, i feel the media would be jumping on the band wagon and laying into Arsenal. Instead a lot more was made of Man Utd's great performance than Chelsea throwing it away. Why he left on Malouda and took off Sturridge i shall never know. It has put 4th place in the balance and i could see any of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Newcastle ending up there. None of the teams seem willing to really go for it. If Arsenal progress in Europe, i don't think it will actually do us any good in getting 4th, purely because i don't think we have the strength in depth to play 3 games a week, but then you also have the thing of losing confidence if you crash out of Europe. It really is one of those catch 22 situations.
I would like a Liverpool win tonight even though they are one of our closest challengers for 4th spot. If Spurs can be reeled in and join our 4th spot battle, it will make it really interesting, especially if they actually got some injuries to key players.
I am going to leave the post at that for today as still lots of stuff to do with my day, i shall be back tomorrow to look at all things Arsenal
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Right, i shall talk about everything else that has happened before moving onto the Bolton game tonight. First up is Wilshere, the rumours are back to being that he is out for the season, which would be massive blow as it leaves our midfield a little short of rotation options although if Rosicky can keep up his good form and start getting a couple of goals, then we hopefully will look like a stronger squad. Chamakh is returning this week and to my knowledge did not do much in the Africa Cup of Nations. I know he got an assist last night which might help his confidence a little bit. I assume this means Park will move further back into obscurity after his Man Utd cameo.
I was talking the other day about Miyaichi going on loan to a Championship or League One club and he has only gone and done one better than that. He has followed Wilshere's route by going on loan to Bolton. This is a great move for him as they are a team who are struggling and if he performs remotely well, then he will be getting a lot of game time. We now have a big interest in Wolves and Bolton with Frimpong and Miyaichi at each of those clubs respectively. We have signed a player from Dortmund, but not the player we all wanted. Thomas Eisfeld has joined the club and it has been rumoured for a few days now. He won't be playing any first team football this season, well i would be shocked if he did as he wasn't anywhere near the first team for Dortmund. He is a 19 year old, attacking midfielder, that is all i know about him. I am sure he will have his adaption time for the rest of this season and get some reserve games to show what he is all about and if he impresses there, then might get some game time in friendly games before next season.
Okay now onto tonight's game. We travel to Bolton in what is going to be a tough fixture mainly because of the amount of energy we exerted against Villa on Sunday. It is the type of game we have failed at this season and after collecting zero points from a possible 9 in January, it is crucial that we start February on the right track. We beat them comfortably in the home fixture earlier in the season and another 3-0 win will suit me just perfectly, especially after last nights results. Chelsea slipped up again but that was not too surprising as they were playing Swansea away and we all remember how good a team Swansea can be at home. What is surprising about Chelsea is that they have pretty much their first team available where as we aren't playing well but are missing a number of first team players. Liverpool haven't dropped off as much as they thought they would have while Suarez was away, but that is also down to us not picking up any points, so they are still a threat. The next 3 games is going to be a big test, Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland. If we pick up 9 points then we will be in top 4 as Chelsea play Man Utd and Everton, while Spurs play Liverpool and Newcastle. Can't see our rivals picking up full points, but then again i can see us dropping points.
The team news for tonight's game is good with no new injuries. Gibbs has returned to training which is good news but probably won't be in contention until Sunderland. I imagine Arteta will come back into the fold and that it will be a game too soon for Sagna to come back in, plus Coquelin did well against Villa. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rosicky given the nod in midfield as he has been playing well recently, the only worry there is that he rarely plays so many games in a short space of time, but i think it would probably be the right call as Ramsey could do with a break and will be a good option to bring off the bench. I wouldn't be shocked to see Arshavin given another chance on the wing even though i would prefer Chamberlain. Then it will be Van Persie and Walcott taking up the other positions, leaving a team that looks roughly like this.
Coquelin Mertesacker Koscielny Vermaelen
Rosicky Song Arteta
Walcott Van Persie Arshavin
Subs: Fabianski, Sagna, Ramsey, Benayoun, Henry, Chamberlain, Park
I think we will have enough to win the game because Bolton are not the same team who use to boss us of the park with their hard tackling. They have gone backwards recently and no longer look like a solid team, although they have started picking up points and results recently. I believe we will win though because Arteta is back in the team. If he wasn't fit i wouldn't be as confident, purely because he compliments Song well and keeps the ball well under pressure which we have missed over the course of January and it is no surprise that our revival since August was partly down to Arteta.
This is our squad until the end of the season, so we should all get behind it and not talk about new signings or getting rid of players until the end of the season. That means, no more booing players like Arshavin and Walcott before the game even starts. I am sure the boys will get massive support from the away fans up at Bolton. Enjoy the game.