Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Arsenal on Song when it mattered the most

I cannot understate my joy at the win last night, it was fantastic to beat them after them beating us so much in recent seasons, and also to win a big game against our title rivals. Also, we have now gone four points clear of Chelsea, who haven't played Man Utd yet.

We took our chances well, but what impressed me most of all was the return of the pressing game that Chelsea couldn't deal with. It forced them into plenty of mistakes, giving the ball back to us and it gave them little chance to create goal scoring opportunities. Fabregas, Wilshere and Song, you could argue bullied Chelsea's midfield which is ironic what with all the 'Chelsea bully Arsenal in midfield' comments in recent times. I thought all the team were terrific, you couldn't have a go at anybody's performance, it was great to see them play so well. Not only playing good football and putting Chelsea under pressure a lot but defending very well as a team and looking so mature and determined. Maybe this is what would have happened last season if we hadn't had so many injury problems, particularly up front.

One of the outstanding performers was Johan Djourou, who was immense throughout. Strong, determined, alert, brave and clever. Just what you need in a centre half coming up against Didier Drogba, who didn't get a sniff. His positional sense is excellent, his bravery in the challenge (aerially and on the ground) is brilliant and he times his tackles so well. I have always thought him a good player, but this season he has looked fantastic when he has played and is looking more experienced, mature and intelligent.

Another man of the match contender was Alex Song who has come on leaps and bounds this season going forward, his passing is much better, his awareness is, his finishing looks like that of a centre forward. And this is not to mention his brilliant defensive attributes, his positioning, his tackling, his strength. He showed it all last night in another big game performance in a big game.

Another player who's finishing has improved is Theo Walcott, who blasted in another clinical finish. And, like the rest of the team, what impresses me about him is that he did it in a big game at a big time. He didn't do it to get the fifth in a 5-0 win in a champions league group game, he scored a pivotal goal in a massive game. It was similar to his goal at Blackburn where he came in from the right and blasted a low shot across the 'keeper into the bottom far corner, textbook finishing. He makes it look so easy too.

Overall, it was a massive result and a great win and performance, Our big players showed up in the big game, Fabregas was excellent for example, his passing, intelligence and creativity was on fire last night. Lets hope we can kick on now and go on a long run without losing, which we haven't really done yet this season, starting at Wigan tomorrow- and I'll be there to cheer them on!

Come on you Gooners!

Match ratings:

Fabianski 7
Sagna 8
Djourou 9- MOTM (just)
Koscielny 7
Clichy 7
Fabregas 9
Song 9
Wilshere 8
Walcott 8
Nasri 8
van Persie 7

Diaby 7
Chamakh 6
Rosicky 6

Saturday, 18 December 2010

There's Snow way Barca will beat us!

Hope you'll forgive the pun...
But before I get onto that, a little note on today's events (or lack of)...
Saturday just ain't Saturday without the Arsenal playing. I didn't even get a good dump of snow where I live to cheer me up. The large volume of snow forced referee Lee Mason to postpone the game today, preventing us from having the chance to go top of the league, but I'm sure we'd have a better chance of beating Stoke when the pitch isn't covered in snow- so this decision works for me. Although, I'm not looking forward to Match of the Day now, even with the absence of Gary Linekar.

Elsewhere the Champions League draw was yesterday and as we all know, Arsenal drew the disrespectful ponces from Spain. Yep, Xavi, Pique, Messi, Puyol and the other motormouths will again visit the Emirates Stadium in mid- Febuary for what is sure to be a fantastic game for the neutrals and an amazing atmosphere. I think it's safe to say that Barcelona will go in to the game as favourites, but I have belief that we can knock those over- rated Spaniards out, especially if Messi isn't there to bail them out again.

There is a lot to worry about in their team, but the same can be said of us with Fabregas, van Persie, an improved Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, Chamakh and others sure to have Barcelona fearful of us. It's the other end of the pitch that I think we'll be worried about though what with the likes of Messi, Villa and Iniesta to worry about. However, I think if we have a much fitter squad than we did for last season's games we can take these lot for a ride and a half.

Not many pessimists like Lee Dixon and Charlie Nicholas seem to remember that we were without Fabregas, van Persie, Song, Gallas, Arshavin and Djourou for last season's second leg, not to mention the absence of RVP and the low fitness levels of Fabregas and Gallas who, along with Arshavin didn't make it through the first half of the first leg due to injury.

So hopefully this time, we'll have atleast a mostly fit team with our important players fit and the spine of our team intact including Vermaelen who should be back well in time for both legs.

Elsewhere, we have the small matter of a game against (still) out of form Chelsea in nine days time, who haven't won in the league since November 10th. The laws of football averages suggest they are due a win, but they have done the last couple of games. The laws of football averages also suggest that we are due a win over one of Man Utd and Chelsea.

Additionally, we are a quality team. We have the ability to beat Chelsea. For once when playing Chelsea, we have a fit, strong squad available (touch wood that remains the same going into the game) apart from our main centre half, and the atmosphere will no doubt be great. Plus, Chelsea struggle on the road and Didier Drogba will hopefully get a terrible cold that prevents him from playing!

I really do fancy us to beat Chelsea, which would be a very welcome post- Christmas present for all of us Gooners...

Come on you Gooners!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Back on Track

It was great to see another away victory secured, especially at yet another tough ground. Arsenal have now beaten Man City, Everton, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Wolves and drawn at Liverpool and Sunderland. An excellent record, especially when you consider the emphatic wins at tottenham and Newcastle in the Carling Cup and the win at Partizan in the Champions League.

Andrey Arshavin stood out on Saturday with an excellent goal, an inventive assist that wasn't as easy as it looked and a hard working, creative performance. It's nice to see the hard work and ability together, as he looks an amazing player when he turns it on like he did at Villa Park. I think people have been a bit hard on him saying that he has had a poor season so far, he has played very well in quite a large number of games and scored 6 goals and has created a lot of assists. There's not many players I'd swap him for.

He also played very well when he went into a central attacking midfield position in the second half, getting on the ball more in dangerous positions, running at Villa's defence and drifting wherever his heart desired. This is interesting as it's surprising Wenger chose to do this during the game and I wonder if he plans to use Arshavin in this role more often this season. If he does I'll be glad because he looks at his best in that position.

Another player that stood out for me was Chamakh. This sort of game should suit him down to the ground and it's also the sort of game where he should come in very handy. His physical presence out- did that of Dunne and Collins, he scored a goal, provided the assist for goal no. 4 and always looked dangerous, his header in between the first two goals that was saved comes to mind, especially when you bare in mind he climbed above Collins to head that ball with such power and intent. I would imagine van Persie will play some part against Wigan on Tuesday, but I am curious about how things will pan out up- front this season what with Chamakh's terrific form this season so far and van Persie's quality. Last season at Villa we drew 0-0 with Arshavin up-front on his own and this time we had Chamakh up-front who made a massive difference, check the result for proof.
An excellent performance, one where we looked threatening and dangerous going forward and solid defensively with Koscielny having a very good game. I know we conceded two goals but the first one shouldn't have counted and the second one was from a corner, in open play we looked very solid. It's rather impressive that we are so good going forward even without Fabregas and van Persie, which shows the strength in depth of the squad and the improvements made by players like Nasri and Wilshere this season. Long may it continue.

Player ratings:

Fabianski 7
Sagna 8
Squillaci 7
Koscielny 8
Clichy 7
Rosicky 8
Song 8
Wilshere 9
Nasri 8
Arshavin 9
Chamakh 9

Denilson 7
Gibbs 6
Djourou N/A

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Robbed or Rubbish?

You can look at this game in two ways. One is that we were robbed with the non-penalty decision that somehow didn't get given. The other way is that Arsenal were very poor and criticise the manager, his methods and the players.

I'm going to start with the latter. First of all, why on Earth did Wenger pick such a weakened team? I'm fed up of him making the same mistakes over and over again. He decided to "rest" Sagna, Song, Nasri, Chamakh, van Persie and Arshavin leaving the latter two at home and not even on the bench! This is the sort of thing you do when you're already qualified, not when you're nearly there. Arsenal did well in the first three games getting 9 points and running away with the average group we're in, but then Arsene Wenger decided to "rest" several players for the Shakthar Donestk game, resulting in a defeat and the group looking much tighter. He could have played a stronger line-up, at least drawn the game and we'd be qualified by now, then he could "rest" players in the last game of the group. And it's not even like he has been proved right in the longer term, as a few days later they lost against Newcastle. Will his resting players against Braga pay dividends against Aston Villa at the weekend? Time will tell, but I think it would have been much better to go into this game on the back of a win, or at least a draw, against Braga with our strongest available line-up playing and then playing again on Saturday. Instead, they go into the game after two defeats. OK, there will be a lot of changes but the mood in the squad will not be a confident, buzzing one going into the game which it could have been at least a bit if we'd have approached the game properly last night and got a positive result.

I wrote about approaching the game incorrectly after the Shakhtar defeat and hoped I wouldn't be doing so again about three weeks later, but I am because Arsenal, and most of all, Arsene Wenger just don't learn from their mistakes enough.  I personally do not think it makes a difference to the team on Saturday that they were "rested" last night. They don't need resting, they are professional, fit athletes who's jobs are to play football. They want to be playing as much as possible, I know this because I have been playing football for years and I wouldn't like being "rested," I would want to playing week in week out- it's better for the consistency of the player and for the continuity of the team. If you're chopping and changing the team every game then it's bad for the team as the more you consistently play with the same players, the more you get used to them as well as the team's system. And then the one player he should have rested, he gambles with after he specifically said he wouldn't take any gambles with before the game, Fabregas, played! After the game he said "I took a gamble and it back-fired". What is that all about? He said he wouldn't gamble. The bottom line is- I don't buy into "resting."

The team need to stop getting caught out on the counter- attack. We saw an example of this at the weekend when the team allowed tottenham back into the game just after half time by getting caught on the counter attack and again last night where the team pushed so far forward that Braga could just play a ball over the top of the defence to counter on us and score. A draw wouldn't have been a bad result, it would have guarenteed our qualification. What more do you want? It is costing the rest of us as Wenger's and the team's flaws and mistakes just keep getting repeated and this, at the end of the season, results in zero trophies.

However, it's not just Wenger. The players are at fault as well. They need to be a bit more clever and not get caught out as easily as they did at the weekend and last night. They are also the ones who keep making silly mistakes, such as Fabregas' handball, Denilson's sleepy tracking of van der Fart for their first goal, Clichy's terrible back pass at Shakthar and Fabianski's blunder against Newcastle. That's just this month so far.

I do wonder if players such as Denilson and Bendtner are actually good enough for title race/ champions league level. Eboue has been poor this season too, getting caught out too much going too far forward. Denilson doesn't really contribute enough to the team. He generally plays in a sitting midfield role, but doesn't have the intelligence, strength or tackling ability for this role. Nor does he have the creativity, passing range or shooting ability to play further forward.

Bendtner needs to do less talking off the pitch, and make more effort on the pitch. He arrogantly struts around the pitch wandering into silly positions where he is no use, doesn't possess the same aerial threat Chamakh does in the box and doesn't hold the ball up for other players to come into play. His technique and passing haven't improved at the needed or expected rate over recent years and he isn't consistent enough.

On the other hand, we were robbed. Why in the name of Sam Hill are these officials put behind the goal if they can't see simple things and aren't going to contribute extra officiating to the game? The referee should have been able to see that that was a penalty last night, and even if he can't the extra official should be able to, after all that is what he's there for- to spot that kind of thing in the penalty area, especially when it's right under his nose! Eboue got punished for a foul and booked in the first, literally right under the official's nose when it was a perfectly fair tackle where he won the ball. Now either the fifth official is blind or daren't go against the referee's decision. Either way, it's pointless him being there. Another example was when Djourou pulled the ball back and the defender diverted it out for a corner, right next the the official and the ref' gave a goal kick. Stupid and pointless are words that sum them extra officials up.

I sure do hope they bounce back against a depleted Aston Villa team on Saturday as Chelsea and Man Utd have got games that they'll probably win. Even though we'll probably have Fabregas out we should win, I don't think Villa are as good as they used to be and they have got a lot of player's out. Come on you Gunners!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Arsenal of old

Today's travesty reminded me of the Arsenal of 2008. It reminded me particularly of the Man Utd game we won 2-1. We looked great going forward but looked so vulnerable defensively and the score could have been anything that day. Also, I remember we had a few chances to make the score 3-0 in that game, like we had a couple today, and then Man Utd pulled one back for a nervy finish.

I'm not saying we were as good today as were in that game but the Arsenal of today seemed to lack maturity and a bit of know- how, just like the team did that day against Man Utd, and a couple of weeks earlier against tottenham. My first thought going into the second half was "Right, first and foremost, our aim is making sure we don't concede." I didn't want us to go all out defence and get 10 men behind the ball, but I wanted us to attack and play with caution. Don't gamble too many men forward, make sure we don't make any silly mistakes and keep the ball; don't give it away like we did a few times when trying to rush the attack and play a fancy through ball that's never going to work- keep the thing- there's no rush, we're 2-0/ 2-1 up.

Maybe last Sunday's game at Everton affected the attitude today as Arsenal went a bit too defensive in the last 10- 15 minutes of that game and invited Everton on to them, very un- Arsenal like and Wenger mentioned this after the game and will have talked to the players about it, so they probably thought "let's keep attacking and not invite tottenham onto us." Which is fair enough but we end up being like the Arsenal of old on their 1st goal by getting caught on the counter attack when 2-0 up, which is just silly. I thought we'd grown out of this over the last couple of seasons, we've seemed smarter in these situations lately.

I can't understand why Djourou didn't play today. He was very good at Everton last week whereas Koscielny wasn't the last time he played against Newcastle, yet he walked right back into the team. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I only watched the game until around their 2nd goal, but until I stopped it to get away from it I thought Koscielny did reasonable yet we concede three goals, which leads on to my next point...

I often seem to say after an Arsenal defeat that we were unlucky, as often this is how it seems or is. Today was the same. Another thing I often think is "How on Earth dd we lose this game?" Today was the same. Why is it that most of the time when we lose it seems an unlucky defeat? Are we just unlucky? Like today, in the build up to their second goal it was never a free-kick in a million years, Song's challenge on Modric was a fair one, just one of strength. And then was it actually a penalty? Players put their hands up all the time in this situation, its human instinct to protect your face, I think its harsh to give a penalty there. Also, we didn't actually play bad and didn't look under threat in the game at all while I watched it. So how did we end up letting a two goal lead slip at home? They scored when we fell asleep a bit on a counter attack- which as I've said shouldn't happen when you're 2-0 up, particularly in this sort of game. But apart from that, we didn't look under threat. A long range Modric shot went over and they didn't really threaten apart from that. Van der Vaart, Bale, Lennon, Modric and Pavlyuchenko didn't look troublesome, and most of them were anonymous. Yet after regaining comfort and control of the game after they pulled it back, which i was impressed with a sit showed maturity and sense but then we are wrongly punished on their second goal and are unlucky with refereeing decisions twice in a minute. Unlucky rather than bad? Probably.

I can't comment on the rest of the game as I went to take my dogs out for a walk as I was fed up of puttting myself through the tension and nerves. I hear Koscielny missed an empty net which points to another of our failings, often unable to kill teams off. We were almost guilty of it at Everton last week with a couple of missed chances at 2-0, one of which a sitter. So often we get 1 or 2 goals up and start being fancy or over- elaborate in front of goal, failing to kill teams off. Chamakh could have used his strength on the stroke of half time by continuing his run to have a great chance of putting us 3-0 up. What a position that would have put us in. It would have been game as good as over. We were guilty of this in the 4-4 draw with tottenham and against West Ham last season at Upton Park, just examples off the top of my head. Too often this had happened in recent years. It's holding us back, as well as our lack of maturity, strategy and, at times, ability defensively when Vermaelen isn't there. We need to improve our killer instinct, particularly against teams more likely to punish you.

Overall, it's hard to criticise a player, or the performance but it's also hard to defend them as this defeat hurts more than any other and it's humiliating to lose at home to your local rivals who we never lose at home to, after being 2-0 up at half time and conceding a late winner. It's just so hard to take. If this was Football Manager, I wouldn't save the game, but unfortunately it isn't. Hopefully, our good away form can save our rubbish home form again next week against Aston Villa.

A consolation is that we're still in a good position, table wise, as Chelsea lost so we're only 2 points off 1st and 2nd. I've barely thought of the table since today's game, it's pride that's the bigger issue after this sort of defeat unfortunately.

Life's never dull as a Gooner, that isn't always a good thing.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Gunners Gain after another away win

Premier League weekends don't get much better than that do they? A great away win for Arsenal, Chelsea get stuffed at home by a mid- table team, Man City only draw at home to Birmingham and Man Utd fail to win a game they probably should have. Oh, and Liverpool lost but we don't need to be concerned about their results do we?

That win at Everton showed qualities in the team that are necessary for a team to win the Premier League. Grit, determination, resilience, solidity and good finishing (apart from Chamakh!). I think I could list a load of different words to describe The Arsenal yesterday but the point is they showed improvement and, again, went to a difficult place to win and did so. They generally looked solid, didn't do anything silly and made the most of chances at crucial times. They also saw out the late fightback from the Toffees at the end, which fellow title contenders Man Utd failed to do back in September.

I was worried at the start of the weekend about the possibility of being seven points off Chelsea, or even 8, yet here we on Monday 2 points away from Chelsea who stay top. That's football- last week things seemed easy and turned out terrible yet this week things seemed hard but are now rosy again.

Praise today goes to Fabianski and Nasri. It could go to a lot of the players but these were two that stood out for me in particular. Nasri looks like he's come on a bundle since when he first arrived, and even from last season. He's also looking world class and getting better by the game. The way he breezed past Jagielka for his chance at 2-0 was sensational, not many get past Jagielka. His passing, intelligence and working back are great and his strength has also improved among many other attributes, not to mention his improvement in front of goal.

If Fabianski can keep us this form, not only will he shut up people like Merson who are overly- critical of him, but he'll be a key figure in our season and become a very good goalkeeper for us. OK, he made a mistake in the Newcastle game but look how he's responded. A MOTM display at Wolves followed by another great display at Everton. not to mention his form before the Newcastle game at Man City and other games. Great saves and great in the air from crosses and corners.

And a final note: I don't think our squad ever gets the credit it's deserved as I happen to think it's the strongest squad in the league. But the point is that yesterday we had one of our hardest away games of the season without our first choice centre halves Koscielny and Vermaelen and yet looked solid. Chelsea on the other hand, had Terry and Alex unavailable and got slaughtered by Sunderland at home. That's no coincidence. Chelsea never seem to have multiple injury problems and when, for once, they did yesterday they got beaten badly. In addition, if you look at each team's bench, we had van Persie, Walcott, Denilson, Rosicky, Gibbs and Eboue on ours yet Chelsea had Bruma, van Aanholt, Sala, McEachran and Kakuta alongside Kalou. There's no contest there. OK, they had a couple of key midfielders out but so have we many a time and this again just proves my previous point that Chelsea just didn't cope well when they had more than one or two injured players. Looking elsewhere, I think we have a far better squad than Man City, tottenham and Man Utd too. Just look at what Man Utd's bench was against Villa.

The fact that Arsenal have the best away record in the league got an even stronger one too which is a very mimpressive thing. Not only have we got the best away record, but we've had hard away games against Man City, Everton, Liverpool, Blackburn and Sunderland, and Wolves ain't easy. The one we lost was at Chelsea too so there's plenty of room for pride as far as Arsenal's away record is concerned. We haven't played numptys like Wigan and West Ham yet like Chelsea have either (at the perfect imes I might ad).

So, to sum up, a very good display and a great weekend for Arsenal.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski- 8
Sagna- 8
Squillaci- 7
Djourou- 8
Clichy- 7
Fabregas- 8
Song- 8
Wishere- 7
Nasri- 9
Chamakh- 7
Arshavin- 8

Denilson- 7
Rosicky- 6
Eboue- 6

Away Fans- 10

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

What the Hell?

What are the FA thinking? They have extended Laurent Koscielny's suspension by an extra game so that now he will miss the Everton game as well as the Wolves game. What a disgrace! How on Earth can they refuse to take action against Tom Huddlestone after he stamped on a Bolton player at the weekend with his studs and yet extend Koscielny's ban? There's just no logic there. Tom Huddlestone's offence was a lot worse than Koscielny's as he endangered another player's well- being yet all Koscielny did was pull somebody to the floor. His red card was debatable and in my opinion, undeserved. He only deserved a yellow as Ranger was quite far out and on the touchline when he was running in on goal and Squillaci would have probably caught up to him therefore there was a man on the cover so Koscielny wasn't the last man therefore shouldn't have been sent off and had his ban extended.

The reason for the extension of his ban was because this is his second red card of the season. That other red card, like this one, was not awarded for dangerous play either, it was just two bookable offences. They should only be able to extend a player's ban on the grounds that he has been sent off before this season, if that other sending off was a straight red card. Just like Arsenal can only appeal straight red cards. It's just bent. Also, if you think back to that dismissal at Anfield, that wasn't a deserved red card either as his second yellow was completely wrongful too.

The FA need to put down their cream- cakes, pull their fingers out of their backsides and actually learn about the game. They also all need to grow a pair because it seems that they daren't go against a referee's decision when called upon, as if they go against a referee's decision they make him look bad- so what?! Do the right thing you jobsworths!

Overall, the point is how can they extend Koscielny's ban and not take action against Huddlestone?

The other point is how can they extend his ban on the grounds that he has already had a red card this season, even when that red card was undeserved? I bet they didn't even look at that red card incident on the opening day in their build- up to this decision. Which just shows how thorough they are in their "jobs" and decisions.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The worst I've ever seen Arsenal play

I have never seen Arsenal play that poorly, home or away since I started supporting them. Even when we lost to Man Utd and Chelsea at home last season we were better than that, albeit still very poor. We didn't create enough chances, have enough domination and didn't put Newcastle under pressure anywhere near as much as we needed and should have done. We didn't put them under enough pressure for long spells of the game including the last 10- 20 minutes or so where you would have expected us to be camped around the edge of their box creating plenty of chances. We also looked dodgy at the back and poor in possession which is a rarity for Arsenal.

Our home form this season has been a bit worrying. We haven't performed well in the league since Bolton on September 10th. We thought that the defeat against West Brom was a one off slip up. Evidently not. Hopefully it doesn't happen again, I would expect they'd learn from this, but I thought the same after the WBA game. We didn't have any excuses today either, we had a strong team out and the best bench I've seen us have in a very long time. OK, Van Persie had just come back but still with the options we had, you wouldn't have expected us to fail to score. Often after defeats, like the Chelsea one, we have perfectly good grounds when saying that injury woes were a factor in our defeat and a legitimate excuse, but not today. We had Vermaelen out but against a team like Newcastle at home, that isn't enough excuse for playing so poorly. We had other players out but I'm not sure if any of those players would have played today had they been fit.

I don't blame Fabianski for the loss either. He was half at fault for the goal as he made a bad choice in coming out to challenge for the ball, but after his recent performances I can forgive him that one mistake- everybody makes them. The other player half at fault, who lost Carroll whilst "marking" him was the striker guilty of putting on an absolutely abysmal showing today. Lethargic, thick, poor technically and not threatening enough- Chamakh. The runs he makes and positions he takes up are often ridiculous and thick. Another abysmal performance came from the man who should have been picking up the other players and driving us forward more than anyone else and leading by example as the captain of Arsenal football club- Cesc Fabregas. I can't remember him playing as badly as that or giving the ball away as often.
Theo Walcott was also very disappointing but its the team performance that was most disappointing today and we can only blame individuals to a certain extent.

It's vital we pick up some points in our upcoming games, including our next game at Wolves which won't be easy and a game at Everton which should be even trickier. Like with Newcastle today, we might be getting Wolves at a bad time after their recent games should give them confidence as they beat Man City and have provided themselves with encouragement after their games against Man Utd. On the other hand, them being gutted after that last minute winner yesterday could work in our favour, they may also be tired after their recent run of tricky games- either way its a game we should win. But after today, I'm not too confident.

Chelsea and tottenham losing are consolations, especially the former as we remain 5 points off the top instead of 8. Let's bounce back against Wolves!


Fabianski 6
Sagna 5- why did he look so uncomfortable on the ball?
Squillaci 6
Koscielny 5
Clichy 6
Fabregas 4- awful
Song 6
Wilshere 7- did alright- best player today (not that that's saying much)
Walcott 5
Chamakh 3- atrocious
Nasri 5- couple of decent moments first half and perhaps should have had ball layed off to him when Walcott hit the bar

Arshavin 6- decent when in possession
Van Persie 6
Bendtner 5

Glad to see those rests in midweek cam in handy.


  • Our delivery and final ball were awful today- crossing is very poor and where was that different dimension that Chamakh supposedly brings us- he needs to make more effort to get away from his marker as he never seems to create space for himself.
  • Weren't strong enough at the back
  • The players didn't seem to communicate with each other enough- is this a regular thing that is holding us back slightly?
  • We need to stop starting these games so lethargically as it gives the opposition confidence and makes our task of winning harder.
  • Do we miss the balance in midfield that Diaby brings?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Bigger fish to fry, but Wenger got this one wrong

This wasn't the most crucial game ever, but getting something would have made life easier. We had a severely under-strength line-up, so what could we have done to get a positive result?

The first thing we could have done was picking a stronger line-up. I don't think Wenger approached this game correctly. It was a bit like "we're in a strong position, so we can afford a defeat". That's what it seemed like to me anyway.

What conveyed this to me was the team selection. OK, if it was a risk playing Fabregas then I agree to leave him out. And, depending on how much of a risk it would have been to play Arshavin and Song, I could agree with that too. But couldn't we put Denilson into the midfield? I'm sure his knock wasn't too bad- I bet if we'd have been playing Chelsea at home in league last night, he'd have been available to play. Plus, I don't think he'll play against Newcastle on Sunday- or at least he shouldn't in my opinion. So unless he was genuinely injured, I disagree with not playing him instead of Eastmond as he would have given us a better passing ability than Eastmond, a better sense of positioning, he's experienced and knows how to play in this sort of game more and would probably have made our midfield more solid and protected the back four more. Some may disagree with me on that, but it would have been an improvement, and I don't believe that he was genuinely injured.

I don't think it would right to go on about that too much as I don't know how injured he may or may not have been so I'll move on. Resting our two most reliable available defenders was a mistake for me. First of all, why did they need "resting"? Koscielny has just returned from injury and only played two games and Sagna could be "rested" if he desperately needs to be against Newcastle on Sunday, I would say that is a better opportunity to "rest" him and play Eboue in  a game that suits Eboue more.

On a more positive note, this wasn't the be all and end all so it shouldn't turn out to be a massive setback. Also, if on the 4th October after the Chelsea game, I had been offered 5 straight wins against Birmingham, Man City away and West Ham in the league as well as a Champions League rout against Shakhtar and a Carling Cup rout at Newcastle followed by a defeat away against Shakhtar, in our most difficult CL group game I would have taken that.

Additionally, we still top the group and have two very winnable games left in the champions league so we are still in a good position.

Thirdly, the players should be nice and fresh for the Newcastle game to continue our fine form in the league. And hopefully, I'll be writing after that game about an Arsenal victory and a Liverpool favour.

Overall, an extremely under-strength line-up so not the most worrying defeat and we're still in a good position in the champions league group, so there's no need to set the panic alarms off.

Here are my player ratings:

Fabianski 7- continued his solid form and couldn't be blamed for the goals
Eboue 5- very poor- as poor as I've seen him play at right back, rubbish going forward, got caught out a few times defensively, especially first half
Squillaci 6- could have been a bit better and lead by example
Djourou 7- pick of the back four, did alright
Clichy 5- second goal puts him down to a five, terrible mistake for an experienced footballer, especially just before half time, away from home
Eastmond 5- showed he's not ready yet for this level
Rosicky 5- poor, should have had more of an influence on the game. had a decent spell in second half with a couple of good passes but overall not good enough- should have lead by example
Wilshere 7- did quite well, always trying to create but didn't get deep into their half enough, however was on his own most of the time in trying to create chances and dictate play
Walcott 7- did excellent for the goal, and had a few decent efforts on goal in the second half
Bendtner 5- not really invloved
Nasri 6- Did well first half but faded and shouldn't have passed to Chamakh (see Chamakh)

Vela 6- not much impact, worryingly average at this level
Chamakh 5- should have made a better impact and his first touch and cross were pathetic late on when Nasri broke towards goal and passed to him
Emmanuel Thomas 6

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Song the Saviour

How many times have they done that? 85- 90 minutes of opposition resiliently defending and then finally Arsenal get a last gasp winner- and yet still some people leave early!

It is a sign of a very good team to, so consistently, break down these well organised, defensive teams with multiple late winners. The more we do it, the more opposition players will be sweating with tension and nerves whilst they barricade their own penalty area trying to stop us getting through, therefore the more likely we are to do it in the future as they are more nervous and more likely to make a mistake. But the main reason is our resilience and variety of attacking quality, as well as the amount of players we manage to get in and around the box, just like yesterday, just like Wolves last April, just like against Stoke last February, just like against Aston Villa a couple of seasons ago. Those are just examples off the top of my head- not to mention all the other times over recent seasons.

Nicklas Bendtner has so often been the goalscorer of these late goals, but this time it was our new goalscorer Alex Song who is in the goalscoring form of his life with 3 in 3 games and 4 in total this season. Compare that to his total of 1 last season. It came after a lovely pass from him to Clichy who beautifully cut inside, beating Julien Faubert and dinked in an irresistible cross with his right foot in the perfect place between goalkeeper and defence where Song headed in the well deserved winner. World class full back play from Gael Clichy and a good finish from the Cameroonian. Cue the ubiquitous "One nil to the Arsenal!"

Again, it was nice to see us keep another clean sheet, three in a row now. OK, it wasn't the most testing game defensively, but still when tested Arsenal looked generally solid, even without main centre half Thomas Vermaelen and long may it continue.

Fabianski 7- solid once more
Sagna 7- solid and decent going forward
Squillaci 7- solid
Koscielny 7- solid- improving all the time
Clichy 8- great play for the goal and always busting a gut attacking and defending- solid too
Fabregas 6 +- had some poor moments but a couple of brilliant passes spring to mind
Song 8- scored the very important winner and was one of our best players going forward, especially first half. As usual, battled well defensively too
Denilson 6- not much point playing him in this sort of game
Nasri 6- surprisingly quiet from what I saw
Chamakh 5- same as Nasri
Arshavin 5- involved a bit but no end product

Walcott 7- made an impact and troubled WHU
Bendtner 6
Eboue 6

* Please note that my player ratings are based on the Sky extended highlights I saw so may not be entirely accurate.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

What was all the fuss about?

See how quickly things can change in football? Three weeks ago, things were looking bad after back to back defeats against West Brom and Chelsea and now things are looking very rosy indeed after successes in the Premier League, Champions League and Carling Cup.
There's something different about Arsenal at the moment that is getting me excited,as they're keeping clean sheets, scoring loads of goals and they look like we mean business. I don't want to speak too soon but they look as if they're ready now and that they have discarded their weaknesses. There has been evidence of this this season, such as the way they dealt with Blackburn, the clean sheets, the convincing win at Man City and better defending and more efficient finishing.
In my few years as an Arsenal fan, I haven't felt this excited and confident about them because they're looking great as both ends of the pitch, even with crucial players out injured.

You may be reading this thinking I'm getting carried away but I've just got a good feeling about Arsenal. There's not many occasions when I'm so confident about a game as I am about Arsenal v West Ham on Saturday, which shows how good they've been lately. It's a good time to be a Gooner!

Just like buses. None for ages and then two at once. I'm talking about clean sheets, away from home. After going from January 28th until October 24th without one, we've now got two in three days. OK, that's not as long as it soundsbut still, it's a good quality to have- being able to go away from home and not concede a goal and something we haven't seen enough of from Arsenal over recent years. It shows our increased strength in depth too, as don't forget we were without the first choice pair at Man City and without Vermaelen and Squillaci last night.

As for Theo Walcott... He is summing up Arsenal at the moment as he looks like he is maturing, improving by the game and becoming more knowledgeable and composed. His first goal last night conveyed his composure as it was superbly and so calmly taken. His second may have looked simple but, like the first, it demanded a cool head and showed his blistering pace and how better he is getting at knowing how best to use it and the timing of his runs are expert.

Nicklas Bendtner also showed last night how much he is improving as he is getting better on knowing where to be, and his goal, of course, was superb. People have faulted his finishing in the past, but what you can never fault is how many chances he manages to get and that is a good attribute as it shows good awareness of where to be and a natural instinct for goal.

Wojciech Szczesny impressed me a lot last night and is competing with Theo for man of the match, making some great saves and looking very comfortable and commanding. His save from Taylor's free-kick was fantastic and he also did well in the goal mouth scramble at 2-0.

Laurent Koscielny was also excellent and a candidate for MOTM, looking solid and he looks as if he is improving all the time aswell as adapting very quickly as he has dealt very well with various difficult situations, that you might not encounter in the french league, at Blackburn, Sunderland, Tottenham and Newcastle, putting in some first clas performances.

All in all, a great result and performance just like at Man City. Keep 'em coming!

Szczesny- 8
Eboue- 7
Djourou- 7
Koscielny- 8
Gibbs- 6
Eastmond- 7
Denilson- 7
Rosicky- 7
Walcott- 9
Bendtner- 8
Vela- 7

Sagna- 7
Fabregas- 7
Emmanuel Thomas- 6

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ahh, the pleasure of a post big match win for Arsenal. I am obviously in a much better mood than I was three weeks ago after the Chelsea defeat, and it feels great.
I'm very pleased and proud of the performance and result today. Three weeks ago at Chelsea we performed well but didn't get the result, whereas today we got both. Fabianski, Nasri, Song and Fabregas were fabulous and the rest of the team were good too:
Fabianski- 8
Sagna- 8
Squillaci- 7
Djourou- 6 (improved as the game got on)
Clichy- 7
Fabregas- 9
Song- 9
Denilson- 8
Nasri- 9
Chamakh- 7
Arshavin- 7
Rosicky- 7
Walcott- 6
Bendtner- 7

My man of the match was Nasri, just pipping Fabregas and Song. He showed such quality and intelligence today and is a highly under-rated player IMO. Great goal, fantastic pass for the third goal, worked back and defended well and kept the ball very well. Fabregas passed, as always, excellently and despite the penalty miss was one of the best players on the pitch because of his positioning, work ethic and because of the way he is always at the centre of what we do. Alex Song, like the rest of the team, got better as the game went on and his goal was superbly taken. He is beginning to show that there is more to him than just a "sitting" midfielder and that he can go forward and be a threat as well as keeping the ball well. I think this season the responsibility has been taken off him a bit my giving the central midfield a shared responsibility much like the Fabregas/ Flamini combination of 07/08. When Song ventures forward one of the others- usually Wilshere, or in today's case, Denilson sits in. Its a good system and probably more effective than last season's as I would predict that we will get caught on the break less this season. Lukasz Fabianski is getting better by the game, aswering his crtics (including me) with great performances in which he is claiming the ball brilliantly, making great saves and not putting a foot wrong. He's only going to get better and long may he stay in the team whilst he keeps up this form.

I was impressed today with the way Arsenal dug in and battled when they needed to and didn't let Man City gain any physical advantage over them. I thought when I saw Diaby wasn't playing that we might miss his strength but Denilson replaced him very capably and passed it around better than Diaby generally does. It shows how we have improved over recent seasons as a midfield of Fabregas, Denilson and Song is not a particularly physical one and yet they can get on with that side of the game no trouble and get a result whilst still dominating the game.

Additionally, this weekend has seen us move up to second staying above Man Utd, keeping the gap a 5 point one between us and Chelsea, it has seen us go 2 points further of the scum and leapfrog Man City, all on a weekend when we had a very hard game away from home. Not only that but we recorded our first away clean sheet since January 28th. And next we have two home games vs West Ham and Newcastle. Bring it on!

Oh and... didn't Adebarndoor play well?

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Birmingham game and Tackling

Arsenal bounced back on Saturday against Birmingham to lift themselves temporarily up to 2nd, and now 3rd. It's strange to think that we've had quite a sticky patch of late in the league, taking only one point from a possible 9 yet here we are above Man Utd still, albeit on goal difference.

Yes here we are, sat in the dizzy heights of third after that victory over Birmingham put us above Man Utd and shortened the gap between us and Chelsea to 5 points. The first thing to discuss is the "controversial" penalty which in the world of Sky Sports was a dive but in the world of reality, sight and common sense it was a legitimate penalty. Maybe, like Arsene Wenger, I am looking at it through "Arsenal tinted glasses" as Alex McLeish put it, but as far as I'm concerned Chamakh was tripped by Scott Dann. Even Alan Hansen (A.K.A. Mr Anti- Arsenal) thought it was a penalty so there you are.

The second thing is the performance in general, and while I only have the extended highlights on Sky to go by, I feel confident in saying that it wasn't a spectacular performance but an efficient and solid one where we made the most of our chances and didn't allow Birmingham to trouble us too much. Jack Wilshere seemed to have a very good game, passing the ball fabulously and setting up the winning goal very well and looked the creative spark we might have missed with Fabregas still not in the team. He did, however, get sent off late on for a late challenge on Nikola Zigic that to be fair, in the modern climate of the game, deserved to be a red card. Which leads to my next point...

Tackling. Yes, the big, revolting "T" word. Danny Murphy opened a huge two litre bottle of worms last week with his comments on tackling and Blackburn, Stoke and Wolves. I have to say I agree with what he said. My view on the subject is that these teams are too focused on making sure they are upsetting the opposition defensively rather than offensively. Too many teams have this view that came from somewhere that tough tackling, hard and ugly football keeps you in the league whereas attacking, attractive football means dieing a terrible death in premier league terms and being relegated. I don't know where it came from but Mick McCarthy, Tony Pulis and Fat Sam all have this view that ugly, "hard but fair" football wins you games and keeps you in the division whereas attractive football loses you games and gets you relegated. Tell that to West Brom, who have just won at Arsenal and drawn at Man Utd amongst getting a load of other points along their way. Also tell it to Wigan who keep managing to stay up despite playing attacking football.

Additionally, those managers and the people in the pundit world seemed to have some trouble reading Murphy's comments as they have each come out and said that they don't go out telling their players to injure other players despite Murphy saying:
"I don't believe players are going out to break another player's leg but there has to be some logic and intelligence involved."
Overall, the point is that those managers amongst others like Alex McLeish (who is quite lucky to escape without a mention in Murphy's comments) do focus too much on telling their players to get in other players' faces and go in harder on them than they would on other players. For instance, Fabregas getting his face filled with Craig Gardner last March and oh yeah, missing the rest of the season as a result of it. Yet they have the cheek to go mental when its the other way around such as Wilshere tackling Zigic the other day.
"You get managers who are sending their teams out to stop other teams playing, which is happening more and more - the Stokes, Blackburns, Wolves."
That is the quote that is spot on for me. There's too much of that at the moment. Certain teams that are established Premier League sides such as Blackburn and Stoke need to move forward from that.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Taking a perspective view and looking at the positives

It's not all doom and gloom. I know a good performance with no result isn't good enough but you can't have a go at them. Every player did well and look at the injury situation. I'd love to see Chelsea come to the Emirates to play an Arsenal team just missing Fabregas with Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Kalou out injured. Because that's the equivalent of today's circumstances. I hgihly doubt they'd get a result and that even if they did lose play as well as we did today.

I think we have a better squad than Chelsea overall, but we suffer more from injuries and without our best three players plus other players like Walcott and Bendtner, it was a big ask to go to Stamford Bridge to play a full strength (in terms of first choice XI) Chelsea team with the exception of Lampard.  

So don't jump on the "Arsenal have a lot of the ball but Chelsea 'bully' them into defeat" because it ain't true. Arsenal didn't get bullied in this game last season, nor the season before, nor in the games at the Emirates nor today.

Additionally, we aren't out of the title race for any pessimists out there saying we are. We have a seven point disadvantage which is recoverable as we showed last year. After we lost to Chelsea in  LATE NOVEMBER last season we fell 11 points behind them. 2 months later, in JANUARY we actually overtook them and went top. So there's the evidence. At the moment it's early October and our deficit is 4 points less than last season with more time to recover.

Also, Chelsea have had easier fixtures than us so far. They still have to play us away, Liverpool away, Blackburn away, Sunderland away. All games we have already got out of the way. They also have Aston Villa away next, which is a tricky game so theres no need to fear too much.

I'll cover the details of the match more tomorrow as I've run out of time. TTFN

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Arsenal Turn the Lights on

Arsenal responded to Saturday's shocking defeat like champions as they showed great character and quality to overcome a hostile atmosphere in Belgrade to record their first away victory in the champions league for a year.

The first 10-15 minutes proved difficult for the Gunners as they were under the cosh, sloppy midfield play from Song and defensive dodginess from Djourou among others gave Partizan an encouraging start but after a good recovery from Sagna and Denilson's terrific tackle to stop them from having a great opportunity to take the lead. 
Shortly after, a tremendous one- two between the ever- impressing Jack Wilshere and Andrey Arshavin resulted in Arsenal scoring a terrific goal for 1-0. Arshavin did one of the things he does best and directly dribbled and drove at the defence before sliding the ball to Wilshere who showed incredible intelligence and quality to control the ball and roll it back to the Russsian, who he couldn't see, who drove the ball into the net and familiarly wheeled away with that finger over his mouth again.

After a silly handball from Denilson resulting in Cleo equalising for Partizan from the spot and a missed penalty from Arshavin, Arsenal soon had the game in the palm of their hands again as a brilliant cross from Rosicky screamed out "Go on, head me into the back of the net" to Marouane Chamakh who obliged before Samir Nasri's corner screamed something similar to Sebastien Squillaci who bulleted the ball into the net to settle the game and ensure Arsenal's first away win the the champions league since that bizarre game at Standard Liege last September.

Jack Wilshere looks like he's getting better and better, his awareness and calm in high pressure situations astounds me, after showing no signs of the North London derby affecting his cool as well as the hostile atmosphere in Belgrade last night. That's not to mention his incredible backheel to Arshavin for goal number 1. Not only did it get to Arshavin but it also was perfectly into his path, whilst under pressure from surrounding Partizan defenders, and Arshavin again showed he is one of the best finishers at the club to finish off the move.

Denilson had a mixed night, but mainly a good one. I just want to comment on his tackle which was perfect and showed signs of improved maturity, awareness and defensive responsibility to track back and make an inch- perfect tackle to save the team from going behind.

A good night for Arsenal as a a whole who showed character, maturity and brilliance to overcome a tough game made no easier by the confidence blow last weekend. I have mentioned the word "maturity" a lot as Arsenal seem to be growing in it. OK, you could argue they didn't show it against West Brom but everybody has the occassional off day and the lads showed that experience is helping them and showed their growing maturity and fight to dig in and get a good win in a hard game.

A last note: hats off to Chamakh who showed again the new dimension and effective option he's brought us, especially in these tough away games. And also to Squillaci who scored his first goal for the club. Many positives on a very positive night for The Arsenal.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Joy to Despair

Well on Tuesday Arsenal beat Tottenham 4-1 in their own backyard. A fantastic result and performance and one that made the disappointing last gasp Darren Bent equaliser at Sunderland last Saturday a distant, fading memory. A result that you expect to kick us back into gear after that poor display at Sunderland and be a big confidence boost that would do us wonders going into today's game against West Brom. But no. We lost to West Brom, in OUR own backyard and we come away from today with a big question mark on our ability to win the Premier League this season.

There's never a dull moment as an Arsenal fan is there? That's usually a good thing, but on days like today it isn't. So what happened? All us Gooners are asking the same question. Well maybe it was just an off day. Maybe we underestimated West Brom. Maybe Wenger got the team selection wrong. Maybe his half time team talk was the complete opposite of inspiring after a poor first half. I think it's probably a combination of all of those potential explanations. Every team has an off-day, they usually come away from home but today it unusually came at the Emirates Stadium. However we need to make sure we don't have many of these and that a week tomorrow at 6pm that we aren't 7 points of Chelsea and 6 points off Man Utd going in to the international break (I'll fume about that another time). Because that would give us a big handicap, it wouldn't put us out of the title race, it would be naive to think so. After last years season of playing catch up we wouldn't want to be in the same shoes again.

On the one hand, if we win at Chelsea we'll be one behind them, but if we lose we'll be seven. If we draw we'd be six which is quite big at this stage but given it's away from home, with such a long way to go in the title race and considering the fact that we will have had harder fixtures so far than Chelsea, I think I'd settle for a point. Especially if Man Utd slip up tomorrow and/ or next week. So its not all glum, we could be singing and dancing in eight days time with things looking rosy again having inflicted a second defeat on Chelsea in a week and giving ourselves the belief that is needed for us to get as close as possible of leading the pack, and at the same time harming Chelsea's confidence.

So, overall today was disappointing but Chelsea and Tottenham also lost and we still have plenty of time to make up for it. What better game to bounce back in than the Chelsea game next week? Although I'd much rather be bouncing back against Birmingham at home and save the Chelsea game until after the international break. (Though after today's events maybe not). Maybe the return of Fabregas and Vermaelen next week. Maybe back to winning ways. Maybe.