Sunday, 31 January 2010

Cheer up, it's not the end of the world!

Final score: Arsenal 1-3 Man Ure. Oh dear :-(

It's not the end of the world right now or even the end of Arsenal's championship hopes. It just feels like it. I thought the scoreline was very flattering to ManUre. We created plenty of chances - we just didn't take them. Arshavin alone in the first half could and perhaps should have scored four but he fluffed his lines. Nani's goal, although he showed great skill to get past Clichy, had a touch of fortune about it. When we were 3-0 down we didn't give up. And at 3-1 we looked like we just might have got back into it with a bit of luck, but it wasn't to be.

Now we need a good result against Chelsea and that will be a difficult proposition. But who knows, perhaps in a week's time we will all have big grins on our faces, so cheer up and think positive!

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Man Utd vs. Arsenal match preview

I'm nervous about today's match against ManUre, but not as nervous as I might be.

Things are so tight at the top of the league at the moment and we are definitely entering squeeky bum time as [spit] Sir Alex Ferguson might say. However, although a win today will be a big boost, it won't guarantee that we win the league and similarly a loss will be a big blow but it won't mean that we aren't going to win the title.

That sounds like I'm building us up for a loss, and to some extent I am, but I believe this is a match that can easily go either way, won by a moment of brilliance, a moment of madness (like Diaby's own goal last time), or more likely a dodgy referring decision or three in ManUre's favour like we've seen so many times in the past, so I'm just bracing myself in case the worst case scenario happens.

I might be a bit more confident (or less) about the result when I've seen the respective line-ups for the match. Most importantly, we need Alex Song to be playing in front of the back four. He brings a stability to that position that Denilson can't match and I feel a lot better when he's playing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these people who don't rate Denilson, but I think he's better in a more advanced position. I'm just not confident when he's playing in front of the back four. In fact, I'd perhaps rather Craig Eastmond playing in that position if Song isn't available. Eastmond is still young and inexperienced and will have the odd bad match, but from what I've seen of him so far he looks to have a lot of potential. I think the chances of Eastmond being picked to start today's match though are pretty much zero.

At the back, I think Sol Campbell looked pretty good when he came on against Villa (one notable incident apart) and I believe he can do a good job against ManUre, but against the very tricky Wayne Rooney I would just be that little bit more confient if we have the more pacey and in form Vermaelen back, as long as he's fit enough to play. Please let it be so!

Up front, Eduardo has been off-form this season since the much publicised diving incident but has looked much better in recent weeks and in the last couple of matches Arsene Wenger has trusted him to play the central striker's role, so he obviously agrees with me. Eduardo is doubtful though for today's match after going off injured against Villa. However, I think that Nicolas Bendtner could have a big influence on today's match if Wenger gives him a chance, even if only from the bench. Like Sol Campbell, he looked good when he came on against Villa. He didn't get any goalscoring chances but he looked very sharp, he held the ball up well and he passed it around well. And those are all things with not really seen on a consistent basis from our main striking position since RVP got injured. Bendy has been making some pretty bold statements in the press this week about his ability and how he hopes to cement his place in the side while RVP is unavailable. He has come in for a fair bit of stick from Arsenal fans in the past and now is the time to prove that he can deliver on the pitch what he has promised off it. I'm not sure how fit he is though having been out for quite a while.

Update: Eduardo is definitely out. I hope that Arsene Wenger picks Bendtner in the centre but I'm afraid he might go with a front three of Nasri, Ashavin and Rosicky, with Arshavin being given the central role, which should at least make us a bit stronger defensively.

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Saturday, 30 January 2010

What has Arsene Wenger achieved so far this season?

So called Arsenal fans complaining about Arsene Wenger really get my goat.

The picture above is of Arsenal's treatment room at The Emirates. You may not recognise it because it is empty. have an English Premier League injury table which is constantly updated with official information from all the Premier League teams. Arsenal have been top or thereabouts for the whole season with around ten players injured most of the time. Only Everton and West Ham have come close to having as many injuries as Arsenal over the season so far.

There are a number of reasons why this has happened. One that Arsene Wenger has identified is the vicious circle of injuries. Because we have a lot of players injured, that leaves us short of players on match day and we rush players back before they are ready causing them to get injured again, which leaves us short of players, and so on...

Another reason, that I don't think has been mentioned (and certainly not by Arsene Wenger), is that Arsenal are the most fouled team in the league, and this is bound to take its toll eventually. There is still a perception held by many (including, it seems, most Premier League managers) and perpetuated by the media, that you can beat Arsenal by kicking them off the pitch. I think this season we have proved that this is no longer the case but, as I said, there is still this perception and as a result managers base there tactics on this. They even state this openly before the matches.

Anyway, to my main point. At the start of this season, most people had written Arsenal off as potential championship material. We had a small, inexperienced squad and after selling Adebayor and Toure and not replacing them (with other overpriced signings) we would probably struggle to qualify for the Champions League. I heard many times (and still do occasionally) that with Robin van Persie as our only recognised goalscorer we would struggle to find goals. We were dodgy at the back and susceptible to set-pieces and high balls pumped into the box. If we were to get a few injuries, we could end up mid table. And when Nasri was ruled out for three months with a broken leg, plus we only made one real signing in Vermaelen, it was all doom and gloom. All the negativity in the press about Arsenal's chances is also bound to have had an effect on the players so the fact that they have remained confident and continued to perform way beyond expectations dispite this is very much to Arsene's credit.

Thus far, I think we have proved everyone wrong. Arsene Wenger quietly got on with his job of turning Arsenal into a potential championship winning team. The inexperienced squad has blossomed. Young players like Song (and to a lesser extent Diaby and Denilson) have been a revelation while Thomas Vermaelen has been an absolute revelation and made us more solid at the back, while other players like Gallas, Clichy and van Persie (before he got injured) have really stepped up to the plate.

It is hard to single out one player because almost everyone (yes, even Eboue) has made a contribution and in the cases of those who haven't (I'm thinking in particular of Gibbs, Djourou, Nasri, Eduardo, Bendtner and Walcott), it has mainly been because they have been injured. Hopefully, we will see more of these players as the season goes on. And hopefully, we will also see more from people like Arshavin (who himself has been playing with an injury) and Sol Campbell our recent re-signing. One player who must be singled out of course is Fabregas. I said three years ago that in three years time he would be world class. Well, how he has certainly delivered. It is incredible to think that he is still only 22 years old. In reserve, we have yet younger players such as Wilshere, Merida, Eastmond, Emmanual-Thomas, Merida and Bartley.With so many good players now coming through thanks to Arsene Wenger, we may never need to buy another player ever again (perish the thought).

And so we stand on the brink of one of the most important matches of the season against ManUre, still in contention to win the league. Given all the aforementioned problems, if we win the league this year, I believe it will be one of the greatest managerial achievements ever seen in football. We've had setbacks, sure, and we will undoubtedly have more. We may not beat Manure tomorrow and we may not be top of the league at the end of the season - who knows?! But, against the odds, we will have achieved significantly above what was expected of us and we will have given it a very good shot. And maybe at the end of the season we may just be sitting on top with over a hundred league goals.

Who knows? Arsene Wenger, of course!

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Friday, 29 January 2010

New Arsenal blog

Today is a great day - a new Arsenal blog, Arse Online, has launched to a total lack of critical acclaim.

Wow, this is like my first proper Arse Online blog post and everything. I feel a strange sense of responsibility even though probably no-one is reading any of this.

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