Thursday, 26 August 2010

Arsenal v Blackpool video match highlights

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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Arsenal v Blackpool match preview

Blackpool Tower (picture courtesy friskierisky)
Cesc, van Persie, Djourou and Song are all available again for today's match at home to Blackpool.

Song will come straight back in at centreback but Fabregas, van Persie and Djourou are on the bench. That means that Wilshere will get another run out, which I'm pleased about.

As I said last week, I think Arsene Wenger will sign a goalkeeper and another centreback before the transfer deadline and it now looks like the centreback could be Squillaci, who was left out of Savilla's Champion's League squad and looks to be on his way. As usual, Wenger is being very circumspect in an effort to keep the price down, saying simply:
"He is one of the players that we are looking at".
I expected him to say something like that but I think he will be an Arsenal player pretty soonish . I get a little bit frustrated with all these so called Arsenal fans on the interweb-thingy who say that Wenger is lying about signing players. I say "good". I like Wenger's poker facedness in transfer dealings. Would you prefer him to say "I intend to sign Schwarzer and Squillaci and I'm willing to pay whatever it takes"? Fulham and Savilla would immediately up there asking prices, the chances of us signing the players wouldn't have improved any, and Almunia's and Fabianski's already low confidence would be knocked even further.

What's positive is that even without the additional centreback and goalkeeper that we all agree we need, we still have lots of options. Gibbs or Eboue could come in at fullback without weakening the team any; van Persie could play on the right, left or upfront; Song could come back to replace Wilshere; Vela could come in if we decide to give Arshavin a rest.

Given that we've got Denilson [slightly embarrassed cough], Bendtner, Nasri, Frimpong and Ramsey still to come back from injury, and should be making two more signings in the next week or so, I believe things are looking good.

I'm hoping for at least 3-0 today but Blackpool will be full of confidence after winning 4-0 away to Wigan last week and it won't be easy.

Full line-up vs Blackpool:

Sagna, Song, Vermaelen, Clichy
Rosicky, Diaby, Wilshere
Walcott, Chamakh, Arshavin

Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Eboue, Fabregas, Vela, van Persie

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Friday, 20 August 2010

Liverpool v Arsenal - Match review and ratings

A 1-1 draw at Liverpool isn't a bad result for the first game of the season. Before the match I would have taken a draw at Anfield and that's exactly what we got, so I won't complain.

Liverpool were eager to impress a new manager in the first game of the season on their own ground were always likely to be difficult to break down without the flair of Fabregas and van Persie, and so it proved.

Manuael Almunia got the nod in goal ahead Fabianski in goal, Diaby played the defensive midfield role, Wilshere also got a chance in midfield, Eboue started on the right of attack (quite rightly in my opinion after his excellence performance in the last friendly against Legia Warsaw) and the rest lined up as expected.

Arsenal had the majority of possession in a fairly uneventful first half but created little and it was Liverpool who had the better chances, with Clichy clearing off the line from a David Ngog header. Arsenal's best effort of the first half came after just four minutes when a powerful Thomas Vermaelen freekick was pushed wide by Reina.

Then the Gooners were given hope just before the break Joe Cole lunged rather recklessly at Koscielny and got a straight red card. I thought it was possibly slightly harsh based on the kind of two-footed lunges that were producing yellows last season. Still, as long as referees are consistent with it, I'm happy to see challenges like Cole's punished with a red card. But of course, that's the rub - we all know that they won't be consistent.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned for Arsenal in the second half because Liverpool (as teams who are down to ten men often do) came out for the second like a side possessed and Arsenal completely failed to weather the storm in any way at all.

Ngog scored just a minute after the restart. Arshavin, who found himself in the unfamiliar territory in the left back position, played a dangerous pass to Wilshere on the edge of his own area. Wilshere had to turn quite awkwardly and failed to make contact with the ball, allowing Glen Johnston to intercept and feed Ngog, who rifled it in at Almunia's near post.

Andy Gray blamed Almunia for the goal but although he and Wilshere were partly to blame it was Arshavin in my eyes who should shoulder the majority of the responsibility. Although Almunia probably could have done better with the shot, it came unexpectedly after we conceded possession on the edge of our own area and it was fired with some velocity. Arshavin however, gave a hospital pass to an inexperienced player in a dangerous position when he should be old enough to know better. To be fair to him, he doesn't normally get that close to his own goal and probably didn't know what to do.

Koscielny's sending off had the distinct whiff of the referee trying to even up the numbers after sending off one of the home side's players. His handball for his second booking looked accidental and what made it seem particularly harsh was that Ngog committed a particularly blatant and deliberate handball in the first half for which the ref gave a free-kick but didn't book him.

In the end it needed a mistake from Reina for Arsenal to equalise. The Liverpool goalkeeper fell onto the ball as it rebounded off the post from a Chamakh header and put the ball into his own net.

There is no truth to the rumour that the Liverpool players tried to pull an Arsenal shirt over Reina's head after the final whistle.


Almunia: 6 - flapped at a couple of crosses and might have done better with the goal

Sagna: 6 - Solid defensively but poor going forward
Koscielny: 8 - A good solid display, unlucky to be sent off
Vermaelen: 7 - good display overall, might have closed down Ngog more quickly to prevent the goal
Clichy: 6 - See Sagna above
Nasri: 7 - Had a lot of possession but couldn't find the killer pass
Diaby: 7 - Not at his best but did well in what is not his best position
Wilshere: 6 - Solid but unspectacular first start in the Premier League
Eboue: 7 - Worked hard defensively but couldn't find the space going forward
Chamakh: 6 - Can play much better but worked hard and created the goal
Arshavin: 6 - Great player but clearly not on form at the moment

Rosicky (Eboue, 59): 8 - Arsenal's best player by far in the second half, looked back to his best
Walcott (Wilshere, 59): 6 - Started up front then went out wide, given little space by a determined Liverpool side
van Persie (Diaby, 76): 5 - Not given enough time to affect the game

Apologies for the lateness of this post. It was written a few days ago but not posted due to PC problems. A preview of the Blackpool game will follow tomorrow morning.

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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Wenger to sign goalkeeper and centreback before deadline

Mark Schwarzer (picture courtesy p_a_h)

If you read very closely between the lines of recent comments by Arsene Wenger you can just about hear him admitting that he intends to sign both a goalkeeper and an experienced centreback before the transfer deadline.

Which is good news because these are the two positions that most observers believe that Arsenal need to strengthen to be in with a genuine chance of winning the league.

On the centreback situation, Wenger said:
"We are looking around, but at the moment nothing will happen before the match, so it will be Koscielny and Vermaelen who will start."
That suggestes that not only is Arsene still looking to sign a centreback, but that it will be one who is capable of competing with Koscielny and Vermaelen for a first team place.

On the keeper situation he said:
"I don't know yet [who will start], we will have to wait until Sunday afternoon."

"What is important at the moment is for us to focus on players who are in the squad and not give too much room to any speculation."

"I believe that we have goalkeepers who have quality and class and they have a good opportunity to show that on Sunday."
If you analyse this very carefully you will see that he is saying:
"I want to sign a new goalkeeper, but I don't want to damage the already fragile confidence of Almunia and Fabianski, one of whom will need to start on Sunday in a very tough match against Liverpool."
That goalkeeper could well be Mark Schwarzer, who has asked for a transfer and has been left out of Fulham's squad for today's match against away to Bolton (supposedly due to injury), which suggets that the move could happen soon.

Speaking about a potential move, Schwarzer said:
"I need it to happen. I’ve had a couple of chats with Mark and it’s delicately poised. Who wouldn't be keen to go to Arsenal? At this stage in my career. It's an amazing opportuity to play at that level and one I really want to take."

"It's taken a long time and the season's very close. On one hand you understand them [Fulham] not wanting to disrupt too many things but I want things resolved as quickly as possible. Only time will tell whether that happens or not."
So, things are looking good. Of course, as many have lately observed, buying a footballer is not like buying a packet of crisps. First the player's club must be willing to sell and agree a price, then the player himself has to want to move and agree to the terms that the buying club are offering.

However, this is positive news and I wouldn't be surprised if a keeper at least arrives very shortly. I'm keeping everything crossed.

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gibbs, Wilshere and Walcott - how did they do?

Jack Wilshere (picture courtesy Attilafozo)

I think I must have been hallucinating yesterday evening because it looked as if Arsenal had three players in the England team. And you know what? They all looked good.

Inevitably after all the hype surrounding Jack Wilshere, it was Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs who impressed the most.

Kieran Gibbs was probably the most impressive of all. He came on at half time for Cashley Cole and was probably England's best player in the second half, two moments of sheer bloody brilliance from Stephen Gerrard aside. As incredible as it sounds, Gibbs along with Stevie G., were the driving forces for England and I would even go so far as to say that it's unlikely that England would have won the match without them both.

As for Gerrard, after a mediocre first-half display in which he constantly seemed to give the ball away, he was magnificent in the second half. The thing I like about Gerrard is that he isn't a fair-weather player (metaphorically speaking). Most of the really top players are good when the team is playing well, but some struggle when the going gets tough. This is not the case with Gerrard. In fact he seems to play better when backs are against the wall (the 2005 Champions League final is another fine example of this). Let's hope he isn't as good on Sunday.

Theo Walcott put in a good evening's work and was probably England's best player in the first half before being replaced by Ashley Young at half time. He made some very lively runs with the ball, caused chaos in the opposition's defence and delivered the final ball when required - something he has been accused of not doing in the past.

Sometimes I feel that the criticism of Walcott is very harsh. Ashley Young didn't put in one successful cross or shot last night but was hailed as a success; whereas Theo often puts in good crosses which the forwards fail to convert and gets criticised for it. Hey-ho!

I said before the World Cup that Walcott, despite his obvious rough edges, could offer England far more than either Lennon or Wright-Phillips, and I wonder if Fabio Capello now regrets not taking him.

In case you need reminding of what Theo Walcott can do when he's on form, check out this earlier post from last week 

Jack Wilshere might have slightly mixed feelings about the match. According to the Press Association, he was detained in hospital on Tuesday night with stomach pains and only returned to the England team hotel at 5am on Wednesday. On the advice of doctors therefore, Capello only gave Jack ten minutes to impress, which wasn't really enough. On the plus side however, he made his full England debut and can be very pleased with his ten minutes overall. F*** it, scratch that, he made his England debut at only 18 years old and must be over the moon. Let's hope that he takes confidence from this and has a good performance against Liverpool on Sunday.

So all in all a good evening for Arsenal's English youngsters. I only hope that they keep their feet on the ground and that fraternising with a lot of overpaid, over-hyped, arrogant w*****s won't rub off on them.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Official: Cesc Fabregas is staying at Arsenal

Cesc Fabregas (Picture courtesy RobTM)

Cesc Fabregas has finally confirmed that he will be staying at Arsenal and won't be joining Barcelona this summer. He is quoted on the Daily Mail website saying:

'I have had many conversations with Arsene Wenger both in person and over the phone over the last few months and although the content of those conversations will remain private, the conclusion is that Barcelona have had two formal offers rejected by Arsenal. I am a professional and I fully understand that it is Arsenal's prerogative not to sell me.'

'I owe a lot to the club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal. I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100 per cent focused on playing for Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about. I am looking forward to the start of the season and putting this speculation behind me.'

However, Fabregas did confirm that he had been tempted by a move to Barca:

'I would like to apologise to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment.'

'I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me. This was the club where I learned my football, it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. There are not many players in the world who would not want to play for Barcelona.'

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Theo Walcott videos - top 15 goals, top 15 assists and more

For those who doubt Theo Walcott's ability when he's on form, here are a few reminders...

Top 15 goals

Top 15 assists

Early career at Southampton

2 goals for the under 21s

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