Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Arsenal v Stoke preview and a monumental c***-up

Picture courtesy Ronnie MacDonald

It goes without saying that tonight's match against Stoke is crucial. Pretty much all our matches are crucial at the moment but ManUre have some very difficult fixtures coming up (including away matches at Chelsea and Liverpool) and we have a very good chance of at least closing the gap on them. The result should be a foregone conclusion but we all know how Arsenal have a knack of making it hard for themselves.

With that in mind, I expect Arsene Wenger to pick a pretty strong line-up despite the upcoming Carling Cup final at the weekend. Unfortunately Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny have picked up slight knocks but apart from that (and long-term absentee Vermaelen) I expect Arsene Wenger to pick his strongest team. However, it is also possible that he might rest one or two with Arshavin, Denilson, Gibbs and Eboue being strong contenders to start.

The much maligned Sebastien Squillaci will come in at the back and Chamakh will probably get the nod over Bendtner in place of RvP.

Tonight will be a good test for Chesney as we know that Stoke like to hoof high balls into the box.

Arsenal probable starting line-up


Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy

              Song, Wilshire

      Walcott, Fabregas, Nasri


Subs: Almunia, Eboue, Gibbs, Denilson, Rosicky, Arshavin, Bendtner

Fixtures correction

It seems that I may have made a bit of a cock up. It was bound to happen. In my last post a couple of days ago, I suggested (in a desperate attempt to find a silver lining in the fixtures cloud) that a draw against Leyton Orient was a good result because it would mean we would now have to replay Orient on Sat 12 March (the weekend after the second leg of the Barca match) instead of ManUre and we could therefore play our 'B' team instead of the first team.

However, I was making quite a big (and incorrect) assumption and the match with Orient has been scheduled for Wednesday 2 March, meaning that we will still play ManUre on Sat 12 March. D'oh!

To be fair to the FA and Premier League they are now running out of free dates to schedule our fixtures - it seems they had not envisaged that any team could still be in all four competitions at this stage (which I'm taking as a compliment).

This all means that our next few fixtures are as follows:

Wed 23 February: Stoke City (H) [Barclays Premier League]
Sun 27 February: Birmingham City (N) [Carling Cup]
Wed 2 March: Leyton Orient (H) [FA Cup]
Sat 5 March: Sunderland (A) [Barclays Premier League]
Tue 8 March: Barcelona (A) [UEFA Champions League]
Sat 12 March: Man Utd (A) [FA Cup]

However, In a final desperate attempt to find a silver lining in the fixtures, I should point out that ManUre play Chelsea and Liverpool (both away) in the week leading up to the match against us and a potentially difficult Champions League match against Marseilles immediately after playing us. So it's not all bad.

Fingers crossed for tonight!

Share via Social Network


Monday, 21 February 2011

Orient v Arsenal - a draw was the ideal result for Arsenal (plus highlights video)

Update - it turns out I was wrong about this :-(

A draw against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup yesterday was the best possible result for Arsenal as it turned out.

It will now mean we will replay Orient on Wednesday 2 March (four days after the second leg of the Champions League match against Barca) rather than face ManUre in the sixth round, which in turn means that we will be able to play our reserves instead of our first team.

The only possible fly in the proverbial ointment is that we don't know yet when the sixth round match against ManUre and the league match against Totteringham Hot Spuds. The Premier League and the FA will no doubt conspire to schedule these when they are least convenient for Arsenal, probably within 48 hours of each other.

The other good thing to come out of the this match was the performance of Ignasi Miquel, who was one of the best players on the pitch. It is not hard to see why Arsene Wenger was reluctant to buy another centre-back with players like him and Kyle Bartley around.

The other thing that I took out of yesterday's game is that Nicklas Bendtner will never be good enough as a wide player and we need to bring in another winger and let Bendy and Chamakh fight it out for the back-up centre-forward position. If Carlos Vela is not able to make the required improvement and we aren't able to get a work permit for Ryo Miyaichi then we need to think about signing someone else in my opinion.

Share via Social Network


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Leyton Orient v Arsenal - confirmed starting line-ups

After the highs of a midweek win against the mighty Barcelona I feel I'm less motivated today to blog about the more ordinary match against Orient.

Let's hope the players aren't less motivated for today's match otherwise we could get embarrassed. Wednesday's result against Barca needs to be the springboard which gives us momentum for the rest of the season, otherwise it was for nothing.

We have a lot of important matches coming up over the next couple of weeks and the way that Arsene Wenger rotates the squad will be crucial to our success. With that in mind, only Alex Song keeps his place from the Barca match.

The main surprise inclusion is Ignasi Miquel, who looked very good in pre-season matches. I'm excited to see how he gets on today. With him and Kyle Bartley (currently on loan at Rangers) both looking very promising it is easy to see why Arsene decided we didn't need to sign a centre-back in the transfer window.

I can't pretend to know anything about Orient, although Arsene Wenger said they've got a good left-back and a good striker. If Wenger says that, I'm inclined to believe him. Althoug when he says 'good' of course he means good for their division not Barca good. Other than that, they also have two ex-Arsenal players in Ben Chorley and Jason Crowe, so they are obviously of quite a high standard.



Sagna, Squillaci, Miquel, Gibbs

            Song, Denilson

  Bendtner, Rosicky, Arshavin


 Subs: Fabregas, Koscielny, Nasri, Wilshere, Clichy, Eboue, Szczesny


Jones, Whing, Chorley, Forbes, Crowe, Cox, Dawson, Daniels, Smith, McGleish, Revell

Subs: Butcher, Omozusi, Mike, Carroll, M'Poku, Tehoue, Kane

Share via Social Network


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Arsenal v Barcelona - Beating Barca at their own game

(Picture courtesy Ronnie)

It's a good day to be an Arsenal blogger today. It's a good day to be an Arsenal fan today.

Apparently there was some kind of football match or something yesterday evening. I think I must have fallen asleep at half-time when we were 1-0 down. I had this weird dream that we came back to win 2-1, beating Barca at their own game.

I said yesterday that we needed a win at home because it would be difficult to get one in the away leg and that's exactly what we got. Most of the match reports I've read say that Barcelona mullered us in the first half (even's match report is fairly negative), but I thought that up until Barca scored it was a fairly even match. After that of course Barca took over, but through a combination of good luck, good defending and poor finishing by the self-styled 'best team in the world', it remained 1-0 at the interval.

In the second half Arsenal were much better and you could see as the match went on that Barca were getting tired, both physically and mentally. Arsene Wenger took a risk by bringing on the attack-minded Arshavin in place of Song, but with Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Bendtner and van Persie all running at them Barcelona's tired legs couldn't cope, and it was substitute Arshavin who scored the winner.

Now we can go to the Nou Camp only needing a draw. If we go there playing for a draw, we'll get beaten, but I can't really see that happening.

Before we play Barca again on Tuesday 8 March it's Leyton Orient away in the FA Cup on Sunday, followed by Stoke at home in the league on Wednesday 23 February, the League Cup final against Birmingham on Sunday 27 February and Sunderland at home in the league on Sat 5 March.

I wonder if Orient's scouts learnt anything from watching last night's match?

Share via Social Network


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Arsenal v Barcelona - No Micky (Mouse) Silvestre to mess it up this time

Cesc Fabregas (Courtesy RobTM)

So today's the big day - according to the media anyway. It is certainly a pivotal moment in Arsenal's season.

A lot has been made of the fact that Arsenal gave themselves a difficult tie in this round by finishing second in the group stage. But the way I see it drawing Barcelona at this relatively early stage in the Champions League is the best news we could have hoped for. If we beat Barca, we will have got the most difficult match out of the way and it should give us a huge, much needed confidence boost. On the other hand, if we get knocked out, we will have less matches to play in the run-in and thus better chances of winning the remaining competitions: the League, FA Cup and the League Cup.

If we wish to progress, it is important that we win tonight, preferably without conceding. Not only are Barca the best team in the world right now (Arsene Wenger has admitted as much), but they will inevitably fall over at the slightest invitation and roll around like they've been hit by a sniper (and the ref will fall for it), just like they did last year (not that I'm bitter).

Arsenal will be much stronger than when we played Barcelona last year. What most of the media seem to have forgotten (or chosen to forget) is that, despite get hammered for the first 30 minutes at Ashburton Grove, we went to the Nou Camp 2-2 and put up a good fight in the first half despite having what were arguably our five best players at the time (Cesc, Gallas, RvP, Arshavin and Song) all missing and playing Micky (Mouse) Silvestre at centre back.

If you took Barca's five best players out, how would they fair? This time, we only have Vermaelen and Sagna missing for the first leg and Barca are missing Puyol, so we should see a much closer match this time. However, anything can happen in a cup competition, so we'll see.

Dirty Barcelona have repeated the same pre-match tactic that they used last year in trying to unsettle Fabregas, saying it would be 'justice' if he returned to Arsenal after we stole him from them. However, Arsene Wenger has hit back, saying:
"It's part of the game. Where do they get their players? Where does Messi come from? Barcelona? At what age did they take him? Twelve years old. There's no reason for any bitterness because we did nothing illegal."

"We did not force a gun somewhere", he added, "We respected the rules. They could come and take our players, we accept that. They take their players from all over the world. Don't expect them only to get players from Catalonia."
So overall, what are our chances? Personally, I would probably make Barca favourites with 60% chance of winning over the two legs. If we were playing the away leg first, I would rate our chances much better.

Predicted line-ups

Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy
              Song, Wilshere
      Walcott, Fabregas, Nasri
                 Van Persie

Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell
          Busquets, Xavi
       Messi, Iniesta, Pedro

Share via Social Network


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Videos: Incredible two-man bicycle kick and great overhead kick by Trevor Sinclair for QPR

Wayne Rooney's goal against Man Citeh at the weekend was a great goal but the hype surrounding it has been stupid. Best goal ever? Seriously?

Anyhoo, here are a couple clips of other goals scored from bicycle kicks that were better than Rooney's.

Scott Sinclair for QPR 1997
The first is by Trevor Sinclair (remember him?) for QPR way back in 1997 and pooh-poohs all over Wayne Rooney's from a great height.

Incredible tandem kick
The second clip is of a tendem kick - two players on the same team simultaneously overhead-kicking the ball into the net (yes, you read that correctly!) in a match between Gimnasia La Plata and Boca Juniors. This must have been a tricky one for the Argentinian version of the dubious goals panel to sort out.

I looked for a clip of an Arsenal player scoring from an overhead kick but sadly couldn't find one. Anyone remember an Arsenal player ever scoring one?

Share via Social Network


Monday, 14 February 2011

Arsenal v Wolves - match highlights video

After the stresses of last weekend's match against Newcastle this was a straightforward 2-0 romp against a Wolves team who beat ManUre on the same day that we struggled to beat the Georgies.

Van Persie bagged a couple, the second of which (3 mins. 40 into the video) was a beautiful passing move like something off FIFA 11. Ping, ping ping - ping, ping, ping - ping, ping - goal. Amazing!


Share via Social Network


Saturday, 12 February 2011

Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers - expected lineups

Picture courtesy Tambako the Jaguar

I'm hoping that things might get back to normal this weekend with a comfortable win at home to Wolves on Saturday.

After last weeks incredible match against Newcastle we had a brief diversion provided by the interlull where both Wilshere and Walcott performed well and incredibly it seems that all our players came back in one piece, bar Rosicky who picked up a knock.

Other than long-term absentees such as Nasri and Vermaelen, the only other slight concerns we have are van Persie, Djourou and Song. Van Persie should be back after missing international duty due to illness. Both Djourou and Song face fitness tests but Arsene Wenger is hopeful they will be available. Denilson is also back after missing the match against Newcastle, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief there.

The big unknown is whether Arsene intends to rest any players ahead of the match against Barcelona, but he has emphasised in the importance of this game in his press conference, so we can expect a strong line up, but one or two may be rested.

Wolves are expected to be unchanged from the team that beat ManUre (ha, ha!) last week at Molyneaux but Stephen Hunt may return to the squad on the bench. (as an aside, I couldn't remember Hunt's first name so I just Google 'wolves hunt' - needless to say, I didn't get what I was expecting!)

This is a must win match. The Wolves are at the door.

Predicted team lineups



Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy

             Song  Wilshere

Walcott    Fabregas    Arshavin

                van Persie

Subs: Almunia, Eboue, Gibbs, Squillaci, Denilson, Bendtner, Chamakh


Hennessey, Stearman, Zubar, Elokobi, Berra, Henry, Jarvis, O'Hara, Milijas, Hammill, Doyle

Subs: Ward, Hahnemann, Ebanks-Blake, Craddock, Edwards, Foley, Fletcher

Share via Social Network


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Denmark v England - Jack Wilshere is the new Messiah

Picture courtesy Ronnie Macdonald
Jack Wilshere has not yet made his England debut and people are already talking about building the team around him as if he is the new Messiah. So, no pressure then.

Nicklas Bendter, never one to lack self-confidence himself, is concerned that England might mess Jack around like he did with Theo Walcott, building him up too quickly then forgetting that he is still a youngster and knocking him down when he doesn't immediately perform in every match:
"Jack is definitely capable of playing for his country now. But young players are always put under a lot of pressure very early in England. You always throw players around really quickly. I have my own theories on how Theo Walcott was treated by England but I don’t want to get too much into that because it will probably just get me in trouble. But Theo can be a lesson for the way you treat Jack."
England coach Fabio Capello is of course trying to ease the pressure on Wilshere by not hyping him up too... oh no... wait... er, what he actually said was:
"I remember the best players that I managed – Baresi, Maldini, Raúl – and they started really young. It’s their talent. You have to wait now and let him improve more. Jack plays with confidence, never with fear. That’s incredible for someone so young."
Former England manager Graham 'do I not like that' Taylor has also expressed caution, saying:
"The big surprise to me is how much Wilshere has been praised by Fabio Capello, how flowing in praise he's been of one player before he's actually played one full game. I just hope Wilshere does have a good game tonight.

"He's a good player, there's no doubt about that, from all accounts he handles all situations very well. But at international level, we have a record of players who don't produce it at international level, that's been one of our problems.

"Let's give him a few games and then lets get talking about him instead of building him up into such a player before he's completed one international game."
For what it's worth, I think Jack will handle the pressure well. My only concern is whether people will appreciate him if he forms England's 'invisible wall' in front of the back four.

And my prediction for tonight's match? Denmark 2-2 England, with Walcott and Bendtner both to score.

Fingers crossed for no Arsenal injuries!

Share via Social Network


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Good news on Djourou - Full English translation of story on Swiss national team website

Picture courtesy Rob(TM)
Translated from Swiss national team website:

According to the player himself, Johan Djourou of Arsenal (24) is less severely injured than was feared.

Cuno Wetzel, the Swiss national team doctor, received "good news" from England early Tuesday afternoon: Johan Djourou's knee injury is apparently much less severe than had been feared. The Arsenal and Switzerland central defender had to be replaced three days ago in the 48th minute of the league match against Newcastle.

Painful bruise

Initial medical reports suggested that Djourou was injured either on the kneecap or had suffered cartilage damage. "The player suffered a very painful knee injury. The swelling and bruising delayed the diagnosis," said Wetzel, visibly relieved, "If the healing process is normal, Djourou will probably start training again in less than a week."

Swiss national coach pleased

Swiss national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was very pleased with the news: "I am happy for Johan, but also for the national team. Djourou is a very important player in my thoughts. As we saw in his comeback in November 2010 in Geneva against the Ukraine, he is very important to the team. He came back very well, played to a high standard and he is very good in the opponents penalty area on set-pieces. Beceause he is 1.90m tall opposing defenders must pay him particular attention, and this may bring space and benefits for other players in our team."

Share via Social Network


Monday, 7 February 2011

Newcastle United v Arsenal - match highlights video

In case you haven't already seen it, I recommend making sure that you're in a calm place and relaxed when you watch this.

Share via Social Network


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Newcastle v Arsenal - crazy, crazy match!

Can you get post-traumaitc stress after watching a football match?

With Arsenal 4-0 up at half-time, Newcastle's 12 v 10 were awesome in the second half and pulled it back to 4-4 at full-time. Luckily, top of the table ManUre's 2-1 defeat to bottom of the table Wolves put things into perspective and we've now closed the gap on them to four points. And I have to add that I'm relieved that ManIOU have blown the chance to equal the invincible season. And in style! I think it just goes to proves what an incredible achievement that was.

I think it's fair to say that Cesc Fabregas has upset the referee's union. The first penalty was at best soft, the second was a joke, and the 'foul' by Rosicky that lead to the freekick that in turn lead to the equaliser, equally inept. And Kevin Nolan should have been sent off for grabbing Szczesny round the neck, which was every bit as bad as what Diaby did.

Whether Joey Barton's tackle on Diaby was a foul and worthy of a red card is a matter of interpretation - Was it recklessly and dangerously agressive? Only the referee can make that call. But Diaby definitely shouldn't have reacted the way he did. It was interesting to note that on Match of the Day Arsene Wenger had returned to his 'I didn't see the incident' response of previous seasons.

Personally, I'm not too worried about this result. It was just one of those crazy matches that happen from time to time and Merchandise United lost so we gained a point on them. But with Diaby suspended for three matches, Denilson injured, Vermaelen still not back and Squillaci and Koscielny unable to combine as a pair, I'm worried about the fitness of Djourou and Song. We have a big squad but we are rapidly running out of players.

After yesterday, I'm reluctant to make any predictions about who will win the league. Who would bet on the result of a Premier League football match at the moment?

Everyone has been concerned about whether we can catch ManUre but they have some very difficult matches to play, three of which are against Man Citeh and Chelski, and could easily drop plenty of points before the season is up. And we don't know how they will react to the defeat against Wolves. However, ManUre's loss could be Man City and Chelsea's gain if they take three and six points off them respectively, and could put them in good positions to challenge for the league title.

Oh yeah, one final thing, who's Andy Carroll?

Share via Social Network


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Newcastle United v Arsenal - confirmed team lineup

With five whole days to rest since the match against Everton, its a pretty strong lineup today against Newcastle.

Song and Denilson are both injured so Diaby comes into the midfield. Walcott has recovered from a knock in midweek and will play but Nasri is still out so Arshavin, who seems to be coming back to form, will play on the left.

Lucasz Fabianski is due to have an operation so Szczesny will continue in goal. Chesney looks like he's first choice now in any case. Almunia is fit again and will be on the bench.

Vermaelen is still two to three weeks from being ready and will probably need easing in when he gets back, so the excellent Djourou and Koscielny continue at the back.

The rest of the team is as you would expect:


Sagna  Djourou  Koscielny  Clichy

            Diaby    Wilshere

  Walcott     Fabregas     Arshavin

                van Persie

Subs: Almunia, Squillaci, Eboue, Gibbs, Rosicky, Chamakh, Bendtner

Share via Social Network


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Golden Goal (video) - Anders Limpar v Liverpool from the halfway line

Picture courtesy Håkan Dahlström are currently showing some of the best goals in Arsenal's history for free.

No. 27 is an absolute corker from the halfway line by Anders Limpar in 1992.

Limpar signed for Arsenal from Cremonese in 1990 and won the league in 1990-91, and both the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season in 1992-93. He played 96 games for the club and scored 17 goals.

I wonder why this great goal didn't get as much coverage as David Beckham's famous goal from a similar position?

Share via Social Network


Arsenal v Everton - match highlights video

Despite one of the worst decision of the season (or possibly any season) by the referee's assistant last night, Arsenal battled back for an important win. These male linesmen clearly don't know the rules.

Share via Social Network