Sunday, 30 November 2008

They might be giants

The roller coaster ride continues, I can't remember a season like it, you simply cannot predict which Arsenal side will turn up, fortunately today the Arsenal eleven showed a lot of courage to come from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 at the bridge, albeit with a little help from an excellent linesman (!).

I knew Arsene had given us as good a chance as possible by starting with the powerful Djourou and Gallas at centre back, it was also a great time to welcome back Nasri and Adebayor. The game started at a frenetic pace, even for a local derby match, good openings were squandered at both ends. Despite going in at the break a goal down, we had been well in the game and were a tad unfortunate to be behind at the half way mark. Gallas was inches away from a tap in as Nasri's shot was well saved by Cech, while RVP also tested the Chelsea keeper with a good low poke. The Chelsea goal was a bit disappointing because not only did Almunia give the ball away cheaply, but Nasri didn't track Bosingwa, who then put in a fantastic cross that the unlucky Djourou diverted past the annoyed Almunia.

They key moment was the equalising goal from RVP, as RVP was played in Bosingwa seemed to be playing him onside, however replays showed that he was marginally offside, however the finish with the right foot was emphatic. Chelsea did not respond, they seemed impotent and lacking in ideas, RVP struck an excellent second on the turn from a great downward header from Ade. The siege from Chelsea did not materialise, we defended well as a team, Song broke play up excellently throughout the second half, we really fought for the scraps in dogged fashion. The centre backs were solid throughout, Djourou has staked his claim, the full backs are quality, while the underrated Song and Denilson really worked their socks off for the cause. Having the power and holding up ability of Adebayor really helped, while RVP showed real commitment with a great performance.

Although the offside goal did affect the outcome of the game, it was rather poetic given that Drogba's clearly offside goal from last season was allowed to stand and scuppered out title chances. In reality Chelsea could have lost the game by more, with both the thuggish Terry and the clumsy Ivanovic extremely fortunate to remain on the pitch, while Denilson's touch let him down at the vital moment when clean through on Cech near the end. As RVP made clear in his interview afterwards, this was about 'us', it was a team performance, true, we got lucky, but you need a bit of luck in football, however there was a lot of fight and team work there today. Not only did our big names live up to their billing but a few of the lesser known and sometimes unfairly scapegoated players also showed that they do possess a hell of a lot of quality.

Today was very different to the Manu victory, we were a goal down away from home against top quality opposition, we needed to show a hell of a lot of character and fight to come away with the win. The centre back pairing finally looked solid, while the whole team showed more desire and more fight than I have seen at any other point this season, contrast this to the pathetic capitulation at home to the spuds. The attitude was more professional, in the second half there were more pragmatic safety first clearances into row Z, the stupid risks were not taken as in previous weeks. The corner certain appears to be in the process of being turned, I just hope that this new team under captain Cesc can continue to build itself some solid foundations upon which to base future success.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Nothing to lose

The banter has certainly begun with Alex Ferguson claiming Arsenal are in 'disarray', while Arsene has responded by refuting Fergie's words. One thing that is certainly true for the game this Sunday is that any result at all away to Chelsea would be seen as a great achievement, I really don't think we have much to lose, the main thing is that the players show some fight independent of the eventual outcome of the game.

There is some good news ahead of the game with Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri likely to return, however it is likely that Diaby, Eboue and Toure will play no part. I would hope to see Johan Djourou partnering William Gallas at the back, however I know Arsene will persist with the pedestrian Silvestre. I know some people rate Silvestre, however I do not, maybe I'll be proven wrong, but for me Djourou is stronger, quicker and a better player.

There is definitely something missing from our midfield though at the moment and all of us know what it is. I see that some other bloggers also saw a certain Monsieur Flamini in action the other night at Pompey and realised what we are missing. It's hard to put into a single word but it includes 'fight', 'bite', 'tempo', 'gnarl', 'hustle' and 'snapping'. Alex Song is a decent squad player but he does not have the attributes necessary for the hustle and bustle of premiership midfield trench warfare, a couple of our other youngsters seem to have a bit more drive, the likes of Ramsey, Randall and Lansbury get up and down, while they also are not afraid of getting their foot in when needs be.

My line up for tomorrow would be: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Ramsey, Denilson, Cesc, Nasri, RVP, Adebayor. I would like to see Vela come on relatively soon if we need a bit for pace and directness up front, plus young Jack Wilshere is pushing harder and harder for a starting place. Realistically we can't win the league now, both because our results have not been good enough thus far but also because we do not have the players to do it, the two are inextricably linked. However any points picked up at the bridge will be a bonus and a great achievement. We shall have to make sure we cut out the sloppy errors in midfield, while we will have to defend much better as a team if we are to get anything out of the game, come on you Gunners.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Stuttering but satisfactory

With the low morale thanks to recent events and results, combined with several key players out this was never going to be Arsenal at their best. Getting through to the next round was all that mattered and a 1-0 victory did that very nicely, it hit the proverbial spot like a pork pie to an empty stomach.

Kiev were solid as a unit, cheated effectively and we never really had enough width to open them up, they also created some decent chances on the counter, looking pretty incisive at times. In fact a cracking Almunia save in the second half really saved our blushes, going one nil down at that point could well have been curtains. The Kiev red card was rather amusing, they do say that cheats don't prosper.

We did have a lot of possession and created a few decent chances, for example Ramsey's toe ender and a couple of opportunities from some excellent set pieces, largely delivered by RVP. Playing Denilson and Ramsey was never going to give us width, both players did reasonably considering, while it was good to have the mini maestro Cesc back at the helm, his passing did make a big difference. Song had a decent game overall, breaking up play well most of the time despite a poor spell early in the second half.

Gallas was solid, Clichy excellent and Djourou capable out of position at right back, I still have yet to see why Arsene brought Silvestre in from the mancs, he looks slow, cumbersome and doesn't do much good in a game. Vela worked his socks off up top and put in a good performance, RVP did ok. The subs Bendtner and Wilshere did superbly, what a finish from the young Dane, while young Jack showed why he had a very good claim to have been a starter tonight. In reality though, if we play like that against Chelsea then only one side will be winning the game and it won't be us.

Overall thought it was what the doctor ordered, hopefully we can build on this victory and use it as a platform. Cesc is a popular young man and the captaincy will be a lot of responsibility for him, I hope he can handle it. I also hope that William Gallas can put all the recent events behind him and start playing football to the best of his ability again, I really don't think Silvestre is the right partner for him, Djourou is better in every department for me and must start playing regularly in the centre back slot. If Nasri and Walcott remain out then Wilshere must start at Chelsea, we need to have width and he can provide it. Just the final word for Manuel Almunia, our one match captain, great save, keep up the good work.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Supporting Arsene and the lads

It seems that some people have rather short memories and a very distorted sense of perspective, we are certainly not having a good season thus far, but things could certainly be far far worse, we could be as bad as Tottenham, just think what some of our so called supporters would be calling for then, it doesn't bear thinking about really, does it?

Piers Morgan and his ilk are the kind of supporter that AFC could do without, so I suggest if anyone reading this agrees with this Daily Wail article and thinks that Arsene should be sacked then they should either become Rugby supporters or they should book themselves into the nearest mental hospital for a rather vigorous dosing of sedatives to calm their deranged rage. It's easy to call for knee jerk impractical reactions like sacking the manager or bringing in top class monster centre backs who can take on whole armies single handed.

Now is not the time to be getting rid of our manager even if we hypothetically assumed that was a better replacement available, which there clearly is not by the way; we should remember that he is the one man that has the skill and know how to turn this situation around, he is the man that many of our young players are counting on to lead us through this bad spell, he is a fantastic leader and although he's made his mistakes, it would be deeply foolish to even consider getting rid of Arsene now. In fact I am embarrassed that so called Arsenal supporters are so very fickle, they should be ashamed, it wasn't long ago that quite a few glory supporting Manu fans were calling for Fergie's head, I guess that's modern football for you.

It's easy to support your club when everything is going well, but it's rather more testing when the going gets a little tough, in fact it's much easier to start slagging the team off rather than trying to get behind the players and actually support them. Apparently Arsene wants Gallas to apologise to his team mates, that's the very least he could do in my opinion, but if he should choose to apologise and try to mend the damage that has been done then we should try to get behind him if he should ever take the field as an Arsenal player again. Yesterday was not good enough, I know, however do you not think that our young players and manager would do better with our support rather than our incoherent calls to get rid of the lot of them?

In fact Piers the season is a very long way from being over, although you probably won't call yourself an Arsenal supporter if we should finish outside the top four, I would still be proud to be a Gooner no matter where we finished, we have a little game against a certain side from Kiev on Tuesday and I think our players could do with our support then.

Time to dig in

Arsene started with a side that was something like we expected, Djourou partnered Silvestre in the middle at the back, while Gavin Hoyte came in for the injured Sagna, Song replaced the suspended Fabregas and Diaby slotted in on the right of midfield, while RVP returned up front. I thought we started pretty brightly, there was a decent tempo early on and the passing was pretty crisp.

Of particular note Alan Wiley allowed City to get away with numerous deliberate fouls without producing a single yellow, deliberate cynical fouls from Zabaleta times two, Dunne times two, Wright-Phillips, Vassel and Kompany were ignored, Richards somehow got away with an awful body check on RVP when he only had eyes for the man. I don't know how many times I say this but this kind of weak cowardly incompetent refereeing changes games, if the yellows are not brought out early for deliberate fouls then it will carry on and on until the referee grows some balls.

If the referee had had given a few deserved yellows it would have stopped the persistent fouling whenever we broke from midfield, it would have put City on the back foot, as it was the referee was weak and City came into the game towards the end of the half. Given our possession we only created one decent chance, Nasri's decent hit from a free kick forced a decent Hart save, Bendtner neatly back heeled to Song who shot wide, the ball was a little bit too far behind him to be fair. Then just before half time a terrible mix up let in Ireland to neatly chip over Almunia, Clichy seemed to be about to clear but was knocked off balance by Silvestre, the ball fell to the alert Ireland who did the rest in accomplished fashion. We did fade as the half went on, there was not enough incisive play in the final third but City were extremely fortunate to go in a goal up at half time.

The tempo was more upbeat at the beginning of the second half, a good move saw Diaby blast over from a tricky angle, while Bendtner could have easily won a penalty as he was rather crudely hacked from behind when attacking a cross in the box, RVP almost bent in a free kick after yet another crude Richards challenge went without a yellow card. Wiley continued to keep his yellows firmly in his pocket despite repeated cynical City offences, while he was always keen to give city something rather soft at the other end.

Then the killer blow, the ball was lost slackly in the midfield and Robinho was played in, his finish was immaculate, Almunia was stranded as the ball lobbed over his head into the net, Hoyte was caught somewhat napping but the slightly casual nature of the midfield play will not have pleased Arsene. Chances at both ends then followed, Bendtner delayed too long before shooting straight at Hart, Song tested Hart with a left footer, Robinho was wide with a diving header and then unlucky to have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, RVP shot over after a good turn on the edge of the box.

Ramsey came on for young Gavin Hoyte, who I thought did well in the first half but was caught out for the second City goal, Vela replaced Diaby who was far too anonymous for my liking, however right midfield is clearly not his position. Unfortunately the game now looked lost, Robinho again broke clean through after the ball was yet again lost far too easily in the midfield, he rounded Almunia but Djourou did magnificently well to get back and block Robinhos' goal bound effort.

Wiley then finished the game as he had started, with some truly one sided decision making from the officious referee's manual of how to be a fat little twat. Song was booked fairly, however how many times had we seen the same from City players go unpunished? RVP nicked the ball out of the keeper's hands and slotted home, technically no foul was committed, but Wiley knew better and disallowed the goal. Then Sturridge jinked past Djourou in the box, Djourou made some contact but it was pretty minimal, but Wiley pointed to the spot. The refereeing really is the pits in the premiership these days, however this defeat was only minimally influenced by the referee.

There are almost too many problems at the moment to go about dissecting them in one attempt. It appears that the morale has been rotting for a while now and it is not something that will magically recover overnight. There are problems with the playing staff too, we had no width on the right without young Theo, the ball was given away sloppily so many times by our midfielders to set up dangerous City breaks, Song and Diaby looked particularly lethargic, the defense was left terribly exposed at times as the midfield melted away like warm butter. Bendtner is clearly very low on confidence, while RVP needs to prove he is the player that he thinks he is.

This season is in danger of completely collapsing unless we pull together and start to fight for each other. On the positive I thought Djourou had an outstanding game at the back and he should partner Kolo when he returns from injury. The biggest focal problem we have is our centre of midfield, there is frequently absolutely no drive and bustle coming from the hub of our team, the midfield is also not supporting the defence enough. The thing that killed us today was the sloppy and casual gifting of possession to the opposition in dangerous positions from which they broke. City did not look a side high on confidence, it was just so frustrating to see us gift them so many opportunities too damn cheaply, it was typified by the first goal, a simple clearance was botched and the crucial goal came at such a devastating time.

Now we'll see what these boys are made of, it's time to stand up and be counted, we'll find out who has the character to stay at the club and fight for the cause in the long term, this is one of the biggest moments that I can remember in Arsenal's recent history. This is not just a blip, this is a fully fledged crisis and we are about to learn a lot about this group of players and our manager. Come on you Gunners, they need our support now more than ever.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Silly Billy

If one believes what one reads then William Gallas is no longer Arsenal club captain, I can't say that I'm particularly disappointed if that is the case, one hardly gets the impression that Gallas has been an inspiring figure during his spell in charge. Certainly Gallas' recent words that spoke of events in the dressing room have made his position untenable, he broke the unwritten rule that this kind of stuff must stay behind closed doors. One just wonders how deliberate this was from Gallas, was he keen for an early return to France or was he just not thinking?

I'd rather not comment than insult Gallas, while his achievements as captain speak louder than words, these include alienating a large portion of the dressing room and at times not behaving in a manner fitting for an adult let alone a club captain. However the man has played well at times and should not be made a scapegoat for all our failings, after all there is a man called Arsene Wenger who made him captain in the first place. Was he really a sensible choice for this role? It could be argued that he could have been an Arsenal great, if he had been played alongside a taller commanding centre back and if he had not been handed the responsibility of captaincy for which he seemed so ill suited.

As I always thought if Gallas is no longer club captain, then one cannot see him staying at the club, leaving Arsene with some rather interesting problems in the centre back area. Gallas has not been a bad player for the club by any means, however he is definitely no commanding centre back His partnerships with Toure and Silvestre have left a lot to be desired at times, but Gallas could not be expected to be a type of player than he has never been before, he should have been paired with a more commanding and physically powerful partner as he was at Chelsea.

It is now time for the rest of the squad to stand up and be counted
, this is no time for bickering, it is a time for solidarity. I hope this is the stepping stone for Johan Djourou to gets some games and develop into one of the finest centre backs in the world, Arsene has been hinting that the time is now for the young Swiss. Toure is out of tomorrow's game with a calf injury, meaning that it will surely be Silvestre partnering Djourou, while Cesc's suspension and Theo's injury should hopefully see maybe Ramsey and Wilshere get a start each, with Eboue at right back. However there are rumours that Hoyte will come in at right back with Eboue pushed into midfield. I'd also like to see Manuel made captain.

I hear you saying 'Why Manuel Almunia captain?'. Well, he's a good bloke, he's been a very consistent performer for the past couple of seasons, he's not too young, he's got a good view of things from goal and frankly who else would make a better skipper? I thought it was only a matter of time before the Gallas situation had to be resolved, and being optimistic, it's good that it's happened sooner rather than later, we can now rebuild and get on with without Billy. We need a popular captain, someone who can encourage and not alienate the young players, tomorrow against City is already looking like quite a big moment in our season. Come on you Gunners!

Gallas reveals depths of our problems

Well what has Billy gone and done now? The Telegraph has a good piece here setting out exactly what he said, apparently, whilst on duty with France this week, although its also widely reported that he has a book on the way as well. So believe what you will.

Either way, the private life of the Arsenal dressing room is now public knowledge, and it ain't pretty. However, for the most part, I completely agreed with what Gallas said:

“Maybe, against Manchester [United], it was the whole team that fought for victory. But when you stop fighting together, there comes a time when the midfield will sink, the defenders, unfortunately, can also sink. That’s what happened against Villa.”

"We are coming up against teams who are not scared to play football against us, who are not scared to take us on at our place, and this is becoming dangerous. We are not brave enough in battle. I think we need to be soldiers. We have to be warriors."

Good stuff Billy. Well said. Exactly what I want to hear from the Arsenal captain. But then he goes a bit wrong:

"When, as captain, some players come up to you and talk to you about a player ... complaining about him ... and then during the match you speak to this player and the player in question insults us, there comes a time where we can no longer comprehend how this can happen. I am trying to defend myself a bit without giving names. Otherwise I’m taking it all [the blame]. It’s very frustrating. I’m 31, the player is six years younger than me.”

So someone who is 25 years old had a go at Billy G during a game and poor little Billy-kins is not happy about it. Big fucking deal.

Early reports have suggested that the only player at Arsenal who is 25 is RVP, but that is not correct, as both Bacary Sagna and Manu Eboue were 25 this year as well. It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that maths is not Billy's strong point and that he was referring to the 26 year old Adebayor, or even the 27 year old Kolo Toure. Frankly though, it wouldn't surprise me if all of them thought Billy was a twat.

Remember ladies and gentleman, that William Gallas is the man who threatened to go on strike at Chelsea because he would not tow the line with Mourinho.

It is incredibly childish of Billy Gallas to go into these issues in the first place. Billy G was not even involved in the quarrel, but he tried to stop it and was told, presumably, to mind his own business in no uncertain terms by a 25/26/27 year old who was involved in the argument. Its simply not newsworthy, but Billy wants to be "insulted" by what happened.

Now if Gallas was any kind of captain, then if he felt that he had been disrespected, he would have a quiet word with the individual in question and sorted it out man-to-man. If appropriate, I would expect Gallas to have involved the other senior players, or even the manager.

I expect that if Ian Wright ever told Tony Adams to fuck-off, which he must have done at some points, then big Tone would have done the right thing. Perhaps let Wrighty cool off first and have a chat after the game. Or punch Wrighty in the face and tell him who is daddy is. Maybe Wrighty never would have sworn at Tone in the first place. Either way, Tone was the boss. Gallas is not.

When you add this latest disaster to the catalogue of other recent team incidents, including the Adebayor/Bendtner bust up last year, Song disrespecting Toure in the Stoke game, and reports of pre-season fights between Walcott and Song on the training ground, the picture is extremely bleak. In fact, its no chuffing surprise that we are so inconsistent as it seems most of the first team squad are ready have a hissy-fit at any given opportunity.

What is worse than all of this, is that I have always thought Wenger was an excellent man-manager, a genius at motivating his teams and engendering die-hard loayalty from his players. The appointment of Gallas as captain is now one of Wenger's biggest mistakes. When added to the long list of high profile departures from the first team squad in the last 12 months (Diarra, Flamini, Hleb, Senderos and Gilberto), I begin to think that we are in a real mess off the field as well.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The sky is falling in

If you know the Chicken Little story then you'll know what I mean when I say that some people need their umbrellas and some don't. It's very easy to criticise and polarise the argument, for example the 'with us or against us' strategy is a classic of this slightly unsubtle and inflexible strategy. I guess that some people just love to stick their fingers in their ears while shouting "I'm right, you're wrong, nah nah nah nah nah".

The other day I wrote about where I felt we were going wrong, it was criticism of sorts I know, however I like to think I kept things in some kind of perspective. A lot of the criticism I've read elsewhere has also been very reasonable, however some of it has been typically childlike and disrespectful to a man that has done so much for Arsenal Football Club. I would be very interested to know if there is any credible evidence that Arsene Wenger has 'lied' to supporters, personally I very much doubt it exists, there is either no evidence at all or some people have believed what they read in the Sun again.

I must reiterate that the majority of Gooner reaction has been very sensible. However if we choose to believe the 'all or nothing' brigade then we were world beaters after the Manu game and hopeless failures after the Aston Villa game. Of course neither is true, the truth is somewhere in between. For example I am amazed at some of the criticism that Manuel Almunia has received in recent weeks, he's been one of the most consistent keepers in the premiership for a while now. The point is that we have excellent individuals in our squad and our squad is not short of numbers, we just lack a certain type of player in certain areas.

Just to finish, it's always much easier to criticise than to suggest practical ways of improving things, so given that so many people are criticising Arsene's transfer policy this summer, just who would you have bought this summer? By the way you can only name players that were actually transferred or definitely available for transfer in the summer. Flashing the cash is not always the answer, ask Tottenham for one, their situation does put things in perspective somewhat, but some Gooners still shout loudly for the indiscriminate cheque book flashing.

So rather than indulging in mindless criticism and kissing the badge while pledging undying loyalty to the club that they show so little respect, I shall be interested to see if these people can suggest some actual solutions to our problems. It's very easy to suggest that we need a six foot eight centre back with Walcott's pace and Bobby Moore's tackling skills, bit it's a very different thing to actual go about bringing one in.

Honestly I don't think any of us would have a hope in Arsene's position, to go about bringing in the world class experienced players we need is much easier to talk about than to do, at least I have enough insight to realise that Arsene's judgement of players in the transfer market is a damn sight better than my own, it appears that not everyone has this insight. At the end of the day we're 4th in the league, still going strong in the cups and there's no need for the umbrella quite yet...........

ps Good luck with your recovery Theo, he is likely to require surgery and will take a few months to get over this before he gets back on a football pitch

Monday, 17 November 2008

Living in denial?

There has been a lot of analysis of this season's efforts so far, some would say there are too many opinions on show and that there are too many knee jerk reactions to one off results, I therefore always try to be cautious with my words. The season is now about a third gone, so we now sit in a reasonable position from which to judge our manager and our team. The question for me is could anything have been done better to avoid the problems that we have encountered so far?

Arsene has spoken again following Villa game, firstly he responds to the suggestion that he should have brought in another experienced player in the summer:

"Not really, we had no player we really wanted and for now we have no regrets. You cannot explain the own goal of Gael Clichy by the fact we haven’t got an experienced player in midfield. I think we were not, as a team, sharp enough to dictate the pace and be dominant in the fight [against Aston Villa]."

It is true that the lack of an experienced player did not 'directly' result in Villa's goal, however I find it very hard to believe that our lack of experience has nothing to do with our lack of consistency. I am sure a lack of experience is part of it, however it is certainly not the whole story. Villa created several very good chances as our defence gaped like the Rift Valley, the defeat was no fluke.

I think Ted was getting rather warm with his recent piece that explained our love of playing the technical possession game, this tactic does not have much margin for error; if we are on our game we can beat anyone, however if we are off it then we can look very average indeed. I would argue that our playing style encourages inconsistency, this playing style is what our players know best though, we have a very small side of excellent technical ball players; we are therefore excellent when we are playing well with the ball at our feet, however when things don't go to plan we don't have many players who can win the ball back or get properly stuck into the opposition.

The lack of a shield for Cesc has been talked of, for example many people thought Alonso should have been recruited in the summer. I don't think this is a problem that can be blamed on not bringing in one player, although the loss of Flamini has certainly hit us hard; it appears to be more of a systemic problem, we don't have the right balance of players in our squad to be able to vary our approach, we are a one trick pony of sorts. Wenger has openly admitted the lack of consistency, however he must look harder for the rational explanation as it is there staring him in the face:
“You have to accept that the game is played by human beings and sometimes physically they have a drop. It is very difficult for us to have a rational explanation about what happened today. I believe that the team want it but it was just like a few other times this year where it is unexplainable why we don’t really play at our 100% potential.”
Our group of players are the best bunch of technical footballers in the land, we are the most pleasing on the eye by a mile when things click, however our unique brand of beautiful football is a high precision machine, and there is so little margin for error then when things slip a little, we cannot grind out a result and things fall apart. Michael Essien spoke of this and frankly I can see his point, to a degree.

This is not the only reason for our inconsistency, other factors (in my opinion) have included our lack of a rock solid centre back pairing, losing big Phil for Silvestre and some slightly dubious tactical decisions. Just to demonstrate my point, just think of the great Arsenal sides of Arsene's reign, there have always been some beasts in there, the likes of Vieira, Adams, Keown, Petit, Edu and Parlour would invariably have the bottle for a good old battle.

In my eyes you can only progress from openly and honestly looking at where you have gone wrong, learn from it and go about putting it right. Our current team does not have the correct balance, we have too many technical ball players and no one to win it back, we are also terribly small as a side and have no one who can dominate aerially in defense, as a consequence we can be terribly one dimensional and predictablein attack while the defence leaks goals. It's time Arsene faced up to this so when can address these problems asap.

Cesc - Time to rest Fab4?

Its been a bad weekend for Arsenal and Mr Frustration is back in town big time. Every Gooner you meet will tell you just what is wrong and happily reel off the list of players who are not good enough, or that Wenger is retarded and should be sacked.

Nicholas Bendtner has got most of the stick for Saturday's performance. I said before the Stoke game that this was a big run of fixtures for the young Dane - he has started against Stoke, Fenerbahce, Manure and Villa, got no goals, I can't think of any assists and bizarrely, his best performance was against Manure (in which he was ok). It has not gone that well for him, and he will be feeling down about it, no doubt. But let us not forget that Nikky B is Arsenal's 4th choice striker and that he has carried a massive burden these last few weeks. It would have been a hell of a lot easier for him to play against teams like Stoke, Manure and Villa with Adebayor, RVP or Eduardo next to him. RVP only managed it for 10 minutes before getting red-carded against Stoke for being an idiot, and Nikky only got 5 mins with Ade on Saturday before taking him off. Vela also looks a great prospect, but lets not get carried away that he can solve our problems with a Mexican magic wand. Would be great if he could though...

Now, I am not going to tell you that Bendtner is the next Didier Drogba (or even Adebayor), but lets not hammer him too hard when there are quite blatantly other massive holes in our team. Did the rest of the team serve Nikky B up chance after chance only for him to spoon them into the stands? Not at all. Strikers are there to finish the chances that they are given. He barely got a sniff most games and the rest of the team must share the blame.

1979 made the point that the centre back pairing of Gallas and Silvestre remains weak, and that we don't protect them in midfield. And of course he is right. Arsenal are all over the place at the moment. We have all been saying it for months.

Well I am no different to every other Gooner, so let me tell you what is actually wrong. Laugh away when your ready.

If, as a football team, you cannot really defend and you cannot really tackle, then you only have one tactic to play football. You absolutely must keep the ball at all times. Think most Brazilian or Argentinean teams. You must treasure possession, work for each other off the ball and work the 45 pass moves like we did last year. Go sideways, go backwards, go sideways and backwards. Tire the opposition out by chasing you round the pitch. Pass sideways for 15 minutes. Get bored by how much possession you have until the opoosition dive in. Your superior skill then lets you beat the man (cherio gareth barry), or you get fouled and win a free kick. Its no bloody surprise that Brazilian teams are so good at free kicks - their game plan is virtually dependant on them.

To a greater or lesser degree, Arsenal have played that sort of tactics in recent years. Pass a lot, never shoot from range, then score a wonder goal via 150 passes. Its driven us nuts for the last two seasons, but suddenly we are missing it.

The reason why, as far as I can tell, is that the person the whole system at Arsenal is built around is well off his game. Mr Cesc Fabregas is our Romario, Maradona, Zidane etc. If he isn't purring along like an Aston Martin on a sunny afternoon, then we will all have a bouncy ride. Or end up in a hedge.

Last season Cesc was simply magnificent, but at the moment, Mr Cesc Fabregas is more guilty than anyone else on the pitch for giving the ball away. Mr Cesc Fabregas also seems to be making less effort than anyone else to drop back, make himself available for the man on the ball, take it and give it quick. His tackles are more out of frustration than skill (hence 5 yellow and a suspension already) and he has only scored once (and that was with his head).

This is not the Cesc that we loved so much last season. In fact, I think he our weak link. I know its virtually treason to say it, but there you go. However, along with Gallas, Cesc is part of the Thierry Henry protection racket - Wenger's talismen on the pitch that will not be dropped or rested ever. For a different perspective on how to handle your star player, take a look at the public slating that fatty Rafa has handed out to Torres. Wenger would never ever do that. I bet Torres scores a hatrick next week.

Cesc is suspended against Man City. Its going to be interesting to see who replaces him (I would like to see Ramsey but I think Wenger will pick two in the middle from Denilson / Diaby / Song) and how we do without him. Don't look too much at the result, more about how the midfield works as a unit without their star. Will it be the "relief" of not carrying a deadweight, or will we look rudderless with Cesc? I am betting on the former.

The underlying issue, of course, is that we desperately need Cesc back at his best. Wenger said today that he cannot explain our inconsistency. What I think Wenger actually means is that he cannot explain how Cesc is playing so crap. He has actually been very consistent at it.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Faint title hopes extinguished

Maybe I'm being premature but I now cannot see us winning the league title this year, it's obviously still theoretically possible but there appears a rather wide gulf between what is possible in theory and in practice. Today's two nil defeat to Aston Villa demonstrated just how we are not quite all there from the title challenging point of view in several ways, both tactically and as a team.

I've been out of the country for the past couple of weeks, so forgive me if this all sounds a bit objective when we have just suffered such a sickening home defeat, but frankly what's the point in busting blood vessels and booing the players.

As many people remarked last weekend, our current starting eleven is pretty handy if the opposition turns up trying to play football, however if they come, as they are perfectly entitled to, to defend and play on the counter, then we are significantly less effective. There is also the rather obvious fact that the centre of our defence is simply not anywhere near right.

Tactically the same or very similar happened against Hull, Stoke and Fulham. The opposition knew that they would be likely to be destroyed should they try to take us on in an open attacking game, hence they sat back, defended in numbers and then stung us on the break. We should be able to expect this tactic from the opposition, but sometimes we do not appear to, our tactics remain unchanged and we are stung as we were today.

When this tactical naivety is combined with our suspect centre back pairing, a small midfield that does not do enough to defensively shield the back four and an isolated lone striker, then you have a recipe for disaster. Interestingly the majority of gooners that read this site feel Djourou and Toure would be our strongest pairing at the back, strange that Arsene seems to disagree so strongly. Dropping Gallas appears impossible for Arsene, but it is an option that may well have to be entertained at some point in the not too distant future.

The warning signs have been there for a while, they were apparent in pre season, it's just that our attacking play is frequently so good that it can paper over the cracks. The warning signs were there today, Villa looked sharp and dangerous on the break, even missing a first half penalty. There's no doubt poor refereeing contributed, certainly for the second goal, however one should not live in denial and pretend that the cracks do not exist, they do. I was slightly perplexed by the 4-5-1 formation against such a defensive Villa line up, it really played into their hands.

We have some fantastic players, we have a great manager, and it is not even debatable that we have the finest young players in the land. However in my eyes we are living with too many flaws to be making a serious title challenge. The centre of defence is not right, I am also disappointed that a certain young Swiss is not getting more playing time; the midfield does not have the muscle to rough it up at times, while the defence is not as well shielded as it has been in the past. Tactically we are also being found out, however this is partly down to personnel, maybe the players we have only have one way of playing.

These criticisms are not a knee jerk reaction, they represent a trend that has been developing over the course of this season, you simply cannot expect to challenge for the title when your defense is leaking goals so freely and when your tactics do not stand up to the tests that they face over the course of a season. What we must do is hang onto our best players and ensure that we remedy these problems as soon as possible, we can certainly beat anyone on our day in the cups. I really hope we can because it's incredibly frustrating to see us losing in such a manner when we have so much talent at our disposal.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Arsenal kids serve up a lesson

What a superb performance and result that was last night from the Arsenal kids. Simply outstanding.

But, I'm not going to talk too much about individual performances in the game. Arseblogger gives his usual excellent summary of events here. Jack Wilshere got the full back page in the Sun this morning Jay Simpson got the Metro's back page. Both good, local lads who fully deserve their day in the spotlight.

Instead, lets just take a little stock of what happened last night. Wigan were at full strength with their first available xi last night (Heskey injured), whereas Wenger made eleven changes to the starting xi that faced Manure - Alex Song and Fabianski were the only people who played any part in the game last saturday.

When the teams were announced, several so-called experts tipped Wigan for the upset (BBC's Jonathan Stevenson included, in his otherwise excellent news feed). The tipsters in the papers during the day, perhaps expecting the kids to turn up, were telling the punters to back Wigan. Zaki was the shortest odds for the first goal scorer.

So when anyone tries to tell you that there was no pressure on the kids to play, I really wonder what planet they come from. I have watched a number of reserve games (admittedly on Arsenal TV), but the average attendance is about 25 people. Occasionally more, sometime less. Ok, some of these kids would have played in front of 40,000 fans last year in the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Manure (which we lost over two legs), but this was a 60,000 strong crowd. This team would never have faced this sort of atmosphere before together. Wigan do every other week.

We have watched countless young Arsenal starlets get the jitters big time on this sort of occassion before. Armand Traore must have played a dozen games at this level before he began to settle down (did he ever settle down?), stopped trying to pull off a trick every time and played with some discipline. Same goes for players like Jermain Pennant, Quincy Owousu-Abeie, Lupoli etc.

Yet when the whistle blew, the kids played the full 90 minutes with composure, organisation, discipline, technique and patience. If they had any butterflies, they didn't show it. Instead, they fought hard for every ball - even Wilshere making a filthy tackle in the first ten minutes. The midfield worked extremely hard for each other, closing down Wigan relentlessly, denying Palacios and Koumas space, fighting to win headers, being strong in the challenge. Gibbs was targeted by Wigan early on as the weak link, but he stayed focused, fought hard and easily won the battle over 90 minutes. It was simply fantastic.

If we were slightly more composed in front of goal, or if it wasn't Kirkland having his usual good game against us, then a repeat of the 6-0 victory against Sheffield Utd was on the cards.

For the record, lets also remember that the team that Wenger put out against Wigan in the Carling Cup semi-final in January 2006, which lost to Wigan over two legs, was incredibly strong - Almunia, Gilbert, Senderos, Campbell, Lauren, Hleb (Pires 69), Silva, Diaby (Flamini 45), Reyes, Bergkamp, Henry (Van Persie 79).

That makes last night's performance all the more remarkable. Ok, this was not the semi-final, but Wigan are not some mickey mouse team. They are Premiership regulars who have some extremely good players, but they were thrashed last night by an Arsenal team with more focus, discipline and far more talent. Jason Koumas is the welsh captain, but he won't be making the team soon if Aaron Ramsey keeps it up.

If 7 days is a long time in politics, its an age in football. Last week the Arsenal first team gave a rather limp performance against Fenerbahce and boos (wrongly in my view) sounded at the final whistle from the crowd. What we can all cherish this morning is the attitude and fight the kids showed and the crowd loved it. Well done to them all.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Back to the day job.

Another cold and wet Monday morning. However, any lingering tinges of doom and gloom should have been forgotten after the Manure result. I hope most Arsenal fans are now in a far better mood than they were seven days ago. Still, this won't stop the inquisition into why we don't play like that more often. How can we lose to Stoke and beat ManUre within a week?

I said on Saturday that the time for analysis of the ManUre game would come later, and now is probably as good a time as any for my tuppence worth.

Arsenal played very well against Manure. The Emirates was a cauldron of sound and we got the result we wanted. However, ever since Saturday afternoon, I have had some small niggling doubts about how good we actually were. Without wanting to take anything away from the performance or the result, this blog will try to be as objective in victory as we always try to be in defeat. Just as things often are not that bad when you lose, there are sometimes also not as good as you might wish for when we win.

The stats from Saturday are a little uncomfortable. ManUre had more possession and more shots (on and off target). They also created some excellent chances. I could not believe Rooney failed to even hit the target in the first half when ManUre put together the move of the match through Berbatov and Ronaldo (about the only good thing those two did though). Equally, I thought Carrick had scored at the beginning of the game. Clichy will not come closer (i hope) to scoring an o.g. and Ronaldo missed a sitter in the second half.

However, we for once took our chances and then defended well. From that perspective it was not a typical Arsenal performance. But we could so easily have gone behind to Manure and I'm sure the heads would have dropped. The fact that Manure only scored one (the obligatory opposition wonder goal at the Emirates) probably had as much to do with bad Manure finishing then excellent defending by us. Conversely, Vidic made a couple of uncharacteristic errors, one which let Nasri in for his second goal.

So what does this tell us? I think the Manure game shows what a good team like Arsenal can do when we believe in ourselves. But its important to remember how important those two things are - talent and belief. We have always had the talent, we perhaps could do with a little more belief.

We remain short of muscle in the team, but Silvestre is increasing looking like the bargain of the season. If anything, Fergie will be ruing his decision to try and play us at football - in the good old days he would have played 4-4-2 with one winger and at least one goat in midfield to do little more than kick us (hello Phil Neville or John O'Shea). Our problem is against the teams who lack a bit of talent and try to out-fight us (hello Stoke), or where we underestimate teams and don't focus on winning the game ugly if we have to (hello Hull, Fulham etc). Nothing has really changed in that respect.

So its back to the day jobs now. The Manure game should be used as a basis for some confidence but not dwelt on. We were 6 points behind the leaders on Friday and we are still 6 points behind them on Monday. Its going to be a long season and we have big games coming up in November, especially Chelsea away. Most of the first team should get a rest against Wigan tomorrow (hopefully all the first team but I doubt we have another 11 bodies available) and its Aston Villa next on Saturday, who are in mini-slump of their own. Just like we were until we beat ManUre, so we underestimate them at our peril.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Arsenal 2-1 Manure. Tribute to the Faithful

Wow. Where did that come from? Just goes to show that some of the old Arsenal spirit is alive and well in this young team.

Its not the time for too much analysis. That can come later. Instead, its time to sit back, open a cold one, and enjoy the warm glow of a thoroughly deserved three points against a virtually full strength ManUre team.

Make no mistake - this was an Arsenal performance of great vintage. Given no chance before the game, I suffered the shame of listening to 'Arsenal fans' on the train into London saying to one another that we were a mid-table side now and that today was all about damage limitation.

I can understand about people being depressed, but Arsenal have never dropped out of the top 4 under Arsene Wenger and the last time we were in serious danger of finishing 5th was in 2005 when we still had Henry, Vieira and Pires.

Anyway, the atmosphere in the Emirates was rocking. For once, it wasn't just Block 6 getting involved. The entire lower tier was standing for almost the entire game and in great voice. Well done the Gooners - it made a massive difference.

The game was about as open as I have ever seen between these two teams. Fergie did not flinch and played Berbatov, Rooney and Ronaldo from the off, throwing Tevez on for the last 20 minutes. For those who are constantly harping on about signing some players, those 4 players cost ManUre over £100m by my reckoning.  Whereas our back line of Sagna, Gallas, Silvestre and Clichy, which can't have cost more than £10m, where exceptionally good. The French Maginot line is alive and well. Even Gallas played well.

Nasri scored two great goals and will win the plaudits. Well done Sami - keep it up. But the star of the show was Denilson. I know I praised him after Fenerbahce, so this may sound like a bit of a mission, but I genuinely thought he was the best central midfielder on the pitch today. His work rate was excellent, he fought for every ball, he was disciplined in possession and used the ball sensibly.

This was a great result and we have to concentrate on using this as a springboard for the next 4 or 5 games. But for now, the Arsene Wenger Youth Experiment is back into the frame. In a week where I have heard more Arsenal fans than I care to think about genuinely question Arsene Wenger's future at the club, he could not have given a better response. Well done and thank you Arsene. As far as I'm concerned, its a job for life.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Fenerbahce 0-0. Positively delusional.

Its a difficult time for Arsenal and its hard to get the right perspective on last night's 0-0 draw with Fenerbahce at the Emirates. So, I'm going to start with some of the positives from the wider perspective and narrow it down from there. You will see that the results are alarming.

Arsenal's performance was the best from any English team in Europe this week. We outplayed Fenerbahce for 90 minutes and were far the better team. Compare that with Chelsea, who were woeful away at Roma and got thumped 3-1. The Scousers were also quite poor against Atletico Madrid and outrageously lucky to get (yet another) late penalty in front of the Kop to scrape a 1-1 draw. ManUre also underperformed against Celtic and had to rely on their usual late flourish to earn a point at 1-1. Celtic can also only dream of having a striker like Guiza playing for them. Fenerbahce are not a great side, but I think far too many Arsenal fans wrongly saw them as a walk-over. Aragones was heading for the sack last night if Fenerbahce lost, so its no wonder they fought hard for their draw.

Looking now at some of the individual performances, the mighty Arseblogger has rightly applauded Aaron Ramsey's performance. Well played Rambo - you look a class act and its a great testament that I would have preferred Cesc to go off and be rested so that you could have played the last 30 mins in the central role. Keep it up.

I would also like to praise Denilson's performance last night. His work rate was excellent and I lost count of the number of times he mopped up around Cesc's loose touches and made a pass. There is an enormous burden on his shoulders this year and last night was an indication that he can perform at this level. If Denilson had been signed for £15m over the Summer, people would have been raving about him this morning.

RVP was unlucky not to score, the back four had little to do but looked solid (Djourou to keep his place against Manure please). Cesc, Bendtner and Nasri were relatively quiet and ineffectual, so I won't dwell on them.

Perhaps the really positive spin is that Cesc has learned a trick or too from AW, whose cunning masterplan with the press was revealed this week to take pressure off the players by talking rubbish to the press. In a similar vein of genius, Cesc's half-steam, give-the-ball-away, head-down-and-look-depressed performance was actually a masterstroke to divert more attention away from the other players, to take even more pressure off them so they can really perform. What a clever quadruple bluff that is. (cracks in the positive spin are showing now. I certainly don't buy this clever double-bluff the media to help the players mumbo jumbo - AW got mugged by the press and Cesc needs to play far better than that against Manure.)

Right, back to the positive thinking. We kept a clean sheet, which is good. I don't think there are any new injuries to report (although Silvestre must be doubtful), which is also good, and we now have the rotated Diaby and Song fresh to unleash against Manure. (I am struggling to be positive now - what the **** is the point of rotating Diaby and Song? They have barely played this year. Cesc blatantly could have done with an early bath).

Its not clear yet whether either of Walcott or Eboue will be back for Saturday, but I expect Sagna to play, possibly allowing Toure to partner Djourou at centre back. Since that combination was the run-away winner in the blog-poll (top right), then I simply don't see any possibility than Manure can score a goal on Saturday, let alone actually win the game.

So its time for good old blind faith again. Strap yourselves in. Toure and Djourou will form the sort of defensive shield at the Emirates that we have not seen in London since the Spitfires downed the Luftwaffe. It will be a glorious celebration as Shrek-Rooney is felled by perfectly timed tackle after tackle, every long ball will be cannoned back by Johan towards Ferdinand's mutant head. At 0-0 and with seconds to play, the mighty Kolo will thunder in a free kick (RVP can't mess it up for him on Saturday) that goes straight through Van der Sar's hands, breaking each finger off at the knuckle, before smashing the net into ribbons. I simply can't wait.

So get up for it Arsefans. ManUre is a mere 48 hours away and as long as I have drawn breath, I have hated losing to those Manc bastards more than anything else on God's good earth. Draw on your own furies and sharpen your swords, because the team will need us on Saturday.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Time for Wenger to shut up and win

I was initially quite impressed after the stoke game that Wenger admitted that Stoke deserved to win.

On Monday, AW said that “I don’t approve or disapprove [of Stoke’s tactics]. They played the game they wanted and they played it very well. At the end of the day, they could express their strong points and we could not.”

Even then, that was tempered with a highly dubious excuse: "We did play the taller players but the wind is quite strong in the stadium, it is open on one side. That makes our game a little more difficult."

Yet by Tuesday, things were taking a turn for the worse: "Do you think Delap tried to play the ball when he tackled Walcott? Or that Shawcross tried to play the ball when he tackled Adebayor?" Frankly speaking Arsene, yes I did think they were trying to play the ball.

Tony Pullis, the Stoke manager, has now responded magnicently well: "I have tremendous respect for Mr Wenger, but as Mr Wenger is such a learned professional and on a great day in America electoral history, I would like to remind him of Abraham Lincoln's great quotation: 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.'"

The theorists are already boiling up explanations that this is clever Wenger deflecting the issues from his players and onto himself. That may be correct and only AW knows the answer.

However, what is loud and clear on Wednesday afternoon is that Wenger has made himself look an idiot. If the players felt under pressure before, I struggle to think that reading these things in the papers makes them feel any better about life. Or did AW sit the players down on Monday and say "we all know you are to blame and not me, but I'm going to spout off some rubbish in the press so that they stop writing articles saying you are crap and say instead that I am an idiot, which will be much better for all of us..."

When added to the long list of "I believe in this team", "they are immature and will learn from mistakes" we have been fed, its all a bit too much. Even Fergie's rantings have died down recently. AW's initial reaction after Stoke was the right one - admit Stoke were better and move on to the next game. Its the search for justification after the events that has gone wrong.

I am 100% a fan of Wenger, but any previously held beliefs that he was the master of the jedi mind games are long mislaid. This week has seen a string of rubbish from him, which helps no-one. I humbly suggest that he needs to shut-up and instead get his team focused to deliver three points on the pitch tonight.

P.s. If anyone is interested to see a gorilla-man grow a goatee beard for charity for the whole of November (he must have lost his razor) then please sponsor K-Man. If he raises £50 then he has promised to publish a photo on the blog on December in his appalling hairy state. Its a great cause with a huge amount of non-shaving effort from K-Man, so go get your wallets and click here.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Positive Injury News

The early rumours surfacing on Tuesday are that Theo Walcott is expected to be fit to play against Manure on Saturday, and that Bacary Sagna is tipped to be available tomorrow against Fenerbahce.
At last some good news, I hear you cry. Although Adebayor is almost certainly out of both games. To go into the Manure game without RVP and Adebayor is a real blow.
Tomorrow nights' game against Fenerbahce is all about settling the nerves after recent disappointments. I am not a big fan of chopping and changing the team for these fixtures - by all means tinker round the edges but we need some consistency in terms of formations and tactics. Recently we have had the high line of defence up the pitch against Fenerbahce away, squad rotation against West Ham, the substitutions against Spurs and then a wholesale change of formation and tactics for Stoke. No wonder the players are struggling to keep up.
RVP will be eligible to play against Fenerbahce as his suspension does not count in Europe. So there will be no reason why he doesn't give everything in that game knowing he has a rest coming up.
The problem is who plays alongside him (actually there are lots of problems, that is just one of them). Nik Bendnter is the obvious choice but then he will play 3 times in 7 days if he also faces Manure - far too much for a relatively inexperienced lad at this level, especially if you are looking to rotate. The jury is also still out on Mr Bendnter. I for one have not been massively impressed by his performances so far this season.
Having scene what Walcott's pace can do to teams, I therefore would not be surprised to see Wenger switch to a 4-5-1 for at least one of the games this week . Bendnter could be rested against Fenerbahce to allow him to play up top against Manure. Diaby is the obvious candidate for the free role in the hole behind with Walcott and Nasri given licence to attack forwards from the wings. You could also play Eboue on the wing and push Walcott forwards to leave Diaby on the bench. Who knows - Wenger might even give Carlos Vela some time on the pitch.
Either way, success on Saturday is likely to depend on whether Bendnter can hold the ball up and lay it off to the advancing hordes of midfielders. If he can then we just might give the Mancs something to think about.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Thought for the day

Its a gloomy Monday morning, and gloomy Arsenal fans all over the country are winding their gloomy way to work. I'm one of them.

However, having stopped for a minute to listen to the chuntering of my fellow commuters, it seems our Scouse brethren are also gloomy this morning after being robbed good and proper by the Spudders, that ManUre were surprised at the way they let Hull back in the game and almost dropped two points again, that Chelsea don't know which team will turn up from one week to the next and that Spurs are still in the relegation zone.

History tells us that Arsenal are sometimes at their best when the worst seems about to happen. We are in a spot of the brown stuff at the moment and blind optimism is not going to work alone.

The injury and suspension news is bad. Really bad. But to a certain degree it makes Wenger's job a bit easier this week. There can be no thoughts of rotating the squad much for the Fenerbahce game. Adebayor and Walcott look definitely out and Sagna is a big doubt. RVP is suspended. Wenger needs to decide what his strongest XI is and get their frame of minds in a better place between now and Wednesday evening.

I remember Paul Merson explaining in the early Wenger days the "unbelievable belief" that Wenger gave him as a player. We are monstrously short of that at the moment.

Wenger needs to have a rummage around in the back of the cupboard and see if he has a bottle or two left. I bloody hope he does.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Stoke 2 Arsenal1

A miserable result at Stoke and there is no hiding from it. I didn't see the game live but according to the commentary, Arsenal were dreadful and fully deserved the zero points we obtained.

Talk of title hopes should now be well forgotten. Some us were ready to write this Arsenal team off some time ago. I was so despondent after the West Brom game that I was one of them. Its not something I'm pleased to have been correct about.

For those of you now facing up to the fact that Arsenal will not win the league this year, the next few days will be extremely painful. I suggest whisky, beer, shouting, swearing, and then maybe some more beer.  I'll see you on the other side on Monday or Tuesday. You will feel a lot better for it.

Some people will want to see blood for this. Everyone likes a scapegoat and the usual suspect is the manager. Its also going to be a big period for Arsene Wenger. He made a massive gamble on Denilson in the summer and I think its backfired big time. Not that a blame Denilson, as such, its just that he can't replace Gilberto or Flamini. Wenger never seemed to really rate either of them but for my money, allowing both Flamini and Gilberto to go was the big mistake. 

I won't be joining in the calls for sackings or retribution. It hurts a lot to say this but Arsenal's priorities now need to refocus quite drastically. I suspect this result is really just the fall-out from the disappointment and blame that followed Spurs' escape on Wednesday night. Wenger needs to get the players focused for next week, otherwise a bad performance against Fenerbahce and ManUre next week and Wenger's head will be on the block.