Monday, 21 March 2011
Firstly there's no doubt Arsene got the starting eleven wrong. Denilson was woeful and the best option would clearly have been to drop Nasri into the midfield three, playing Chamakh or Bendtner up with RVP. The first goal conceded came simply because we had too few players with any aerial ability on the field, Reid vs Ramsey is no context. Without Song and Djourou, we lack tall aerially dominant players in the side, this is not rocket science.
West Brom sat back and allowed us to have the ball in deeper areas, they knew that Denilson couldn't hurt them and he did nothing to suggest he could. We dominated for long spells and were the better side, but only really had one clear cut chance to show for it, Ramsey forcing a good save from Carson as he followed up RVP's header which struck the crossbar.
Denilson went off at half time and Chamakh came on, more of a 4-42 formation was adopted, Nasri dropping deeper and Ramsey drifted right side. The second goal we conceded was even worse than the first, Squillaci dithered, failing to attack a hopeful long ball, Almunia rushed from his box needlessly, like a man possessed, utter utter lunacy and Odemwingie was left with a simple finish into the empty net. It's very hard to win games of football if you give away goals like this, terrible terrible defending.
To give credit where it is due we did manage to come back from two goals down and that took some strength of character. Arshavin was bright throughout and his opening goal was key, a fantastic touch and powerful finish, it gave us hope just as it was beginning to die. The second was scrappy but RVP's tackled finish was just as satisfying as a thirty yarder. We huffed and puffed, created several decent half chances and applied a lot of pressure, but West Brom just about held firm.
Nasri added a lot more in his deeper midfield role, he added a bit of tempo and pace to our game, he really doesn't look at home on the right of the front three, it's just not his position. Arshavin and Wilshere both had excellent games, as industrious and threatening as anyone. In the end some shambolic defending cost us, again, surely it is time that Arsene addresses the cause of our repeated defensive collapses?
It is a mixture of bad planning and bad luck that has cost us. Losing Szczesny and Djourou for long periods at such a crucial moment was terribly unfortunate. However we should have had more aerial defensive power in reserve given Vermaelen's troublesome Achilles. The lack of cover for Song in defensive midfield has been obvious, this should have been addressed many months ago, it has cost us before and it will cost us again, mark my words. Squad players like Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky and Squillaci have not cut the mustard.
Overall I don't think any team really deserves the league title this year. None of the big clubs have been dominant, none have consistently impressed, in my opinion whoever wins the league title will be one of the poorest sides to have done so in my memory. In this context I find our failure to learn from previous mistakes particularly frustrating, if we had learnt from these lessons, we could easily have been the dominant force in the league this season.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
So it has been confirmed today than the mighty Jens Lehmann will be joining us on a short term contract until the end of the season in order to cover our goalkeeping injury crisis, what are the odds then Jens ends up playing at White Hart Lane again in a crucial title deciding game? You just wouldn't bet against it would you? It makes sense and his experience/character could both be useful ingredients as the season reaches its climax.
Johan Djourou's situation is a little puzzling. He dislocated his shoulder last weekend, apparently a scan was clear, meaning that he has probably not done any major damage to the stabilising muscles and bones around the joint. Conflicting news has been coming out concerning his return to action. The club say it will be a minimum of six weeks out, as he is due keyhole surgery shortly, while the Swiss FA have claimed it could be less.
Given my medical background I find it all a bit odd, some things in medicine are clear and others greyer, the management of Johan's shoulder could be done in different ways. Essentially if the club wanted to rush him back in two/three weeks after some early physiotherapy to strengthen the shoulder up, this could easily be done, the risk would be that he re-dislocated whilst playing, still even if this happened he could then just have the surgery and have the rest of the season out. The other option is to have the surgery straight away, but with this strategy he is likely to miss the rest of the season. Personally I'm a bit disappointed the club didn't gamble by trying to get him back quickly, he is so important for us, still I'm sure they have their reasons.
As expected UEFA have fined Arsene a few thousand and suspended both him and Samir Nasri for one game of next season's European competitions. It's no surprise and rather reminiscent of the FA's kangaroo court system, basically they do what they want, you can appeal but they won't listen to you, so there's simply no point in appealing. The great problem we have in football is that all these incompetent corrupt governing bodies (FA/UEFA/FIFA) are unaccountable dictatorships, and as a result they just do what they want, there is no consistency, no right to a fair trial and no due process.
There is simply no more room for dropped points this weekend away to the Baggies. We have to win. The dropping of points to Sunderland cannot be repeated. Almunia will play in goal, Squillaci will partner Koscielny, while Song's injury will expose our squad weakness in midfield, personally I'd like to see Ramsey come in alongside Jack and Diaby, with a front three of Nasri, RVP and Bendtner. Arshavin probably has a shout too, perhaps he will play ahead of Bendtner, I just hope that Densilson and Rosicky are kept firmly on the bench. The news that Vermaelen is definitely out for the season comes as no surprise, his injury could be career threatening and Arsene will have to plan for the future without him, his future fitness simply cannot be guaranteed reliably. Come on you Gunners!
Sunday, 13 March 2011
It has not been a good couple of weeks and there have been many reasons for this, the manager has been far from blameless with some long term decisions and some shorter term ones, some players have not pulled their weight and we have not been the luckiest either. The cup final could easily have gone the other way despite the performance not being great in the first half, the Barca game saw us fighting an uphill battle after a refereeing howler, while the Manu game saw the kind of performance that typifies us when we at our most frustrating, luck and some excellent goalkeeper played its part too.
Arsene is no fool, it has been obvious from the way in which Denilson's role has gradually diminished that he is running out of patience with the mediocre Brazilian. I also sense that he is running our of patience with certain other individuals who have been given more than enough in the way of first team chances. Wherever we finish in the league this year, it is clear that certain players must be nearing the exit door and those at the top of any provisional list must include Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin and Vela.
Personally speaking I don't think we have ever properly replaced the backbone of our midfield since Gilberto and Flamini left in the summer 0f 2008. Song has developed terrifically well, Wilshere is a great all rounder and has had a great first year, but beyond this we really lack any strength in depth. This has been so so evident when the Denilson-Diaby combo has had its chance of late. There is some young talent coming through (Ramsey/Frimpong/Lansbury) but a solid combative player with experience would have added a lot at times this year. Arsene must know he has made an error in this regard.
Defensively I think we have improved massively, the emergence of Johan Djourou as a top notch centre back alongside the mobile Koscielny has been key, as has the progress of Mr Szczesny. A bigger problem for us has been our lack of pace and our consequent inability to kill teams off on the counter attack, as we used to in days of old. Theo has the electric zip, but beyond him we really lack the top drawer speed to scare defences. Our strikers are not slow but we lack a real pacey front man a la Henry or Anelka of old; our other wingers are not speed merchants either. Arshavin has gone backwards, looks overweight and lacks speed. Perhaps too much pressure has been then heaped on Samir Nasri.
Wenger may appear tactically naive but I think this is an easy explanation, it is more than he has now hamstrung himself by assembling a one dimensional squad of players that means he simply has to play in a certain way, we have lost the great diversity of squad that we used to have, there is not enough bite and grit in the midfield, there is not enough raw pace in our attacking players. We have seen that when something approaching our first eleven is fielded, we can beat anyone, Barca and Chelsea found this out, the problem is that with only a couple of injuries to players in certain positions we are left significantly weaker than we should be.
The league is still there for the taking and you never know, a lot will depend on injuries. If Bartley can be recalled then he should be, we need more cover at centre back given Djourou's absence, I would also be sorely tempted to recall Henri Lansbury but this would depend on the fitness of our other currently injured midfielders and I am not privy to that kind of insider information. What remains clear is that the balance of the squad is not right, psoitively the manager seems to be aware of these issues and I hope that he will address them in the summer. There are some players in this squad who are not of the right cut to wear an Arsenal shirt and this just has to be addressed, ruthlessly if needs be. Let's just hope the lads can turn things around and put together a run of results that will test Manu's character to its breaking point.
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Van der Saar was outstanding. His save from RVP's low fizzer in the first half was brilliant, his save from Koscielny's goal bound effort early in the second half was even better, there were some other decent saves thrown in there too. Having said that we were not clinical enough in front of goal, RVP missed a great headed chance in the first half from a corner, Chamakh missed a great headed chance in the second half.
United always looked more dangerous than us on the counter, it is sad that without Theo we lack that ability to kill teams on the break, an ability that we had such in abundance in earlier Arsene Wenger sides. Denilson was ok but he doesn't have the mobility to do much to protect the back four, Song was missed again. United first goal was clinical, a great save from Hernandez' excellent header left an easy tap in, the second goal was slightly fortunate but again we had been caught out.
It wasn't terrible by any means, but it was just a bit too predictable. Some of our play in the final third was just a bit slack, Diaby was particularly sloppy in this regard. It could easily have gone the other way though, those missed chances cost us dear. United were second best in footballing terms and this was a great chance to give them a beating, make no mistake. There were too many poor shots, too many slack passes in the final third and too many missed chances. One simply has to take one's chances to win games like this, we did not and we paid the ultimate price.
Paul Scholes is a malignant piece of scum. His two tackles near the end of the game were absolutely horrendous, both worthy of straight reds, the limp Foy gave him one yellow. It was amazing to see two leg breakers get a single yellow card between them, it was just lucky that there was no bone in the Old Trafford turf come full time. Foy didn't have much to do all game, so when he had to make a decision here, he well and truly choked it, utterly appalling cowardice from the referee.
A final word for Johan Djourou, one of our best players this season, he took a decent bash from Bacary Sagna near the end of the game and had to be stretched off, I hope it is nothing serious, we all have our fingers crossed and our thoughts are with you Johan. Get well soon Johan!
Post scriptum Unfortunately Johan is out for the season, he has dislocated his shoulder, it is likely he will have surgery on it thus ending his season, what terrible luck. Arsene must surely be pushed into recalling Kyle Bartley from Rangers, I am not sure if he is allowed to play for more than two clubs this season though (Rangers/Sheff Utd)
"They (Uefa) are difficult people to deal with - they don't listen to you and they never have done....Maybe one day they might - but I am not going to hold my breath."
The above quote is from Peter Hill-Wood and makes for some very interesting reading, to me it appears that Peter is calling UEFA a bunch of dictators in a rather polite manner. The fact that UEFA and our football governing bodies are effectively run like dictatorships does make them prone to becoming intrinsically corrupt. Any individual or organisation that is unaccountable and unwilling to change in response to valid criticism will inevitably become stagnant and corrupt, this is what we have going on at FIFA/UEFA and the FA. By corrupt I simply mean that these organisations are serving their own interests and propagating unfairness, rather than serving the interests of the game and striving for a fairer process.
Anyway moving onto today's game at Old Trafford, there's no doubt about the importance of this one, both in terms of psychology for the league title race and in terms of winning a cup. Almunia will come in for Szczesny, Cesc drops out with his recurrent hammy, Song and Theo are still out. Arsene will field a strong eleven and this is who I would play:
Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
Diaby Wilshere Nasri Arshavin
I think we missed the pace and skill of Arshavin against Barca, he made a difference when he came on, albeit a bit too late. Let's have a go at United, I don't want to see us sit back and fail to throw the kitchen sink at them. Vidic is back for them but they have been leaking a few goals of late, let's hope that can continue. Although it is a 4-4-2 above, it would work more like a 4-3-3, I think dropping Nasri deeper is a far better option than playing Rosicky or Denilson. Come on you Gunners, let's show people that we do have some leaders!
Friday, 11 March 2011
It gives Manuel Almunia a massive chance to prove his doubters wrong. He had a fantastic game against Barca this week and let's hope he can continue in that vein of form for the next few weeks. Arsene is going to have to smuggle in another keeper just in case Almunia gets injured too, I pray that doesn't happen.
We need to get lucky with injuries otherwise this season could turn into a huge mound of horse manure before our very eyes. Arsene's foolish decision to gamble with an unfit Cesc in midweek has backfired with him niggling his hamstring (again), meaning he will miss at least a couple of games. It is not the first time that Arsene has gambled with unfit players in big games.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
"A bit more humility would do UEFA some good. To apologise for what happened would be much better than to charge people who have done nothing wrong. UEFA has to have a little bit of a low profile after what happened. That would be better, more sensible and more adapted to the situation."
Arsene is quite right and it is obvious that a lot of this is directed at the arrogant and incompetent Busacca. Goodplaya has summarised the key elements to his woeful decision to send off RVP so unfairly, as Arsene says, the way in which the referee and UEFA have behaved following this shambles is symptomatic of the general malaise that is present in football's governing bodies.
Football is currently broken, all the governing bodies are failing to move with the times, they all resemble dictatorships and not functional democracies. UEFA's shambolic behaviour in this whole sorry affair is demonstrative of these facts. The fact that UEFA have ignored the throat grabbing by three Barcelona players sums up the unfair and inconsistent nature of the useless disciplinary system that is in place at the moment. The processes and systems in place at the moment are biased, inconsistent and haphazard, whether this be FIFA's, UEFA's or the FA's; football is fast becoming sport's laughing stock, as every other sport progresses and becomes fairer by embracing technology, football continues to live in the dark ages and embrace corruption and nepotism.
I am glad Arsene has spoken out on this, UEFA need to be exposed as the pathetic incompetent bullies that they are. Good can come out of this mess, the momentum must be maintained to ensure that football's corrupt and incompetent governing bodies are forced to come out of the dark ages.
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
The fact that UEFA have charged Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri following yesterday's truly pathetic refereeing performance from Massimo Busacca makes it look like someone is deflect attention away from a rather corrupt and stinking organisation. Before I start on this rant, I am not saying Arsenal deserved to win, Barcelona were dominating the game before the sending off, however it is undeniable that Arsenal restricted Barcelona to very few clear cut chances before going down to ten men. The fact is that the sending off massively reduced our chances of going through yesterday and massively impacted upon the game's outcome.
The fact that UEFA are charging Nasri and Wenger is a disgrace. The fact that several Barcelona players grabbed our players by the throats in plain view of the referee yesterday has been completely and utterly ignored by UEFA and the match officials. The fact that the referee dished out several extremely soft yellow cards to our players in the first half was also obvious, at the same time he let Barcelona off with some extremely firm tackles, far firmer than anything that our players had been carded for. He failed to book Messi for a clear dive, he allowed the routine feigning of injury to carry on for the entire game.
Busacca then sent off RVP for the most laughable of reasons, Jack as since spoken of how he couldn't even hear the whistle, RVP certainly didn't and the ref seemed remarkably keen to send him off. Arsene has quite rightly spoken out on this, frankly it was 'embarrassing', the hapless Busacca should be ashamed of himself. Unfortunately Busacca seemed to enjoy his role in Barca's triumph, he enjoyed laughs and jokes with the Barca players as he shared their water in the first half, not something he afforded to the Arsenal players. Busacca hadn't finished there though, he still had time to give Barca a dodgy penalty as the notorious diver Pedro pirouetted in the box after the mildest of gusts.
Arseblogger has summed it all up more eloquently than I can, it is clear that irrelevant of our performance or the so called statistics the red card massively changed the game, Goodplaya has also summed neatly just how incompetent the decision to send RVP off was. We had actually defended well until the red card, other than Cesc's stupid back heel that led to the first goal. We would have had a chance with eleven men on the field, we almost managed to snatch something with only ten men left, our chances would have been undeniably greater with the full compliment left.
The reason I am so incensed by this is that UEFA seem to be deliberately perpetuating this bias, whether it is a case of overt corruption or more of a subconscious one, I won't speculate, but the fact that it is only Arsenal facing charges stinks when several Barcelona players had our players quite literally by the throats. UEFA are part of this broader axis of evil that includes FIFA and the FA who seem intent of keeping football as corrupt and biased as possible, they don't want fairness, they don't want technology, they want to stifle all dissent to keep their corrupt little coven going. It is undeniable that keeping Barca in the competition makes far more money for UEFA, you just wonder how deliberate the lubrication of their passage has been?
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Having said all that Arsene got his tactics completely and utterly wrong. He started with two players who were clearly not 100% fit, RVP and Cesc, and neither of these lads did themselves justice. Rosicky was chosen to start for some bizarre reason only known to Arsene, he was deeply average and rather anonymous in every possible way. This left us to be overwhelmed in midfield, I thought Jack and Abou did pretty well given the circumstances. We also had so little in the way of an attacking threat, Arshavin was on the bench, what a terrible waste.
The sending off of RVP killed us and what an appalling piece of refereeing it was, RVP clearly didn't hear the whistle, the referee showed him a ridiculous second yellow, even the Barcelona players seemed shocked by the incompetence of the decision. Barca still struggled to finish us off, they needed a very dodgy penalty from yet another Pedro dive to score their third, Bendtner had a last gasp chance when he should have been clean through near the end, his poor touch let him down.
Again Barcelona can be proud of the pathetic cheating that they indulged in from the first minute to the last. They tried to get our players books with little rolls, pirouettes and pikes from the off, it was quite appalling and completely unsportsmanlike. This was all summarised by David Villa's rolling around on the ground after Koscielny had cleanly won the ball with a fair tackle in the second half, yet another piece of despicable gamesmanship from yet another Barcelona cheat. They may have won but they have very little credibility left as sportsmen left in my eyes. Pedro Messi, Villa, Daniel, Busquets, so many cheating cunts in one football team.
I wouldn't like to finish with ranting about Barca's cheating in isolation. Our defeat tonight was sadly predictable and a mixture of refereeing incompetent, Barcelona cheating and Arsene's lack of tactical awareness killed us. Fucketty fuck fuck fuck, fuck fuck fuck.
Monday, 7 March 2011
Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
Diaby Cesc Wilshere
Nasri Bendtner Arshavin
I think there will be a fair bit of emphasis of Nasri in particular helping out the midfield, Arshavin may be given more of a license with which to roam, Diaby must show some discipline for once. It's a great shame Theo is unfit, but the absence of Puyol (injured) and Pique (suspended) is a massive plus for us.
We escaped from the weekend with a point gained thanks to Liverpool brushing a poor Manu aside 3-1. There was a lot of talk about certain controversial incidents in this game and certainly the referee Phil Dowd didn't cover himself in glory (again). There was no doubt that Carragher's dangerous tackle deserved a red card, however Nani's reaction was one of the most pathetic things I have ever seen on a football field. He obviously had a nasty gash but was able to put weight through his leg given that he hadn't sustained a serious bony or ligamentous injury; his attempt to then get Carragher sent off by getting up to show his wound to the ref and then throwing himself down in a theatrical rolling heap of shite was beneath contempt, what a twit.
Rafael's tackle on Lucas moments later was even worse than Carragher's, his high two footed lunge would probably have broken Lucas' shin if he hadn't managed to jump out of the way, again Dowd bottled the decision and have a yellow when red was merited. The subsequent ruck between Manu and Liverpool players would have resulted in a FA charge if Arsenal had been involved. Manu then refused to speak to the media after the game, Fergie refused to speak to Manu TV, how utterly pathetic, unfortunately the PL don't have the guts to punish Manu for this childish sore loser behaviour. Arseblogger has rightly pointed out the rank inadequacy of the governing bodies we have presiding over football in the UK and in the World; the FA and FIFA are a joke.
The lack of retrospective punishment from the FA is inexcusable and a complete disgrace, I was the first to point out that the FA are completely free to retrospectively punish incidents seen and punished by the match officials at the time. FIFA have since confirmed that the FA are free to act retrospectively, it is just that the FA are a pathetic bunch of cowards who do not have the guts to stamp violence out of the game. FIFA are equally gutless, their continued refusal to bring technology into the elite game is indefensible. Referees want technology, players want it, the fans want it,while all the other top sports have introduced it successfully. It is only FIFA that don't want it, it is akin to the Vatican not wanting to see vaccinations introduced because they are interfering with God's will for disease! Utterly ridiculous stuff. FIFA the the FA should hang their empty heads in shame.
Sunday, 6 March 2011
It's easy to pin all the blame on the referee and officials for the wrongly disallowed goal and the missed stonewall penalty for Bramble's fouls on Arshavin in the second half. This would be unfair, the offisde could have gone either way, the penalty decision was an error, but the poor officiating was only a small part of the reason for our failure to gain three points for me.
A bigger reason was the fact that our midfield squad players have not been good enough to fill in for the likes of Song and Cesc all season long. Denilson has been poor game in game out, he adds nothing other than his completely mediocre lack of presence, I really have to question the manager's judgement in persisting with such an average player. Diaby was also poor, slow to move the ball on and lethargic at times, although he is only just returning from injury (again), how many more chances will he be given to show us his erratic lack of genius? It is hard to believe that someone like Henri Lansbury could not have added something yesterday, a bit of bite and a bit more drive possibly. As Arseblog says this morning, the Diabnilson or Deniaby axis was frankly piss poor, and sadly this was so eminently predictable.
The poor Deniaby axis was even more obvious without the presence of Theo and Cesc to paper over the cracks. Arsene spoke of this after the game, and one can't help but feel that our lack of raw pace on the bench and our lack of decent midfield cover are both problems that he should have anticipated before now.
Having said the negative we were still rather unlucky not to come away with all three points, a combination of bad luck, excellent goalkeeping from Mignolet and some slightly wasteful finishing combined with the poor officiating to devastating effect. Mignolet's fantastic save from Bendtner's brilliant dipping shot from an angle was top notch, he made some other decent stops in the second half. Chamakh was terribly unlucky when he second half header cannoned back off the inner angle of the woodwork. Positively Szczesny was outstanding, he had to be at his best on more than one occasion to tip away some high quality goal bound Sunderland efforts on the counter attack.
Overall though I find it hard to see why a player like Denilson is still at our football club, honestly he is just not good enough. Diaby is a slightly different case given his terrible fortune with injuries, but I still feel he is showing us that doesn't have the discipline or consistency to remain at our football club in the long term. Surely Ramsey could have done more from the start than Denilson managed yesterday? Also why are the likes of Henri Lansbury out on loan when they could add some of the missing ingredients to our midfield? Arsene may be 'disgusted' with the officials, but surely some of this misplaced rage is a result of knowing that he has not done enough to address the gap in terms of our squad's strength in midfield. It has cost us several times already this season, it cost us again yesterday, how much longer will he persist with these failing players?
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
I don't want to single out individuals, but Rosicky didn't carry much water on Sunday, he also didn't do a massive amount of cutting Birmingham apart, has he really offered enough for a highly paid and experienced international? Denilson has been so average this season that many of us were glad not to see him start, that says a lot, Diaby has been erratic and seems to have been given so many chances. Arshavin has had a poor season overall as well. Overall a lot of our highly paid midfield squad players have not been cutting the mustard on a regular basis and this should no longer be ignored in my opinion. Players returning from injury such as Ramsey/Frimpong and youngsters like Lansbury deserve some games in the next few months.
Strangely we lost the second half and drew the first on Sunday, we were perversely far better in the second than the first. Koscielny's error was bad, I know, but he's been solid of late, Szczesny has also been solid recently, they both deserve our patience. The first half was just not good enough, Birmingham outnumbered and outfought us in the midfield, this has happened in big games before when Arsene has not anticipated the predictable way in which opposition bosses try to crowd us in the midfield. The easy way to play against this is to fight them in the midfield and kill them with pace on the counter attack, this is what the great double winning Arsenal sides and the Invincibles did. We seem less able to do this than in previous years.
The concern about RVP's injury is that without his energetic aggression up front, we can look very one dimensional, especially without Theo at the same time, Bendtner and Chamakh can both lead the line but neither will genuinely scare defences with their pace or movement. RVP is out for a minimum of 3 weeks, it is probably a medial collateral ligament injury. This all means that Theo and RVP will not face Barca in the Nou Camp, a big blow in all honesty.
The fixtures are piling up as the injuries do the same, Koscielny's hamstring niggle will see him rested tomorrow, so it's likely we'll see Squillaci, Miguel, Gibbs and Eboue drafted in. Maybe he'll bring in Denilson +/- Diaby (?fit yet), I just don't know. If we manage to make it through then it sees another fixture added to the already busy calendar, that being Old Trafford. To me our squad just doesn't quite seem to have the depth in certain areas, I hope I'm wrong. It's a massive couple of weeks coming up, we need to pull together and get behind the lads.