Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Battle of Old Trafford

The team line ups are as follows:

Manure: Van Der Saar, OShea, Vidic Ferdinand, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson, Fletcher, Rooney, Tevez

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Walcott, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor

It looks like 4-5-1s times two. It will be interesting to see if Nasri or Fabregas plays deep, personally I hope it is Cesc in the deeper role. The one thing that concerns me is our lack of strength at centre back, compared to United's first choice pairing we can only field a fourth choice player in Mikel Silvestre. Get stuck in boys and let's sock it to them. Come on you Gunners.

First half update:

We are lucky to only be one nil down at half time. Largely thanks to Manuel's heroics we are still in the game. Our freshly concocted back four did not look at home at all early on, large gaps appeared down the right flank and Ronaldo found far too much space several times. The goal saw O'Shea and two other United players left in acres at the back stick as the ball was cut back, even O'Shea couldn't miss. Alumunia had already saved brilliantly from Rooney's header, he then did more of the same for a Ronaldo header. Positively we did come into the game in the second quarter, we seemed to press United a bit better and managed to hold onto the ball a bit better.

Tactically I am distinctly disappointed with the starting line up. If you are to play 4-5-1 then you must have pace on both flanks, we only have Walcott on the right, Diaby did well considering, but he does not give a side width or directness in attack. I also feel that with 4-5-1 you must not only have this pacey support for your striker, but you must have someone from the midfield trio supporting the striker and that player must have a bit of pace.

Cesc is a great player but he is very one paced, so when he breaks onto dangerous passes or knock downs he is much easier to defend against that someone with a bit of pace, a Nasri for example. I am perplexed that Nasri is playing so deep, even if his long term future is in this role, something I do not think for that matter, then to plunge him into this role in such a big game when he has played it so rarely in the past is bizarre, if not stupid. Arsene would do better to stick Diaby in the middle and Nasri on the left if he is to insist on the 4-5-1. I think that Arsene needs to change something fairly early in the second half, otherwise this game may drift out of our reach.

Seccond half:

There were some positives from the second half, in particular I think the defense and Alex Song were outstanding. The most obvious negative was the pathetic performance and lack of effort from Adebayor, he lost the ball time and time again, completely unable to hold it up, never working hard to win it back and doing very little when he did retain the ball at his feet. The game was very even, the best effort came from Ronaldo whose thirty yarder smashed off the top of the bar with Almunia beaten, Bendtner had our best chance, his header would have been a goal if he had got a more minimal glancing contact on the ball. Otherwise we huffed and puffed without creating much.


Arsene's tactics make no sense. Our only attacking threat was Walcott, Diaby gave us no width, while the only man who could have given us width on the left, Nasri, was played in a holding midfield role. Fabregas looks completely lost playing behind the striker, he doesn't have the pace for this role and his overall game is suited to a deeper role. Worryingly Adebayor was awful and his lack of effort is inexcusable. The substitutions were strange, Walcott being replaced by Bendtner, although it was good to see Eduardo coming on and looking very sharp.

We really need to get the tactics right in the second match and frankly I'd rather see us go down trying to win the game than playing in such a negative and unthreatening manner. Kolo and Silvestre defended well at centre back for the majority of the game, while Gibbs grew into the game and excelled for such an inexperienced youngster. Song was outstanding, excellent on the ball, winning tackle after tackle in a congested midfield area, his progress this season has been immense. A mention should go to the ref who was brilliant, letting the game flow and ignoring many a Manure dive.

So Arsene, if you are reading which I very much doubt, sort out the tactics, we should at least go down with our guns blazing.

Lets get ready to rumble

Wow. This is a big day. A really big day. The butterflies have been going all week. There will be very little productive work done today by Gooners worldwide, thats for sure.

This is one of those days where nothing else really matters. So what if some Mexicans have a bad cold? The government should cancel the order for pointless facemasks and start handing out aspirin and beta blockers to football fans for tonights game - there is a significant risk of a heart attack tonight. I hope a good dose of numbing lager should see me through.

My anger after the FA Cup semi-final has now subsided to something of a simmering realisation that Wenger has staked almost everything on the Champions League this season. I would have hedged my bets and put our strongest XI out against Chelsea as well, but Arsene rested Song and kept Arshavin on the bench. No-one saw that team selection coming and I have a sneaky feeling there will be a surpise when the teams are announed at about 7.15 this evening.

Either way, and whatever the team selection is, the game will come down to which team wants it more, which team works harder and keeps its discipline. I don't doubt our attacking ability, but our discipline is a worry. Even if we were to go 2 or even 3 into the lead tonight, you have to think ManUre will fancy their chances for a come-back.

The one thing we have to do is play our own game. Arsenal are rubbish at sitting back and trying to defend. If we play too deep then its curtains for us. Instead, we want to get possession of the ball, play our passing game and hope to create an opportunity.

I fully expect a roller-coaster ride. A quiet start could see a deluge of goals in the second half (a la Liverpool), whereas an early goal might not indicate a goalfest is approaching. Either way, given both teams propensity to score in the final seconds of games, this is going to be a heavyweight slugger.

I suspect Arsenal are sitting in a hotel conference room somewhere in Manchester at this very moment, with Martin Keown and Giles Grimandi giving an informative lecture, with demonstrations and Q+A sesssions, of just why ManUre are the biggest bunch of jammy, cheating, over-spending, over-inflated, over-paid, diving bunch of cock-smokers ever to walk this earth. Its been too long since I truly hated ManUre with a rage approaching beserker levels. Arsenal need to find that rage today. I have been a massive fan of Song, Ade and Denilson all season. Those guys need to deliver tonight.

That said, whatever happens tonight, we cannot win or lose the game in the first leg. Yes, you can give yourself a head start for the second leg, but lets not get too carried away if we win, or too depressed if we lose. Both teams can score, and concede, a lot of goals - a single goal is an advantage, but not that massive. Even a two or three goal lead/deficit can disappear pretty quickly.

Anyway, thats enough guff. Get up for it Arsefans. We cannot make history tonight, but this is a great opportunity for Arsenal to punch a massive hole in Operation ManUre's plan for world domination. The fuckers. To pass time in the next 9 hours, I suggest you give serious thought to which Manure player you would like to punch in the face. You only get one punch.

Rooney or Ronaldo? Or Ferdinand? No, wait, I would love to smack Scholes in the nose. Or Nani. God, Berbatov deserves a punch as well....

Tuesday 28 April 2009

The mancs await

I must firstly apologise for my lack of attention to the blog over the past few days, I make no excuses for the improved quality of writing in my absence courtesy of Obsinho, I was simply sunning myself and enjoying not working for a few days, unfortunately I have now returned to the grind and a combination of alcohol/caffeine withdrawal leaves my head sore and my mind bitter.

Anyways onwards and upwards, we take on the 'mighty' and 'magnificent' Manure tomorrow, if one believed the hype then Manu are already in the final, they have virtually a whole team of player of the season nominees and a goalkeeper so 'solid' that they call him the Northern Rock. Luckily the hype is a big steaming pile of horse manure and we are very much in with a shout of making it to our second ever Champions League final. Manu's form has been rather shaky of late, fortune has been on their side with dodgy penalty decisions, while their victories have been far from convincing following on from their humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

Trying to predict Arsene's hand these days is a bit like foreseeing the scrawling of a nutty professor, certainly our line up against Chelsea was unexpected, as well as being rather ineffective. The money will probably be on the 4-5-1 formation again (sigh), although personally I wouldn't mind seeing Bendtner and Ade paired together up front, something that would potentially give the Mancs a lot to think about defensively. If 4-5-1 is the weapon of choice, then Nasri will have to play on the left with Walcott on the right, Fabregas and Song are certainties, meaning the choice will be between Denilson and Diaby in make up the midfield trio. With Arshavin cup tied the only other option I could guess would be that Walcott be switched to the left, Nasri plays centrally with Eboue slotting onto the right side of midfield. Was the Boro game a dress rehearsal or just a cunning ploy to throw the red nosed one off the scent?

In my opinion Diaby has performed best in a more disciplined role in a 4-4-2 formation, he definitely has more in the way of attacking prowess than Denilson. Having seen the 4-5-1 fail so emphatically against Chelsea I do fear that the same line up may well see us inviting a lot of unnecessary pressure, leaving our weakened defence subjected to too great an attacking load. This also seemed to happen against Liverpool, we could not retain possession, our lone striker was too isolated and the pressure became too much to take, the defensive errors become almost inevitable as the pressure is cranked up. It's great that Almunia is back in goal, he gives us that commanding presence that is needed at the back, there is a big worry over Silvestre, making the return of Johan Djourou look even more likely despite his knee not quite being 100% as yet.

It's an enormous game, I am getting just a little nauseated thinking about it now, the atmosphere will be electric. Hopefully the ref will not be afraid to make big decisions against the home side, history suggests that he won't. We will need to defend well, an away goal or two will also be very useful, for this reason I suspect the first leg may be a rather cagey affair as Manure will not want to concede at home. There is certainly nothing between the two sides as judged on recent encounters. It is time to stand up and be counted, come on you Gunners.

Monday 27 April 2009

Unbeaten run continues at a canter...

Much less to say after this game than the freak Anfield game, which given the importance of this Wednesday was exactly what the Dr ordered. It was a comfortable 2-0, Boro never tried (which in itself I found embarrassing on behalf of the travelling ‘Boro fans) and I think (crosses fingers toes eyes and anything else crossable) we have not picked up any more injuries.

There were some interesting formational issues though. To my mind, and the esteemed minds of my matchday colleagues in the RedAction, Wenger was using this as a dry-run for Wednesday, so expect something similar in shape if not in exact line-up. We played a 4-4-1-1 for the first 70 minutes, again deploying Cesc in the hole. He did score his two goals, but I am still not convinced that it brings out the best in him. Nasri was played deep and central, under clear instruction to be simple in possession, but to keep the ball moving forward. He is actually quite a tenacious little fella, and he likes a tackle so this may be something we see him doing in the future – Le Boss says;

"Usually Fabregas plays deeper with Nasri higher. I wanted to test how it would work the other way round. It could be reiterated that we will do it again because it was quite convincing. But that is open; we have 48 hours to study that then make a decision"

Up front it was Nikki B on his own. Now I am convinced we will see Ade filling this role on Wednesday, but there were certainly elements in the Dane’s game Ade should not feel too aloof to learn from. He was not offside once. His movement as soon as we won possession saw him dragging centre backs wide to allow either himself to receive the ball, or for runners to move into the channels he’d created. He is not as good in the box as Ade, and certainly doesn’t have his firepower, but he understands some of the dynamics of the game that Ade doesn’t seem to. If the Togonator can realise that he can learn from his less esteemed team mates, I think we will have someone who can surpass the Drog as the best Bulldozing striker in the league.
And finally, Johann got 45 minutes to re-acquaint himself with his team-mates. And to my mind he looked no better than Silvestre on the day. I am not saying that he is not better (he is) or that he shouldn’t start against Utd (he should) simply that on Sunday he looked rusty. Hope that’s clear.

All in all, an ideal warm up, and just enough glimpses of our fluid attacking play to whet the appetite. Utd are not comfortable at the back as Spurs proved in their first half (I am sure there will be DVDs release at Shite Hart Lane of the first 45 minutes against Utd soon), and although we’ll be without Arshavin, we have more than enough to trouble them.

What a fortnight this could be…..

Friday 24 April 2009

The FA love the colour of TV money

Happy Friday. The best day of the week, but it is better when there is a game on the Saturday. However, for us there is no game this Saturday as we have to wait till Sunday. Unlike, our opponents on Wednesday who get to play on Saturday.

Why the hell are Utd given an extra 24 hours (almost) before such a huge game? Without doing Boro a huge disservice, our game against them is hardly a Classico, and although every game means a hell of a lot to them at the moment, they don't have a midweek game. The reason is that the FA are so in thrall to the lovely-lovely money of the TV companies, that they are probably going to allow the fabled 39th game, and will do anything thy are told. And there they are slating the Southampton management for their inept handling of finances. People in glass houses.....

Good news is that our prayers have been answered and that Johann is fit - no more Silvestre!!! We also welcome back our Spanish Waiter and soon Eduardo as well. This is all good news. However, RVP looks like missing the 1st leg against Utd. This is bad news.

In an absolute thuderbolt from left-field, Rosicky won't be back this season. Well that really is one of the great shocks of our season, along with the actual existence of Amaury Bischoff. Tommy is a dud, lets pay out his contract and sign a replacement (if needed?) and let the Medical team focus on players who have a chance of recovery.

More detail on Saturday or Sunday when 1979 or Ted are less busy.

Breaking-ish news is that the FA are an even bigger bunch of numpty arse-bandits than previously imaginable. I don't know the technicalities of it, but I guess this means they bought Hull's witness statements taken from the friend of the cousin of the binman of the brother of the dungeon-raised-Austrian-offspring of the Fitness coach, who suddenly appeared on the scene when Phil Brown was too busy breaking-down in live interviews with 5Live. What cock-smokers.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

There is a hell of a lot to pick out from the rubble of last night. First up – that was incredibly entertaining, yet somehow not very fulfilling. I imagine neutrals and Sky executives loved it, but it left a sour taste in the mouth somehow. After that Chelsea Liverpool goalfest a few weeks back, I told all and sundry that it was not a classic as both teams were crap, and lots of goals do not instantly provide the Classic prefix. Last night was the same to be honest – classics need tension, tactics, duels being fought across the pitch and a touch of quality. The only quality last night came from our Russian and their Spaniard.

The game itself - added to the injury list from the weekend were RvP and Ade, but we welcomed back Andrey and a non-match fit Sagna. This meant another 4-5-1, with 2 defensive midfielders providing no threat going forward, and a whole lot of weight on Cesc’s shoulders to deliver the goods. To my mind, he offered very little for 90 minutes – this is something Wenger needs to address. He is a great player, but he does not play in the “hole” – he plays deep, probes the space behind and in front of the back 4, and allows us to play a quick passing game. Isolating him up the pitch means the range of his passing is restricted, and also reduces his impact on the game – he can’t pass the ball if he doesn’t get it.

Which brings me onto Denilson and Song. At the turn of the year, if I had to pick one of these two who would become indispensible and one who would become the new kitman, the decision was easy. It is now even easier. Song was again exceptional – a match for, if not better than, Mascherano on the night. When seen in the context of his recent other performances, I believe we may be seeing the coming-of-age of a good player. It may just be a purple patch, as he has also had some stinkers, but let’s be positive.

Denilson’s regression is becoming quite sad to watch. He was quietly effective at the start of the season, but is now becoming noisily crap. He looks sluggish off the ball, lazy in possession and somehow lost in the middle of the pitch. As with Song, this may be a change in form, rather than a clear demonstration of his actual ability, but it is worrying. Either way, the midfield balance was wrong-wrong-wrong last night, and needs to be addressed ASAP.

Up front Nikki B did little to support his first-team spot, but did little to suggest his doubters are right. He had no service, and is not a lone-striker. He is a young guy being played out of position, on his own, at Anfield, with a misfiring midfield behind him. Better players than the Dane have struggled in those situations. And also, let’s point out, that he had a legitimate goal disallowed for off-side. At this point, could I just mention that Andy Gray is a donkey-raping-shit-eater. He can take his “analysis” and shove it up his “anal-cyst” – I am not sure that works. But sod it – he’s a biased shit-spouting little maggot, who epitomises all that is wrong with Sky.

Now onto the Messiah - Andrey Arshavin is a very good footballer. It took him 30 minutes to have a touch, as the midfield couldn’t string together a sentence let alone a pass. But then he scored 4 goals in the remaining 60 minutes. Of which all were brilliant, one was incredible, and one made my life worth living. He is awesome. Thanks for bringing him to the Arse, Arsene, but next time we have a big game, say maybe a cup semi-final, let’s maybe think about playing our best players. OK?

Defensivley – atrocious. But what did we expect from an injury-ravaged and confidence strapped back 4. Fabianski was a mix of good and shit (why do you try to save a looping header by punching out from the back of the net? I’m a crap keeper myself, but I know it is harder to save them when they have already crossed the line). Sagna looked like he still had the flu, and was culpable for 2 of the goals. Toure looked like he was trying hard, but knew it wasn’t going to be his night. And Silvestre looked like a fish. And an ugly fish who is shit at football at that. I know Torres has “done” Vidic this season, and will do many other defenders, but Silvestre just isn’t good enough. We need Djourou fit, and we need another centre-back in the Summer.

At the start of the game, I’d have taken a point. When Andrey scored his third, I would have been angry to not win, when he scored his 4th I would have killed people if we didn’t get all 3. I didn’t kill anyone in the end, as I realised that it didn’t matter as much as Sky were telling me it did.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Cheer yourselves up Gooners!

The defeat to Chelsea has not made the weekend the most pleasurable for Gooners up and down the land. This has been tempered somewhat by Manure's hilarious penalty shoot out defeat to Everton, their hopes of the treble are now gone (I don't count the Mickey Mouse cup as a trophy anymore). Watch the video above to cheer yourself up if you're feeling a tad depressed today.

Having had a browse of other Gooner opinion on the web, I have reached the conclusion that most people are in agreement with our assessment of events, the team selection was foolish and we paid the price for this. Goodplaya echoes our earlier thoughts, many others have reached the same conclusions independently as well. Arsene is a great manager, a top bloke and one of our prized assets. However he is not immune from criticism, and on this occasion he has not covered himself in glory, he has made clear mistakes that have cost us a place in the cup final. I also feel that the likes of RVP, who we desperately need to keep at the club, will not be enamoured by being played out of position and then subbed off early in one of the biggest games of the season.

I just hope he can learn from them and not repeat them against Manu in the Champions League semis. The moaning about the pitch is not clever, we knew the condition of the pitch before the game and it was the same for both sides, the pitch was indeed poor, but commenting on it after the game only makes one appear to be blaming it for the defeat. Manu do not like it up 'em, we must make sure that we go for their jugular from the off at Old Trafford. An overly cautious approach could see our tournament over before the second leg has even started, we need to attack them at Old Trafford. I'm not saying this will guarantee our passage to the final, but it will maximise our chances of getting to Rome. He who dares more often than not wins.

Cowardly and a deserved defeat

The FA Cup is now gone and the next day I am still bitterly disappointed with the manner in which we went down to Chelsea. I don't think there is anything to blame but the tactics and the team selection. I think the players who were selected tried hard and put the effort in, they do not deserve the criticism. Neither is it the fault of the pitch. The one saving grace of yesterday was the fact that the tickets were cheap as chips, mine for example cost on 24.50, but moving onto the game.

I was amazed at the starting eleven, not only had Arsene gone for the ineffective 4-5-1 formation but he stuck RVP out on the left wing, where his talent is completely wasted. There was simply no defending this bizarre team selection. If you are going to play 4-5-1, something I don't agree with, then you must have pace on the flanks, you simply must start with Arshavin on the left, especially given his obligatory rest for the Champions League games. Also you need more central support for your striker than we gave to Adebayor yesterday. Personally I would have played 4-4-2, stuck Song in the middle with Cesc, Arshavin and Walcott on the flanks, Ade and RVP up top, why not have a go? I do not buy the argument that you have to play 4-5-1 if the other side have three in the centre of midfield, it's rubbish and arguably cowardly, especially if it's not your normal routine and if you don't play the right players for the system.

As a result I don't think we ever got going, we did take the lead despite Chelsea looking the more dangerous side, a good bit of work from Ade down the left and he played Gibbs through who crossed nicely to find Walcott who did the rest with his left foot, Cech looked dodgy all day and could have done better, the frustrating thing was that we never put him under enough pressure, if we had he looked like he would have buckled. Walcott was outstanding, a constant threat, while Gibbs did very well at left back again. The 4-5-1 was not working though, RVP looked so lost on the left wing, he does not have the pace to play out wide, Ade was horrendously isolated. The midfield trio consequently had only the outlet of Walcott to look for as RVP didn't find space as a winger would, and Ade was so isolated with two or three men around him most of the time. I think the midfield looked poor overall but this seemed to me to be as a result of the system.

Our only hope would have been to hold onto this one goal lead as we did not really threaten the Chelsea goal enough for the remainder of the ninety, this didn't look like happening with a virtual reserve defence and against Didier Drogba, a striker that despite being a cheating whining brat is a very good player. Malouda equalised with a well struck shot but Fabianski shouldn't really have been beaten at his near post in such fashion, as the first half wore on we really struggled on, we kept gifting possession to Chelsea and inviting pressure, we just didn't have the attacking outlets to hold possession higher up the pitch.

We had one good moment early in the first half when a great move resulted in a pacey right wing cross that almost left RVP with a tap in, other than that we did nothing dangerous until the final few minutes. Amazingly Arsene persisted with the 4-5-1 and did not at any point have two strikers up front. The defending was poor for the Drogba winner, Silvestre who played well given his limited pace was outpaced easily by Drogba chasing onto a long ball flick on, Fabianski committed himself rather too easily and Drogba scored. When we won a couple of corners near the end we saw how poor a goalkeeper Cech is, he was flapping and looked terribly unconvincing, it was too little to late though.

Having read Arsene's comments this morning I can come up with no other explanation than that Arsene completely bottled it yesterday. He noticed we didn't have our normal fluency, this was plain to see and was clearly as a result of playing RVP on the wing and leaving Ade so badly isolated up front. His argument for resting Song doesn't cut it for me, he has been our best player in recent weeks and had to play yesterday. Arsene's explanation for the 4-5-1 formation doesn't cut it for me either:

"We played with three strikers – Theo, Robin and Adebayor – and I couldn’t play with four when they had three in midfield."

Theo was playing in the midfield and as a midfielder, RVP played out wide, we played with only one man up front. We should have played 4-4-2 and if we have to play 4-5-1 then you must play Arshavin on the left. The most frustrating thing about yesterday was that Chelsea were distinctly average and were there for the taking if we had chosen to grab the bull by the horns and sock it to them in true attacking Gooner fashion. Despite our ineffectiveness Chelsea looked slow and cumbersome in attack, they had no width, and they moved the ball very slowly when on the counter attack. It is sad and depressing to say but we never had a go at them, we played a defensive formation with players played out of their favoured positions. The blame for this performance and the manner of the defeat lies at Arsene's door. I just hope and pray that this is the last we see of this useless 4-5-1 formation, attack is the best form of defence Arsene. There's no shame in defeat when you at least unloaded a few rounds into the opposition's midriff, but defeat without removing one's gun from its holster is wholly unacceptable.

Friday 17 April 2009

Mincing before the biggie

There seems to be a lot of mutual loving going on, RVP praising Mr Hiddink, Mr Hiddick praising Andrei Arshavin, Frank Lampard praising the AFC club pies, et cetera. Certainly since the childlike and petulant Mourinho left Chelsea their managers have behaved in a much more appropriate and less disrespectful manner towards other clubs.

Ou major concern is obviously our defence. On the positive it is rumoured that Djourou may be back fairly soon, within a couple of weeks with luck, the bad news is rather more copious. Gibbs may well miss out due to a minor groin injury, I doubt Arsene will risk him given the consequences of turning it into a more serious strain that may put him out for a longer period of time. Clichy's rather strange absence continues, while Sagna is touch and go following a bit of a snuffle, Gallas is obviously out for the season as well. If Sagna is fit then it's looking likely that he'll switch to left back with Eboue continuing in his natural right back slot. If Sagna is unfit, then we may see Song at centre back, Silvestre at left back and Diaby into the midfield.

I've watched a fair bit of the Chavs this season. Their main threat will come from Drogba and in the air from set pieces, they do not have the greatest of width in their side, especially without Joe Cole whose brains are missed far less that his jinking runs. The likes of Ivanovic, Terry and Carvalho are all threats from corners and free kicks, while Drogba can be completely undefendable if he can be arsed to turn up. Strangely Mikel Silvestre is not a bad player to bring in against them, he may struggle more against an Anelka than a Drogba, but aerial play is not his weakness, his sluggish lack of pace is.

I can't predict this one, Lawro thinks he can but then again he continues to wear a small rat shaped object on his upper lip, one should certainly not trust a northerner sporting such distasteful facial items. Elsewhere David Moyes has had some interesting stuff to say on the rather strange appointment of Mike Riley at the last minute for their game against Manure, it does appear more than coincidence that the rat like Riley gets appinted to so many Manure games at the last minute, is he a Manure fan and does he spend any of his free time perching on Lawro's lip?

Thursday 16 April 2009

On song and into the semis

It's quite amazing how many goals one needs to feel safe in a football match, even at three nil I had paranoid ideas about a quick flurry of Villareal goals, luckily it didn't materialise and we march onwards and upwards. The strength of our squad was shown as we did this with four of our back five our injured, all injuries that have occurred in the last two weeks. Thankfully Arsene opted for a 4-4-2 formation with RVP and Ade up top, and Walcott and Nasri on the flanks, Cesc and Song paired up in the middle of the park.

We started well, a sublime finish from Theo, after he had been played through by Eboue's ball that was then flicked on cutely by Cesc, put us one nil up, how important the early goal can be. A second goal was threatened and there were several near misses and missed opportunities, Ade worked hard but his final touch was not the sharpest, RVP had fire in his belly and fought for every single loose scrap. Meanwhile Villareal were doing their best to cheat and con the referee, several theatrical dives after minimal contact were rewarded with free kicks, while their filthy Argentinian centre back Godin committed three clear yellow card offences and amazingly escaped the book, one dangerous scissor tackle on Song, one rake down Ade's Achilles when almost last man and a rather disgraceful trip from behind on Cesc I think. What an embarrassment these kind of below the belt tactics are.

Villareal started more positively in the second half, and continued to be aided and abetted by the referee who gave them three or four soft free kicks at the beginning of the second half, amazingly several Villareal players were trying to get Mikel Silvestre a second yellow for a nothing challenge, that surely would have been the softest and most undeserved red card ever if the unsportsmanlike Villareal players had had their way, it appeared though that their attempts to do the ref's job turned the officials against them. There were a few moments of danger, Silvestre looked slower than a P&O ferry trying to leave France, but Fabianski swept up very effectively, rushing off his line with speed and an appropriate aggression. Song kept his fantastic form going, looking positive and assertive with and without the ball, alongside him Cesc started the game well but errors crept into his game more and more as the minutes passed.

Just when you thought it was not going to be Ade's day, he received a lovely fizzed RVP pass on the edge of the box, took in on nicely with a neat first touch, then buried the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot, great goal, we could relax a smidgeon at last. The game was then over, a slightly soft penalty was given as Godin won the ball but did go through the man that was Theo Walcott in a rather nonthreatening position, RVP slotted the penalty home. Villareal didn't like the penalty decision and the pathetic Eguren was booked for second time for his aggressive dissent, I can't imagine Villareal would have disagreed with this decision if it had been Silvestre on Rossi in the box, they would probably have also beckoned for a yellow card for the tackle.

Overall job done and given the absentees in our defense it was a great achievement to dispatch a decent Villareal side so convincingly. Some of our less known names were outstanding, Song was excellent, Nasri worked so hard defensively, Walcott was awesome especially given his recent lack of games, RVP gave his all, Fabianski did all that was asked of him very effectively, the much maligned Eboue was comfortable in his right back slot, Gibbs did admirably and looks a great emerging talent, other than his lack of pace Silvestre looked a good defender. Manu await, however I feel that we shall need Djourou fit for this one, the lack of news on his knee is rather ominous. Our home record in the Champions League is formidable, unbeaten in 25 and no goal conceded for over eight hours, we'll certainly need to be at our best to beat the Manc scum, come on you Gunners.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Villareal, PFA and other bits'n'bobs

There's no doubt that tomorrow's game against Villareal is a rather big one, certainly getting through to the semis of the champions league would be quite some achievement, having said that it will not be an easy game, far from it, Villareal are a very good side and have the ability to cause us problems. Marcos Senna's injury at the weekend is a massive blow to their hopes though, he is their key man and I really hope we can exploit his absence tomorrow night. Johan Djourou is definitely out, meaning Mikel Silvestre comes in, while Kieran Gibbs replaces the injured Clichy and Fabianski the injured Almunia, so our back five is hardly looking as formidable as it can, one sense we may need to score a few goals to progress. Arsene should plumb for 4-4-2, stick Walcott and Nasri on the flanks, RVP and Ade up top with Cesc and Song in the middle, the rest of the team picks itself.

I am sure very few of you missed Arsene Wenger's rather interesting interview with L'Equipe, the NOTW tried to spin it in their typical fashion, in fact not much of what he said was that unexpected. It's certainly no surprise to me that Arsene knew he was in trouble when Flamini left, he had expected him to stay, maybe some Gooners were shocked by Arsene's clear insight in this season's problems, I was not, it's pretty obvious that he's not going to tell the press exactly what he's thinking all the time, if he did he would undermine his team's confidence and that would be bad management. Meanwhile Andrei Arshavin has been letting secrets out about Theo's lightening fast fingers.

I have to comment on the truly pathetic nominations for the PFA player of the year award. One never expects the unsung heroes to be nominated but the selection of big names from the big clubs really beggars belief:

Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Ryan Giggs (Man Utd)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd
Edwin van der Sar (Man Utd)
Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd)

Arsene has provided us with his opinion, maybe it's more to do with footballers being a bunch of very stupid individuals on the whole. Bizarrely we have three Manu defenders and two Manu midfielders on the list. Ferdinand and Vidic are the two who probably deserve their places on the lost more than the others, Van der Saar has been very average, making several blunders, he just seems to be getting nominated for the run of clean sheets and not his actual performances. Giggs has only played just over half the games in the league and has hardly been as breathtaking as he once was, making his nomination very strange as well. In fact Chelsea have the best defensive record in the league having conceded one less than Manure in the league. Ronaldo has also not been in sparkling form, most of his goals have been from penalties and set pieces. There are many players who have had great seasons who deserve a place on the list ahead of these over hyped Manu players, one is the dominant Mascherano, how on earth he not on the list I do not know.

The list of young players nominated is also rubbish. Rafael is a defender that cannot defend and has only played a handful of league games, Evans again has only played 12 games in the league! Agbonlahor has talent but his goalscoring record is poor, Lennon is a headless chicken, a right footed Glenn Helder without the dreads. Ashley Young and Stephen Ireland are the only two who deserve their nominations for me. Just to court a bit more controversy here is my Premiership team of the season:

Sagna Ferdinand Vidic Cole
Ronaldo Mascherano Cahill Young

Sunday 12 April 2009

Good and bad news, fortune favours the brave

It's time to roll out the cliches again, yesterday truly was a game of two halves as all football matches are, there really was a stark contrast between the Arsenal sides we saw in the first and second halves. The formation was the obvious thing that changed, 4-5-1 it was in the first and then to 4-4-2 in the second when RVP came on for the anonymous Denilson. It can't all be put down to the formation though as the crucial equalised came just before this formation change, the Walcott equaliser came one minute before RVP's introduction.

The less said about the first half the better, we never got going, Wigan thoroughly deserved their lead at the break and arguably we were lucky that it wasn't more than a one goal margin. Fabianski was looking a little shaky and he could have done better with Mido's early goal for sure. Wigan had other chances, and even hit the post with a free kick that had Fabianski well beaten. The unfortunate Johan Djourou tweaked his knee and had to be stretchered off, bad news given Gallas is out for the season, Mikel Silvestre came on to replace him. There's no denying the key moment came near the end of the first half when Kieran Gibbs escaped with a yellow card having had a tug at Valancia's shorts when he was clean through. Gibbs was certainly fortunate not to see red but watching the incident again I can't help but feel a red would have been harsh as Valencia clearly tugs back Gibbs initially, Valencia's left arm has a good pull at Gibbs' right shoulder, arguably this was the initial offence.

Once Walcott had equalised after some good wriggling by Arshavin, there was only one team tha was going to win the game. Wigan capitulated in impressive fashion, this was catalysed by our change to a 4-4-2 formation and the key equalising goal. A lovely move saw Cesc square accurately from the left wing to find Mikel Silvestre roaming where strikers do, his finish was faultless. Koumas then teed up Arshavin for the third, what a cracking leather spanking finish. The fourth came courtesy of Alex Song doing a Puskas impression, gliding past two men with the ball seemingly glued to his foot and then finishing emphatically into the bottom corner. Mission complete.

Another three points, another game without defeat in the league and a bit more daylight between ourselves and our wannabees Everton and Villa. Certainly Gibbs was a little fortunate, however it would have been a very harsh decision given that the initial foul was Valencia's, but coming back with ten men would have been a more uphill battle. I can't help but think that Arsene is rather too fond of the 4-5-1 formation, I just don't recall it serving us very well in the Premiership in recent years. Attack is the best form of defence and against a side like Wigan there is a tendency for our lone striker to become rather isolated and it is consequently very hard to retain possession. Having said that Arsene clearly wanted to keep a few players fresh for the Villareal game in midweek.

One big difference in the second half of the season has been the abundance of attacking talent we have at our disposal, Arshavin's arrival with the return of Walcott and Eduardo means that we can bring on substitutes who can change the game and this is key. Johan Djourou's injury is bad news, he may be out for some time but I'm sure a scan will reveal the severity of the damage in the next couple of days, the good news is that Marcos Senna is out of next week's game with a hamstring injury. Finally this weekend it should be remembered that football is only a game and that human lives are much more important, the Hillsborough disaster is being remembered as it's 19th anniversary approaches.

Friday 10 April 2009

Musings and meanderings

Firstly apologies if I'm repeating anything that Ted has said in his Wigan preview, I just felt the need to reflect before a busy weekend of Premiership action. The big news is obviously the absence of Gallas, Clichy and Almunia; the good news is that Gallas has not done his anterior cruciate ligament which would have put him out for almost a year and prevented him from moving on in the summer if that was so desired. It's a good opportunity to see if Djourou, Gibbs and Fabianski can rise to the challenge, the early signs have been encouraging, I just hope and pray that we get no more injuries at the back though, this could be absolutely disastrous, I won't tempt fate by mentioning the S word.

Unfortunately I could only listen to the game against Villareal on the radio, I then saw the highlights on the telly later. I was particularly struck by the gamesmanship of certain Villareal players, seemingly rather too keen to feign injury after the most minor of incidents, the classic example being Campdevilla's attempts to get Cesc sent off for nothing at all. This was in stark contrast to our attempts to stay on our feet despite some rather late lunges from Villareal players, it was also rather noticeable that they kept gesticulating for bookings with wagging fingers while we just tried to get on with playing football. I really wish refs would book players who openly ask the referee for bookings. Toure certainly seems to be finding a bit of form after a run in the side, this is great news. I am still far from convinced that Denilson does enough to be entitled to his regular starting slot in the midfield.

I am no economic expert, but Manure's financial results make for some very interesting reading indeed. Their holding company now has debts approaching 700 million, so even if one assume that they indeed worth a billion then this amount of debt must surely be a little bit of a cause for some concern? Their awful form of late is certainly a cause for concern, they were actually rather fortunate to escape with a draw against Porto.

The Chelsea-Liverpool quarter final was fascinating viewing, Chelsea thoroughly deserved their comfortable win and it really could have been more than the two goal margin that they take going into the second leg. Liverpool's defeat was especially satisfying as to me it seemed that they were trying to con the ref with several exaggerated dives to the turf while putting in some rather filthy tackles themselves. The fact that Liverpool were missing their defensive midfield lynch pin Mascherano was key for me, his replacement Lucas was woeful and Alonso was shown to be nothing more than a prancing ponce. It's funny how one often doesn't notice the best defensive players when they're there but when they're missing it become rather obvious how good they are.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Early Wigan Preview

Its an early preview for the Wigan game on Saturday, given that tomorrow is Good Friday and I'm unlikely to be near a puter. I am always far more tempted to get blogging when I am wasting my employers time, rather than my own.

And the news this Thursday afternoon is rather mixed. The least surprising news is that Rosicky did not play for the reserves after all this week and his comeback is on hold. I don't know exactly what that means but the implication is not good.

Also on the negative side, the injury toll from Tuesday night is now mounting. Gallas is expected to be out for the rest of the season, Almunia will miss 3 weeks and Clichy 2 weeks with a back problem.

I have mixed views on that front. Whilst you obviously don't want to miss anyone at this stage of the season, Djourou is more than competent to replace Gallas and I have no worries on that front - its a great opportunity for the young Swiss that he thoroughly deserves. Fabianski will come in for Almunia and that is also ok, likewise Gibbs for Clichy. Whilst both Fabianski and Gibbs look good prospects, they are going to be thrown right into the deep end next week with something of a warm-up against Wiganm, and then a massive game against Villareal on Wednesday followed bu the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.

Our defensive unit has looked pretty steady in recent months and losing three of them at once poses several problems in terms of familiarity in what the rest of the back 5 are doing. That said, Clichy is not having his best season and Gallas can be something of a mixed bag as well. So, its tricky. If they do well next week, then thats fantastic, but the changes create a chink in the armour no doubt.

On the positive note, RVP and Eduardo are apparently fit and ready to be included in the Wigan squad, and of course Arshavin is available for that one. I would also expect Bendtner to figure this weekend, possibly from the the off.

In fact, apart from giving our new back 5 a full run-out, I would be tempted to go for some wholescale squad rotation on Saturday, but its very tricky to actually say who will play or where. Cesc, Ade, Theo, Eduardo, Nasri and RVP are recently back from injury and will possibly be struggling to play 3 games a week. The obvious candidates who have had some time on the bench are Bendtner and Eboue, but would Arsene really start El Comrade on the right side of midfield ahead of Nasri or Theo? Somehow, I don't think so.

Now that we have our full artillery of strikers back, its also about time we ditched the 4-5-1 again and got back to playing 4-4-2, which is the only formation I see getting us a result against Chelsea a week on Saturday.

So I predict the team against Wigan as follows:

Sagna Toure Djourou Gibbs
Theo Song Cesc Arshavin
RVP Bendtner

Subs (to play at least 30 mins): Eduardo, Eboue, Nasri.

Its been a long time since we had this much choice, especially given that the above team does not involve any of the kids and would see Denilson and Ade given a full day off. Maybe our squad does actually have some strength in depth after all?

Tuesday 7 April 2009

1-1 Ade sinks the Sub

Its a game of two halves, jumpers for goalposts, they don't like it up em... the old adages are dangerous ground in terms football punditry, but tonights 1-1 draw at the El Madrigal stadium against Villareal was a great example of football being a very funny old game. Its also not usually wise to go for a match report straight after the game, as your objectivity is usually as absent as Tomas Rosicky, but I'll give it a go anyway.

The first 45 minutes was a flashback to early season nightmares. Villareal looked sharp and matched our 4-5-1 formation, Pires the surprise exclusion from the Yellow Submarine and made to sit on the bench against his old team. Arsenal were extremely wasteful in possession. We were in slow motion. Many miscued passes and Adebayor isolated up top.

A nothing sort of ball from Villareal up the inside left channel bounced high and Gallas might have cleared, didn't, and Almumia punted clumsily into Rossi (ex-Manure). It looked nothing but Almunia seemed to land awkwardly and twisted his ankle, shortly to be replaced by Fabianski. But before he went, the Anglo-Spaniard had the opportunity to pick the ball out of the net after Marcos Senna drilled in a magnificent goal from 25 yards with only ten minutes on the clock. The commentators said that Song might have got closer to Senna, which is true, he might, but at least he was there, whereas Denilson and Cesc had gone walk-about. Still, an amazing goal, but not the best goal of the night.

Arsenal played sporadic football over the next 15 mins, but it was largely aimless. Our young midfield looked its inexperienced worst, Denilson largely anonymous, Nasri prone to errors and Walcott ineffectual. It was like they had never even seen each other before. Villareal were playing a tight passing game, and doing it well. A mazy run from Rossi into the heart of our defence caused Song to commit a foul, Rossi fell into Gallas and his leg was trapped underneath him. After a brief and somewhat futile attempt to play on, Gallas followed Almunia off the pitch with about 35mins on the clock and Djourou came on.

Half time could not come fast enough. We were 1-0 down and frankly that was a miracle.

Bendtner was tipped to come on straight after half time, but Wenger stuck with it. And I am glad he did as the next 45 mins from Arsenal were magnificent football. I suspect the chat in the dressing room had the desired effect and I would love to know what was said. I suspect it was something like "Denilson - say hello to the rest of the team. Rest of the team - stop punting it around it give it to Cesc and Ade. And no-one else. Now get out there."

I figure that is how it went, because it kind of worked. Djourou and Kolo were magnificent at the back, sweeping up everything that came their way. They are both big strong bastards and Rossi didn't get a sniff. Gallas lets a striker play on the ground, and makes him think he has a chance. Gallas is often better than the striker, but it breeds confidence for the attacking side. Djourou just wins the ball before the striker and passes it to Song. He is a good player that Johann Djourou.

Anyway, Theo looked a bit more menacing down the right, hit the gas a couple of times and then chipped some pretty useless balls into the danger zone. Danger zone = good, but useless chipped pass = bad. Still, Theo did some good work down the right hand side overall, but the was not the young English striker/winger/not sure's best night. Nasri likewise down the left fluttered in and out of the game, but when he was on it, his workrate was top drawer and I really warmed to his effort during the second half.

And so, with 66 mins on the clock, and with ITV4 (the cunts) showing highlights of something else, like an ugly bloke blowing smoke rings (wtf?), Cesc picked the ball up in the middle of Villareal's half and chipped it forwards towards Ade for the 100th time in the match.

Yet it wasn't. As this was no ordinary chip. This was a newly tattooed, flat angled, holy mother of a good ball Cesc Fabregas chip. And it was to the the mighty Adebayor, my favourite striker in the whole wide world, who gives the impression of being involved in a beach kick around a lot of the time, and then does something like that, something that truly makes you sit back in your chair, speechless, and wonder whether a bath full of jelly with 4 busty blondes could be any better than the goal you have just seen scored. Its a close one.

The three defenders trying to stop Ade scoring had no chance. The control from Ade's left pec was deliberately close, Ade knowing that he did not have time to let the ball drop to the ground, and with the ball still only six inches from his chest and with his back to goal, the lanky fucker swivelled into a low bicycle kick and neatly slotted it, from almost upside down, into the bottom right hand corner. Holy shit that was good.

That's £120,000 well spent on Ade's wages this week and no mistake. I'll bore you all later again something about how good Ade is, but that goal was for the doubters. 'In your face doubters', it said, loudly.

Anyway, that's enough soft focus Ade-porn for now. This game was well and truly on and Arsenal looked for the winner in the last 25 mins. Our main tactic for most of the 90 mins seemed to be to work an angle and look to cross to Ade, which is all well and good, but with Ade the only striker on the pitch and our crossing generally poor, we didn't really create a good chance to win the game. But we looked like we were trying to win it, which is a good thing.

So, it finished 1-1 and well played to the Arsenal. The crucial away goal means we are well set for next week's rematch at the Emirates. Also well played to the away fans who have made the 3-day trip to Villareal, and who will now be sitting in the cold, empty stadium for an hour or two after the game watching highlights of Steve Bould's 10 greatest ever near post-flick-ons (its great) before being abandoned into an empty, closed town at about 1am. Thats what its all about.

Plus, with the late news coming through that Porto got a 2-2 result at Old Trafford, the thought of Fergie shitting himself at the prospect of going out next week is another reason to smile.

Over and out. Thanks again Ade.

Monday 6 April 2009

"We all shit on the Yellow Submarines...."

Early preview for the game tomorrow, with the news just out that RvP is not available.

Not sure how big a blow that is, as I would imagine Wenger was going to line up with the 4-2-3-1 he used on Saturday. With Nasri coming in for Arshavin in a straight swap, I'd expect to see us line up the same formation. This can nominally change to a 4-5-1 when defending, but the onus is on the wide players to step up and hug the touchline as soon as we are in possession.

Nikki B can come off the bench and carry his increased threat through better movement off the ball (I'm not dropping it Anonymous) and we can also use Vela and Eboue in wide positions, should Nasri or Theo tire.

Obviously you want RvP/Eduardo fit for these games, but that is why we have the players we have. It will be a big game for Song & Denilson to carry on their recent improvements - Senna is top of the game in terms of midfield holdings players and it will be a great chance to prove themselves. Pires has been playing the “libero” role in la liga, and I would expect us to have too much pace for him when we’re in possession. However, when we are not on the ball we know what Bobby can do, and he still does it well.

Not sure of the impact of losing Santi Cazorla to them – he looked a great player at the Euros, and I am sure his attacking play is integral to allowing Senna to sit deep and own the middle of the park. Rossi is an improving player and is dangerous if given time on the edge of the box.

My gut feeling is that we will be able to nullify their goal threat, and with some patience in possession we should be able to create some openings. I can see Cesc popping up with one, and if Cygan is playing maybe a goal from a set piece as well.

So I’m going 2-0 to the Gooners, but I won’t be putting any money on it as I am frighteningly tight, and the thought of losing a £5 brings me out in a cold sweat. Similar to Le Boss at the thought of the summer silly season I’d imagine.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Arsenal 2 - 0 Citeh

I was a bit nervous going into the Emirates. Not at the thought of Citeh whose inability to travel left me in confident mood, but in case I didn’t recognise The Arsenal. It had been such a long time since we’d last met, and in desperation had even tried watching some other team playing football to see if that floated my boat. The sight of John Terry & Cashley Cole singing the national anthem put that experiment to an early bed at least.

But sound hosannas and ring alarum bells – The Arse are back baby! And with Cesc back in the middle dictating the tempo of the game, we were treated to as enjoyable game of football as I have seen in about 2 weeks. The goals when they came weren’t things of outstanding beauty, but it was good to see Ade back in the goals straight away. We will need him to be in his goal-scoring mood if this season is to end with some silverware to polish over the summer.

To pick out one or two individuals who were impressive;

Song – I don’t know what we have put in his shreddies over the last couple of months, but this is not the same Alex Song as we saw in November. He read the game well, tackled tidily and aggressively, and his distribution was simple and effective. He created a platform for Cesc to play on, and it was mightily impressive. We’ve only got one Song, indeed we may only need one.

Theo – having been tortured with the sight of Aaron Lennon in mid-week it was good to be reminded of what a good player Theo can be. His running was as blisteringly fast as ever, but he brought his all-round game today. He had 3 or 4 good shots (one cracker near the end), tackled back to support Sagna and keep Robinho quiet (who ended up swapping wings as he was getting no change from that pair) and generally tore both Bridge and Zabaletta new ones.

Obviously Cesc played awesomely, and Ade got his goals, but they will be the Mirror’s Men of the Match, so they will get coverage elsewhere.

There are a few other things of vague noteworthiness though.

- Denilson was poor in the first half, but he really turned it on in the second.
- Clichy again made some critical errors that a better team may have punished. He is sadly becoming a liability.
- Nicky B is deadly from the bench. His running late in the game must be a nightmare for tiring defenders, and to my mind he offered more threat than Ade did.
- Eboue has remembered that he can play football, and completed the feat of tearing Zabaletta yet another new one.
- Cesc has a new tattoo on his elbow.
- I love Cesc.

It is quite amazing we have a run of games as important as this in a season that for a long time looked to be going nowhere. The team look to be clicking, and with players fit and hungry I think we are in a great position to actually achieve something – FA Cup, Champions League 3rd in the Prem. That’s my slightly exuberant prediction.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Less exciting than watching Joe Cole dribble

Unfortunately I was subjected to enduring a rather workmanlike England performance against the Ukraine yesterday, fortunately ITV decided to make it a bit more entertaining by including Joe Cole on their pundit panel, I have to say it was the first time Teddy Sheringham has ever appeared intelligent, it's a bit like watching a race between a tortoise and a traffic cone if you know what I mean. On several occasions the rather vacuous Cole tried to express himself but completely the wrong words came out to make yet another incomprehensible sentence, it really gave me an insight into the kind of intellect that makes up the England squad and also what kind of banter echoes around the Chelsea dressing room, I wonder Ashley Cole feels at home there. I bet you a copy of the Sun is a week's reading and the drinks machine has more neural connections than the average English Chelsea player.

Anyway International football is just plain rubbish, as Arseblogger says, it really is a bit of a sick cousin these days. The twitching headless chicken Aaron Lennon has somehow managed to win the PFA player of the month award, a very strange choice given the man has the footballing brain of a rotting zombie, I also found all the nominations rather strange, RVP was nominated after a rather average month. Yet again we've picked up some more annoying injuries, RVP, Diaby and Eduardo are all out, thanks a lot international football. The good news is that Walcott, Cesc and Adebayor are back. Meanwhile Silvestre has been speaking of the team's improvement in recent months, obviously we've missed his pace and thrust at the heart of our defense so terribly. Man City look to be missing Bellamy who has been in fine goalscoring form since his move north. The team may be looking like this (post scriptum I am assuming that Nasri will remain out due to a virus):

Sagna Gallas Toure Clichy
Walcott Song Cesc Arshavin
Bendtner Adebayor

I'd prefer to see Djourou in there, however I suspect this will not be the case. Song has been solid of late and I feel that the Denilson-Cesc combo is not a particularly symbiotic one. Hopefully the injuries to Diaby, RVP and Eduardo are not serious and they will all be in contention for the biggy against Villareal. Three points are much needed against City, it would be nice to see a bit of daylight between us and Villa, and City's away record is very poor indeed, they will certainly not be full of confidence. I hope we come out with guns blazing, bag an early goal and knock the Mancs out for the count early on. Come on you Gunners.