Saturday 31 October 2009
For once I was happy with the starting eleven. Almunia was back between the sticks, good decision and he went on to justify his position rather convincingly. Bendtner and RVP both started, a good move to have two strikers on against the spuds who often like to play on the counter and would have been much happier against one striker.
The first half was a little cagey, but overall I thought we were very disciplined and controlled the game nicely. Bentley was very fortunate to stay on the pitch after a shocking lunge early on. We were winning the midfield battle, Song was hoovering up nicely in front of the back four, Diaby was erratic but did work hard off the ball and Cesc was very much involved. I was particularly impressed with the centre backs, Crouch was beaten to a lot of ball and when he did win it we invariably swept up the second ball. The chances were all at Gomes' end. Arshavin had a few half chances, Cesc forced a great low save from Gomes and RVP also had a few decent openings.
The end of the first half saw the game turned away from the evil spuds. Of note Eduardo had come on for the injured Bendtner. First RVP clipped home brilliantly from a nice whipped Sagna centre, Gomes had no chance. Barely had everyone stopped going mental when Cesc nipped in, he beat one, two, then a third, he was through on goal, he finished in sublime fashion, 2-0, it was a sensational end to the half. It felt almost like flying in a dream combined with a massive adrenaline rush and a big thumb to one's chest, bloody hell that was a good feeling.
The second half saw us continue to dominate, the freakish Crouch was a lone figure up front and looked completely outclassed, in the end his frustration culminated in a petulant yellow card for dissent. The spuds looked beaten before the third goal but RVP's second after Gomes had made a dog's dinner of a cross made sure that justice would be done. We had several other great chances, the best was one which Eduardo missed when clean through. It really could have been five or six in the end, we had some great positions on the break but failed to grind the spuds' ugly mug into the pavement quite as violently as it could have been done.
There is a lot to say. I have to comment on the ref as always and Clattenberg was weak, he failed to book a couple of shocking tackles while his inconsistency in dealing with handballs was embarrassing. But overall the day belongs to Arsene and the lads. Collectively and individually we were better than the spuds in every single position, it made an absolute mockery of various comments in the media that were telling us just how close the gap between the two sides now was, it was as convincing a derby day win as I have seen in my lifetime. Almunia was rock solid, our defence outsanding, of note our midfield really worked really hard to help our defence in hoovering up the danger, while we always seemed to have the class and spark to be able to open up the opposition's defence when we needed. Well done Arsene and the lads.
Friday 30 October 2009
The banter has been there from the spuds, Keane reckon their squad is better than ours, Redknapp thinks they are as strong as us now. Arsene would not get embroiled in this petty talk, I would argue that the person who goes on about how pretty his wife is probably doesn't have a very good looking wife. The spuds are talking a lot about how great they are now, the season is not yet ten games old.
The back four picks itself, although I can't help but think that Eboue and Gibbs are pushing Sagna and Clichy very hard. Song, Diaby and Cesc will probably be the middle three, while Arshavin and RVP will surely start up front. That leaves one place open and it will probably go to Eboue. I'd be tempted to stick Bendtner or Eduardo in from the start if I were Arsene. Whatever happens I would like to see the likes of Nasri and Ramsey given at least fifteen minutes to make an impact if needed, if substitutions are left too late then they are often wasted.
Monday 26 October 2009
“I wouldn't say Manuel is no longer our automatic first choice"
Saturday 24 October 2009
Sign him up Arsene! A big day's football tomorrow with Manu-Liverpool and our trip to Upton park. Eduardo is fit, Rosicky is not, Bendtner may be. Scott Parker returns from a one match ban for the hammers.
Elsewhere Henri Lansbury looks impressive and demonstrated his fitness with a couple of goals on loan at Watford. The wealth of talent that Arsene has assembled in terms of young midfield backup is pretty impressive. There are combative players like Coquelin and Frimpong sitting on the fringes, attacking players like Merida and Wilshere, we have Lansbury, Emmanuel-Thomas and Nordtveit all playing on loan in midfield too. I haven't even mentioned Aaron Ramsey who is pushing hard at the first team door. It's a shame we won't have room for them all.
Thursday 22 October 2009
It was Arsenal Holdings' 8th AGM today, Arsene addressed the shareholders in the Woolwich suite in the Emirates complex today. Arsene is happy we are on the correct path and is keen to ensure that the 'Arsenal way' of doing things is maintained in the future. Talk continues about Stan Kroenke's plans given how close his percentage stake is to the level at which he is obliged to launch an official takeover bid. Better the devil you know I say.
Personally I am astonished that people still doubt Arsene's ability and think he has to win something this season. The BBC have an interesting program on this topic tonight with David Dein talking of just how much Arsene has brought to AFC. Emmanuel Petit has made some rather foolish comments in my opinion, it is not surprising that Arsene has not been sacked after five trophy free years, he has consistently delivered and with a bit of luck a league title or champions league title would have been his in the last few years. 2007-8 saw us go so close to the league title, arguably without some rather dodgy refereeing it would have been our year, the 2006 champions league final could have gone either way as well.
Any doubters in Arsene's ability would do well to have a quick glance at Rafa Benitez and Liverpool. It is not long since their second placed finish in the league but a run of defeats sees Rafa put under massive pressure to deliver. Contrast Arsene's performance to Benitez and there is only one winner. Arsene has spent minimal amounts compared to Benitez, yet our squad looks so much stronger in depth than Liverpool's, our football excites and our club is in a strong financial position, while we have top quality youth talent appearing from every crack. Liverpool have frittered away millions on dross and their level of debt is huge. Only a fool would criticise Arsene's record.
We have an incredible stadium, a strong squad, a fantastic youth setup with an abundance of talent emerging and a great manager at the helm. We should be positive about the future. I know we do have our problems which include our defensive frailty and a slight lack of experience, but overall we are in a strong position to do something this season. Against Alkmaar we had Bendtner, Eduardo, Nasri, Denilson, Walcott and Rosickyall out of action, yet we were still able to field a very strong attacking line up. Eduardo is back for the weekend, Nasri is expected back soon, as are Bendtner and Rosicky, the attacking talent is not in short supply.
Finally people should be very careful for what they wish for on Arsene's 60th birthday, often you only appreciate what you had when it has gone, and by then it is invariably too late to get it back. Keep up the good work Arsene.
Tuesday 20 October 2009
Alkmaar are a good technical side and passed the ball around neatly, they did lack a real quality cutting edge though, it was neat and attractive but it did not scare me. In the first half we looked very organised, solid and it seemed as if we could up it whenever we saw fit. Vermaelen and Gallas looked assured, a good partnership is developing there, Vermaelen attacks the ball so well, his slide rule passing is also something to behold. Song is a rock, Diaby was remarkably sensible and efficient, he didn't try to do much as he sometimes does by overcomplicated matters. Cesc probed and was a tad loose with the odd touch. Eboue was excellent, bright, inventive and direct.
The classiest act around though is our little Russian, everything he does is perfectly measured, well almost everything, every touch, every pass, every timing of a decision, he has such a natural knack for the game. Our first good chance came when Arsavin broke centrally, he then released Diaby in the inside left channel, he then squared for RVP who controlled, came inside and forced a decent save. The goal had a similar architecture, Arshavin pressed and won the ball centrally, he attacked and released RVP in the inside left slot, he squared unselfishly for Cesc who did the rest. One nil it was. It remained one nil til the break but it felt more than a one nil performance to me, although AZ Alkmaar are no world beaters, we just looked so composed and set up for the job in hand.
Monday 19 October 2009
The injury list is lengthening, with long term absentee Johan Djourou already out til well into the new year, Denilson is out for several more weeks with his back injury, Eduardo has another niggle, plus Bendtner is also out. Gael Clichy is fit again but Tomas Rosicky misses the Alkmaar trip as a result of what is hopefully only a minor knee niggle. Elsewhere Arsene has commented on Brum chants of the weekend, pathetic at best really, it's hard to understand the motives of such stupid cretins, it really is.
Sunday 18 October 2009
The game should really have been over by half time but thanks to a mixture of bad luck, missed chances and a goalkeeping error, Birmingham were well in the game at 2-1 down. Theo got crunched by a rather aggressive Ridgewell lunge, he did take the ball but he did follow through in a rather malicious manner with his non tackling leg, it could easily have been a card for the Brum defender. Theo's knee didn't feel right so he came off at around the half hour mark, hopefully he'll only be out for a couple of weeks or so. RVPs goal was top notch, he has deserved his recent goals as his all round team play has developed so much over the past year or two. Diaby capped a solid game with a nicely taken second goal to make it two nil.
Mannone showed why I have by doubts about him, he really should have gone for the ball with some conviction, instead he looked a bit ponderous, he went in too half heartedly and consequently he wasn't able to get two solid hands on the ball, it then split to Bowyer who finished without mistake. The second half saw few moments of Brum danger, Mannone did do well to tip away a cleverly weighted left footed centre that created some panic as it zipped across the six yard box. Andrei Arshavin sealed the deal with a lovely little side footer into the bottom corner, his marker backed off and that gave our little dynamic Russian all the space he needed to beat Hart with ease.
Our points tally is very decent indeed after only eight games. while no single team looks particularly dominant this year. Chelsea dropped points again away from home and look strangely vulnerable at the centre of their defence, Manu are picking up points but are not convincing, Liverpool have lost four games already.
Some things have been very positive this season. Eboue appears to have been reborn is is arguably looking better than Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs is developing fast and putting the pressure on Clichy. Song has been outstanding in the centre of the park, not only defensively but he has also constructed a lot of our play. Cesc is finding some form again, even Diaby is having some good games. Our array of attacking options could merit an essay on their own, Chamakh appears to have been a victim to this abundance of talent. Above all the players are getting on with each other and that must have a lot to do with a certain nasty piece of work from Togo.
Saturday 17 October 2009
Good to see Theo back on the team sheet. Plenty of ammunition on the bench that can be used later on if neccessary.
A high tempo start with Hart's goal peppered early doors, Rosicky looking sharp and goes close twice.
1-0 RVP with a cracking finish taking the ball in his stride and firing hard and low into the bottom of the net.
2-0 Diaby slots in from a great Rosicky cut back.
2-1 Damn. Mannone fumbles and Bowyer scores, about Birmingham's only effort on goal.
Half time. Mixed emotions, great football but how we are only 2-1 up is a mystery and the way in which we can concede so easily is very much symptomatic of our season thus far.
3-1 Arshavin. Surely that seals it.
Friday 16 October 2009
Personally I think they should have a more Davis cup tennis style of competition where the weaker sides play each other and the stronger sides play each other, the successful small sides can be promoted up divisions while the under performing sides get relegated. If things carry on as they are then interest in the International game will drop, drop and drop and that will be a great shame. Just look at the list of teams that have qualified for the World Cup, it includes Honduras, North Korea, Mexico, Japan and more. There are many more weaker sides that will make it to the 32 team tournament, it is so watered down it beggars belief. The reason for this is the fact that appeasing the small weaker countries is a good way for people like Blatter to win lots of votes for their elections.
Anyways back to all things Gooner. Gael Clichy is recovering from a knock picked up on International duty, other than that Eduardo is still out, as is Bendtner, while Diaby is expected to be fit. Nasri is expected back soon which is rather good news. Gibbs will surely get his first start of the season at left back which will be good for him, while Manuel will return in goal to hopefully command his box as well as he did last season. The rest of the side will be fairly predictable, I'd imagine Song, Diaby and Cesc will play in the midfield three, while Rosicky, RVP and Arshavin will spearhead the attack. Birmingham have been solid if unspectacular, I'd like to see us defend well and keep a clean sheet tomorrow, hopefully an early goal will be forthcoming. Another three points is needed to keep up the pressure on the top spots. Off the pitch Stan Kroenke is building up his share quota which must be a good thing if it keeps that fat repulsive criminal out of our the running of our club. Come on you Gunners.
Thursday 8 October 2009
The warm applause and chants that Thierry received were befitting for an ex-player of his status, but it was unusual nonetheless to see him publicly paraded before the kick off. Dennis Bergkamp, in whose box I believe Thierry was sitting (maybe DB doesn't have it this year?), never received such treatment. Or perhaps did not ask for it.
Similarly, reports yesterday suggested that Patrick Vieira was at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to watch the dreary rubbish that passed for a top-of-the-table clash between Chelsea and Liverpool. Those reports were based on published comments from Didier Drogba, whose theatrics during the Liverpool game beggared belief at points, who was urging Chelsea to sign Vieira in January as cover once the African Cup of Nations dragged Essien (and Drogba) away from the Premier League.
Now, whilst we could all have a little go at being fantasy football managers over whether Henry or Vieira would be good re-signings, and we probably will at some point over the interlull, I find it extremely hard to imagine that Messrs Henry and Vieira were just over in London for a nice weekend and fancied seeing some football in an executive box. No, this little episode smacks of commercialism and self-interest.
Vieira was very publicly looking for a move from Inter over the Summer, and although he turned down Spurs, I suspect he will not refuse Chelsea.
I don't know what Henry's current contractual situation is with Barcelona, but it was reported at the time of his transfer to Barca in 2007 that he had signed a four year deal with them. Now, at 31 years old, Mr Henry has around 18 months left on his contract and is possibly sniffing around for one last big contract to top up his pension. Call me a cynic, and I know that Thierry has been very vocal about his love for all things Arsenal, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Chelsea will be looking very closely at Henry as well.
I am not a big fan of Carlo Ancelotti, but one thing that he was very good at Milan was extended the playing careers of his aging Milanese stars and getting some decent performances from them as well. Henry and Vieira are spring chickens compared to Paolo Maldini, will not cost Chelsea big transfer fees because of their age, and would arrive with bags of experience and pedigree to help push Chelsea to their first title since Jose Mourinho left.
Now maybe it won't happen, but maybe it will. I certainly think its far more likely that Vieira and /or Henry will appear at Chelsea than back at the Emirates.
We go to play Chelsea at the Bridge on 6 February 2010. The question I pose today is this - how many Arsenal double-winners will line up in Blue to face the new young Arsenal side? It could easily be three, and four is not out of the question.
Sunday 4 October 2009
Blackburn took a very surprise lead thanks to some rather poor defending, a speculative Robinson hoof was flicked over the ponderous Mannone from around ten yards out. Watching replays I do think that the keeper was largely to blame for this, the ball was in the air for a hell of a long time and he really had to make it his when it was so close to his goal. We equalised thanks to a Vermaelen smashed, then Blackburn got lucky thanks to a deflected Dunn effort. Again the response was quick, RVP made it 2-2 and then a neat Arshavin finish put us ahead 3-2.
The moment that fat Sam wanted to dwell on was when the fat and irritating Dunn fell under a rather negligible Vermaelen challenge, Blackburn didn't appeal for the penalty kick and it would have been a very soft call, this wasn't the turning point, it was just something for the fat corrupt walrus to vent his spleen upon. The game continued to run away from Blackburn, the goals flowed, Cesc volleyed one neatly with his left peg, Walcott finished excellently when teed up by Cesc flicking on a great Arshavin centre, then Bendtner providing the icing with a thunderous twenty yarder that rocketed in off the post.
This season will not be dull, the football will continue to be brilliant to watch, we have a wealth of attacking talent, just think that several excellent players didn't even make it onto the pitch today. However we will not win the title if we do not sort out our defending. Blackburn had very little pressure or possession, but they did look dangerous when they crossed the ball in and when the played directly at our back four. Our defensive unit look static when the ball was crossed in from out wide, we just looked a tad ponderous when trying to defend the loose balls in the box. Obviously Mannone is not our first choice keeper and he does not command the box as well as Manuel Almunia, but I sense our defensive problems are a bit deeper than that.
Anyways I do not wish to whinge after a 6-2 victory, this will be another roller coaster of a season, we have by far the best attacking players of any club in England and possibly the world and they are a pleasure to watch. Watching Chelsea versus Liverpool did make me realise just what we lack at the back though, it was a dull game but both sides did defend pretty solidly on the whole, their back fours are big strong units, especially physically speaking.
Liverpool certainly have big problems in terms of midfield and attack, as they have very few options in reserve and are far too reliant on just a handful of players. Chelsea are dull, workmanlike and unspectacular, they don't move the ball particularly well and they are not particularly creative either; one thing they can do is defend and for that reason they will be a tough side to knock off the top of the league table this year. I'd love it if we could it though, fingers crossed.
Thursday 1 October 2009
Along with the Corrs dilemma, the other seminal philososphical debate of the modern era is if you had a straight choice between Arsenal winning the Champions League and the Premier League - which would you choose?
Now, before you choke on your cornflakes, take a moment to reflect a little further on it.
It would be the dream Champs League final against the team of your choosing (Manure? Barca?), the dream scoreline (that in itself is tricky - a 6-0 thrashing or a brilliant last winute winner?), at the venue of your choice (got to be in Spain), and you get the memory of being there for the rest of your life. I guess the dream format for winning the league would be a repeat of the Invincibles season in 2004.
13 years ago, the above scenarios were both so unrealistic for Arsenal fans that they actually did pose questions that would trouble drink-addled brains late into the night, but times have changed. In 2004 the Invincibles won the perfect league title. In 2006 the dream Champions League final almost happened. All but the damned scoreline in Paris that is.
But since that moment, there has been a bit of a lull in the Arsene Wenger invasion of world football.
But I think we are at a turning point. Its not the dark before the dawn - the sun is already peaking over the rooftops and its going to be a glorious day.
There is a confidence in Arsenal's play that we have not seen for a while. Olympiacos, the Greek champions, were utterly thrashed on Tuesday night at the Emirates. The inclusion of Cesc, Rosicky and Arshavin in the line up had the explosive result that we have only been able to dream about since January when Arshavin signed. But seeing those three together on the pitch was simply incredible.
People may point to Olympiacos being a bad side, that we only scored late, or that Arshavin's goal was offside, but I have not seen Arsenal play that well for years.
Eboue is back to his very best this season. He still likes the theatrics and may not be the best defender in the world, but his confidence has improved dramatically. The mistakes have been eradicated and he now poses a genuine selection headache with Sagna. Clichy on the left likewise seems to have stopped diving in to tackles and playing more of a perecntage game as a defender.
The front six players now has options that I do not think an Arsenal side has ever had before. It sounds a bold claim, but its probably right. Tuesday night was the first time we had Arshavin, Rosicky and Cesc start a match together, but Bendtner and Walcott were both missing., as was Denilson. I cannot wait to see what this team can do with a full strength side - on paper it could be incredible.
That said, as per 1979's post on Monday, big doubts remain over our defensive abilities, particulalry the balance in midfield where Song is currently our only tough player out there. Denilson would add to the balance defensively, but he is not exactly nails hard himself and (shock horror) is not as good going forwards as Diaby, who is currently playing. Somewhat bizarrely, apart from Song, 99% of the good tackles that have been made in midfield have come from Tomas Rosicky. so I would expect Tommy to play in midfield more than as part of the front 3.
The permutations up top are bewildering between RVP / Bendtner / Arshavin / Eduardo / Walcott / Vela and I won't even try to give a comparison between them, other than to say that Arshavin and RVP are practically dead certs to play if fit, so the rest are really competing for one slot.
If we can put Blackburn to the sword on Sunday and get to 15 points from 7 games, then we will have made a more than decent start to the season. Its a hell of a long way to go, but I am surprised to realise that the first quarter of the season is almost gone.
Wenger needs to keep the team motivated and focused and if we can get through our traditional sticky patch in November unscathed, then who knows what Wenger's lucky 13th year is going to bring. 'Cos I want that Champions League trophy in our cabinet real bad...