Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview - Tick Tock

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Tonight we have a massive game against Liverpool. It’s the first of two big home games that at this point really are must wins. But I guess we’ve been in that sort of position all season long. I don’t think there’s added pressure but we need to string together a good run. Oddly, we’re closer to the top 4 at this stage than we were last season despite our worst points performance so far under Wenger. But that’s just a small comfort. We have it all to do yet.

Team Selection

Vermaelen is fit again but I have a feeling the boss will stick with Kos and Mert simply because we don’t really need to risk him if he’s not 100%. Sagna and Gibbs will return to flank them. It’s in midfield that the boss will have a couple of decisions to make. I think we might see a trio of Wilshere, Ramsey and Diaby with Santi wide. Ramsey has done well in deepest midfield role but he needs someone like Jack alongside him. I think Diaby is more suited to playing in the hole ahead of them but the boss may just rest Abou and go with Santi. Up front, Giroud will lead the line with Theo and Podolski. No brainer there. Whatever the team is, we’re better than Liverpool. We beat them at Anfield and we have to do it again. They’re 3 points behind us in 7th place. If we lose, our panic stations will be at panic stations.

The Danger Man

Liverpool are a pretty average team. Raheem Sterling is a good young star and Gerrard is still a good player despite his downturn in form this season so they’ll be problems but there is only one player we have to worry about in my opinion and his name is Luis Suarez. He’s an annoying gnat of a player but really tricky to deal with it. His close control, speed and penchant for “winning” free kicks and PKs will make him a handful. And even though we’ll be dealing with a speedy character, I still think Mert should play with Kos. I think having Kos on him with Mert sweeping would be ideal. I really think we should NEVER go with Kos and Verm again unless we’re forced to. It just doesn’t work. If work hard defensively, we’ll win this one handily. Liverpool have been as inconsistent as us so you just never know but the game is at the Emirates and we’ve already beaten them once this season.

FA Cup

We drew Blackburn at home. Couldn’t ask for more. So far this season’s cup run looks bright. I really do hope we can keep going. We should beat a struggling Championship side but after Bradford, anything can happen I guess. But we’ll be favorites to enter the quarterfinal draw.

Quick Study

The boss has been praising Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski for adapting quickly to the league. I’ve been a bit surprised too. Perhaps the pressure to replace RVP’s goals that was heaped on them has helped them thrive quickly. A bit of a sink or swim situation. Whatever the case is they have had exceptional first seasons in English football so far. BUT it’s more or less half time. Remember Chamakh? The coming months will truly show how fit, adapted and ready they are. It’s in April and May that the lack of a Christmas break hits new signings so let’s hope they don’t hit a wall. Having a healthy squad will help with rotating them in and out. For now, the trio has done very well in an inconsistent team.

Becks Watch

David Beckham is training with us till he gets a new club. The boss immediately squashed any rumors that we would sign him in the short term. He’s a little too old for us now I reckon but it’s good to have a player like him around. No matter what people think of him, Becks has always been a tremendous professional. Even at 37, he’s still a physical specimen and trains extremely hard. More than anything, he’s a leader and winner. For the young players, it’ll be great to train with a legend like him. Just for the buzz, enthusiasm and energy Becks creates, I’m glad he’s training with us. And you just never know with cheeky Arsene. Becks as an Arsenal player? Seen stranger things.

Tick Tock

As I write this, there’s about 30ish hours left before the transfer window slams shut. And we are at a grand total of ZERO players in. It’s looking bleak. Even the rumors have died down which is never a good sign. A few respected sources in the twitter-verse still believe that there might be at least one player coming in but I doubt it at this point. David Villa and Momo Diame are probably the most likely if we did sign anyone but I won’t hold my breath. It’s going to put massive pressure on the players we have and the manager as well but it would be typical Arsenal wouldn’t it?

Tonight we have to be professional. After the wins over West Ham and Brighton, we have some confidence back. We need to take full advantage of these two home games and pick up maximum points. The margin for error is non-existent so it’s time to play every game like it’s our last. Any missteps now could be fatal. We’ve played City twice, Chelsea twice and we have United and Everton at home to come and of course Spurs away. So we are in a position to overhaul those ahead of us. We just need to start taking our chances. Time is running out.

Arsenal vs Brighton Review - Job Done

No matter what Giroud thinks, we’re not in the quarterfinals but the last 16! ;) Thanks to two goals from the powerful Frenchman and a late winner from super sub Theo, we beat plucky Brighton 3-2 in the FA Cup last night. It was a good cup-tie and while we dominated most of it, Brighton had their moments but there was to be no repeat of the Bradford debacle. The last 16 draw is tonight and a good draw would mean that we’d definitely be hoping for some FA Cup comfort this season.

Team Selection

The boss rested a few of our key men as he made six changes from the team that beat West Ham. Jenks and Santos came in to replace Sagna and Gibbs. Wilshere and Santi were given a break as Diaby and Rosicky came into the side while Ox replaced Theo on the right. Kos came in at the back for the injured Vermaelen as Mert took the captain’s armband. Up front Podolski flanked Giroud with Ramsey taking up the deepest role in the midfield. Szczesny continued in goal. Overall it was a good move to give some of the key players a breather but it was a bit of a risk. For players like Diaby, Rosicky and Santos, it was a game that tested their fitness but I think they came through all right in the end.

Counter Attacking

We took the lead in the first half with a stunning finish from Giroud. He curled home from the edge of the box after Podolski’s lay off but the move started from a throw out from Szczesny to Rosicky. This after as stunning point blank save from Szcz. I’ve long believed that our team is built to counterattack by utilizing the pace of Theo, Poldi and Ox and quick mobile players like Santi, Diaby, Wilshere and Rosicky. The possession style is nice to watch but the best Arsenal sides under Wenger would score goals with 3-4 touches while raiding down the pitch. I strongly believe that we need to put an emphasis on being more direct and incisive. When we dally, teams regroup. When we’re not second guessing ourselves, we’re so potent.

The “Flop”

It’s funny how the media is slowly eating their humble pie. After labeling Giroud a flop, the Frenchman has 13 goals and 9 assists this season, which is more goals than Tevez, Rooney, Aguero, Dzeko and Adebayor. He’s been influential and last night his second brace of the week suggests that he’s come to terms with English football.  His first was a great finish from outside the box and his second was a half volley as he was holding off a defender to receive Diaby’s wonderful clipped pass. Olivier is not Chamakh and I think we’re seeing a star being made. I won’t put it beyond him to get 20 goals this season.

Mistakes

We let Brighton equalize twice from silly mistakes. For the first, our zonal marking went missing as Barnes headed home. There was no pressure on him and while Szcz should have done better, he really couldn’t react till late. How Barnes was completely open in the six-yard box is a joke?! For their second, both Diaby and Santos should have worked harder to prevent Barnes’ cross from coming in. Neither player made a move towards the Brighton midfielder and his peachy cross was headed home by a diving Ulloa. Kos and Mert could have dealt with the cross but the ball really was in the danger zone right between the keeper and defenders. Once again, we could have dealt with both goals. Once again, we didn’t. More than half of the season is over, so at this point, we’re just going to have to hope for the best when it comes to our defending.

Winner Walcott

Anyway the boss brought on Walcott and Wilshere to try and win the game. Theo fired home an 85th winner after Wilshere’s corner was punched out to him. It might have been deflected but we were the likelier side at that point to score and this time we didn’t let them back in. It was great to see players like Santi, Jack and Theo on the bench while we still had the likes of Diaby, Rosicky and Ox on the pitch. I understand why the boss is reluctant to buy and with everyone fit, we do have depth in most positions but maybe not all. I think we’re short a striker and a defender but our team is getting healthier which is always important. Feb 1st will tell us a lot about what this team can accomplish.

Poker Face

The boss’ post match comments were the usual. We played well, had the desire to win and did so. When quizzed about transfers, he didn’t give anything away. I honestly believe that we’re trying to bring one or two guys in but either we aren’t finding the right ones or we don’t want to pay the prices being quoted to us. The current issue is that our team actually looks in better shape after defeats to Chelsea and City rather than back in November when we won 3-4 in a row. Emphasis on the “looks” of course. We need a statement signing to freshen up the team. I remember when Arshavin arrived and energized the whole team. That’s the type of guy we need. Quality is one thing but new faces bring enthusiasm, excitement and a buzz around the team and the fans. So let’s go do that Arsene! Personally, I think we will try for Villa on deadline day.

Well we accomplished the minimum and that’s to win and move into the last 16 of the FA Cup. The cup is our most realistic chance at glory although I have a feeling that we’re going to knock out Bayern so you just never know. On Wednesday, it’s back to the league and Liverpool and we have to start winning games on the trot again. It’s two now. Let’s keep that going. There are still a lot of games left to be played this season. Let’s be ready to go for it in all of them.

Arsenal vs Brighton Preview - Get Serious

First off, many apologies for the non-blogging this week. My tumblr got hacked so sorry to anyone that got weird messages. But after some trouble shooting, I’m back online so let’s get back to business.

Arsenal vs. Chelsea

We lost 2-1 last weekend. We played like rubbish in the first half and fell behind 2-0 with goals from Mata and a Lampard penalty. We were much better in the second half, got a goal back from Theo and were camped out in their half but couldn’t force an equalizer. Disappointing to say the least but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to this season. Sadly.

Arsenal vs. West Ham

We thrashed the Hammers 5-1 at the Emirates in mid-week. Giroud grabbed a brace while Cazorla, Theo and Podolski scored too. Prince Poldi was in stunning form laying off three assists while his goal was a beast of a strike. Odd to think that we had actually fallen behind to a James Collison opener first before running rampant. A good performance but once again nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to this season. If only this was the norm all the time.

Captain Jack

Against West Ham, Jack took the armband when Vermaelen got injured in the second half and it looked right didn’t it? I still think it’s a little too early for him to wear it in name but his natural game just makes him a leader on the pitch. We should just let him play the way he does and let the leadership aspect of his game grow organically. You know it’s easy to forget how exceptional of a talent he is sometimes and we really are lucky to have him. He’s Arsenal thru and thru.

Looks Bleak

Well with 5 days left in the transfer window, it does seem like we won’t be signing anyone in this window. It’s unfortunate if this is the case. We obviously need players but I think the guys Wenger really wants are probably not available or we’re being priced out as always. Some have suggested that we could have signed Ba, M’Vila or Remy for decent fees but would they really have helped? Yes I agree Ba would have been good but once Chelsea were on the case and we found out about his 5 agents all wanting a cut of the transfer, that was never going to happen. As for M’Vila and Remy, are they world-beaters that instantly make our team better? No. I still hope for something special to happen but it’s not looking good.

Thin Squad

Last night, Emmanuel Frimpong was sent on loan to Fulham for the rest of the season. We have already lost Chamakh and Djourou on loan. Squillaci is hardly a squad member, which means that we really only have about 23-24 guys in our “first team” which is shocking. Obviously, we have a glut of exciting young players that can step in but it would be a massive risk not to bring anyone else in. Wenger said that getting Walcott’s contract signed and moving players out were priorities before signing new guys. Well done and done, so please add to the team boss.

FA Cup

Tonight we travel south to play Gus Poyet’s Brighton team. They knocked out Newcastle in the last round and play a short passing game very much like Swansea or Reading. It seems to be in vogue these days for Championship teams to adopt a more progressive “Premier League” style minus Stoke of course. I think the success teams have with passing the football trumps the up and at em’ bruising style that was once commonplace in the lower leagues. The FA Cup is our most realistic chance of silverware and in previous years, I would say that we should win this one easily but after being knocked out by Bradford in the League Cup, anything can happen. I still expect us to play well and win but you just never ever know with this current incarnation of Arsenal.

Team News

Arteta and Coquelin are out while Verm also misses the game with an ankle knock. Diaby and Rosicky are back and could feature. The boss might be tempted to throw in one or two youngsters but we will still put out a strong team. I would like to see more of Rosicky and Eisfeld as we go forward this season. Tomas is such a tidy player and he makes us tick in the final third with his constant probing and little dribbles and swivels. Eisfeld has shown in the reserves that he deserves a chance. He’s always sniffing around the box and has great goal threat. Our problem this season has been a lack of guile in the final third and I believe both of these guys can improve us in that department.

After tonight, we play Liverpool at home on Wednesday and then it’s an anxious 24 hours as we wait for potential signings. By the time we take to the field against Stoke next Saturday, we’ll know the state of our team and what we should expect come May. The next few days are more defining then some may think. Let’s hope the club is decisive and incisive. We have to be.

Boring Boring Arsenal! ;)

Boring Boring Arsenal! ;)

Arsenal vs Chelsea Preview - War Begins

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Back to the league tonight and another big game awaits. We travel to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea. When we played them at the Emirates earlier this season, it was unfortunate because once again poor defending let us down as we lost 2-1 but it really was the first of many games where we were toothless in attack. Tonight, I hope we can play out of our shells and take the game to Chelsea. I think they’re an erratic team and we have more than enough to beat them.

Lineup

I believe that Wenger will stick with the team that beat Swansea. I liked Cazorla playing wide and Wilshere in the No.10 position. Obviously, Podolski could be drafted back in. But I think Arsene might be tempted to keep the same XI. We looked much better with Giroud leading the line and Walcott wide on the right. Koscielny is suspended so Mertesacker will continue with Vermaelen. But for me an interesting facet of the team selection against the Swans was the Diaby and Coquelin axis.

A Complimentary Pair

I like Coquelin. He’s a type of player that we don’t have in the team. He’s a guy who will run, hassle, tackle and track players while cutting our space. He reminds me a little of Flamini. I would even dare say that he’s probably better rounded than Flamini. His partnership with Diaby was solid against Swansea. Obviously Abou is only just returning to playing but with Diaby’s natural power and strength, they’re a good axis. Diaby is more of an impact defender. That is, he relies on his athleticism to stop players and then get us surging forward. Coquelin is more disciplined and works hard in front of our defense. It’s only one game but I think these two, if they can stay fit, will be a boon for us going forward.

It’s Now Or Never

And speaking of Diaby, the boss has urged that for anyone who loves football, you want Abou to have the career he truly deserved. I feel for Diaby and unlike many people, I have been very empathetic to the guy. On his day, he’s almost unplayable. Just ask Liverpool earlier this season. But since that horrific ankle injury caused by Dan Smith, he’s just not a player we can depend on. We’re lucky if he’s fit for 2 months in a season, which is a poor investment. So for all of Wenger’s proclamations that Diaby is the missing link, extra emphasis needs to be placed on “missing”. Abou is still a luxury player and if, and it’s a big IF, he can stay fit till the end of the season, then we can talk more. Right now, every minute we get from him is a bonus. I don’t think we can pencil him into any long-term plans.

Dangerous Chelsea

In recent years, the Blues have always been sort of a defensive team. They work hard, defend well, nick a goal and then see out games with their grit and experience. But with the influx of players like Mata, Hazard, Oscar and guys like Torres and Ba, they’re certainly an attacking side these days with goals all around the pitch. We had problems with their supporting attacking players when we played them at the Emirates. The likes of Mata and Hazard had a field day in the space left between our defense and midfield. Arteta was still coming to grips with playing as a pivote while Diaby went off injured and Ox had to play as a central midfielder in that game. We afforded them too much room and were punished. I hope the boss counteracts that with Coquelin and Diaby tonight. If we can restrict that space, we have players up front that can cause Chelsea problems. The usual rules apply for us. Defend well, work hard and pick our moments to surge forward. If we can do that, I know we can win. Last season we won 5-3. I’d settle for a 1-0 this time around.

Winning A Big One

So far this season, we haven’t registered any wins against the big three teams. Sad that it’s a big three and then the rest of us but it’s true. We drew at City, which was probably our best performance against these “top” teams. And then we lost to United and Chelsea. Last week, City beat us which means we have three defeats and one draw to show for our efforts. We need to put one over Chelsea to show that we’re not completely out of their league. I think we can. Jack and Mertesacker spoke yesterday about wanting to beat the Blues and show that we’re more than capable. That we’re a good team. I’m confident about this one. A draw would be a decent result but we really need to win.

Another Legend Speaks

Yesterday I spoke briefly about Tony Adams and his views about Arsenal. Another legend in Dennis Bergkamp recently spoke about how fantastic it was that we’ve tied down a core of exciting young English players. Bergkamp said that when he first came to Arsenal, we were built on good old English values like working hard, fighting for everything and never giving up. And while the times evolved as we brought in more foreign players, Bergkamp stressed that it’s a good thing to return to a traditional English identity that success was borne from. Bergkamp remains my favorite Arsenal player of all time. Currently he’s coaching the Ajax youngsters but I know he would love to come back and coach at Arsenal. And who knows? Maybe even more than that. I hope we see the Iceman return one day. He belongs at home.  

Well here we go tonight. Another big one in January. It hasn’t been a good start to the year so let’s start putting things right. Beating Swansea and then Theo siging up were positive steps in the direction. Now let’s beat Chelsea and start moving up the table. The bottom line is that we have about 4 months to sort out our problems and get back into the Champions League spots. Every game is a cup final from now on. The first battle in a long war begins today. COYG!

Now, Let’s Bring It!

It’s a wet morning here in Singapore. And really the weather here is quite analogous to our form this season. Sunny yesterday, wet and gloomy today and it’ll be bright and hot again tomorrow I reckon. Well enough metaphors. There’s only one place to start.

Theo Walcott Signs

Well after an almost 2 year contract wrangle, Walcott has signed a new “long term” contract with the club. Various sources are reporting that the deal is for 3 and ½ years at £100K/w with a massive signing bonus of £3 million. It’s great news but it’s a little irritating because obviously Walcott wanted the £100K/w all along but the club didn’t want to give in and now they have. So Theo and his agent got their way, which makes our stance in the first place seem superficial. I guess in the end we couldn’t afford another PR nightmare and simply gave in. This was long and messy but I guess for us fans, we “won” this one.

Expectations

Walcott is now officially the top earner at Arsenal and with that comes big expectations. As a young Englishman breaking into the team, we were quite forgiving with his little lapses and mistakes. When things didn’t go his way, we were ready to cheer him on. Chants of “Theo, Theo” were commonplace. Now I don’t think he’ll lose that support but I think he’ll have a smaller margin of error from now on. If he makes the wrong decision or puts in a poor pass or cross or misses a chance, we will be more critical. As it is, our fans are fickle. So he’ll feel the wrath and he’s not playing well. Theo will have to cope with this new scrutiny and I hope he can push on and take the criticism and excel. In his defense, he has got on with it this season and that bodes well for us.

The British Are Coming

Well now that Theo has put pen to paper, we’re looking at a very interesting young British core at Arsenal. Wilshere, Gibbs, Ramsey, Ox and Jenks signed on last month and with Walcott you’re looking at International caliber players that can stick together and win. Wenger tried it with foreign talent, which didn’t work but with these six, we do have a bright future. Throw in the likes of Szczesny and Frimpong and you have a lot of Arsenal fans in the team too. Guys who are ready to fight tooth and nail. It’s quite exciting and if Arsene can continue adding special talents like Podolski and Cazorla to supplement these younger players, we will be a good team. A great team even. Maybe it’s darkest before dawn and our luck is finally changing.

Sign Da Players

Now it’s over to the boss. He said that his priorities in January were getting the injured players back and getting Walcott to sign his contract. Well Diaby and Rosicky are back. Fabianski is two weeks away from full training and Arteta looks like he’ll recover quicker from his calf strain than initially believed. And obviously Theo has signed. SO no more excuses Wenger. Saying that there is no good value in January is a little disingenuous. Demba Ba, Yann M’Vila and Loric Remy have all moved for less than £10 million. Last night, Newcastle were in talks with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to sign him for around £6 million. So there are players we can afford that will make us better. It’s time to go get those guys in. We need the help.

Mr. Arsenal

Tony Adams has been talking about his time during the early years of Arsene’s arrival. Adams was hoping to extend his contract but the team was in flux and he was curious as to what our plans were so he went to see David Dein and Wenger and found out we hoping to win the league. Bergkamp and Platt were already here but the club were going to go get guys like Petit, Overmars and Anelka to supplement the stars we had. Adams put pen to paper and got his biggest contract yet but the thing that drove him on was that we were going to go for it and try to win the league. THAT drove our legendary captain on. And you know what? Maybe it’s time to do the same this summer. To just say heck with it, buy a few proper players and just go for the title. Imagine if Jack walks in to talk to Wenger and Arsene says we are just buying the best out there and have you lead this team to the title. Goosebumps.

Tomorrow we play Chelsea and I’m excited for the game. I really think we can go to Stamford Bridge and win. Last season, we beat them 5-3 with my favorite moment being John Terry falling on his ass as RVP raced off to score. Maybe this year, Walcott can celebrate his new contract with a goal or three. Full preview tomorrow. Enjoy your weekends! Stay dry!

Arsenal vs Swansea City Review - Follow The Leader

Last night, we beat Swansea 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the FA Cup. Wilshere’s late winner means a trip to Brighton awaits us the last weekend of January. But more importantly, it showed that there’s still some fight left in us. The City game hasn’t been forgotten but we deservedly beat a good Swans side and travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday with some confidence restored.

Balance

The boss made some interesting personnel choices against City, which didn’t give us the right mix in my opinion. Last night, I think he got the balance right. Diaby and Coquelin started in the middle with Wilshere in front of them. Walcott switched to the right and Cazorla to the left as Giroud led the line. Mertesacker replaced the suspended Koscielny. I thought the inclusion of Coquelin helped us tremendously. He did all the dirty work, which allowed Diaby to combine with Wilshere more effectively. Abou is obviously still rusty but he was much better last night than against City. I guess not having to play a man short helps. The team was more fluid overall and a special mention for Gibbs who was excellent. But honestly there was just one man that made the whole team tick…

A New Prince

Jack Wilshere was absolutely tremendous last night. Playing as a No.10, he drove the team forward at every opportunity. His touch and technique were brilliant as always but what was even more important was the fact that he always wanted to the ball, was never afraid to take a hit and kept trying to up the tempo. He’s getting his little bursts and glides back which makes him such a dangerous player. The lad is Arsenal thru and thru. He might not wear the armband but he leads this team. Some people say maybe we’re heaping too much responsibility on him. But you know what? He wants it. In the last few games, he’s had a go at teammates for slacking off and they’ve accepted it. They respect him. Jack has an aura about him. Wenger HAS to build the team around Wilshere. He is our talisman.

Relentless

After the City defeat, I talked about how we seemingly have lost the will to win but last night I saw the drive and determination return. Our first half was a little labored even if we were the better team but during the second half, we lay siege to Swansea’s goal. A combination of the excellent Vorm in goal and some bad luck kept us out. When it was still 0-0 despite our pressure and I saw Michu coming on, I thought well, here we go again. But we didn’t stop. We kept our nerve, played the way we wanted to and Wilshere fired home a very deserved 86th minute winner from Giroud’s lay off – a half volley from outside the box. We just need to continue believing in ourselves. When we play without the proverbial handbrake on, we’re so dangerous.

Fans

I have to say that the Emirates was buzzing last night. Sometimes, we can be accused of not supporting our team when they need us but we were fully behind the team last night. The atmosphere seems to change with different types of games. But when we’re driving our team forward rather than booing and jeering, there is knock on effect to the players. They get confidence from us. Like I said before, we can get through the tough periods only if we stick together. Let’s continue in the same vein.  Support team and they will respond.

Walcott

Well there’s nothing much to say except that Wenger says a new deal is very, very close. I’m not believing anything till the ink dries but it does look like this might be one contract wrangle that we’re going to “win”. It’s been a long process and for the team, it’ll be one less headache.

17 Days

That’s the number of days the transfer window has been open. No new signings yet. The clock is ticking.

Anyway, overall it was a good win and a good performance. On Sunday, we’ll need to be much better but I think we can get a result at Stamford Bridge. I don’t think it’s beyond us to go there and win. Under Benitez, Chelsea are still finding their groove. They trashed Villa 8-0 but drew with Southampton at home. So you just never know with them. But our team is just plain inconsistent so you just never know which Arsenal turns up. One thing is for certain, if Jack plays like he did last night and the team follows suit, we’ll have every chance. But that’s for later. Full preview on Sunday. Right now, let’s just celebrate this victory!

Arsenal vs Manchester City Review - No Cheers, Just Tears

I hate games when you’re left with “what ifs” and after last night’s 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City, that’s exactly where we are. First half strikes from Milner and Dzeko sealed the game for the visitors. Overall, the game was awful from our point of view. Although we were reduced to 10 men for most of it, we didn’t start well and the result and our poor home form just fits in with our insipid season. There’s a lot of work to be done in January and these next couple of weeks will set the tone for what we can accomplish. Currently, we’re 6th with everything left to do.

Team Selection

Mikel Arteta was out injured with a calf strain. After the game, Wenger said he would have a scan today but will most likely be out of 3 weeks. So by Arsenal time, that’s the rest of the season! Diaby replaced him and started his first game in 4 months, alongside Wilshere while Koscielny partnered Vermaelen at the back. Walcott led the line with Ox and Podolski. I wasn’t too impressed with Arsene’s choices. For me, Kos and Verm need Mert to play well. They’re too similar and over a consistent run of games, they grow into a proper partnership but for one offs, they’re just too similar and don’t know how to adapt to each other’s styles. Diaby starting bordered on desperation. I really thought Coquelin should have started. While Abou was decent in flashes, Coquelin would have been better suited for this game. His defensive appetite would have complimented Jack. As it turned out, Abou and Jack never found the right balance in attack and defense. Up front, Walcott had a stinker but let’s be honest, he’s not a striker yet. Against quality defenders like Kompany, he got no change.

Red cards

A few people thought Koscielny’s sending off in the 10th minute was harsh but I look at it this way. If Kompany had done the same thing to Walcott, we would be baying for blood. It just shows that while Kos is an excellent defender, he does make rash decisions now and then. Part of the mistake was down to unawareness from both Verm and Kos. I don’t know if Mert’s inclusion would have helped but there definitely would have been better communication. His foul on Dzeko could have been described as a coming together of players but it was clumsy from Kos and we paid the price. Dzeko missed the resulting penalty but the game was always going to be against us with 10 men. Late in the game Kompany was also sent off for a sliding challenge on Wilshere. It was too late for us to make a difference and honestly, it was harsh on City. It was a hard tackle but a fair one. 

Defending

Both City goals could have been avoided. We failed to organize ourselves for their first goal when they took a free kick while we were still at sixes and sevens. Milner got the ball on the right and fired home a cross shot. I really think Milner is one of the most overrated players in the league so it was a tough pill to swallow. Amateur stuff from us.  For their second, Milner found space on the right and his cross was flicked on by Tevez and while Szczesny saved, Dzeko was on hand to bundle home. You can say it was tough to defend with 10 men but we were cut apart at many points in the game. A goal line save from Wilshere and a standout performance by Szcz kept the score low.

Excuses

After the game, Wenger said that it was tough to play with 10 men and while that’s true, City were all over us in the first 10 minutes. We were tentative and nervous. Arsene keeps stressing that we’re too afraid to make mistakes and that the team feels the skepticism surrounding them but these are issues that managers fix. No SAF or Mourinho team would ever get away with something like that. Too many times this season, we have looked like a shell of a team. We’re just not in the races at the moment. Handbrakes, being uptight, scared etc. etc. etc. These are all feeble excuses. We’ve heard them so many times before. The harsh reality is that the Arsenal we used to know and love is dead. In fact, watching patches of City’s play last night, they reminded me more of us than we did.

Decisions

Where do we go from here? All is not lost. We’re 6 points off 4th and last season we closed a bigger deficit. But it’s obvious that 4th is the most we can hope for. At the moment, our team looks short of achieving that target. Wenger thinks our squad is “complete”. It’s not. Far from it. We can go into the market and sign 2-3 players but I doubt we will. We need a striker but would David Villa actually have helped us last night? I have my doubts. Our team just doesn’t look balanced. We’ve lost our identity. At points this season, we click and we bang in the goals but more times than not, we’ve looked lost and labored in our matches. There is no clear direction.

Heart

Last season RVP took all the limelight but during our best runs, our team was one that never gave up. We were determined and we threw caution to the wind at as we took risks. An example to illustrate what I mean was last season’s 2-1 win over Newcastle at the Emirates. We laid siege to the Magpie goal to try and win the match when we tied late in the game. Players would bust a lung to get forward and we threw wave after wave of attacks. In the end, Verm scored a 95th minute winner when he bundled home Walcott’s cross. The goal was great but the fact that we had 6 players in attack late in a game showed how much desire we had to win. That energy, character and drive is missing this season. We’ve seemingly lost the will to win.

We’re in the mire right now. A lot of work needs to be done. Bringing in a couple of players will help but the team needs to fix itself. I fear that January will define Arsene’s future and right now, it’s not looking good. Some people think maybe it’s good for us to take a step back before going forward. To those people, I say you’re naïve. Look at Liverpool. They took a step back and have just gone down the drain. Our goal this season is once again Champions League qualification. In the darkest of moments, we’ve always found a way. Well it’s pitch black outside. Over to you Arsenal. 

Arsenal vs Manchester City Preview - Tears For Cheers

Last night’s results weren’t too bad for us. Chelsea won and with their game in hand, there’s a gap opening up between third and fourth. But Spurs and Everton drew so a win for us will put pressure on everyone around us including City. It’s a massive game and while the buildup to the match has been about returned tickets by City fans, this is a great chance for us to put ourselves back in touch with the top.

Squad News

Giroud has been passed fit and will be in the squad tonight. For me, he has to start. He gave Kompany and Lescott problems when we played them at the Etihad and he’ll be a handful again. If Walcott plays through the middle, we’ll have the advantage in speed but I don’t think Theo is savvy enough to outsmart Kompany whom I think is the best defender in the league.  Arteta is a doubt with a strained calf. Hopefully he makes it. If he doesn’t it’ll be interesting to see the dynamic between Willshere and Coquelin. Francis is a solid player and I’m surprised he hasn’t played more. His expertise are shutting down space and tracking players. He has a good engine and he might compliment Jack better than one would think.

Dangerous City

The Blue side of Manchester haven’t been their usual selves this season but they’re still second in the league and have dangerous players all throughout their team. Besides the stellar Kompany, Yaya Toure is a beast in midfield and Tevez is a pain to deal with up front. Last season we outplayed and outfought them at the Emirates and Arteta’s late winner was due reward. Earlier this season, we played extremely well at the Etihad and while Koscielny had to fire home a late equalizer in that game to draw us level and earn a point, for large parts we dominated that match and gave City fits. We’ll definitely need to up our performance levels from Southampton and Swansea. This will be a tight game and we MUST take our opportunities when they come. The onus is on our attacking players to assert themselves. Our movement and passing will cause any team problems but only when we take risks and are bold. This is not a match to be timid in. Let’s go for the jugular and lay down a marker.

Sign Da Thing

It seems that the club will offer Theo a new deal in the coming week. Rumors speculate that the contract will be around 4 years at £90K/w plus bonuses and image rights so it’s a plump offer. It’ll put Walcott in the top bracket of earners at Arsenal so if he does indeed sign, he has to keep up his current form and even improve it. He’s going to set high expectations for himself. Fans will demand more from him and we’ve overlooked some of the lesser parts of his game because he’s a young English Arsenal player. Now he’s a well-paid man and he won’t be given any leeway. Deliver or face the consequences. Sink or swim.

He Who Shall Not Be Named

Wenger came out a little about Sir Alex Ferguson calling him in the summer about RVP. It’s a little puzzling that Arsene even talked about this. The boss said that he knew that we would be strengthening United and it hurts that RVP and United are ahead of us. Well they did finish 19 points better off than us last season so there’s that. Bottom line is that RVP wanted to leave, he didn’t want to sign a new contract and he made his position untenable at the club by releasing his now infamous statement. We could have done two things. Make an unmotivated disinterested RVP play for us and leave on a free after this season or sell him and find replacements. Obviously the latter happened and we brought in Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla and we moved on. RVP is gone. Don’t really care about what he and United do. All that matters is Arsenal.

Transfers

The boss has been his usual mysterious self when it comes to transfers. He said that his two priorities for January were signing Theo and getting his injured players back. Arsene claims that with everyone in the mix, our squad is complete but we’re sixth. So that view is moot. We need at least one striker and a versatile defender and I guess the club know that too which is why David Villa and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa are supposedly prime targets. Whether we get them is another story. Whether we get ANYONE is a different book altogether. But fingers crossed. It’s the midpoint of the month. The clock is ticking.

Anyway, it’s back to the league tonight. Seems like a long time since we played Southampton. Once again, the tactics are simple in this one. Focus, concentrate and cut out the silly mistakes. Defend well and our natural attacking game will take over. There’s more than enough about us to beat City so let’s win and let people know that we might be struggling but we’re not giving up without a fight. That this Arsenal will not die! COYG!!!

Business Is About To Pick Up

Hi boys and girls! Sorry for the lack of blogging the last couple of days. I was away on a mini vacation so I was banned from all tech stuff by the missus. Anyway it was a pretty slow week for us so I guess I lucked out. Sadly no new signings yet! Boo! And there was no real movement out besides Djourou and Chamakh on loan. Tomorrow, business is about to pick up. Manchester City come to town and this is marker game. Win and confidence will be up and flowing. Lose or draw and it would simply continue our inconsistent form this season.

Walcott Joy?

Wenger said he was more optimistic about Walcott this week than previously. One or two whispers that talks with Theo have started again. There is an improved deal on the table and Walcott seems ready to sign. I guess we can only wait and hope. Nothing is done till the ink dries so I’m optimistic about the Theo situation for the first time in a long time but anything can happen in this game. While Walcott might be keen to put pen to paper, I just don’t trust agents. Let’s just hope there is resolution one way or another.

He’s Like A New Signing

Abou Diaby made his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt in a closed doors game for the U-21s against WBA on Wednesday. Andre Santos also played and scored in that game. Diaby played for about an hour and Santos completed the full 90 minutes. We last saw Diaby in September and I have to say that we looked balanced with him in the side. I like Abou. Personally I envision him playing in Santi’s spot in midfield or maybe Jack’s with Wilshere moving into Santi’s. Cazorla has hinted before that he prefers to play wide anyway and considering a lot of his best work comes from moving into wide areas to get the ball and making killer passes and runs, I don’t think we’ll lose too much with Santi out there. The main issue here is Diaby’s fitness. We just can’t depend on him. If he can stay fit, he’ll be a beast for us. But I won’t be holding my breath. Harsh but true.

Signings

During yesterdays’ Pre-Manchester City presser, the boss said that his phone is ringing off the hook and that we have no shortage of players that want to join us. In fact, he even said that we could afford 90% of the players available but he’s looking out for only exceptional talent. Shocker! Wenger does say our team is “complete” which has been met with disgust but I have a feeling that we know who we want and we’re trying to get the deals done quietly. We never give anything away when it comes to transfers and it’s all mind games. In The Hobbit, Bilbo and Golem play a game of riddles. Wenger would OWN them both if he played them. No one ever knows what Arsene is thinking or really saying.

Team Health

Giroud is doubtful for the City game with a gash on his knee that he sustained against Swansea last weekend. But the rest of the team is more or less fit and ready. Fabianski is 2-3 weeks away from full training. Diaby and Rosicky are back and personally, I’d like to see Rosicky assimilated into the team quickly. He was instrumental during our best runs in the second half of last season. I hope he can do the same for us this year. It’s not inconceivable to see us line up with Arteta, Diaby, Wilshere, Rosicky, Cazorla and Walcott or Giroud in some games. Now try taking the ball of that lot!

Ticket Prices

City have returned a bunch of tickets to us for tomorrow’s game because their fans don’t want to pay the big price tag. Indirectly you could say well if it wasn’t for their club using monopoly money and skewing football finances maybe there would be lower fees all around. Bottom line, it is what it is. Arsenal are a business. We all want to pay less and expect more. I head over to the Emirates 2-3 times a year and it’s expensive as heck but you go to support your team. No one will ever be happy about paying a certain amount. Don’t really think this is anything new or for that matter anything to write home about. Mountain out of an anthill here.

Well that’s all for now. Full preview of the City game tomorrow. Have a great Saturday and enjoy your weekend!