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Monday, 29 November 2010

Wigan (h) Carling Cup preview, Rambo on the telly, no luck for Dover

A sight I do NOT want tomorrow night

With my wife confined to bed with the same sickness bug that afflicted the children last week I have spent the past two days finding out the life of a house-husband. All I can say is that it sure beats the hell out of working outside in the ice. Thankfully I managed to avoid Jeremy Kyle, though This Morning was essential viewing while feeding the baby. If only the pay was better. Having seen this particularly nasty virus sweep through the other members of the household I think it must surely be a matter of time before I am similarly struck down. I just hope it holds off at least until I get home from the Wigan game tomorrow night. I'll be travelling to the game on the high-speed train tomorrow as driving in the snow is about as palatable to me as losing 3-2 at home to Tottenham, and a whole lot more scary at times. Arsenal have said on their website that they will be monitoring the weather but I doubt very much the game will suffer the same fate as the Bolton match last season. Considering that Newcastle were able to get their match on yesterday amid about three-feet of the stuff it would be a little embarrassing for Arsenal to cancel again, unless the under soil heating were to fail.
The team news for tomorrow seems to be that Emmanuel Eboue has recovered somewhat more quickly than expected from his injury last Tuesday. If the Ivorian is fit this is welcome news as Sagna needs a rest as much as everyone else, and some rotation between the two is not a bad thing. On the other side of the defence Kieran Gibbs will surely get another start, and another chance to convince the Manager of what most of the fans already believe - that he should be the main man at left-back right now (I almost choked on my cup of tea when I saw Clichy in the "Team of the Weekend" in The Sun today). Sebastien Squillaci is listed as having a knee injury, but I wouldn't have expected to see him tomorrow anyway - I just hope he's fit for the weekend. Midfield will be interesting. Denilson will play, but who else? Carlos Vela could get a rare start on the left, with Walcott and Bendtner almost certain to complete the front three. Henri Lansbury is out on loan (and was apparently very impressive in the East Anglia derby yesterday) but Craig Eastmond is still around and would be favourite to play alongside Denilson. As for the "Fabregas" position it's anyone's guess. I would have thought Rosicky would play there, but he has played two (almost) full matches in the last week. It's a puzzler for the Manager. My personal preference would be for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to step in (if he chooses to not play Arshavin or Nasri - though I have a sneaky suspicion the Russian might lead the side tomorrow) in order to add some beef to that midfield three.
The final position up for grabs is goalkeeper. Will it be Wojciech Sczeszny or Manuel Almunia? I hope the Pole plays with Almunia on the bench, and I would be a bit surprised (and disappointed) if that wasn't the case.
I think the team could look a bit like this tomorrow night:
Sczeszny - Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs - Denilson, Eastmond, Arshavin - Vela, Bendtner, Walcott.
I was really surprised when Arsenal announced that Aaron Ramsey was off to Forest on loan until January. I am concerned as to what this means for his future. I find it hard to believe that Arsenal would send him somewhere else in the middle of his recovery unless they have noticed something negative. I really hope I am wrong and that he has been sent out to play more regularly than Arsenal Reserves can offer, at a competitive level, so that he is fit to come in for a tired Wilshere/Denilson during the second half of the season. Forest are live on Sky tonight against Leicester and there is a chance that Rambo could get his first run-out for them. With it being a local derby it will surely be a bit feisty and could be a really good test of Aaron's psychological state should the tackles begin to fly. I think I'll tune in to see at least a bit of it if he is playing. I certainly won't be watching Barcelona play Real Madrid as I would rather stick sharp pointy things in to my eyes than put up with Sky fawning over Jose Mourinho.
The FA Cup draw paired us with Leeds United, at home. You can't ask for more than a home draw against lower league opposition. Leeds will be very well supported with up to 9000 tickets ready to be snapped up by the away team - you can be sure they will sell out their allocation. I imagine the Met Police are not too excited by the prospect of a visit from so many Leeds fans. What has happened to Leeds United in recent years is nothing short of a disgrace. A genuinely big club should not have sunk to those depths, and it is the fault of Peter Ridsdale. How this man was subsequently able to involve himself with Cardiff City (who almost went bankrupt too) is quite beyond me. He should have been banned after what he did to Leeds. The man was an egotistical twat who wanted the limelight for himself, but took none of the blame when it all went wrong. I wish Leeds well, but not in the FA Cup this season.
Elsewhere in the FA Cup Dover Athletic's giant-killing heroics were not rewarded in the draw. An away trip to Huddersfield Town is certainly not the stuff of dreams. They would have to be a long shot for a live TV game (a home tie may well have been on the box) so a replay seems their best hope of making some real money out of their magnificent run. I've spoken to one or two Dover regulars and they are a bit downbeat. Martin Hayes reaction on Sky last night was quite funny as he completely failed to hide his disappointment at not getting a bigger tie. It's a shame for a Club that always needs good money, so I hope they can get a draw and bring Huddersfield to Crabble (it is not, and never has been THE Crabble as the TV and radio would have you believe) where a replay would surely make the cut for a live transmission. If they could get them back to Dover then who knows, maybe the fourth round wouldn't be beyond them.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Villa beaten...eventually, Pat Rice to retire? FA Cup gets interesting today

We got there in the end I suppose and took an important three points. However, the reason we can not win the Title was still there for all to see - Arsenal simply can't defend properly. We've let in 7 goals in a week - none of them the fault of our goalkeeper. A team that needs to score three times per game just to be certain of a point is in no position to think it can win the Premier League. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the goals we concede are regularly similar to each other, meaning that the defence does not learn from its collective errors. Worse still is that goals are often the fault of the same people making the same errors which begs the question as to why they continue to play every week. Yesterday was a prime example of both. The first goal saw the ball bouncing on the edge of the box so, instead of closing down the man on the ball, Tomas Rosicky and, my personal favourite, Gael Clichy chose to run away from him (while we're on the subject, what exactly have Gibbs and Djourou got to do to get a start on merit?) Squillaci, for the first time, notably berated Rosicky for his failure to act, but he obviously hadn't noticed Clichy who went towards the ball and then changed his mind and ran in the opposite direction. In fairness we should still have been saved by the linesman who failed to notice the 6'7" Carew standing in front of Fabianski, about five yards offside. The second goal was the usual set-piece concession with two men managing to find themselves unmarked in the six-yard area, right in front of the goalkeeper. As I say, we never learn.
On the attacking front Arsenal were outstanding. The trouble is that with our defending we need to be amazing going forward in every game. As with last week the game could, and should, have been put to bed before half-time. Arshavin improved again from last week and was the man of the match for me. The lazy flicks and lack of running have disappeared in the last two games, and he is making Arsenal tick again. Arsenal's dominance was all the more amazing when you consider that Rosicky was the direct replacement for Fabregas. I know he played a nice ball for Chamakh's goal, but he was completely anonymous for the rest of the game. In the latter part of the second-half I began to think I'd missed a substitution as he didn't appear on the TV screen at all.
Marouane Chamakh was outstanding once again, with Dunne and Collins at a complete loss in trying to deal with him. I felt Nasri had a quiet game again, but he popped up with a superb strike for the second goal, and missed an absolute sitter after a sublime pass from Arshavin had put him in on goal. We shouldn't have been hanging on the way we were, but it is a symptom of our lack of genuine ruthlessness in front of goal and our inability to contain at the back. Once again the players were not helped by the Manager and his bizarre substitutions. We had Theo Walcott on the bench, yet he chose to bring on Denilson and Gibbs for his two wide players - a completely negative move which could have backfired spectacularly as it has so often in the past (usually with Cygan being made the fall-guy). The fourth goal was also a complete dogs dinner with nobody wanting to take responsibility. Thankfully Jack stooped to conquer at the far post and put the win beyond doubt.
I watched the game in a pub yesterday and was reminded immediately of why I don't like watching Arsenal in places like that. The problem is that most pubs are populated by at least one tosser who will make a point of showing their dislike for Arsenal in some way. When you're in the pub 100 yards from a football ground, just before an FA Cup tie, you get more than one of them and that is bloody annoying - especially as most of these twats have never been near a Premier League ground in their lives.
The win took us top for a couple of hours but if it wasn't for the cock-ups of last weekend we would still be there now. I noticed that Fat Sam's band of thugs put in their usual meek and mild performance against his "friend" Ferguson's mob at Old Trafford. I'd love to see that walrus-faced arsehole get the boot...again.

According to the paper today Pat Rice is set to retire at the end of the season. Pat has been a great servant to Arsenal, and is a true legend of the Club. He has a fantastic record as a coach from the youth team through to the first eleven. However, I think a change might just be a good thing for the players, as I said on here last week. If he does retire then the Club must mark his service in an appropriate way, with proper tributes paid to someone who is Arsenal through and through. I remember at the Cup Final (and the replay) in 1993, the fans had gone a bit quiet at the end of ninety minutes. Pat, who George Graham always had around the first-team at Cup Finals (and at Anfield in 1989) marched towards us and started throwing his arms around and getting us to turn up the noise again. It will seem strange to see someone else sitting next to Wenger next season (if the Manager gets that far). It seems that Neil Banfield or Steve Bould are in line for promotion. I think most of the fans would far prefer Bouldie involved. Who knows, he might even get the players to learn how to defend. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if neither of them got the job, with Wenger bringing in someone from outside, but with an Arsenal pedigree - Pires, Bergkamp, Keown?

The FA Cup 3rd Round is drawn today. I went to watch my local team, Dover Athletic, yesterday in their tie with Aldershot. For the second round in a row Dover were the big giant-killers. Adam Birchall, a former Arsenal youth, got both their goals in a 2-0 win. There was a bumper crowd of over 4,000 there, and ESPN should be ashamed for not having them as one of the live matches. Martin Hayes is the Manager there so it would be great if we could get them at home in the next round. If Arsenal were drawn to play Dover away from home I think the police would not allow them to play it at Crabble, which would be a shame for the town and complete nonsense as far as I'm concerned - the terrace has a capacity so an all-ticket fixture (as it would be) would mean safety should not be an issue. Unfortunately, the idea of a "big" club is something the police don't want on their patch. Highlight of the day yesterday (apart from the win) was seeing one of the coppers not paying attention behind a stand get knocked off his feet by the matchball - everyone in the home end saw it happen and cheered in the appropriate fashion. Arsenal are number 1 in the draw, as they should always be, with Dover number 63.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Aston Villa (a) preview

If it's as cold in Birmingham as it is here in the South East then Arsenal's players will have no choice but to put in a lot of effort today. If they don't run around and get involved then hypothermia might just set in. I have a ticket for Dover Athletic's second-round FA Cup tie with Aldershot, so it's the pub just down the road from Dover's ground for the Arsenal game for me.

We knew that Fabregas and Eboue are both out of the match this afternoon. I would have expected Sagna to replace Eboue in any case. As I said Thursday I am not sure the absence of the skipper will be all that important on recent form. I would expect Nasri to move in to the middle and replace Cesc behind the main striker. There are some interesting selections for the Manager in other areas though.
The press are saying that Manuel Almunia is fit to play. This surprises me as the Spaniard played only the first-half of the Reserves match in midweek. I doubt he is really fit, so I don't think there is much chance that Fabianski will be dropped. To be honest, I don't see Almunia replacing either of the Polish goalkeepers, even when he does regain fitness.
In the centre of defence there is a choice to make between the ineffective Koscielny and the in-form Johan Djourou. I would far rather Djourou plays, especially as Carew is apparently ready to play for the opposition. Clichy may have recovered from his back problem, but I can't for the life of me understand why he would get in ahead of Gibbs. However, Gael is a Wenger favourite so I fully expect him to start if fit.
Denilson or Wilshere? With Alex Song certain to return to the starting XI it is a straight shoot out between the two. Wilshere has looked jaded in recent weeks, but he brings so much more to the side than the Brazilian. However, I would not be surprised to see Denilson play - he has a goalscoring pedigree at Villa Park so he could be a logical choice in a "horses for courses" kind of way. Out wide we can be sure that Arshavin will return - the weather should certainly suit him. But what of the other side of the pitch? Rosicky would be the favourite to play for me, but he completed 90 minutes on Tuesday. Theo Walcott is the other obvious option, but he is looking a bit more like the Theo we really know on the evidence of the past few weeks. This is where I would throw Villa a bit of a curve-ball. I would play Robin Van Persie off the right side of the pitch, where he used to line up for Holland a few years back. There is no point, for me, in putting him up against Dunn and Collins in the middle - he will win no kind of physical battle against those two, whereas Chamakh could dominate either or both of them. I doubt Wenger would do that, and it's more likely that RVP would play up front with Chamakh missing out, should he choose to select the Dutchman.
I'm not going to guess at a line-up today as there are just too many variables, and nobody can begin to know what Arsene is thinking these days. What I do know is that a win is crucial. Normally I would be happy with a point from a trip to Villa but, following two defeats, nothing less than three points is good enough today. With Villa missing the outstanding Albrighton, and possibly Agbonlahor, they have less attacking options, but Arsenal will still have to deal with the pace of Young and the physicality of Carew - a man we have never got to grips with through his career. To do so they will need organisation and defensive discipline, so don't go holding your breath.

I'll review the match tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Fabregas out for 2 weeks, talk is cheap

It's been a long week. Defeat against the mugs on Saturday was merely the start. On Monday night my five-year-old developed a vomiting bug, causing me to come home early from a stag day I had organised. Then, of course, was Tuesday night's embarrassment. Finally, to top it all off, the baby caught the same bug as his brother and had us up all through last night. I am more tired than a tired thing, that's been certified with exhaustion. The only bright spot from last night was that I was able to sit in front of the live Ashes coverage. It's just a shame that England's batting was about as good as Arsenal's defending. All in all I can't wait to get this week over with - but I have a funeral to attend tomorrow before that can happen. Like I say, it's been a long week.

In the land of Arsenal FC it has been announced that Cesc Fabregas will be missing for two weeks. This would see him return in time for the game with Manchester United. I have to say that, having struggled with hamstring problems for more than a year, I don't see how a two week break will see Fabregas recover properly. The Captain needs to be rested properly if he is to regain fitness. I have criticised Fabregas heavily in recent weeks, but his injury has surely had some kind of impact on his performances. Having said that, as I pointed out last night, I am not that concerned at his absence. I believe the other players are becoming intimidated by the presence of Fabregas and the fact that he is genuinely World Class. Without him in the side I think our football might be a bit more expansive, with less attempts to pass through the central minefield of the opposition defence. Nasri and Wilshere, and possibly Rosicky (though hopefully not) will be likely to share the role vacated by Cesc in the games ahead and I think they will both fill the gap very comfortably.

I watched Johan Djourou's interview after the match on Tuesday and I was impressed with the words he came out with. Djourou was honest in his assessment of the team and their performance. He was also quite candid about what mistakes had been made on the pitch. I notice on the official website that Denilson has apologised to the fans for what has happened this week. Again, this is very noble and particularly refreshing (Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, has been suspiciously quiet on his Twitter feed since Saturday). However, for all the honesty and the apologies from the players - and neither of these two would be considered first-choice - I would like to see a tangible response to defeats. The Manager refuses to criticise at the best of times so we can count out any gestures from him. The fact is that the players can talk as much as they want to, but the evidence of their remorse for awful performances will be seen at 12.45 on Saturday, in Birmingham. Talk is cheap Arsenal. Do your stuff on the pitch, then you might begin to claw back the respect of the fans, and you must start to do it at Aston Villa.

There will be a preview of the Aston Villa game posted tomorrow night. I wonder if I'll get some sleep tonight?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Braga review, Rambo's return

I suppose that the excuse of "we lacked focus" or "we were a little bit complacent at times" couldn't be trotted out by Wenger again after last night's debacle. Instead of that, we had the age-old "they didn't play football" and "the referee was awful" to contend with. Of course, it's difficult to argue with either of those comments from the Manager. However, it shouldn't have mattered how Braga played, or how bad the officiating was (and it was absolutely bloody scandalous, and ought to really be investigated by UEFA for its ineptitude) because the reason Arsenal lost is that they didn't put in the required effort. If the players were hurt after the weekend they didn't exactly show it. With the exception of Djourou and Gibbs (neither of whom played on Saturday) the performance of the players was as lacklustre as any we've seen against West Brom, Newcastle etc.
Nicklas Bendtner was back in the starting line-up last night. He's had far too much to say these past couple of weeks and I would have far rather seen Carlos Vela playing from the start as the Mexican has kept his head down and got on with things. So Bendtner had the chance to let his boots do the talking for a change, and he was awful. The Dane was constantly wandering out of the middle (as he always has done) so there was no target when the likes of Walcott and Gibbs got the ball in from wide. Bendtner needs to watch Marouane Chamakh and copy the way he plays - we looked so much better going forward when he came on.
I couldn't quite believe it when Theo Walcott was taken off, thus allowing Tomas Rosicky to get through the whole 90 minutes. Did Rosicky even touch the ball for most of the evening? Okay, Walcott was fairly quiet, but he was the only real threat we had against their defence. Denilson and Wilshere gave nothing going forward, and also failed to protect the back four at any time.
People will naturally criticise the decision to leave out Van Persie and Arshavin in the interests of resting the pair of them. Rightly so. However, they should have been in a position to be rested (along with the likes of Fabregas) without any question marks over our qualification - our problems do not stem from last night's defeat. The fact that Wenger left players out in Donetsk a few weeks ago, when a proper performance would have won us the group, is what caused the problems we now face. There is actually a very real prospect that we could go out of this competition. My brother pointed out this morning that, while you would never wish it, getting knocked out might just be a good thing as it would surely bring things to a head for Wenger - either to admit the squad is not up to it (unlikely considering his ridiculous boast on Friday that this is his finest squad ever), or to leave knowing he is now failing the Club.
It would be wrong to not mention the ridiculous decision to book Carlos Vela for diving. Vela was about to put the ball in the net when he was turned inside-out by the centre-back. The referee was no more than 15 yards away (and there was that other muppet behind the goal of course) and yet he can not see it was a stone-wall penalty. Wenger is right that it would have changed the game - of course it would - but that doesn't change the fact that Arsenal shouldn't have been in a position to be relying on the officials getting it right. Make no mistake Braga are rubbish. They do not belong on the same field as Arsenal. Unfortunately our players are simply not performing to the required standards and that is the fault of a Manager who seems unable to motivate them. It may be a consequence of the collective gloom of the last two games (we won the previous two remember) but I feel like I'm seeing the sort of lacklustre rubbish that became a hallmark of the death-throes of George Graham's time. I hope I'm wrong, but right now I feel Arsenal are nose-diving, and doing it quickly.
We lost Eboue and Fabregas to injury last night. I thought the foul on Eboue was awful and worthy of at least a yellow card - somehow we had more players carded than Braga did. The loss of Fabregas should be felt more keenly, you would think, than that of our reserve full-back. I actually think it might do the team some good. I have felt for a while that Fabregas is becoming a bit "Thierry Henry" in terms of his involvement on the field. You will remember how, in the last two seasons he spent at Arsenal Thierry insisted on every move going through him - so it is with Cesc right now. Henry also insisted on taking every free-kick around the penalty area etc. What I'm seeing with Fabregas feels like deja vu. His two free-kicks before half-time last night are put forward as "Exhibit A." The absence of Fabregas will hopefully see either Nasri or Wilshere move in to the role he vacates, thus spreading the play a bit more. This might just make us a little less predictable, while allowing one of those two to flourish in their natural position on the field.

It wasn't all bad news yesterday. Aaron Ramsey returned to action yesterday for the Reserves, along with Manuel Almunia. Both men played the first-half of a 2-1 win over Wolves - Roarie Deacon and Gilles Sunu the scorers. I wouldn't expect to be seeing Rambo in the first-team for quite a while yet - the FA Cup 3rd Round might be a realistic target for him, and patience will certainly be a virtue. He will need to buck the trend set by Diaby and Eduardo who were never the same after their horrific leg-breaks, and who still suffer the most annoying niggly injuries more often than is normal. Whatever the case, it's good to have him back on a football pitch and we can hope that he is the exception in terms of coming back to his best. I'm a little surprised to see Manuel back and playing, but I suppose he ought really to earn his wages if he's still at the Club. It will be very interesting to see if he works his way back to the first-team squad on a regular basis - I reckon he could be on the bench against Wigan next Tuesday.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

No organisation, no idea

I thought that by watching the highlights of the game I might be able to calm down a bit. I've watched it twice now and I'm even more annoyed than before. The TV coverage shows just how bad our defensive organisation is, whether it's from open play or at set-pieces. I'll come on to that later, but I'd better cover the positive stuff first.

I actually thought Arsenal played well going forward yesterday. We dominated the game, especially in the first-half. A 2-0 lead at half-time was not a reflection of the play, and our inability to convert dominance into goals was evident yet again. The final ten minutes of the first-half saw Fabregas and co deciding to slow things down and settle for a two goal lead. Why? Tottenham were a beaten side at that point. You would never see Chelsea or Manchester United taking their foot off the throat of the opposition when they are there for the taking. As bad as our defence may be, Tottenham's is worse. I said on Friday's preview that we could get at them due to their lack of cover, and that's exactly what happened. I thought Arshavin played with more effort yesterday than he has in the whole season so far put together. Marouane Chamakh dominated Gallas and Kaboul in the air, deservedly getting his goal, though for some reason he chose to turn back when through on goal on two separate occasions. We should have lead by four goals at half-time, but we failed to kill off the opposition again. This is clearly a mental problem with this Arsenal team. They are not ruthless enough. After one of the early season games I remember Manuel Almunia saying that the players needed to make the most of their chances in games, and score more goals - basically alluding to the fact that we can't defend. Still the lessons are not learned.

Tottenham made a change at half-time (they had to) bringing on Defoe. Alan Shearer's insight on Match of the Day showed how Defoe ran in the channels between our defence, "causing problems for Arsenal," and then proceeded to show three examples where Arsenal dealt comfortably with him (quality analysis once again). Let's not get wrapped up in any idea that this change was some kind of tactical genius from Twitchy, or that it changed the game. Arsenal continued to dominate and miss chances. However, you just knew that if Spurs scored we were in trouble. Their first goal showed up our lack of organisation in any given situation. Not for the first time (so no lessons learned) we got caught on the break, from our own free-kick, and found ourselves outnumbered at the back. When Defoe won the header in front of Clichy we saw how the likes of Sagna don't have the first clue about defending. The ball bounced high and awkwardly for Van Der Vaart, but Sagna stood off him and let him bring the ball down on his chest and play an easy ball to the onrushing (and unchecked) Bale. When Van Der Vaart took the ball on his chest any defender worth their salt would have been barreling in and taking everything, not standing off and letting their best player pick a pass.
I have to say now that the free-kick which resulted in the penalty was a joke. Alex Song got in front of Modric and ran away with the ball - he didn't even tackle him, let alone foul. That said, what Fabregas and Chamakh did in the wall was inexcusable. At the start of the year Fabregas got away with the exact same thing against Liverpool in the last minute of the match. It was an obvious penalty, and he should be fined at least one weeks wages for such cowardice and stupidity.
Even after this lack of discipline we continued to dominate the game, but then the Manager decided to make his usual ridiculous substitutions. Chamakh should not have been taken off, even though he was tiring. I thought that, apart from the pass for Nasri's goal, Fabregas was crap yesterday (Alan Hansen picked out other stuff and raved about him on the BBC last night - it must have looked different on a TV screen) and it was him that Van Persie should have replaced. Wenger wasn't finished though and he took off Nasri and, unbelievably on yesterday's showing, Arshavin. At that point it was crying out for Denilson to go off (he'd had a decent game, but we needed to win) and bring on Wilshere. It was bad enough that Wilshere didn't start the game having destroyed Tottenham in the Carling Cup, but to then leave him on the bench was ridiculous. Then came the miss of the match. Van Persie gave Koscielny an open goal and he headed over the top. It has to be said, Koscielny is not good enough to play for Arsenal. The lad is not strong enough or tough enough. I can't begin to understand why he played yesterday ahead of Johan Djourou - an explanation from Wenger would be most welcome.
So we come to the winning goal. Koscielny dived in on Bale, giving away a free-kick (Clichy had gone AWOL again). It wasn't until I watched the highlights that I realised just how bad our defensive organisation is. When you're at the game live you can see the players trying to work out who should be going where at every set-piece, without much idea as to who should be marking any of the opposition players. When you watch (if you can bear to do so) the winning goal, just look at who is picking up Kaboul - Tottenham's strongest header of a ball. As the free-kick comes in he is being marked by Fabregas and Van Persie. Meanwhile, Arsenal's centre-backs fill the space (note the word space, as there is not a Spurs player within ten yards of these two clowns) around the middle of the penalty area. What the hell is going on? (Just as a quick aside - when we signed Squillaci Wenger told us that he was very strong in the air. Can you tell me, then, why Koscielny was picking up Pavlyuchenko and Crouch throughout the game? No tactics, no organisation, that is why). The cameras then picked up the reactions on our bench. Wenger threw his bottle of water (like an irate five-year-old) and Pat Rice sat there shaking his head at the defending. Can these two not see that ultimately our defensive problems are their fault? If you don't practise defending set-pieces you can't hope to do it successfully in a match. If you don't instruct players, before the game, who they should be marking, you get the sort of chaos on display in the Arsenal defence. The same thing applies at the other end of the pitch - a set-piece is a goalscoring opportunity, so why neglect it so freely?

Chelsea lost again yesterday, so Arsenal missed the chance to go top. The fact that we are still in touch at the top, despite four defeats, is something of a footballing miracle. However, we can not begin to think we have a chance to win the Premier League. We can't defend. We don't defend. We guess at defending. Back in 2006 Martin Keown came in and worked with a defence of Flamini, Senderos, Toure and Eboue. They went on to set a Champions League record for clean sheets, and rescued fourth place in the Premier League from a seemingly parlous position. This was no coincidence. Keown brought organisation and order. I daresay the training sessions weren't the usual fun and good times because he will have been drilling them in the same sort of way that George Graham drilled Keown and the others in their day, but if that's the price of being tight at the back then so be it. I would also imagine that Keown wasn't a yes man, and wouldn't put up with any crap from people who'd won nothing (Ashley Cole apparently revealed in his book that Senderos didn't like Keown's methods). And therein is the reason, I feel, that Wenger hasn't had him back. Wenger will not let anyone criticise his players, or to disagree with him (otherwise he wouldn't be making such awful decisions from the bench), so we have the yes men that surround the first-team bubble at Arsenal. This has been costing us for the past five years, hence we have won nothing in that time.

I've been saying it for two years, and the shouts are getting louder - Arsene Wenger must go. He has become too powerful at Arsenal, and his "judgement" seems beyond question from within the Club. He has become an irritating caricature of himself and his post-match comments yesterday sum it up. He said that he couldn't understand how we lost, and that we didn't deserve to lose. If he can't understand how we lost then he should resign as he clearly does not see what goes on in front of him. If he thinks we didn't deserve to lose, having seen his defenders show their ineptitude and his Captain give away a needless penalty, then he wants locking up in an asylum.

I'm fuming more now than I was after the game yesterday. I'm sick of seeing the same mistakes week in, week out. I'm sick of Arsenal throwing away winning positions. I'm sick of losing to mediocre teams (and Spurs are very mediocre at the back). I'm sick of hearing Wenger's bullshit after every defeat. I'm sick of the tossers who tell me that the football we play is great to watch. Bollocks. Good football is winning football. The game yesterday was probably the best football match of the entire season for a neutral, but I'm not a neutral. I don't go to be entertained, I go to see us win, and I don't much care how we do it.

I won't get a chance to post tomorrow as I'm out all day and evening, and then in London on Tuesday for a meeting, so there won't be a preview of the Braga match - a game which is now far more important than it should have been. If we lose in Braga (and this is eminently possible with our away record in Europe) then we could go in to something of a spiral with a visit to Aston Villa on the horizon. More on Wednesday.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A brief report


I think that covers it for now. A proper review will follow tomorrow, from slightly calmer waters.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Tottenham (h) preview

Tottenham's Cup Final

Tomorrow brings the biggest home game of the season so far. Anything breakable in the away section will have been removed because the neanderthals from up the road are visiting for their number one match of the year.
Rumours that Darren Anderton is fit to play for Tottenham are apparently untrue, but Jermaine Defoe appears to be the new man filling that role. It comes as no surprise that Defoe has been given the miracle cure, as Tottenham know the importance to their fans of putting up a good show against Arsenal. Having been humiliated at the Lane earlier in the season, he who twitches dare not get hammered again tomorrow. The two line-ups will be very different from those that played in the Carling Cup, but a similar scoreline would certainly not go amiss. Spurs, of course, have the World's best player on the left wing. Is there any way that Arsenal can resist the quality of Gareth Bale (the same Gareth Bale that Redknapp tried to flog to Nottingham Forest at the end of January)? In all seriousness, Sagna will have to perform well tomorrow against Bale, and I would play Walcott down the right hand side in order to put the Welshman in two minds about bombing-on. Spurs have Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart in their midfield. Not one of these is inclined to do much defending. They possess the quality to hurt Arsenal, there is no doubt about it. However, as Bolton showed the other week, the presence of such players leaves Tottenham vulnerable at the back. With Arsenal's attacking options (more of which below) I think we can really do them damage as we attack.
Spurs will have William Gallas playing for them tomorrow. He's not exactly been in scintillating form since he went there, but we know very well that Gallas has a knack of making important contributions in big matches. Arsene Wenger has insisted that the Arsenal fans will be respectful of our ex-captain, but I think he is being a little naive. Make no mistake, Gallas will be abused tomorrow by the Arsenal supporters, and it will be well deserved. I always felt that he got a harsh ride from a lot of the fans when he played for us, but having gone to join that lot he will have brought the fans' reaction upon himself (though it should be remembered that he is no Sol Campbell in terms of his defection from one to the other).
Arsene says that Robin Van Persie is pushing for a start tomorrow after his 45 minutes for Holland in midweek. Apart from the added motivation of playing against Gallas, who he seemed to dislike intensely (remember the reports of punch-ups after the 4-4 draw a couple of years ago?) I can see no benefit to starting the Dutchman in this game. We need the physical presence of Chamakh against their centre-backs, and the pace of Walcott and Nasri from wide. I see no place for RVP in the line-up right now, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to see Wenger leave Chamakh on the bench in favour of Van Persie. I've mentioned Spurs' attacking prowess, so I would like to see Song doing exactly what he did in the final quarter of the match at Everton last week - stay in front of the back-four and don't move. Jack Wilshere has been passed fit to play (and charged with assault this afternoon) but I wouldn't be shocked if Denilson started instead - the Brazillian did well when he came off the bench last week. I'd rather see Wilshere as I think playing Denilson would send a bit of a negative message, indicating that we fear Tottenham a little, for the first time in years.
Laurent Koscielny is back from his suspension, but it would be particularly harsh if Johan Djourou was to miss out. With Pavlyuchenko or Crouch likely to start we will need the physical presence of the big Swiss far more than the silky football of Koscielny. I expect Clichy to continue at full-back after Kieran Gibbs played most of the game for England on Wednesday night.
My team would be as below, though I suspect Arsene's will be really quite different tomorrow:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Fabregas - Nasri, Chamakh, Walcott.
A win tomorrow would put us top of the league, albeit briefly. We would, hopefully, gain the confidence to push on and make a real challenge to Chelsea and Man Utd. It would also take us quite a way clear of Tottenham. If we could win, and win well, it might just spell the end of Spurs' season, and the beginning of the end for Twitchy. Make no mistake about it, another hammering at Arsenal tomorrow and the mugs will turn on him. If Arsenal get a couple of goals ahead then I expect the twitching to reach quite a dangerous level on the Spurs bench - anyone sitting nearby should probably wear a hard-hat just in case. Last season I pulled a muscle in my neck doing my Redknapp Twitch when RVP made it 3-0 - I'd love the opportunity to pull another muscle tomorrow.
I'll review the match when I get home from the game at some point tomorrow evening. Fingers are already crossed for three points, and I don't care how they come about - an own goal in injury time from Gallas would do me just fine.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Quick round-up

Bobby - on his way to Villa

I just want to put a very brief piece on here today. I felt I better write something as I've not posted since Sunday's magnificent win at Everton. I've just noticed that I wrote Everton 0 - 2 Arsenal in the Title for Sunday's piece...oops! Of course the score was 2-1 to The Arsenal, so apologies to any Everton fans that might have stumbled upon it by accident.
Arsenal announced yesterday that Robert Pires is set to sign for Aston Villa. I'm disappointed that Wenger hasn't changed his mind about putting the great man on a short contract at Arsenal. I still think he could do an important job at some point in the long Winter that lies ahead. His influence on the likes of Nasri, Walcott, Wilshere, Lansbury etc might just have improved and educated those players a little. I hope that, just by training alongside a legend, a little of his stardust will have rubbed off on the youngsters. If they can go on to have Arsenal careers like Bobby then the future will be bright indeed. Arsenal play Aston Villa in ten days time. Having allowed Pires to train with the Club we have to hope that he doesn't come back to bite us on the backside in that match. Good luck Robert, but save your good moments for after you play against Arsenal. Please.
I'm not sure if you noticed England U21's played last night. I didn't see the game as I was working, but Henri Lansbury played the 90 minutes, though the last 30 of these were as a goalkeeper. This U21 squad was full of lower-division no-marks who will never play for England at the higher level. On Monday morning Pearce called up a few more. Meanwhile Jay Emmanuel-Thomas stayed training at Arsenal, not wanted by his Country. I'm not the sort of person who wants players to be taken away for meaningless international rubbish, but some sort of recognition for a young player doesn't go amiss. JET has been involved in a number of first-team games this season, in all competitions, as well as banging in the goals for Arsenal Reserves. This boy is playing at one of the top Premier League Club's. If he were with a lesser team he would probably be in their first-eleven every week, so why is he not wanted by England U21? I can only assume it's because Pearce doesn't like Arsene Wenger, or Arsenal. It's a complete joke, and Capello should be stepping in to tell Pearce what he is doing wrong, otherwise he is neglecting his duties as England Manager.

I might watch England tonight, or I might not. After all, The Apprentice is on at 9 o'clock (and Chamakh is playing against Northern Ireland, live on Sky). If I do watch England I'll post a review tomorrow, if not I'll be back on Friday to preview the Villa game (hopefully Jack Wilshere is fit by then).

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Back in the race in a big way - Everton 0 - 2 Arsenal

Sunderland have blown this Premier League season wide open with their hammering of Chelsea this afternoon. I really wasn't expecting them to get anything at all at Stamford Bridge, so I didn't watch it. As soon as the Arsenal game was over the wife treated me to a meal in a local eatery (and it wasn't McDonalds or KFC). I did see Chelsea's team, however, and what caught my eye the most was their list of substitutes. There wasn't much there that would frighten a Premier League side. With Terry absent, and Lampard still injured, there appears to be a vulnerability to Chelsea. With the lack of strength on the bench, if you can get in front of this Chelsea team, then you have a real chance. When compared to an Arsenal squad today where Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Robin Van Persie never got out of their tracksuit tops you can see that Chelsea's famed strength in depth is maybe not what it was (Bendtner never even made the Arsenal bench today - hopefully he is being punished for being so free with his mouth earlier in the week). Chelsea's setback today makes our last minute cock-up at Sunderland (having already missed a penalty) and the twin disasters of West Brom and Newcastle all the more annoying. You can't win every game, obviously, but even three more points from those games would see us top of the pile this evening. As it is we are within two points of the leaders, thanks to a couple of big away victories in the last few days.

I thought Arsenal were lacklustre for the first twenty minutes today, and the passing was woeful. We improved dramatically in the middle portion of the match and dominated with pace and precision, before returning to an ambling mess for the last quarter of an hour. In that opening period we could easily have been behind, and Fabregas looked like a man who daren't put in a proper sprint as Coleman ran away from him down the wing - Everton should have scored.
I noticed at Everton's first set-piece how it is that Tim Cahill gets on the end of so much, seemingly unmarked. He stands right next to a designated team mate (in this case it was the manic Heitinga - another thug) who blocks off the man marking Cahill - for Arsenal this was Sagna (more about this later on), thus leaving Cahill unchallenged. I am amazed that opponents haven't picked up on this (or the pundits with their plethora of cameras and machines) and made sure the referee is aware of it.
Samir Nasri, for me, was our best attacking player again today. It was his run and shot that eventually led to the first goal. Nasri has been superb all season and is really looking quick and powerful. I was Nasri's biggest critic last season, and it used to annoy me how he never got the bird from the fans as people like Denilson would. This season he has been the player of the year so far, and long may it continue. The goal itself was a searing strike from Sagna, but Tim Howard was doing his best David Seaman impression at the near post (anyone who remembers Giggs' goal at Villa Park and Batistuta at Wembley for Fiorentina will know what I'm talking about). 1-0 at half-time was about right I felt.
It was, perhaps, a little surprising to see Jack Wilshere taken off at half-time, but this was one Wenger got right. Jack looked off the pace today, and seemed to me to be feeling the heat after playing so much in the early part of this season. I would like to see him develop an "injury" so that he doesn't play for England in midweek, leaving him well rested ahead of the North London Derby. Make no mistake, Spurs will not want to face him after the way he destroyed them in the Carling Cup. He is still just a boy, and it's important that he can get a rest where possible. His replacement, Denilson, drove Arsenal forward in the opening minutes of the second-half and he played in Fabregas for the combination with Chamakh that led to the second goal. For the first twenty minutes of the second half we saw the Fabregas we are used to, and his finish for the goal was simply sublime. Once again there was heavy involvement for Chamakh who might like to send Paul Merson a DVD of his performances this season. Merson was in the Sky studio and talking crap about Chamakh wearing a scarf, and therefore obviously not being up for the hard work. Merson has become a bit of a cretin in recent times and fails to realise that he is only on Sky because he's so thick they can take the piss out of him. The Merse was a great player at Arsenal, but he's got himself a bag of King Edwards for his shoulder where the Club is concerned now, having been kicked out by Wenger in the Summer of 1997.
When Samir Nasri went on a brilliant run about ten minutes after the goal there was only one surprise - he didn't find the net. As he sprinted past Jagielka I found it reminiscent of Overmars' second goal against the Toffees on the day we clinched the Title in 1998. Quite how Chamakh then missed from three yards a couple of seconds later I don't know. At that point I got worried, as one goal would have put Everton back in it.
As the game wore on we stopped passing the ball properly, and stopped working hard. Alex Song dis his job properly in the last twenty minutes and protected the back four. I thought Squillaci and Djourou (especially Djourou) had very good games today. The big Swiss was pretty dominant in the air. The full-backs were shaky again, especially my mate Clichy who was making the same errors yet again in defence, while being clueless going forward (I must sound like a scratched record by now). With Fabianski again in fine form I began to think that Everton were not going to get their goal, but Howard Webb had not yet had his moment in the limelight...
Most people will say that Arsenal conceded from a corner yet again, failing to deal with a ball in the air etc. What these people are overlooking is the role of the clown that was refereeing. Webb called Sagna and Cahill over for a talking to. He then allowed Cahill to walk away while he continued to bollock Sagna. As he finished talking to Sagna Everton took their corner. You will remember I said that Sagna had been marking Cahill at set-pieces. On this occasion Sagna couldn't get in position to mark him because the referee had allowed play to start before he was back in the centre (remember he was only out of position because of the referee). This meant Clichy was covering the opposite post to normal (with nobody on the far post) as Fabregas was trying to cover for Sagna. What happens? Cahill finds space to squeeze the ball in to the corner where Gael Clichy would have been for any other corner during the match. Watch it on Match of the Day 2 tonight and tell me if you think I'm wrong. Well done Mr Webb, you really are a complete cock.
It was at this point that Arsene Wenger decided to get stupid again. Doesn't anyone on the bench ever question what he is doing? As soon as Everton scored he decided to take off his big man up front. In itself this was utter madness as the ball would simply keep coming back in the five minutes that still remained. To compound the stupidity he brought on Eboue. Surely it had to be either Van Persie, to try and get hold of the ball, or Walcott to chase the ball in behind and keep it towards the corners of the pitch. Somehow Arsenal got through it, and another big three points were in the bag. With United and Chelsea dropping points, this could be a massive win.

Sadly we will be losing players to another set of ridiculous international friendlies this week. We could really do without this after a week on the road, and a game against the North London Retard Association next Saturday. Keep everything crossed that those lads come back fit on Thursday morning. Now we are back in the race, a win against Tottenham would boost confidence immensely, and restore some belief to a lot of fans that this side might just be capable after all. A win against those mugs would also put us way ahead of them in the League, which would be very nice indeed.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Everton (a) preview, Bendtner opens his mouth...again

Another tough away game awaits the boys tomorrow in another miserable Northern ground. Everton are a good side, especially at home. A draw tomorrow would not be a disastrous result and I would take a point now if we were offered it. With Manchester United slipping to a draw at Villa earlier today (and they should have been hammered out of sight, before a superb comeback) a win at Everton would be a massive result.
Marouane Fellaini did us a favour in midweek by getting himself sent-off. Fellaini is a bit of a nutter on the pitch, but make no mistake he is a very good footballer. His absence from the Everton midfield takes away a massive physical presence, as well as a genuine aerial threat in the penalty area. Everton have plenty of other players who could hurt us though, with Saha, Yakubu and Cahill all massive danger men in attacking areas. We have fallen victim to Cahill at set pieces in the past (as have most Premier League clubs) and dealing with his threat will be crucial to Arsenal getting a result. At the back they have players like Jagielka, Distin and Heitinga who all possess pace and quality. It is vital that Fabregas and others get around Chamakh and support him. If we can keep the ball up front then our passing can damage the Everton defence. The battle will be won and lost in midfield and a gritty performance is going to be required at Goodison.
Kieran Gibbs is back in the squad for tomorrow. I would have no hesitation in playing him ahead of Clichy. If there is a defence of Clichy (and Sagna for that matter) it is that there is not enough help from the attacking players for our full-backs. On both sides of the defence we are regularly exposed by a two-on-one situation. However, that doesn't excuse the lapses in concentration fron Clichy, and the making of the same errors over and over again. Arsene Wenger made a point of announcing Gibbs' availability on Friday. It will be interesting to see whether this was done to make it clear that the boy will play, or simply to give Clichy a kick up the backside.
Tomas Rosicky had a decent game at Wolves by all accounts, so there is a chance he will keep his place in the starting line-up. It would be a shock if Samir Nasri was left out again, so it would seem a straight choice between Arshavin and Rosicky to miss out. There might, I suppose, be a complete shock and Wenger could bring Nasri in for Fabregas, though it would one hell of a departure for Wenger to do something quite so surprisng with his selection. It's a difficult line-up to predict tomorrow, but I would go with this:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs - Song, Wilshere, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.

Nicklas Bendtner has been having his say again. The Dane thinks he should be starting more matches, and says he would have to consider leaving Arsenal if he doesn't get more playing time. I have always quite liked Bendtner, but Chamakh's ability has really shown up the shortcomings of the big man. I don't believe Bendtner is anything like as bad as some of the fans (and the press) would like to make you think. However, Chamakh is really in a different league. There is no way Nicklas can realistically expect to play in front of the Moroccan, or Robin Van Persie. With Jay Emmanuel-Thomas waiting in the wings, and looking ever more impressive, and Benik Afobe also coming through, I don't think there would be too many tears shed if Bendtner did leave the Club. Nicklas Bendtner is a good player, who scores goals in the Premier League, but he not as good as he thinks he is. That, perhaps, is his biggest failing.

Apparently Arsenal Ladies won their latest round in the monkey tennis Champions League the other day. Does anyone care? No, I didn't think so. More tomorrow, after the match.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wolves 0 - 2 Arsenal - a media disgrace, Wojciech signs, Ray Wilkins

This is a dirty player Hansen and Dixon, okay?
I think that's what you call a hard-fought three points. I've managed to see Match of the Day and Football First for the highlights from last night, and it seems obvious that Lukasz Fabianski was a different man from Sunday. It's interesting how television (even viewed live) gives a completely different impression of the game from actually being there. I've seen a number of people online stating that they felt Chamakh did little aside from the goals - all of these people watched the game on the box. My brother and Dad, who were actually there (as I would have been had Sky not cocked about with the Newcastle game, causing this one to go back 24 hours) both told me the Moroccan was our best player. Since the start of the season I have been impressed by Chamakh (you might have noticed) and my family were effusive in praising his work-rate again last night. As Arsene Wenger insists on the formation we play Chamakh's non-stop running and harrying is vital to its success. The first goal showed, again, that if only Arsenal players could get the ball on his head, he will find the back of the net. It was a fabulous ball by Song, and a bullet header from Marouane. His second goal showed a finesse in front of goal that has been largely absent. As free transfers go, he is proving to be one of the signings of the season.
The work of Fabianski has gained particular praise in every quarter today, and to see him not lacking in confidence following his error on Sunday is encouraging. I would suggest that most of the saves he made last night were relatively straightforward - the sort that look a good save if it's kept out, or a howler if it's not. The final save he made though, which led directly to the second goal was outstanding. To get down so low to his weaker side and hold the ball the way he did showed that he does have some genuine quality, if only the cock-ups can be eradicated. I said after the game on Sunday that a top goalkeeper wins you points, whilst a mediocre one costs them. In the space of three days we've seen both sides of the coin from Fabianski - I really hope he can perform like he did last night week-in, week-out.
Having not seen the whole game I can't say a great deal more about any individuals. Suffice to say it was a crucial win following recent events, despite not playing especially convincingly. Another big game away from home on Sunday at Everton will be even more difficult, and a genuine test of any lingering Championship pretensions.

I watched Match of the Day last night in complete disbelief. According to Alan Hansen, Michael Essien's two-footed stamp shouldn't really be a red card, and his sending-off was merely a symptom of the namby-pamby football age we have entered. Unbelievable. I was glad Lee Dixon stuck to his guns and told Hansen what he thought. Oh, how things would change later in the show. When they showed Cesc Fabregas get booked I realised immediately that they were going to make something of it when analysing the match. I thought it was disgraceful when Hansen started claiming that Fabregas' tackle was a red card offence. I was utterly disgusted when Lee Dixon agreed with him. Let's get this straight, Lee Dixon is an Arsenal legend, and Alan Hansen is a Liverpool legend. The difference is that Hansen would never allow anyone to slag a Liverpool player. Lee Dixon disgraced himself last night, and I have lost a great deal of respect for him - he is clearly now a media man, and certainly not an Arsenal man (you'd never have got someone like Frank McLintock talking such crap on TV about an Arsenal player). The foul by Cesc was a late tackle, nothing more. His eyes were on the ball and he caught the defender as he cleared the ball, a split-second before Fabregas' challenge arrived. It wasn't high, and it wasn't malicious. I don't pay my licence fee to hear such crap being spouted, but it is a regular feature on Match of the Day, I'm afraid. As I've said, I didn't see the game live, so I was unaware until this morning of Karl Henry's latest attempt to disfigure an opponent. I've since seen the studs-up, over the top of the ball challenge on Arshavin. I've mentioned Karl Henry on here a lot since the start of the season (and I really shouldn't have to as he is a talentless clogger who should have no place on a football pitch). Somehow Arshavin got away without a serious injury. That Match of the Day should choose not to show this, and then lambast Fabregas is a disgrace. I was even more dumbfounded to find the same kind of reportage in the paper this morning. You begin to realise when you put it all together that there is a media conspiracy to report in this way. It strikes me that the assorted hacks got together in the press room to come up with this crap. I have asked the reporter from The Sun (a Spurs fan) for his comments on that, but I'm still waiting for a reply.

Wojciech Sczeszny has signed a long-term deal at Arsenal. I really thought he was going to be leaving next Summer, with no chance of him signing a new deal. This has come as a really pleasant surprise. Arsene Wenger has said that the youngster is the future Arsenal Number One and he has clearly managed to convince Wojciech that is the case. We can begin to assume, I think, that Arsenal will not be signing a goalkeeper in January to be the new number one. Lukasz Fabianski is playing well (Sunday's mistake aside) and he now knows that he will have to continue doing so if he's to keep his place. We have some genuine competition in the goalkeeping position now - whether either of them is really of the required standard remains to be seen. I hope Sczeszny goes on to be the player many expect him to be. He certainly has the imposing physique of a goalkeeper, and carries well the arrogance required to play there - and that is something that Almunia and Fabianski certainly lack. Good luck to him.

Interesting business at Chelsea this afternoon with Ray Wilkins being booted out. I always used to like Ray Wilkins when I saw him on telly. I always felt he was a really nice guy, and that's why he failed as a Manager, though was pretty successful as a coach - a bit of a Don Howe, maybe. He was usually a very good pundit who analysed the game well and hid his Chelsea allegiances fairly well. As Chelsea became a successful club he failed to hide that bias more and more, and I began to get annoyed by his presence on my television screen. Since he's been back at Chelsea I've found him more and more irksome. He always seemed to appear for post-match interviews when Chelsea had stuffed some team or other, but was conspicuous by his absence when Scolari came out to explain another defeat (Carlo Ancelotti put a stop to this carry on when he arrived). Over the past couple of years I have noticed something else about Ray Wilkins. There is an episode of Porridge called "The Harder They Fall" where we get introduced to a character called Jackdaw, a lackey for Genial Harry Grout. When the group attend the prison boxing championships Jackdaw sits next to Grouty with a horrible, self-satisfied grin on his face. If you look at pictures of the Chelsea bench from the past 15 months or so you will see Jackdaw (Wilkins) sat next to Ancelotti with that same horrible look on his face - and it really has wound me up. Good riddance Ray, you've spoiled all the good feeling most of us had towards you (though I hope your departure upsets the Chelsea bandwagon!)

There won't be a post tomorrow. Sadly the devil farts in my face once more with another night shift tomorrow (and a horrible weather forecast). I'll preview the Everton game on Saturday when I get out of bed. Until then, keep yourself out of the dangerous winds if you can, and try and watch that episode of Porridge (it might be on Youtube).