Highbury Library Logo

Highbury Library Logo

Monday, 31 January 2011

Ramsey's loan folly, The Sun today, Harry in control at Spurs

Rambo - no need to be on loan

I mentioned in the blog last night that I felt Aaron Ramsey would surely be a better option than Denilson in midfield. Obviously the Welshman has been out of action at Arsenal for nearly a year and has been loaned to Cardiff City to get some match practice. Between now and the end of his loan he will get a maximum of five matches in the Championship (assuming the loan is then not further extended). After writing last night's piece I got to thinking about the cup games played by Arsenal in January. With two games against Leeds, two against Ipswich and one against Huddersfield we have played five games against sides from the Football League. There is no reason why Rambo couldn't have played in those matches, given that he has been sent out to play at that very level, but alongside inferior players at Cardiff than he would have played with at Arsenal. I wrote in January that I was concerned about the real motives for loaning Ramsey again and that, when Wenger starts talking about "match-fitness" being required it is a sign that he no longer fancies the player concerned. Abou Diaby had played twenty minutes of football in around four months until yesterday, but I haven't seen him getting loaned out to obtain some "match-fitness." I hope to be proved wrong and that Ramsey does come back and play for Arsenal, but until that time I remain concerned for his future at the Club.

I've read the match report from yesterday in today's Sun newspaper. It's written by someone called Antony Kastrinakis (I don't care if I may have spelt that wrong as, if he can write inaccurately, then so can I). According to this reporter the Arsenal penalty was very debatable. What? Why do these people write such nonsense when everyone who has actually bothered to watch the game (including the action replays) can see quite clearly that the defender knocks Bendtner over? Obviously it is indicative of the standard of "reporting" one would expect from The Sun, but that makes it no more acceptable. I just wish Arsenal would ban these people from their press-box as they don't deserve a place at our ground. Kastrinakis also publishes a table today of Arsenal's 14 penalties this season, and laments that Man Utd have been awarded "just 5." Clearly Arsenal are conning referees if they are managing to get more spot-kicks than the press' beloved Mancs.

I've just watched the usual deadline-day Sky interview with Harry Redknapp. As with every one of these interviews Harry told the reporter that there would be no arrivals or departures at Spurs. He then went on to say that he didn't know if the Chairman might be doing a deal or two that he knows nothing about. Does this mean that Redknapp doesn't say who comes and goes from his Tottenham squad? It certainly appears that way. He knew nothing about Van Der Vaart's transfer in September, and reckons he knows nothing about their bid for Sergio Aguero last night. What a way to run a football club. There may be major issues with Arsenal's transfer policy but at least there is no doubt that the Manager is the man making the decisions at our place.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Arsenal 2 - 1 Huddersfield - without Cesc? Nowhere.

Fabregas and Bentdner - combined to save Arsenal today

It's strange really. It's strange how when Frank Lampard sees yet another shot deflected in to the net we hear how it's his "nine millionth" goal for Chelsea. It's strange how when Peter Crouch saw a shot deflected by a defender, and then pushed in to the roof of the goal by the 'keeper, he was credited with his first goal for Liverpool. It's strange how when Nicklas Bendtner has a shot deflected in to the net the media want to say it's an own goal. It's also strange how, having scored the opener (in my book), and won the penalty that provided the winning goal, and having been the only Arsenal player to win a header in his own box today, and having worked his socks off alone up front in the second-half, people still see fit to slag off Nicklas Bendtner. Why do these people go to the game? They clearly form their opinions on the uninformed forums and message boards which are awash with Arsenal doomsayers, where Bendtner is second only to the likes of Denilson or Eboue as a hate figure. It may surprise the uninitiated to learn that Nicklas Bendtner has 42 goals for Arsenal in 141 games, of which only 72 were starting appearances. Is he a top player? No, of course not. Is he a more than reasonable member of the squad? Absolutely, he is. Every club needs squad players. Not everyone can be world class. If they were then they'd be first choice at another of the big clubs. Just because a player isn't Dennis Bergkamp or Thierry Henry the Arsenal fans seem to want to destroy them, no matter what evidence is placed before them, and Bendnter did just fine today. Okay, he missed a chance or two but when Fabregas came on and he got some service Arsenal finally got back on the front foot. Enough of Bendtner, and on to Cesc Fabregas...
Huddersfield were destroying Arsenal in the second-half. The Gunners had no answer to them, particularly in the air (it's surely no coincidence that no Djourou means no headers won by Arsenal at the back). The midfield was being severely overrun with only Diaby putting in a performance anywhere near worthy of the name (though he was badly at fault for the equaliser). Denilson and Rosicky were frankly awful. Over the past few weeks Denilson has lurched from one bad performance to the next. His display today was a new nadir for the Brazilian. I refuse to accept that Henri Lansbury and Aaron Ramsey would not be doing a better job than Denilson right now. Then came Cesc Fabregas. From the moment he came on Huddersfield's players seemed a little awestruck and all their forward momentum seemed to disappear. From our point of view Fabregas' introduction saw Rosicky move out of the centre (and out of the way, quite frankly). My Dad said that it seemed as though his introduction sent a message to the players that the Manager wanted them to win the game after all. Arsenal's collective pace was quicker and Bendtner started to turn the defence towards their own goal while Fabregas sent passes over the top. Make no mistake about it, Fabregas was the key man and, without him, we would probably be out of the FA Cup this evening.
No match review is complete without a comment on the inept refereeing and today is no exception. Sebastien Squillaci was sent off in the first-half, and correctly so. But why was McCombe not red-carded for fouling Bendtner for the penalty? I didn't like Fabregas' brandishing of the imaginary cards at the referee, but his argument was quite correct. The big Dane was about to slot the ball in to the net (or at least have a clear shot from about ten yards) when he was barged over by the centre-half. Clattenburg's erratic refereeing was a feature of the final quarter of the match and it culminated with the disgraceful booking of Fabregas for the offence of being shoved to the ground by a Huddersfield player. Cesc Fabregas has been booked six times this season. There is something seriously wrong with English football when that is the case. The reporter on Radio 5 reckons the penalty was a harsh decision as Bendtner "went over a bit easily when he was fouled." So it was a foul, but not a penalty? Public service, unbiased reporting at its very best there. Sadly I didn't catch the name of this particular cretin.
Kieran Gibbs had a nightmare today. I know he's played very little football recently but it was hard to escape the fact that he looked like someone who'd wandered on to a football pitch in the middle of a game, such was his lack of idea as to what was happening. I've been saying for a long time that I would rather see him playing than Clichy, but the Frenchman has produced an upturn in form in recent weeks, while Gibbs is seeming to go backwards. If Kieran gets in the England squad ahead of Everton's Leighton Baines then there is something not quite right. A run of games would do the boy no end of good, I'm sure, but we're not in a position to give him that run now. Other maligned players of note today were Almunia, who remains glued to his goal-line it appears, but made one outstanding save in the second-half, and Arshavin who put in a shift today, particularly in the first-half. The little Russian also made one tremendous tackle in the Arsenal penalty area having tracked back all the way and denied Huddersfield a certain equaliser. Credit to both of them on this occasion I think.
The biggest thing to happen to Arsenal today was the injury to Samir Nasri. Quite how a player pulls a hamstring after more than half-an-hour I don't quite know. Arsene has said it might be a serious one and that means at least 3-4 weeks out of the first-team. With Arsenal's medical record in recent times we can afford to be very worried indeed. It's no secret that Samir Nasri has been Arsenal's standout performer this season and it's typical that we should lose a key player at this important stage in the season. The return of Abou Diaby may negate one or two problems, provided he stays fit, but he is not really a replacement for what Nasri has had to offer since August. Get well soon Samir, we need you. In the meantime, everyone get down and pray to whatever God it is you believe in - even if it's Dennis Bergkamp.
One final thing to say about today - 59,375 was the "official attendance." On Tuesday night it was 59,387. So, according to Arsenal, there were only twelve fewer people in the half-empty stadium today than in the packed arena that saw the Ipswich game (which itself was apparently 200 fewer than the Wigan game the previous Saturday in front of a near-empty away section). Why do they lie? The groaning from the crowd at today's attendance announcement showed what the fans think of such nonsense. Sort it out Arsenal.

Tomorrow sees the transfer window close for the season. I will be amazed if Arsenal make any signing that would help us between now and May. We all know what areas need more depth, and that signings in that area could be the difference between winning the Premier League and finishing second or third. I beg you Arsene, spend the money and give us the chance to win it. As in 2008 we are just one or two players away from being a side that can win the Premier League. Arsene Wenger looks set to make the same mistake he did then - by not strengthening the squad where it is palpably necessary. By midnight tomorrow we will know for certain that we have/have not made a signing or two. My breath is not held.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Huddersfield Town (h) preview - Manuel's return

Herbert Chapman's ghost will surely walk abroad tomorrow

Arsenal's fourth round FA Cup tie throws up a match between England's first two dominant football clubs. In the 1920's Huddersfield Town were the most successful team in the country, winning three successive League Championship's. The FA Cup Final of 1930 marked a sea-change, however, as Town were beaten by a certain side from North London. Throughout the 1930's there was no team to rival the mighty Arsenal. One man linked both club's and their success - Herbert Chapman. Herbert's bronze bust was the main feature of the marble halls in Highbury's East Stand, created by the famous sculptor Jacob Epstein, following his death from pneumonia in the middle of Arsenal's own hat-trick of consecutive Title's. A couple of years back Arsenal donated a replica to Huddersfield Town and, while the original has been put back in place at Highbury following the redevelopment, the new stadium has its own copy alongside the busts of Arsene Wenger and Dennis Hill-Wood at the directors entrance to the ground. Bob Wall, Arsenal's legendary secretary, said that he and others could hear Chapman's deliberate footsteps echoing through the main stand at Highbury long after his death, his ghost haunting Arsenal's home. I have no doubt that Herbert Chapman's ghost will be at The Emirates tomorrow, watching his famous clubs do battle in the FA Cup. Football itself would not be what it is today without the influence of Chapman. As for Arsenal, we would be nowhere without the great man.

The team news sees a number of Arsenal's recent absentees making their return to the squad. Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky and, most surprisingly, Manuel Almunia are back. I'm sure there will be a lot of changes to the starting eleven with a big Premier League game against Everton to come in midweek.
I haven't believed, at any time, that Almunia has been injured since the West Brom defeat. Following his disastrous second-half that day Almunia was dropped by Arsene Wenger. Almunia's temperament has been very delicate since the loss of a family member a couple of years back and I think this has contributed to his absence from the squad. Wenger announced yesterday that Wojciech Szczesny is now first-choice. For years now we have seen the first-choice goalkeeper sitting out the cup games so I would not be surprised to see Almunia start the game tomorrow. It would be something of a shock as I thought we had seen the last of Manuel at Arsenal. Many of the "fans" believe him to be some sort of anti-Christ, which really annoys me. Almunia is a good goalkeeper - his problem is that he is not a top goalkeeper. Manuel was a fine man to have as a number two, as long as you had a world-class performer like Jens Lehmann ahead of him. I will always believe that Wenger's decision to drop Lehmann in favour of Manuel cost us the Title as we got to the run-in at the end of season 2007-2008, regardless of what happened at Birmingham.
Elsewhere we will see yet another return for the enigma that is Abou Diaby. Wenger tried to justify the lack of a centre-back signing by stating that Alex Song could play there in extremis with Diaby covering for the Cameroon man (this is the same Alex Song who Wenger said was not suited to being a centre-back at the start of the season). Quite how Wenger thinks Diaby can play in Song's position I just do not know. Quite apart from Diaby's inability to remain fit for more than a few weeks, he has no clue whatsoever how to defend. Going forward, when Diaby wants to play, he is excellent. Unfortunately Diaby is the most inconsistent and frustrating player at Arsenal. His career has been damaged immeasurably by his horrific broken leg in 2006, but for a man with such ability one has to believe his problems on the pitch are largely down to his attitude.
It shouldn't much matter what Arsenal's team is tomorrow as they should have far more quality than opposition from the third-tier of English football. Once again they will be facing an opposition that will run their socks off, but the correct attitude on the pitch will bring about the desired result.

I will review the game tomorrow evening.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Wenger confirms Szczesny as Arsenal No. 1, Carlos Vela on his way

A little bonus, unexpected blogette this evening. Due to some personal stuff the unsociable shift didn't materialise today so you get an extra slice of the good stuff. I'll keep it brief as I'll be previewing the Huddersfield match in the morning.

Arsene Wenger has been talking all things football today. Among the subjects covered is the goalkeeping situation, brought up because Manuel Almunia will return to the squad on Sunday (more on that tomorrow). Arsene has admitted that Szczesny is his first-choice goalkeeper right now as he has done nothing to warrant being left out. You might recall that I said the other week how I felt Wenger now had the excuse that he has been looking for to play the younger Pole. While it's unfortunate for Lukasz Fabianski to get injured while hoping to take his opportunity (and he hasn't done badly at all in fairness to him) I don't think there are too many who are upset at seeing Wojciech between the sticks. He is very young, and mistakes will happen - Sagna got knocked out cold the other night when Szczesny came flapping at a ball in to the box - but it is how he reacts to those errors that will be key. When Fabianski and Almunia make a cock-up it tends to fester for the next few games but I don't see that happening too much with Szczesny. Wenger is right, at the moment, to make him first-choice and unless a world-class stopper comes in while he develops more quietly, he should keep his place for the long-term. I remember well the effect that being left out had on Alex Manninger in 1998. Having put us in pole position for the Title, Manninger found himself playing second-fiddle to David Seaman again, and his confidence was irrevocably shaken. Admittedly, Szczesny doesn't have a David Seaman type figure lording it at Arsenal these days so he should be quite safe.

According to stories doing the rounds Carlos Vela has signed for West Bromwich Albion. We knew he was on his way out of Arsenal, at least for the rest of the season, but I've yet to see anything official on this. Ultimately Vela is not good enough for Arsenal. I was there when he scored a hat-trick on debut in the Carling Cup and thought we'd found another gem, with real skill and ability. It was, sadly, a false dawn and I've never yet seen any example of the pace he is supposed to possess. He is currently banned by Mexico over his off-field excesses and, if stories are to be believed, Arsene Wenger has not been happy in the past over Vela's fondness for a San Miguel or three. I very much doubt we will ever see Carlos Vela in an Arsenal shirt again, even if he is joining another club only on loan. The best thing for all parties would be to see him go to pastures new and attempt to build a career at a different level of expectation. I wish him luck, and I'm sorry it didn't work out for him at Arsenal, especially after such an amazing start.

Register at www.blogger.com to follow It's MY Arsenal Opinion, or join at www.facebook.com (It's MY Arsenal Opinion), or follow on Twitter (@ARSENALDvbrisG).

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tickets for Wembley

Wembley - I thought it was bigger than the old place?

Arsenal have announced the ticket details for the Carling Cup Final. We have been allocated 31,803 tickets for the game. Assuming that Birmingham City will get the same amount that means that 63,606 fans from the two clubs will be in attendance. Wembley Stadium now holds 90,000 people I believe (give or a take a couple of seats). That means that over 26,000 tickets are going elsewhere. Ticket allocation for the FA Cup Final has long been a tale of woe for the teams involved as the "FA Family" taking the largest share of the tickets. However, the League Cup Final has always been for the genuine fans. The move back to Wembley should have seen even more genuine supporters getting a seat for the match. As it happens we will have less "official" Arsenal fans in the ground than we did at Cardiff in 2007. This is an absolute disgrace and it devalues the competition even further in my view. What will happen is that the Club Wembley tier (and the other corporate areas of the stadium) will be pretty much filled with people in Arsenal's colours, though very few of them will be genuinely deserving of their place in the crowd for a Cup Final.

Then, of course, there is Arsenal's own criteria for issuing tickets. Those on the Away Ticket Scheme are guaranteed their tickets ahead of everyone else. Why? There are those on the scheme who don't attend home matches, thus the only money they give Arsenal all year is their £20 registration fee (of course most of those on the scheme attend most matches at home, as well as going away). After that the next group in line for tickets (and guaranteed) are season ticket holders with 3+ away match credits in the past two years (I fit in to this category so I am okay for my ticket). Anybody outside of these criterion has to "register their interest online." What if you don't own a computer (as many do not) but are a season ticket holder? Surely, by virtue of owning a season ticket, you have already "registered your interest." A much fairer system would be to allocate tickets on "seniority" - i.e. those who have been season ticket holders for the longest time get the priority on tickets for Cup Final's. If any tickets remain after that then they should go to Silver Member's with the most attendance at home matches. I shouldn't necessarily be bothered because, as I say, I will get a ticket, but I just don't think Arsenal have got this right.

There won't be a blog tomorrow as I am working a most unsociable kind of shift. I hope to post a preview of the Huddersfield game on Saturday evening.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

We're going to Wembley, Someone is stitching up Gray & Keys

The Carling Cup - I hope it looks like this at the end of 27th February

So we got there in the end. At half-time I think every Gooner was starting to get worried, not a lot being created, and certainly not testing their goalkeeper. Ipswich started to look like a side clinging on for dear life early in the second-half, but Arsenal were playing the game far too narrow against a packed defence. Finally, Jack Wilshere spotted Nicklas Bendtner who had dragged himself wide on the left-hand side. The big Dane took a glorious first-touch, stepped inside his defender, and slammed the ball in to the bottom corner. From Wilshere's superb pass, to Bendtner's tremendous skill and finish, it was a glorious goal. It was also one in the eye for the mugs who were getting at Bendtner once again last night - a prat sat behind me started the game when Bendtner's first touch was a square pass to Fabregas' feet by shouting "for fucks sake Bendtner" (more on this clown and his friends shortly) - of course, how dare he play an accurate pass to the skipper?! One thing that can never be levelled at Bendtner is an accusation of not trying, so it is doubly pleasing to see him rewarded like he was last night. When Koscielny made it 2-0 Ipswich visibly wilted, and it was really a matter of time then before we got another, Fabregas eventually being the scorer of our third. It's great to be going to Wembley for a Cup Final, even if it is "only" the Carling Cup. This trophy might represent the start of something for these players, so now they have to make sure they win it. I don't much care who we play in the Final, but I am wary of both Birmingham and West Ham, especially after we thrashed both of them on their own grounds recently.
One of the things that annoys me about Carling Cup nights is the fact that the games are attended by such idiots. We saw yet another pitch invasion last night which may well mean some sort of fine for the Club - this stupid prick nearly crashed in to Samir Nasri on his way to winding up the away fans. It's a shame no Ipswich fans replied in kind and gave him a thump. At least there was no Mexican wave last night. There was, however, a bunch of clowns sitting behind me, as mentioned above. Throughout the game people were getting news from Man Utd's game at Blackpool. When Blackpool were leading 1-0 we heard this idiot behind say to his mate "I reckon we wouldn't mind getting beaten tonight if Man Utd lose." Why the hell do these people go to football? During the match last night I couldn't give a toss about Man Utd v Blackpool. Arsenal were trying to get to a cup final and that was all that mattered to the real fans. I read earlier today that Arsenal and Man Utd have both lost in four League Cup finals, which is a "record" of sorts. I can imagine the bloke behind me saying to his mate at Wembley "I reckon we'd be just as happy with a fifth loss in the final so that we can have the record to ourselves." Tosser.
It seems a shame to move on from last nights glory on a sour note so I won't. I'll leave it by saying that the boys played pretty well in the second-half last night, and I hope that Arsene plays the full strength first-team in the final on 27th February. We must give ourselves the best chance of winning this trophy, and that means the likes of Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie etc all being in the starting line-up when we get to Wembley. It's great to be there and I can't wait to get my Wembley flag and t-shirt.

I don't think any football blog in this country can be published today without reference to Andy Gray's sacking. My initial reaction to Gray's dismissal is one of amusement, and a regret that Keys hasn't gone too (yet). However, there can be no doubt that the pair have been stitched-up by someone at Sky. I've read before that they are both unpopular amongst those who work for Sky as they see themselves as being a bit of a cut above. Richard Keys has given an interview this afternoon where he has cited "dark forces" being behind the sacking of his colleague. My brother pointed out last night that Andy Gray is among those taking legal action against the News of the World over phone-tapping. Who owns that paper? Rupert Murdoch. Who owns Sky? Rupert Murdoch. It appears that Andy Gray may be guilty of biting the hand that feeds him (and a very healthy annual salary is what he is/was fed) and Uncle Rupert's office was not going to stand for it. It's just a speculative observation, but it seems that someone set out to get Andy Gray this week and they have certainly succeeded. Now, if we can only see the back of Keys and Redknapp...

Late edit: Richard Keys has resigned from Sky Sports. Not really a surprise I would suggest.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ipswich (h) preview, Alex Chamberlain, Keys and Gray, Massive day for the Blog

It's MY Arsenal Opinion - as featured on NEWSNOW

There is lots to get through tonight on a very special day for It's MY Arsenal Opinion, more of which to come further down the page. We start, however, with the Carling Cup semi-final, second leg against Ipswich. I am sad to report that Arsene Wenger is talking of "rotation" once again ahead of our biggest match of the season so far. According to Arsene rotating this squad is not a problem (or words to that effect) which kinds of begs the question; what went wrong a fortnight ago? Personally, I would far rather see a "proper" first-team tomorrow night and a much changed line-up on Sunday against Huddersfield. Wojciech Szczesny has come out firing and told Ipswich they are going to get smashed tomorrow night! I like the confidence of the youngster, but there is a time and a place to do your talking, and it is never before the game has even kicked off - just ask Robbie Keane. Having been withdrawn early on Saturday I will be extremely disappointed should Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie not get a start tomorrow night.
Ipswich will be fully fired-up by Paul Jewell tomorrow, and an early goal for them (it only takes a set-piece remember) would leave Arsenal with a mountain to climb. On paper it should be a stroll, but so should the first-leg have been. If Arsenal need any note of caution then they need only be sat in front of a video from the match five years ago this very night - Paul Jewell brought Wigan to Highbury with a 1-0 lead and they went through on away goals, despite complete Arsenal dominance.
I won't bother to guess at a team for the game tomorrow as you really can't second-guess Arsene in these matches. I have a seat not far from the dugout tomorrow night, so I'm hoping I have no need to be cursing the manager from close quarters come 9.45pm tomorrow. I'd love a trip to Wembley, and we will surely get no better opportunity with this group of players.

Arsene Wenger, of course, never comments on prospective transfers. He told us so on Friday when asked about Gary Cahill. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I saw his comments with regards to doing a deal for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I must admit it is very unusual for Wenger to let his guard slip in this way but I don't mind it to be honest. Every other club goes public with their business in an attempt to whip up media coverage and put pressure on the selling club and the player, so why shouldn't we finally get in on the act? God knows we've suffered from it in the past.
I know very little about Chamberlain, apart from who his father is and that he is just seventeen years old. Let's face it, even if he signs for Arsenal this month, we won't see him for a while (especially as it's expected he would be loaned straight back to Southampton), so I won't worry about it too much. What I will say is that I would rather see the prospective £10 million spent on more immediate areas of concern. I'm in danger of breaking my own rules on talking about transfer speculation during this month (if I haven't already done so) so I'll leave it there.

Many of you will have heard or read the conversation between Andy Gray and Richard Keys on Saturday regarding the female official at Wolves (I think LadyArse linked to it yesterday), which they thought was unheard. Someone had left the microphones open, just as they did when Keys slagged Theo Walcott in Barcelona last Spring, and the pair have been left to give grovelling apologies. I opined on Twitter yesterday afternoon that there was no coverage of this on Sky Sports News or Sky News, and that had they worked for the BBC it would be a major scandal. Today Keys and Gray have been "stood down" from the Monday Night Football between Bolton and Chelsea. Regular readers will know that I dislike Keys and Gray (especially the risible, hairy-handed, Keys) as much as the next man, but I think this is a nonsense. A supposedly private bit of banter, which I can guarantee was no different to conversations being held in pubs and living rooms all over the country, has resulted in what is, basically, the suspension of Sky's main men. There is far too much of this PC nonsense and I have this to say about women officials: I have no problem with women running the line, or refereeing at a football match, but it should not be in the men's game - if they are to officiate, then it should be in women's football only (MY blog, MY opinion). If you saw the game in question you will have seen how easily the young woman was intimidated by the crowd following her (correct) decision to allow the first Liverpool goal, when she followed up a couple of minutes later giving Kuyt offside despite him being at least two yards the right side of the defender. I feel sorry for Keys and Gray on this occasion, but perhaps it's just a case of "what goes around, comes around."

As I mentioned above this is a momentous day for It's MY Arsenal Opinion. Around Christmas I applied to NewsNow for the blog to be featured on their Arsenal news feed. I was delighted to get an email today confirming that the application has been accepted. As a result, from tonight, It's MY Arsenal Opinion will be featured on NewsNow and will hopefully be opened up to a whole new world of readers. The publicity a site gets through NewsNow is something that I could never have got anywhere else so I am delighted at this turn of events. In view of this development it's a good time to remind you, or to inform new readers, that you can "follow" the blog by registering through www.blogger.com. You can also follow the blog on www.facebook.com at It's MY Arsenal Opinion, and I'm on Twitter - @ARSENALDvbrisG. The aim of the blog has always been to get things of my chest, and hopefully stimulate some debate via the comments section on the site. Hopefully with the NewsNow addition we are entering a whole new phase for It's MY Arsenal Opinion.

I'll try to review the Ipswich game on Wednesday, but I'm in London all day for a meeting so it depends on what sort of time I get in, and what sort of day it's been. Fingers crossed that, next time I write, the boys have booked us a place at Wembley at the end of February.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Arsenal 3 - 0 Wigan Athletic

At half-time I was getting irked. The old annoyances with regards to our inability to finish teams off were there for all to see. It had been a wonderful performance with all the outfield players contributing to the good stuff being played. Sadly there was only one goal to show for utter dominance. Theo Walcott's decision to pass when one-on-one with the goalkeeper was baffling, while the rest of the attacking players took it in turns to find the opposition goalkeeper in fine form. Arsenal had played their pressing game very well again in the first-half and kept regaining the ball immediately on the rare occasions that possession was lost. Jack Wilshere had his most impressive ninety minutes for some time as he an Alex Song again dominated the middle of the pitch. With Fabregas and Van Persie seemingly at the top of their game Wigan had no answer, but at half-time I remained a worried man. Arsenal then started the second-half in exactly the way we didn't want with the pressing game non-existent all of a sudden. Fortunately this only lasted for around ten minutes and then the machine started to purr once more.
I've just watched Match of the Day and was completely unsurprised by their failure to highlight the second Arsenal goal. The pass by Fabregas was really quite incredible and from my angle you could see the necessity of the accuracy he found. RVP's finish was also sensational and the crowd audibly gasped in admiration at the quality of the goal. In it's own way it was Arsenal's goal of the season, quite fantastic. If Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie can continue to combine in the way are right now then there may yet be a happy conclusion to our season (though having watched Barcelona for ten minutes this evening it won't be a Champions League ending to the season for Arsenal).
Van Persie's failure from the spot was symptomatic of the way we were in front of goal again today, but it didn't really matter in terms of the result - whether the missed chances cost us when goal difference comes in to play is something we will only know in May. I was particularly pleased that he got his hat-trick eventually (after another stunning Fabregas pass and strong play from Walcott) as I had 14 to 1 from Ladbrokes on his scoring first in a 3-0 win. That little bonus pays for my £10 seat on Tuesday night so everyone's a winner.

With Man City and Spurs dropping points we have hit this kind of form at a very timely juncture. Momentum is key as we head towards to Spring so it is vital to get on a consistent run. We still have our obvious areas of weakness and when Djourou looked injured in the second-half (thankfully he recovered to finish the game) even Arsene Wenger must have seen the urgent need to bolster at the back. I'd like to see Bolton do a job on Chelsea tomorrow and then for their main centre-half to join Arsenal on Monday. Until then I'll keep dreaming!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Lots of loans, Wigan (h)

The entire Arsenal fringe squad seems set for time away from the club. We already knew that Vito Mannone is at Hull and that Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had joined Cardiff City for the rest of the season. He is now going to be joined there, until the end of February, by Aaron Ramsey. I've said on here before that I fear for Ramsey's future as an Arsenal player and this has done nothing to assuage those fears. I accept that he is short of matches, but I would rather see him knocking about on Arsenal's bench than the likes of Denilson. The same goes for Henri Lansbury who has been sent back to Norwich for the rest of the season.. Lansbury is the most unlucky player at Arsenal this season having burst on the scene with a fabulous display at Spurs in the Carling Cup. I am surprised and disappointed that he has not been sent down the same route as Jack Wilshere and been loaned to a side in the Premier League if Wenger felt further experience was necessary. Henri has already spent a whole season at Watford, so I fail to see what he's supposed to be learning at a club in the same division. With Carlos Vela also set for a loan deal, and Kyle Bartley at Sheffield United until the end of the season it is very much a case of hoping and praying for no more injuries.

I'm going to stick to my guns and ignore the transfer hype until something actually happens for Arsenal. I will not pass comment on Arsene Wenger's assertions with regards to Abou Diaby covering Alex Song in the event of a defensive crisis - the very thought does not bear thinking about quite frankly. If you want to read what he had to say then it's at www.arsenal.com

Wigan Athletic are the visitors tomorrow and I'll be hoping for a repeat of the comprehensive stuffing they got at the start of last season. On the last couple of occasions we've played them Arsenal's defence has failed to do its job, but the attitude on the pitch (badly affected by the ridiculous team changes just after Christmas) cost the team on both occasions. Tomorrow should be different with the team close to full strength. Robin Van Persie, Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere should all return to the starting line-up and anything less than a victory with this team is quite unthinkable. I have no doubt that N'Zogbia and Rodallega will cause us problems at the back as they have done for a number of defences over the past two seasons - if Wigan could defend properly then they wouldn't be struggling like they are.
I would like to think that, if we can make a rare fast start to the match, and kill it off (no chance!) that Arsene would take the opportunity to rest one or two of the players ahead of the Carling Cup on Tuesday. What is more likely is that we will struggle to hit the net, against an inspired goalkeeper, before Nicklas Bendtner comes on to get a late winner! In truth I wouldn't mind too much if that scenario develops, just so long as Arsenal get the three points.
This is the team I think we might see tomorrow:
Szczesny - Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Fabregas - Nasri, Van Persie, Walcott

I hope to review the game at some point tomorrow night, probably after Match of the Day.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Leeds 1 - 3 Arsenal - no more messing about

There is a wrestler in the WWF called John Cena. Cena's signature move is called the "Attitude Adjustment" and I wonder if he's been training with the Arsenal squad this week. The display last night was a world away from the first match against Leeds, and the game against Ipswich. Right from the kick-off last night the players went out there with the right attitude and ran their socks off - even Arshavin seemed to be working harder when we didn't have the ball, even if his exploits with the ball at his feet are becoming all the more predictable. Following yesterday morning's controversy I thought we might see more from Denilson last night but he was the one really disappointing player last night for me - and that is not just me jumping on the "get at Denilson" bandwagon.
As I've said the players mindset last night was spot-on. The decision to make Nasri the captain ahead of Arshavin (who did wear the armband at Portsmouth a couple of months after his arrival two years ago) was a signal that Wenger wanted a player who would lead by example. Nasri set the tone as he dominated the ball in the early stages - though he was uncharacteristically profligate in possession a couple of times later in the first-half. Meanwhile Alex Song ran the midfield area as he broke up the play on numerous occasions and got Arsenal back on the attack. The two centre-halves were fairly faultless last night and the Championship is probably a level at which Koscielny would look a very comfortable player. Bacary Sagna was already in decent form before his suspension and the short break has done him no harm - his goal was a super strike, though I thought Schmeichel might have done a bit better having got his hands on the ball. On the other side of the defence Kieran Gibbs has really got to pay attention to his positioning as better players will punish his going AWOL far more effectively than Leeds managed.
In the attacking areas I though Chamakh had a fine first-half and was really unlucky to see his text-book downward header repelled by a fabulous save. Nicklas Bendtner was constrained to the right-wing again and did his best to make an impression. He tracked back to reasonable effect and his cross for Van Persie's goal was excellent. I just hope that Wenger doesn't take that cross as evidence that Bendtner is capable of playing that position on a more regular basis.
The first two substitutions were encouraging in that Arsene showed a genuine intent to win the tie. There was no question of making subs and "resting" players so we saw the removal of Arshavin, and a tiring Chamakh, neither of whom are likely to start on Saturday. I did allow myself a smile at the sight of Gael Clichy being brought on to play on the left-wing, what with his prowess and expert delivery in attacking areas...or not.
All in all it was a fine performance from the boys and showed once and for all that if you beat a team for effort, and make no mistake Leeds gave it all they had, you will surely beat them with your football. Were it not for Schmeichel and Arsenal's customary wastefulness, we would have been out of sight long before Leeds grabbed their lifeline. I was still worried at 2-1 as one small mistake might have let Leeds back in to the game, but they had little answer to us once Fabregas entered the fray. The Leeds captain, Howson, showed he lacks talent in the final five minutes as he tried to leave Fabregas with some new tattoos on his legs and should have been receiving his second yellow-card when he finally got booked (no surprise to hear Andy Townsend sympathising with the Leeds man - add him to the cretin list).
A home draw against Huddersfield now awaits us. The players must not believe that game to be a walkover and the attitude of last night must be present in everything they do between now and the end of the season. A defeat last night might have rattled the momentum they have been trying to build, but that has now been a problem averted. There's a big game on Saturday in the Premier League against Wigan who are owed more than one by this group of players. Then on Tuesday is the biggest game of the season so far for me, a must-win versus Ipswich, which might just set up a piece of silverware for the first time for this squad. There's much to look forward to, if the players can produce like they did last night.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Get your coat Denilson, Leeds (a) tonight

Denilson has decided to speak candidly about his colleagues in an interview with Arsenal Brasil. The article was published by Arsenal Brasil and Arseblog late last night, though most will have read it in the "exclusive" in The Sun. The general gist is that Denilson has said Arsenal lack leadership among the players which is naturally being seen as a dig at Cesc Fabregas. What Denilson has said is nothing that most of the fans don't already think themselves. The thing is that Denilson is a player, employed by the Club, and should be keeping his mouth firmly shut in public. Any comments like this should never make the public domain. I remember William Gallas deciding to go public on the problems at Arsenal and being sacked as Captain in the process. Given that Denilson is not in the Gallas class as a player he really should be heading towards the exit door over this. Most Arsenal fans would not complain if Denilson had already made his final appearance for the Club, and his performances in recent weeks have been so lacking in effort as to be disgraceful. At the very least Denilson should be dropped from the team for tonight (he is almost certainly scheduled to be in the starting line-up) - I suspect the travelling Gooners might not be quite so welcoming to him as they usually are. Fabregas, to his credit, has moved quickly to diffuse any problems by posting a picture on Twitter of himself and Denilson on the team coach this morning - the players are travelling to Leeds by train incidentally.

On to the match tonight and Leeds' Manager Simon Grayson has decided to stoke things up a bit by slagging Theo Walcott. According to this brain-box young Theo should be suspended for admitting that he committed a bookable offence in the first game. That's right people, Theo should be banned for admitting to doing something punishable by a yellow card. The Leeds crowd will surely be rabid enough tonight without their plank of a boss winding them up even further.
I am concerned about tonight. I'm concerned because Arsene will make numerous changes to the team again, and I can see Ignasi Miquel possibly making his debut with Djourou rested (I'd far rather see Song move back alongside Koscielny, and Djourou really does need a rest). This Arsenal team has been incredibly inconsistent, but that is possibly reflected in the changes made to the side every few days. Obviously certain rotation is required to keep players fresh, but Wenger is likely to choose to abandon the FA Cup in favour of a Title push - which is okay (actually it's not okay at all) if you have a team that will definitely challenge. Of most concern is what a defeat to rubbish like Leeds would do to the fragile mentality of our players. It is a sobering thought to consider that by this time next week we could be out of both Cups and clinging on to Manchester United for dear life in the Premier League.
We know that Szczesny will play in goal after a "setback" for Lukasz ("out for a couple of days") Fabianski. Apart from that there are no clues as to the starting line-up. Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere are definitely on the trip, and Cesc's withdrawal early on Saturday hopefully means he will start the game and dominate it in the way he did when coming on as sub eleven days ago. My Leeds supporting mate tells me that pace is something they simply can't deal with, as evidenced by Walcott's influence in the first game, so I'd love to see Theo play from the beginning as well. I am always in favour of seeing the game get won, and then resting players, rather that needing to chase like we did against them last time out.
Despite my concerns I expect Arsenal to win tonight - Arsene has spoken about the "wake-up call" at Ipswich last week and certain players need to start delivering some performances - we keep hearing about the strength of the "squad" at Arsenal, and tonight represents a fine opportunity for this "squad" to show its mettle in a hostile northern environment. I, sadly, will be employing the Sky+ and watching the game "as live" after the event due to a badly timed committee meeting at my cricket club. I'll review tomorrow morning.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Not as impressive as most think - West Ham 0 - 3 Arsenal

On the face of it a 3-0 away win against a team we traditionally struggle with is a very impressive result. It's fair to say that West Ham hardly threatened the Arsenal goal, save for one or two mistakes from Johan Djourou (more below) but that does not excuse the second-half performance from Arsenal. After a bright start to the second period the Arsenal players moved back in to their comfort-zone and stopped playing fast-paced, attacking football. Instead of playing to their natural strengths the players started cocking about, happy to play out time. I seem to remember them doing this on other occasions in the recent past, only to be caught out by an opposition taking its chance to make mugs of our defence. Make no mistake West Ham were one set-piece, or one fortunate deflection, away from getting back in to the game on Saturday. I was starting to get very edgy when we finally sprang to life to get the penalty. The Manager should have been on the touchline berating the boys for their arrogance and lethargy, throwing on a couple of subs (not Arshavin) to liven things up. It told me that Arsenal have still not learned any lessons from their past failures.
It seems a little churlish to chastise the team, however, following the most consummate of first-half attacking displays. West Ham's weakened midfield had no answer to Song, Wilshere and Fabregas, whilst Nasri, Walcott and Robin Van Persie ripped the defence to shreds. A 2-0 lead at half-time was not a fair reflection on Arsenal's complete dominance, punctuated by those Djourou errors, which I will cover now. I suppose Johan was due to have a game where he didn't hit his recent heights but I do have an explanation for his display. If you watch the game back you will see that Djourou was constantly looking to his right to see whether Eboue was actually where he should be. This led to the Swiss effectively playing two positions and failing, therefore, to deal effectively with Carlton Cole. Make no mistake, Eboue has become a disruptive influence within an already fragile back-four and Sagna's return can not come soon enough for me. I didn't think I would be writing that a few months ago, but Eboue has regressed in to the player that was booed from the pitch a couple of years ago.
Back in the attacking areas on Saturday Arsenal were outstanding. If the score had been 4-0 or 5-0 at half-time West Ham could not have felt hard done to. I thought we had some bad fortune to go with our usual below-par finishing. When Frank Lampard has a shot deflected the ball flies in to the corner of the net, when we have a shot deflected it flies straight in to the hands of the goalkeeper. Robin also hit the inside of the post only to see the ball come straight out to a West Ham player (that's the third time we've struck the woodwork since New Year, following seventeen such occurrences in 2010 - the most in the Premier League). All in all it was another big three points and keeps us right up there as the chase becomes interesting.

I can't finish without a word about the situation at West Ham. I notice that Gold and Sullivan have said nothing about the issue, but their silence is deafening. Then there is Karren Brady. Can someone tell me what this woman knows about football? Her comments in The Sun on Saturday, amid the rumours of Avram Grant's impending dismissal, that she will give her opinion to the Manager told you all you need to know about what is wrong in the East End. The arrogance of the woman is staggering. She really is the prime example of why women should have no place in professional football. Not content with trying to ruin the last series of The Apprentice with her pretentious "businesswomen of today" nonsense, she now is making a laughing-stock of one of England's most traditional football clubs. West Ham is, rather like Arsenal, known for doing things the right way, from football on the pitch, to an unseen board of directors. At the moment they have a team that is failing (though not through the fault of Avram Grant - appointed by Brady and her cohorts), and a Club that is having its good name sullied by the machinations of an embarrassing set of executives.

The FA Cup replay is on Wednesday night but there is still no sign of a new centre-back at Arsenal. Thomas Vermaelen has confirmed he is to have an operation on his injured achilles and will be out for at least six weeks following that. Even if Squillaci recovers his fitness we are short of at least one central defender, an issue that will surely cost us as the season comes to a close. Wenger must act to address the shortage, and he must do it quickly.

Friday, 14 January 2011

West Ham (a) preview

The boys are back to the Premier League grind tomorrow and a tough trip to Upton Park lies ahead. With West Ham struggling against relegation again we should be looking forward to a straightforward afternoon, but things are never easy for Arsenal at The Hammers and, let's face it, Arsenal are not exactly tearing up trees themselves. Since we beat Chelsea the inconsistency has been infuriating with only one win since then. Wednesday night provided a new low-point for the season and I'm sick of saying that the players must now come out and show their true form. I fear that their true form is exactly what we've been witnessing because only teams that can play well almost every week have the ability to win the Title.
Arsenal will go in to the game with Wojciech Szczesny in goal once again. Fabianski has suffered a shoulder injury and failed a fitness test. Wenger says that Fabianski will be out for "days" but this is the same injury that kept him out of the game at Old Trafford before Christmas. With Mannone away on loan we suddenly look very short in goal which was already a serious weakness given the overall quality we have at our disposal. Almunia remains officially "injured." According to Jamie Sanderson (YoungGunsBlog) in his webchat last night, Manuel Almunia has been refusing to be part of the matchday squad. If that is the case I sincerely hope his wages are being with-held by the Club. With only Szczesny available we face the prospect of a Premier League match with James Shea on the bench - this is unacceptable when you think how close we were to being without Szczesny too for tomorrow after he got away with a handball on Wednesday night.
Elsewhere we will see the return of Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie. Hopefully Nasri will be able to provide the "spark" that Wenger said was missing in midweek. Apparently Denilson is fit following a thigh niggle - not sure why this is worthy of reporting, but there you go. I don't expect Denilson to start tomorrow, but stranger things have happened with a Wenger selection - after all, Stefan Malz and Alberto Mendez had playing time at Arsenal under him! Apart from that the team is pretty much selecting itself I think, though I wouldn't put it past Le Boss to drop Theo Walcott and keep Arshavin in the side.
It goes without saying that we have to win tomorrow and we can hope that Spurs take some points off Manchester United on Sunday. As I've said, West Ham is a place we find difficult more often than not, but if the players apply themselves (as I keep on saying) they should win the game. West Ham will be right up for it you can be sure, and a packed Upton Park can be an intimidating place (though somewhat less so than years ago).

I'll post a match review either tomorrow night, or on Sunday.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Ipswich 1 - 0 Arsenal - how many wake-up calls are needed?

Another disgraceful embarrassment of a performance. Arsene Wenger says the players have had a "wake-up call." What, another one? What about West Brom, Tottenham, Newcastle, Wigan, Leeds? How many wake-up calls should this squad of players need? Apparently they were also struggling with "fatigue." Grow up Arsene. With the exception of Jack Wilshere (who is still a boy remember) and Johan Djourou (three games in a week for the first time in about three years) that is the most lazy excuse Wenger has ever made for the below-par efforts of his overpaid prima-donnas. Arsenal's problems are not of fatigue, but of attitude. When you have Arsenal's level of ability (and last night's team was not a weakened one if we're being honest) then you will beat almost anybody you play against, provided you work harder than the opposition. If Arsenal can beat a team for effort, they will surely then beat them with their football. With the exception of Barcelona I think this applies to any team Arsenal might play, anywhere in the World.
I have always defended Nicklas Bendtner, Eboue and Denilson. Not any more. Bendtner finally got his chance to play at centre-forward last night, certainly his strongest position. Not only that, but he was up against a defence that sits 19th in the second division of English football. He was awful, disgraceful. Arsene Wenger should forget about loaning Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to anyone else, but should promote the boy to the first-team squad on a weekly basis. I'm sorry Nicklas, but you've had your chances and you've failed to do the business. The same thing goes for the other two whose lack of effort is becoming sickening in these types of matches. Do they think that playing in these games is beneath them or something? Eboue has returned to the diving, cheating and general nonsense that punctuated the worse period of his Arsenal career a couple of years ago. His on-field behaviour is not befitting of "The Arsenal" and I would like to see the Board making this clear to the Manager.
I'm fed up of writing about Andrey Arshavin. I don't rate Carlos Vela but surely he is more deserving of a proper opportunity than the Russian. Arshavin looks like a man who would rather be almost anywhere else than on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt. The Club should cash in while they still can because he is running short of charity from the fans and the derision is only going to get more audible with every lazy flick or awful first-touch. The really frustrating thing with Arshavin is that, unlike Bendtner, Denilson, Eboue etc, we KNOW he has the ability. He is a World Class footballer when he wants to be. The problem is he seems to not want to be a World Class footballer at Arsenal anymore.
The second-leg is two weeks away and Arsenal have three massive games before we even get to it. When we do play Ipswich again we have an uphill task. I remember well the last season at Highbury when we trailed Wigan 0-1 in the semi-final after the first game. A strong Arsenal team went on to dominate the second-leg but found an inspired keeper who kept his side in the tie right up until the last minute of extra-time when a long punt caught out our defence - just like the goal last night (and seemingly numerous other occasions). The Manager of Wigan that night was, of course, Paul Jewell. Fabregas has compared Ipswich's style as being like rugby because of the high-ball - I would call their style intelligent as they could see the obvious Arsenal weakness and knew how to exploit it. We can expect much more of the same in a fortnight. Any game that you start with a one goal deficit means that you have a hill to climb. This Arsenal side is more than capable of destroying Ipswich in the same way that Chelsea did on Sunday afternoon, but I fear they lack the temperament required to do that. Ultimately that is this squads major problem - they have plenty of ability, but not the correct attitude and that is why the silverware suddenly looks a long way off once more.

There'll be a preview of the West Ham game tomorrow. It goes without saying that a better performance will be needed, but I'm beginning to feel like a scratched record in saying that.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Getting worried for TV5, Ipswich (a) preview, Reserves disgrace the Arsenal shirt

Thomas Vermaelen has suffered another "setback." This injury saga is starting to take the same form as that which afflicted Rosicky. When Vermaelen first suffered the injury we were told he'd back in days, just like Rosicky. Ever since then we have been fed the same old lines, right up until today when Wenger announced that Arsenal were seeking out specialists all over the World for advice. The fact is that Thomas Vermaelen has a very serious problem with his achilles and nobody at Arsenal has a clue how to cure it. I had already written the Belgian off for the rest of this season, in spite of Arsene's claims over his imminent recovery (every few weeks), but I am now starting to fear for his future as a player at this level. Any injury to the achilles is notoriously difficult to recover from and this is proving to be no exception. As a result of this latest problem, and the diagnosis of Squillaci's injury, Arsene Wenger has confirmed he is looking for a centre-half. We have to live in hope that we don't sign yet another unknown Frenchman on the cheap, but that we go out and get someone with Premier League, or European, credibility.

Ahead of the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final tomorrow night there is very little news about. In terms of team news the official website is carrying nothing. We know that Eboue will almost certainly continue at right-back, and I think Gibbs and Szczesny will also keep their places. Koscielny will surely come in to the back-four, but will Djourou continue or be rested in favour of Ignasi Miquel? I would be annoyed to see an untried youngster make his debut in what is such a big game for our Club, having not won a trophy in six years. In midfield I don't want to see Denilson or Arshavin or Rosicky after what we put up with on Saturday, but I fear all three will keep their places. I also expect Nicklas Bendtner to find himself out wide and getting slagged by the uneducated once more - he's not as good as he thinks he is, but perhaps if he played at centre-forward he would look a little less awkward. The other thing with Bendtner is that he is rarely lacking in effort on the pitch which is more than could be said for people like Arshavin and co. My personal preference would be for a full first-team tomorrow night in order to get the job done and win by three or four goals. Wenger won't do that so I reckon the game might be a bit tighter than Chelsea's cup-tie with Ipswich on Sunday. Sadly I will have to employ the Sky+ to watch the game when I get home from work on Thursday morning - the only problem with my shift system is that it doesn't lend itself to arrangements around cup-ties, though this might become an issue for the majority of home games for me over the next few months.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post the Reserves were playing at Aston Villa last night. In the absence of any centre-backs at the Club there was a rather unsuited combination in Arsenal's back-four, for the first-half at least, before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was moved back to "help." Arsenal Reserves (admittedly down to ten men early on) conceded five goals in each half and lost 10-1. Such a result is a disgrace to the Arsenal name and an embarrassment to the Arsenal shirt, no matter what the level, or the team selection. James Shea, the Arsenal goalkeeper, seems to have been pretty blameless throughout but the result will haunt his career wherever he goes - he was, and is forever now, the Arsenal goalkeeper that let in ten goals. Every one of the young men involved should be ashamed of what went on last night and so too should Neil Banfield. I have no doubt that the result might be the final nail in the Arsenal career of a number of the youngsters involved and, perhaps, rightly so.

More on Thursday with a review of the Ipswich match. I'm hoping that we can look forward to a relaxing second-leg, safe in the knowledge that we're off to Wembley at the end of February. I won't hold my breath though, if it's all the same to you.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Stupid boy Theo, Arsene to sign someone we hope, Allardyce shows his colours, Southgate joins cretins, TH14 back at Arsenal

Lots to get through this Monday so let's get to it straight away with "Honest" Theo Walcott. You silly boy Theo. Nobody had noticed any semblance of a dive (perhaps indicating that he is damn good at it) so there was really no need to come out and admit to it - especially as we didn't get a penalty for it anyway. If Theo felt a need to come clean to the Manager or his Arsenal colleagues then fine, but why tell the press? If I was a referee I would be loathe to ever give him a decision again for fear that he was trying to con me. The only reason he hasn't been hung out to dry by the press is because he is English - can you imagine the fallout had Cesc Fabregas come out with something similar? Dimitar Berbatov, who clearly dived yesterday (the only person "fooled" was Howard Webb MBE - remember him?) has kept his mouth firmly shut. Let the public decide if you've dived and never give the opposition any ammunition. Incidentally I have just read that Ryan Babel has been charged by the FA for a Twitter outburst at Webb after what happened yesterday - typical of the FA to punish a player while allowing the (at best) incompetent referee to get away with another season defining error.

Arsene Wenger says he may be forced to sign a centre-back due to a hamstring injury to Sebastien Squillaci. It's unfortunate for Squillaci if he has a problem but, frankly, it's the best news Arsenal could possibly have. I doubt Wenger would be going anywhere near the transfer market if he didn't have to, but if this forces his hand then all the better. Squillaci and Koscielny appear well short of the required standard right now, so a bid for someone with Premier League experience would do me nicely. Phil Jagielka has been mentioned but regular readers will know I prefer Gary Cahill. With Carlos Vela wanted by Bolton on loan, and them being short of money, I would like to see Arsenal make a decent bid for the England man. If it costs £10 million then so be it - if we win the Title then the money is more than worth it. Keep your eye out for the latest on that situation.

The situation that developed at Liverpool on Saturday was very interesting. The Liverpool fans now have their wish and Kenny Dalglish is back in charge and giving unintelligible TV interviews. When he fails I fully expect him to walk away and leave someone else to take the blame - though this time it won't be Graeme Souness (in fairness it won't be his fault this time, but nor is it Roy Hodgson's). At times when a manager is sacked there is always much hand-wringing and genuine sympathy for the departed man. Indeed, Dalglish was generous in the compliments he paid Hodgson. Unlike scummy Sam Allardyce. The northern, walrus-faced toerag sat there on ITV yesterday and said how Hodgson had to go and how it was the best thing all round. There's nothing like standing up for your contemporaries is there? This kind of comment sums up prats like Allardyce who fail to realise that the only reason they are on TV, rather than in a dugout on FA Cup 3rd Round weekend, is that they are shit at their job and are currently unemployed having won nothing. Ever. To me it seemed a blatant attempt to ingratiate himself with Liverpool FC and their supporters, praising them to the hilt for their decisive action against Roy Hodgson, in order to put himself forward for the job. Had he put on a Yosser Hughes wig and moustache he couldn't have said "gissa job" any more clearly.

Talking of failed manager's ITV's other "expert" yesterday was Gareth Southgate. Steven Gerrard was correctly sent-off (give Howard Webb a round of applause for getting a decision right) but Southgate chose to excuse the disgraceful two-footed jump by the Liverpool captain. According to Southgate the foul was made "out of frustration" and, following an aborted (albeit similar had he gone through with it) tackle by Raphael, that "he wasn't going to have his players tackled like that." What utter drivel. It was on a par with Carig Burley dismissing the sending off of Tiote at Stevenage on Saturday night for something almost identical. The fact is that Gerrard has been getting away with these challenges for years and it's about time he suffered some of the consequences. The comments from Southgate are typical of the sycophantic rubbish dished out by studio pundits with regards to those players who get in the England team.

Finally in today's marathon is Thierry Henry. It probably surprises nobody to learn that he is training at Arsenal before he heads back to America for the MLS season. I have no problem with this arrangement whatsoever - the likes of Bendtner, Chamakh, Emmanuel-Thomas, Walcott and co will learn plenty from training alongside the master. To be honest, I'd ask New York Red Bulls if we could loan him for six weeks - he'd do a damn sight better job than people like Arshavin or Rosicky, even if he is well over the hill. Henry's reputation would be enough to scare the life out of defenders in the Premier League - imagine the panic in an opposition defence seeing him appear on the touchline twenty minutes before the end of a game.

The Reserves play at Aston Villa tonight but God knows what sort of line-up they will have out with the Carling Cup semi-final to be played on Wednesday and numerous players out on loan. There's live text commentaryof the Reserves at www.arsenal.com, and I'll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Ipswich game.