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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Arsenal 0 - 1 Manchester City - a bare cupboard up-front

Thierry - did last night move him closer to a return?

I won't so much review last night's game as comment on a couple of things which we might have learnt from it. It was, obviously, disappointing to get beaten. We've lost out on the chance of winning another trophy, and another trip to Wembley. That we lost by just the one goal against a team which cost so much to assemble is maybe a testament to those on the pitch, and also shows me that we are stronger in the depth of our squad than most of us anticipated.
The main thing that seems to have struck people following the match is that we really do not have any serious options in attack beyond Robin Van Persie. I had really hoped that Chamakh would rediscover the form he had before Christmas last season. Sadly it seems that he is a busted flush as far as his Arsenal career is concerned. His play with his back to goal is still good. However, a centre-forward must be judged by his goals, and Chamakh has only two of them in 2011. Regardless of the fact that he has not had too many opportunities to start games, that is clearly not enough. I've liked Chamakh since he arrived. He tries hard, and never gives less than 100% effort. Unfortunately that is not enough right now. As for his strike partner last night I seriously have to wonder why he was signed by Arsenal. We are in to December as of tomorrow and Park has yet to play a single minute in the Premier League. He has only made the bench on a couple of occasions, when Chamakh was injured. Even when the boys were 3-0 up over West Brom with twenty minutes left, the Manager still did not turn to his Korean striker for a run-out. It seems more obvious than ever now that reinforcements are required in January. Even if Robin Van Persie can continue his form, it is impossible for him to play all the time. We need a player who is capable of coming in and either creating or scoring goals. If that player is not available on the transfer market then Arsene Wenger must bring Thierry Henry back on loan for as long as possible. Theo Walcott can also move through the middle, but he would require someone to play alongside him (though such a move would surely mean Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting some deserved game time).
I was pleased with the strength of the team Arsene picked last night and, perhaps more importantly, the presence of some senior players on the bench. There was enough there to try and change a few things as the game went on. Having said that, among those substitutes was Andrey Arshavin. I know he only came on with a few minutes left, but the lack of effort shown by the Russian (yet again) is now becoming more and more galling. Arshavin is paid a lot of money to wear the Arsenal shirt. It is not too much to ask, surely, for the sort of work-ethic he appeared to show on the pitch when he first arrived at the Club. Elsewhere we saw signs that there is life in people like Sebastien Squillaci, and all credit to the man for his professionalism - Arshavin could learn a lot from a man like Squillaci. 
The midfield duo of Frimpong and Coquelin have impressed us all once again. The energy of the pair is incredible. They don't stop running and both have matured immensely on the pitch these past few months. I firmly believe that the upturn in the form of Alex Song is down to the progress made by the two youngsters, and the fact that they have provided much needed competition to his position in the team. When the only "alternative" was Denilson it was easy for Song. Not so now. Frimpong is also the sort of guy who will get fans on his side for the fact that he plays the way we would if we were on the pitch - even down to having his say with Nasri. At the end of the game Nasri was clearly unable to deal with Frimpong and then, it is reported, ran away from him after taking a swing in the tunnel. I think I know who would have come out on top had Nasri actually stood his ground rather than wimping out and high-tailing it to the dressing room. Rumours that Frimpong was wearing a shirt which said "BENCH" under his Arsenal strip are not true, but were they so then young Emmanuel would have been a cult figure already (David Seaman, on Twitter, had actually already announced Frimpong as a legend when he heard the story earlier today).
The one other thing I want to comment on is the choice of Captain last night. I like Benayoun a lot. But, he is not an Arsenal player. He is on loan from Chelsea, which makes him a Chelsea player. On the pitch last night were Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou, who have all been Captain of Arsenal in the past. Why was one of them not selected to lead the team? I find this incredibly disappointing and it is a further insult to those that have worn the armband with distinction.
So another Carling Cup adventure is over. I enjoy it every year and, sometime or another, we're going to get our hands on that trophy. It now won't be this season, however, so the FA Cup takes on extra importance in my view. We have to win something, and it has to be soon.

The blog may become a bit sporadic over the next fortnight. We are moving house on Friday morning and my broadband provider will not be setting up the connection until 13th December. I will be endeavouring to write as much as possible from using wireless connections elsewhere, but this might not be possible as often as I would like. I will write something tomorrow, but that will probably be the last until Sunday morning at the earliest - the business of the move will mean my wife might frown upon me wasting time writing about Arsenal (she doesn't understand, does she?)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Man City (h) Carling Cup preview

One will be cheered tonight, the other abused...and rightly so

Man City's billionaire squad players roll in to town this evening for the Carling Cup quarter-final. I do not expect Arsenal to progress any further in the competition. Having said that, a win over City tonight would be a massive boost for Arsenal. We know that Arsene will ring the changes once again, but I really hope we see a slightly stronger line-up than that which played in the previous round (certainly a stronger 18 is required). 
I think that both Park and Chamakh will play, and this might see another return to 4-4-2. I certainly believe that having some support helps Chamakh, and his aerial ability could trouble Manchester City (especially if Kolo plays for them, as expected). Elsewhere in the side we will see Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks. This will be his first match for Arsenal since the last Carling Cup game. Given that he never plays for the Reserves (though he did play for Poland during the international break) it would be no surprise if Fabianski was more than a bit rusty tonight. Like a number of players, the Pole's form got better with a run of games when he played this time last year - perhaps it's just too much to expect a player to come in cold with not enough match practise. After being rested on Saturday I wouldn't be surprised to see Koscielny back in action tonight, and maybe Mertesacker could also appear alongside Squillaci, with Miquel at left-back again. In midfield we will likely have Frimpong and Coquelin, with Chamberlain on one wing and Arshavin or Benayoun on the other. The bench is where I would really like to see us stronger. Chuks Aneke has gone out on loan, so he certainly won't be there this evening, but I would like to see one or two more senior figures knocking about.
I notice that Abou Diaby is injured again. I wrote last week that I felt this was Abou's last chance. He has played about thirty minutes in total and he is out once more with a muscle injury. I have come round to the idea that Diaby's story is actually quite a tragic one. I believe that his promising career has been wrecked by the thuggish foul by Dan Smith (a complete no-mark of a footballer) at Sunderland. There has to come a point where Arsenal say enough is enough - you can't keep on paying the wages when the player simply can't handle anything remotely physical.
For City there is little point in second-guessing their team. They have so many players that could play tonight, many of whom cost more than almost anyone in our entire squad. It seems that Hargreaves will play in midfield (another career torn apart by injury), while Kolo Toure will get a game. Kolo will be welcomed by the Gooners, I am sure, but not so Samir Nasri if he is involved. Arsene Wenger has said that we should treat our former players with respect. I entirely agree with him in the case of players who deserve respect. However, money-grabbing little toe-rags who choose to slag the Club and the fans after they move on deserve to be abused. Samir Nasri will, if he is there tonight, get booed and slated by those in attendance. He deserves everything he gets in that regard.

As I said the other day, work is preventing my attendance this evening, which is a disappointment as the Carling Cup games are usually among the most enjoyable of the season - £10 to watch Arsenal v Manchester City provides exceptional value (you notice the press have failed to report this - after all, it's not Manchester United keeping reduced prices, is it?) I have the SkyPlus set so I will watch the game late tonight when I get home. I'll post a review at some point tomorrow, when there will also be some news about the blog over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gary Speed RIP - MY tribute

Gary Speed - a fine footballer

I was flicking through the TV channels at around 12.30 this afternoon when I switched to Sky Sports News and my jaw dropped. The breaking news they were reporting was of the death of Gary Speed at the tragically young age of just 42. I have to say I was in a bit of shock, as I'm sure everyone else was as they received the news.
It seems hard to imagine that someone like Speed should choose to take his own life. Listening to Dan Walker from Football Focus, who spent the day with Gary Speed yesterday, it is truly unbelievable that he should be gone less than 24 hours later. I imagine stories will emerge as to why he should choose to commit suicide in due course, but that is of no concern of mine.
Being English it is difficult, perhaps, to understand the reverence with which he was regarded in Wales. I've just been listening to the usually odious Robbie Savage on Radio 5 Live and he is so upset he can barely speak. Similarly Craig Bellamy was excused from duty by Liverpool this afternoon as he was so deeply affected by the news. Shay Given, a former colleague at Newcastle, was forced to compose himself before the Aston Villa game could start at Swansea this afternoon. Personally I believe that game should have been postponed in the circumstances as there were a number of Welsh internationals involved who couldn't possibly have been in the proper frame of mind for playing football.
I always liked Gary Speed as a player. He was the sort of industrious midfield player that all teams like to have. His qualities on the pitch were similar to those of Ray Parlour. He was tough and combative, without ever resorting to deliberate foul play. In the air he was immense. I can recall a number of times where he would arrive late in the box, or at set-pieces, and plant a header in to the net. As a youngster he was the driving force in Leeds United's midfield that won the First Division in 1992. He went on to be a favourite at Everton, Newcastle and Bolton, before finishing his career with Sheffield United. As a Welsh international he won more caps than any other outfield player in their history. 
In the mid 1990's Arsenal would occasionally be linked with Speed. He was the sort of player we were crying out for in a midfield which seriously lacked football ability. In the days when we were watching Jensen, Morrow, Hillier, Selley, Keown etc playing in the middle of the park Gary Speed would have been a much needed addition.
Following his stellar playing career he started to develop this current Welsh international team, the most promising they've had in many a year. He made clear his commitment to the younger players by making Aaron Ramsey his Captain, and the recent results have had the Welsh thinking of realistic chances to qualify for the next World Cup. You can only speculate as to the effect this might have on his young charges.
The loss of Gary Speed is huge for Welsh football. It is also huge for the Premier League, which has lost one of its finest players. Most of all his loss is huge for his young family. It is to them that my heart goes out this evening. RIP.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Arsenal 1 - 1 Fulham - 2 points dropped

TV5 - owed us his goal today

I feel a bit frustrated this evening. You can't win every game, but with Man Utd failing to win at home, and Spurs winning again, I felt a home match with Fulham was a must-win for Arsenal. As it was we should have won the game. Decent chances were created throughout (with Ramsey guilty of a terrible first-half miss) and two, from where I was sitting, good penalty shouts turned down. We should have known we'd get nothing from the referee - Mike Reed has a long list of criminal acts against his name where Arsenal are concerned. We also should have known that Mark Schwarzer would play his obligatory blinder against us (it's amazing how, without fail, he throws one in his own net at Old Trafford every time he plays there). 
Arshavin started the game well. I don't know if his disallowed goal was a tight offside decision, though it looked quite close from the other end of the pitch (though not as close as Zamora's in the second-half). I turned to my Dad after about five minutes and said how Arshavin seemed to be up for it today. Should have kept my mouth shut. By the time he was taken off, to a cheer from the crowd, we had endured 75 minutes of him doing next to naff all at either end of the pitch.
Theo Walcott, on the other side of the field, was quite magnificent today. Riise could not get near Theo as he consistently ran past the Norwegian and played dangerous balls in to the box. His cross for the equaliser was truly top class. In recent weeks Walcott has produced a consistent run of form and he has finally showed signs of fulfilling our hopes for him. There is a long way to go, of course, but he should take enormous credit for his recent displays. With his pace he can be truly unstoppable.
I said on the preview piece how I would be upset if any of our defenders were troubled by Bobby Zamora. Consider me duly down in the dumps. Zamora dominated up front for Fulham, and he was too strong and too quick for a decidedly out of sorts Thomas Vermaelen. I was amazed and delighted when Jol took Zamora off. If that had been an Arsene Wenger substitution we would have been going crazy. Vermaelen's own goal was pretty much indicative of his entire display today. Having said that, it is probably a mark of the man that he should pop up with the equaliser shortly after.
Arsenal's substitutions today were interesting. Ramsey had to be taken off as he was awful all day long. However, I wasn't sure why Mertesacker went off with Song switching to centre-back. I would rather have seen Arteta taken off for Diaby. Gervinho came on and did to Baird what Walcott had been doing to Riise form the start. Unfortunately, after we scored the ball stopped going to either of them. The crowd really got behind the team today, especially when we got back to 1-1. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, though I want to see the Van Persie and Santos (the handball) penalty incidents again. 
As I said at the start I feel frustrated more than disappointed. I thought we played well for the most part. I was disappointed with Arshavin, Ramsey and Arteta (he never seems to play a forward pass - even in injury time when you're five against four!) Johan Djourou turned in a fine performance at full-back. The Swiss nearly scored with a towering header, and then he secured the point for Arsenal with a magnificent tackle in injury time. Mertesacker was quietly efficient, while Santos was excellent at both ends. It didn't quite happen for Van Persie today, but he will probably be disappointed to have not got a goal, while his link play was first class again. Given all that you can see why it's annoying not to have won.

Next up it's the Carling Cup. Thanks to work I can't be at the game, unfortunately. I shall be using the Skyplus and hoping to avoid the score until I get home. I'll preview that game on Tuesday morning. I'll also try to get something done for either tomorrow or Monday.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Fulham (h) preview

Gervinho - due a goal or two

I'll keep this fairly brief, if I may. I've had about an hour of sleep since finishing work at 8 o'clock this morning, so I'm feeling a little bit knackered.

I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't have the time to write a review of the Dortmund game as there was so much to say about a wonderful evening of football. If I can summarise I would firstly pay tribute to the incredible travelling support of the Germans. I had to walk down Aubert Park in among them as they were escorted to the ground past Highbury. They were loud and colourful but, largely, very friendly. It felt like being in amongst an English crowd with the amount of drunks and the peeing against walls, but there was certainly very little malice present in their ranks. The other thing I would say about the night is that, after the first thirty minutes Arsenal were outstanding and played as well they have in quite some time. Alex Song recovered from a shocking start to the game to turn in a man of the match display, capped by that incredible run and cross for the first goal. To beat the German Champions quite so comfortably (2-1 was not a reflection of the play) was very gratifying indeed. Having the group wrapped up already is something nobody could have envisaged before the first game in Dortmund (or even after it, such was the hiding we got in a 1-1 draw). I think a very weak team will now travel to Greece for the final match, and rightly so on this occasion.

On to tomorrow and the quest for Premier League redemption continues. I can see one or two possible changes. Koscielny was replaced with fatigue on Wednesday night, so Arsene might look to start him on the bench tomorrow (this would also possibly make him available for Man City on Tuesday). Elsewhere I can see some midfield rotation, though as for who will miss out I wouldn't like to guess. I thought Aaron Ramsey was outstanding against Dortmund, but a rest might do him some good with Diaby getting a possible start (or maybe even Rosicky if fit). I wouldn't be surprised to see Gervinho left out tomorrow, though I would not be in favour of dropping the Ivorian. He seems to be seriously lacking in confidence in front of goal, which is bizarre considering the rest of his game. He certainly needs to put some chances away, or the crowd will begin to get at him, and we don't want that at all. The law of averages says he must score one or two eventually and at least he is still getting in the position to score, even if he is not managing to apply the finishing touch.
Fulham have problems of their own tomorrow with injuries, which should aid Arsenal's cause. At the start of the season I tipped them for good things. I felt their UEFA qualifiers could see them get off to a flier this season, before fading late on. As it has turned out they have struggled from the off in the League. They have decent forwards in Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey, but I would seriously annoyed if our defenders got turned over tomorrow by Bobby Zamora. Elsewhere they have the giant Hangeland who I would expect to struggle against the skill of a man like Van Persie, or the pace of Theo Walcott. They also have Philippe Senderos. Big Phil was harshly done to by Arsenal. When given a run in the side he showed he could play with real quality. His confidence was eventually undermined by the Manager and the way he used him in the side. I hope Senderos doesn't come back to haunt us tomorrow.

That will do for today. I'm off to bed. More tomorrow night, when I get home from the game.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Dortmund (h) preview - surprise team news

Diaby - shock return

Arsene has thrown out a surprise today with the news that Abou Diaby is added to the squad for tomorrow night. Given that Diaby's last involvement on a football pitch was over six months ago this comes as something of a shock, I would suggest. It does rather make a mockery of the whole idea of pre-season and Arsene's oft-quoted need for certain players to be "match-fit." I have said before on here that Arsene only requires "match-fitness" from a player if it happens to be someone he no longer wants to pick - Stephen Hughes being the example I always use. I do think, however, that Diaby is a bit of a special case, as I will explain.
Back in May 2006 Abou had his leg shattered by a thug at Sunderland. This has, without any doubt whatsoever, affected his career in a serious way. Ever since then he has been unable to put together a consistent run without another niggly problem. The decision to improve his contract was a bad one given his record, but that doesn't change the fact that he has had an incredibly unfortunate career. I believe that this inability to play game after game is the reason why Wenger has always simply brought him back without any practise matches for the Reserves. What would be the point of Diaby playing outside the first-team if it would simply mean him being injured again? 
Over the past couple of years Diaby has become a bit of a boo-boy with the crowd due to his inconsistency and perceived laziness at times. When he plays well he is one of the best players at the Club. His performance in the Carling Cup Final in 2007, and at Fenerbahce, were evidence of just how good he could be at the top level. Abou has everything to be a top footballer, except the ability to stay fit. I have to confess that I have slagged him something chronic at times for his infuriating displays. However, I now begin to think that I, and most of the crowd, have been harsh on him. I suspect that his "laziness" has more to do with playing through terrible pain, which eventually sees him having to miss the next two or three games with yet another injury. 
This new comeback for Abou is following a major operation. Just a couple of weeks ago Arsene made some comments about Diaby which made me think we weren't going to see him again. I believe that this time it could be make or break. If Abou can not gain some consistent fitness following such surgery then I think we may see him retire. Certainly he will be moved on at the end of the season. There is no doubt that a fit and good Abou Diaby is a major asset - he would be magnificent in the position alongside Alex Song, currently filled by an out of place Arteta. In the absence of Jack Wilshere this is important. This would allow Arteta to compete with Ramsey for the attacking midfield position. I hope he can stay fit and give us that extra bit of depth.
In other team news it seems that Tomas Rosicky has picked up a knock in training. It seems strange that Wenger continued to pick him last season when he was awful, but hasn't given him a look in lately when he has returned to some of his best form. It is some time now since he played for Arsenal, but an injury to him may yet mean more of a chance for Oxlade-Chamberlain to get some bench action - though it won't be tomorrow I suspect.
Dortmund come to London off the back of a massive win away to Bayern Munich. A good result tomorrow night is imperative to Arsenal. We really don't want to be going to Greece and needing a result against Olympiacos. At the Westfalenstadion we were outplayed, but ultimately unlucky to concede to a once in a lifetime strike. However, if Dortmund enjoy a similar sort of dominance tomorrow it is hard to imagine Arsenal being able to hold out quite so well again. In Mario Goetze they have one of the biggest talents in Europe, and Andre Santos may well have his work cut out if Goetze plays on the right tomorrow evening, as he did in Germany. Certainly the Brazilian will have to curb his attacking instincts. I hope that, if Diaby starts, he can have the same sort of impact he did those few years back at Fenerbahce.
I'm looking forward to the game tomorrow. It promises to be a great atmosphere with the Germans travelling in their thousands. I believe that many Dortmund supporters have secured tickets on the general sale, so we can expect to see a lot of yellow in the home sections of the ground. The people in Germany made the Arsenal fans incredibly welcome a couple of months ago, so I hope we can all return the compliment tomorrow evening. This is what European nights should be all about, with two major Club's going head to head. Proper European Cup action.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Two quick announcements

Only one of them is on the Cretin List

It's a bit quiet today following yesterday's win. I suppose it's a sign that the idea of any immediate crisis at Arsenal has gone away for the time being. That's something for which we can all be grateful. As a result there's nothing of note upon which to pass comment this evening, so I don't propose to write just for the sake of it on this occasion. However, I did a bit of work on the site last night and there is a new poll and a new addition to the site for your delectation.

The poll is in direct response to the upturn in fortunes of the team recently. I'm asking where you now think the boys will finish this season, and there are a number of options. Please take the time to vote. You will find the poll down the right hand side of the page.

Also on the right of the page, just above the poll, you will see a new link to the "Cretin List." I'd been promising this for a while as I regularly refer to a number of individuals as cretins when I'm writing. I hope you find the list amusing, and I'm sure you'll agree with those already on it. The list will be added to as and when someone crosses the line in to being a cretin.

I'll try to get a preview of the Dortmund game written on Tuesday, but I'm working nights all week (except for Wednesday when I'll be at the game, of course). I definitely won't get the opportunity to write a match review before Friday, so I won't bother at all. Apologies for that, but there's nothing I can do about it!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Norwich 1 - 2 Arsenal - brilliant but awful all at once, Arsene misquoted (he says)

Koscielny - excellent wherever he plays

Another good three points in the bag but how difficult did we make it for ourselves? Today we saw everything good about this Arsenal team, from the quality football and tremendous spirit, to everything bad, from the embarrassing defensive error to the Sunday morning finishing. I imagine the neutrals would have quite enjoyed the game with the way it was played. I spent the last ten minutes living in fear that we would be throwing away a lead that should have been unassailable before we'd played the first ten minutes.
Going forward today, particularly in the first-half, I thought Arsenal played some of their best football of the season. Theo Walcott absolutely destroyed Marc Tierney down the right for Arsenal and was the main threat. I couldn't understand why Theo was swapped to the left with ten minutes of the opening period remaining - it was the only time in the game where Norwich looked comfortable. Normally I would prefer Theo from the left as I think he looks so much more likely to do something threatening, but when he was so much on top of his marker I just didn't see the logic today. The problems for Arsenal were whenever someone was faced with the goalkeeper. Theo had a great effort cleared off the line, but everyone else who had chances was guilty of terrible misses. 
It seems that Gervinho has a real problem in front of goal. We saw it at Chelsea, but today his finishing was truly awful. The rest of the Ivorian's game was superb again but, when he gets a chance to score, he really has to learn to take it. We have seen such profligacy from Arsenal a lot down the years, even when we were the best around, but it has never got any less frustrating. When Gervinho went round the goalkeeper in the second-half, and still failed to find the net, I found myself thinking of Kaba Diawara and his many errors in front of goal during his short spell at Highbury.
I suppose the newspapers and Match Of The Day etc will bang on about Arsenal being dependent on Robin Van Persie. Once again the Captain was the man who got the goals today, but he wasn't without his mistakes in front of goal either. Having said that, it was another outstanding display from Van Persie. My personal choice for man of the match would have been Walcott, but I wasn't surprised Sky gave it to RVP instead. His finish for the second goal was really top drawer, and both goals were scored with his weaker foot. To watch Van Persie these days, and compare him with the woefully one-footed player he was five years ago, it really shows what a special talent he has become.
I was disappointed with all three midfield players today. I felt they gave the ball away far too much, though Ramsey was unfortunate to not be awarded a penalty late in the second-half when he was bundled over by the centre-back. Song was a little better in the second-half and, of course, set up the winner by choosing the right option with his through-ball. However, I thought he was caught up field once or twice, and failed to break up the play on a number of occasions. Mikel Arteta, I felt, was awful. I believe you could count on the fingers of one hand how many times he played a pass forward. I just don't understand it as he is a fine playmaker. He should also have been well rested after the two weeks without a match.
The defence was pretty solid today with the exception of the goal. Per Mertesacker had his worst game since arriving in England, however, and the goal conceded was entirely down to him. He was giving it the full Stepanovs today as far as I was concerned. I'm not going to have too much of a go at the German though as I think he is a good defender, but that today was really woeful. Either side of him were two more stand out performers in Koscielny and Vermaelen. Aside of Van Persie I believe Koscielny is Arsenal's player of the season so far. Since the Blackburn match, when he was awful, he has turned in top class displays in every game he has played. He got his international recognition this past week while today he excelled at right-back. I thought that he really gelled with Theo Walcott and played the full-back role superbly well. TV5, meanwhile, won everything in the air, and made up for the lack of creativity from midfield by breaking forward at every opportunity. How we miss him when he's not around.
Overall I suppose we need to be pleased with the win, as usual. I felt, after ten minutes, that it was all getting a bit too easy despite the chances being missed. When Gervinho, and then Ramsey, tried stupid back-heels on the edge of the Norwich area in quick succession I felt sure the players were getting over-confident. It came as no surprise, therefore, to see Norwich score. After that the concentration returned sufficiently to stop Norwich creating anything else, while dragging Arsenal back in to the game.This was where the spirit was evident. That the players then managed to see out the 2-1 win was heartening, even if it was not good for the nerves. I've rarely been as pleased to see a player head for the corner flag than I was when Theo did so as the clock ticked in to injury time - the extra experience, perhaps, coming to the fore and rubbing off on the exuberant youngsters. We can go in to the Dortmund game on Wednesday with confidence.

Just before the game there were stories breaking that Arsene Wenger had told L'Equipe he would be considering his position at the end of the season. When questioned after the game Arsene was quick to deny the story and affirm his commitment to his contract. I have to say it would be a surprise if Wenger were to walk away of his own accord, such is his integrity and loyalty. Arsene claims to have been misquoted, and I strongly suspect he is telling the truth. It would be most unlike Wenger to make public his feelings in such a fashion. I imagine he will be quite angry to have been misconstrued like this and there is no doubt some mischief being made by the journalist in question. However, as I said in my piece about Francis Coquelin last week, if you don't want to be misquoted then don't give the interview in the first place. With the players doing their bit right now the last thing that is needed is for anything to destabilise this group in any way - particularly not nonsense in the French press.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Norwich City (a) preview - medical team excel themselves again

Kieran Gibbs - badly let down

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago in which I gave some stick to the medical team at Arsenal. One or two people left comments on the site having a go at me for daring to criticise them as they were clearly men of achievement, whereas I was just a no-mark. While having to agree with the latter part of those sentiments I can't consider anyone on Arsenal's medical staff to be a man of achievement. The level of incompetence apparently present is becoming frightening, and no less costly to Arsenal.
Last week a number of the Arsenal bloggers and representatives of the official Supporters Club's were invited to the training ground to see the new medical centre (I wasn't invited in either capacity). It seems that the new facility is the best of its kind, and it has been quite a financial investment from the Club in order to build it. Why, then, have we been told that Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson are now out for a long spell with injuries they have carried for quite a time?
Kieran Gibbs has already been out for weeks with a stomach strain. It seems that this was actually brought on by a hernia that the medical team knew nothing about. Given that the Arsenal players are constantly undergoing various tests (hence the "red-zone" we have heard so much about recently - more on that below) I would have to question how this went undetected. As a result of it Gibbs has only now had an operation to fix the hernia. With the money being invested in the science of treating injuries I would suggest it's not too much to ask for things like hernia's to be picked up.
Carl Jenkinson, meanwhile, has a stress fracture of the back. As I said above we have heard quite a bit about the "red-zone" for injuries from Arsene Wenger lately. He has used the term more than once when talking about Robin Van Persie needing a rest. A stress fracture is caused by over exertion, and repeated pressure, on any particular area of the body. Again, given the fact that Arsenal's players are constantly undergoing tests from our overpaid medical professionals, how on Earth has the youngster got to the stage where he has suffered a stress fracture in his back? Surely the tests on the players should have shown that a particular area of Carl Jenkinson's body was in the "red-zone" and his workload/rest periods adjusted accordingly. What exactly is the point in this new medical facility if the players are no better off?
On the subject of the "red-zone" I would like to question this particular bit of scientific nonsense. The Arsenal doctor, Gary O'Driscoll, told the visitors to the new facility that such science was important in professional football, and that we would become more dependent on it in the future. Forgive me for thinking that this man might just have been feathering his own nest. If the "red-zone" actually exists in the real world how do you explain someone like Frank McLintock getting through 70+ games in a season? Not just that, but on heavy, muddy pitches that the modern-day player will never have the inconvenience of seeing. If Arsenal are going to become more dependent on the science of medicine over the next couple of years I can only say "God help us" because, if the current issues are anything to go by, we are just at the tip of the iceberg.

In other team news ahead of tomorrow Marouane Chamakh is back to fitness and available to play. He might replace Park on the bench, but that remains to be seen. Abou Diaby is also back in full training, but Arsene says he will need an "adaptation period." I personally believe Diaby is finished and, in fairness, it has ever been thus since he had his leg shattered by that neanderthal at Sunderland in 2006. With Jenkinson out we can expect either Koscielny or Djourou to fill in at right-back. Personally I would rather see Francis Coquelin playing there, but it seems Arsene won't do that. Alternatively, Nico Yennaris was outstanding in the Carling Cup game against Bolton, so perhaps he deserves a go there.
Apart from that the team pretty much picks itself for tomorrow, barring any last minute injuries. I would expect to see a line-up like this:
Szczesny - Djourou/Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos - Song, Arteta, Ramsey - Walcott, Gervinho - Van Persie.
Norwich have done well since their promotion. Paul Lambert looks a very capable manager and I can see them surviving relatively comfortably come May. They play some decent football and, in Grant Holt, they have a player capable of scoring goals. I watched most of their game at Anfield on telly and they were unlucky not to get more than a draw in the second-half, having been battered in the first-half. They were also unlucky at Old Trafford. Any Gooner that thinks it will be easy at Carrow Road tomorrow is deluded. Arsenal are in for a tough game, and must work hard to get a result.

I'll try to get a match review done tomorrow evening. If not then it will be early on Sunday.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The King returns to Arsenal

Sign him up Arsene

I have just been cheered up immensely by reading that Thierry Henry, the King of Highbury, is back training with Arsenal in the off-season from the MLS. I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Arsenal doing a service for people like Thierry. In fact training alongside the Great Man can only be good for this group of Arsenal players. Just imagine what a man like Ju Young Park can learn from watching Thierry Henry day in, day out. Quite apart from that you know that Henry will be more than willing to impart his knowledge and experience to everyone at the Club.
There is another part to this, and it is a very important one as far as I'm concerned. When Henry came back to train last season I wrote about how I thought Arsene should get him on loan in order to boost our options. This is even more the case this season. Come January Marouane Chamakh will be off to the African Cup of Nations, leaving us with just Van Persie and Park. Wouldn't it be great to have Thierry sitting on the bench? The very sight of him warming up on the touchline would scare defenders rigid. We all know his blistering pace might have gone, but the fear defenders have of him would afford him the necessary space to use his exceptional football ability to bring others in to the game. Henry could quite comfortably play in behind a main striker, like Dennis used to, and he would certainly pick out any run made from wide by Walcott or Gervinho.
The fixtures are going to come at us hard and fast, and the boost of having Henry in the squad would be huge for the players and the fans alike. Just imagine the noise the crowd would make at the introduction of Henry to the pitch. I don't think for one minute that Arsene would entertain the idea of getting him on a loan deal, but I honestly believe it would suit all parties. Henry would get his fitness in match situations before returning to New York, and Arsenal would get the benefit of a World Class player in the squad.
I suppose I shouldn't get excited about something that I doubt will happen, but I can't help but imagine how great it would be to see Thierry back where he belongs. Just think about the great man wearing red and white a few more times. What a way to celebrate the 125th anniversary that would be!

I'll try and do a preview of the Norwich game tomorrow morning. I am working in the afternoon/evening so I won't be able to hear any of Arsene's pre-match comments before writing.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Back to it...

Alf Fields - an instrumental Arsenal Man

Thank God that’s over. It’s been a long time since we had anything remotely interesting to say about The Arsenal, hence the lack of a post since the back end of last week. I toyed with the idea of previewing England’s game with Spain, and then with telling Fabregas to keep his views to himself as he no longer has anything to do with Arsenal. I decided against doing either as I have no interest in England (unless it’s Summer) and I really couldn’t care less what Cesc has to say. Having said that, I was a little irked by his decision to pass comment on Robin Van Persie. You never heard Henry or Vieira or Overmars or Petit having their say after they had left, so why does Cesc feel the need answer questions about Arsenal?
There was also, more importantly, the death of Arsenal legend Alf Fields. Paul Davis credits Alf with a large part of his development as a youngster, and also that of the likes of Michael Thomas and David Rocastle. You can see from that how we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to a true Arsenal man. I hope the Club does something to recognise the contribution of such a figure.

With the international football out of the way (and that’s it for a little while now) we can get back to normal. The break has interrupted a run of fine form for Arsenal. I hope that the distraction hasn’t had an adverse effect on the momentum that has been building this past couple of months. Certain internet forums may still have a number of contributors who purport to be fans of Arsenal, but never give anyone from the Club any credit, but any level-headed individual must surely note the improvement in the team.
When we lost at Old Trafford, and then at Blackburn, the knives were justifiably out for everyone involved. However, since then the boys have put together a terrific run. They were criticised after an unlucky defeat at Spurs, which had followed some wins, and the main point being made was that as soon as they played a half-decent side they were beaten by them. Another run of victories was likely to be ended at Chelsea, but some genuine spirit got the win that Arsenal deserved. The players deserve a lot of credit for what they have done recently.
I don’t believe in the whole “turning a corner” thing as your next defeat is always not very far away. What can be said for certain is that this group of players have performed admirably to get themselves back up the Premier League and in a position to challenge for the European places – something which was completely out of the question just two short months ago. I feel more of an affinity with some of the players we have now than I have for a good few years, and that's a direct result of their desire to put things right. I think we might have some real Arsenal spirit returning to the side.

I think that, as we go forward from now, we have (on paper) a decent run of League games. It is important that as many points as possible are taken from such fixtures. However, I believe there is a critical game coming up in a couple of weeks in the Carling Cup. Arsene Wenger must field a strong team against Manchester City. The possible consequences of a heavy defeat could be far reaching, and it wouldn’t be the first time that momentum had been stopped in its tracks by a heavy defeat for a weakened team - remember Shakhtar Donetsk many years ago? Or how about Man Utd in the FA Cup in 2008?) Both of those defeats were the start of terrible runs that ultimately cost us the Title.
On the other hand, a win against City would not only be a massive positive for Arsenal, but it could have a detrimental effect on the opposition. City are on such a good run that they are looking to be too good for anyone right now. However, as I’ve said above, a defeat can be catastrophic. Who knows how City might react? Such a result, and the damage to their obvious confidence, could have the effect of bringing everyone back in to the Title race, including Arsenal.
Of course, City could quite conceivably beat a strong Arsenal team, but it would be unlikely to be a thrashing, thus having less of a knock-on effect on our season. Despite the good recent run I think the confidence of the squad is still brittle, and the chance to avoid any heavy defeats should be taken.

Hopefully I’ll have some more to talk about tomorrow, once we know that players are all back.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Coquelin catches French Arsenal player disease

Coquelin - needs to keep his mouth shut

It used to be the full internationals that gave stupid interviews to the French press. Over the years we've heard stories from Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Gael Clichy and Lassanna Diarra. All of these interviews have had one thing in common - bad news for Arsenal. France Football and L'Equipe have a habit, it seems, of getting our players to give interviews that give rise to speculation on their future at Arsenal Football Club. With Sagna and Diaby injured they have turned their attentions to an U21 player and Francis Coquelin has not disappointed them.
I am seriously annoyed with Coquelin's comments. Obviously the young man is ambitious, and he wants to play. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. I have been surprised that, having played at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane (and been impressive in both games, for me) he has not been involved more often. I can understand how this would be frustrating for Coquelin, especially after a season of first-team action in France last year. However, this is Arsenal. He is a young defensive midfield player. At this stage of his career I don't see how he can seriously expect to be playing ahead of Alex Song. He is in direct competition with Emmanuel Frimpong for the position as Song's understudy, and both players have been given a go on occasion. It seems possible that Frimpong might be sent on loan in January (I personally am not an advocate of this move as I believe his physicality brings something to the side, if only he can be taught a bit of discipline in the tackle). This would see Coquelin involved far more often.
In the past we have seen a number of those players listed above claiming that comments have been taken out of context by those newspapers, or translated incorrectly in to English. I await similar defences from Francis Coquelin. The obvious way of avoiding such an issue is, of course, to not give an interview in the first place. I believe the Club should put a ban on the players giving interviews to a newspaper or magazine when on international duty. As soon as they are beyond the control of the Arsenal press office they can end up saying things that damage the Club in some way.
Andrey Arshavin has had a little criticism over a similar interview he has given in Russia this week. The difference is that Arshavin has stated how he does not wish to leave Arsenal at all "at this time." He makes the comment that, should his current situation continue, he would have to think of his future. That is fair enough. Also, Arshavin is an experienced player, who has understood why he is out of the team. The Russian is frustratingly lazy, but he has the intelligence to see that his position is self-inflicted by his poor performance. Coquelin, meanwhile, is a young player who has achieved nothing and should learn to keep his mouth shut and play his football.
This team has developed a good spirit over the last two months. Interviews of the type given by Coquelin can only serve to damage such togetherness. I want to see Coquelin make it at Arsenal but, if he is a bad egg (like Diarra before him), then Arsene Wenger must kick him out as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Jack makes a promise he can't keep, FA should grow some b******s

Never leaving?

I was a bit dismayed to read Jack Wilshere's quote yesterday where he said he will "never leave Arsenal." Of course it is wonderful to know that the best young midfield player in the Country wants to be an Arsenal player. However, it is impossible for him to know he will be an Arsenal player for his whole career. Jack is so good that, if the team does not have the quality to win trophies, then he will have to move on to fulfill his potential. Wilshere can be World-Class, there is no doubt about it, and that will bring the Spanish team's and Manchester City knocking on the door with their bottomless pockets. I think we have to put Jack's comment down to the exuberance of youth, but we must accept that he might not be with us as long he thinks, or hopes. 
By chance I am currently re-reading a book from before the Invincibles season called "The Glorious Game - Arsene Wenger, Arsenal and the Quest for Success" by Gooner editor Kevin Whitcher and Alex Fynn. On page 34 there is a quote from Thierry Henry where he says "...the only way I will ever leave Arsenal is if they fire me." Within three years of this book he had already had his head turned by Barcelona, and would leave the Club in 2007 after a campaign where his commitment was seriously questioned by many. 
The point is that the future in football can not be predicted. I remember that, as a youngster, I could never imagine Arsenal without George Graham after the success he had enjoyed. Similarly, until the past couple of years, I could never foresee a situation where Arsene Wenger would come under such pressure from Arsenal supporters - things were just too good to imagine anyone calling for him to go. That is why, despite being more than happy that Jack Wilshere loves Arsenal (and that he will say so in public), I am unable to accept his promise. You can rest assured that, if things do go wrong between Arsenal and Jack Wilshere in the future, the press will dig his quote up and beat him over the head with it.

I am disgusted with the decision of FIFA, and their corrupt cronies, to refuse permission for England players to wear the Poppy on their shirts this weekend. As regular readers will know I have no interest in international football matches (unless it's Summer and there's no other football to watch) but this is a matter of national importance as far as I'm concerned. The symbolism of the Poppy is profound for British people. As a nation that is still losing men and women in an ongoing war it should be in sharper focus as every year goes by. That FIFA refuse to see that shows just what a terrible organisation they have become.
The FA must show FIFA that they will not stand for this. The England players should take to the field on Saturday with the Poppy proudly displayed on their shirts. So what if it upsets FIFA? What will they do - strip England of the World Cup? Of course, they can't do that as they accepted money to ensure someone else got to host it. 
FIFA is an organisation that deems a nominal fine acceptable for racist chanting at international matches. They really couldn't touch the FA on this. Such an act of defiance would also erode the power that people like Blatter exert on the World game. I would love for someone at the FA to grow a pair of balls and show FIFA that their edicts are of no interest to us.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Arsenal 3 - 0 West Brom, Some people have no class

Time for an "injury" for RVP

Thanks to sick children I was up all night on Friday. As a result my eldest couldn't take his place at the game yesterday as planned. On the plus side, having been forced to take the day off work I managed to see the whole game, albeit on the internet. The first 30 minutes were viewed on a channel carrying foreign commentary. I have no idea what language it was in, but they made far more sense than any of the idiots you get on ITV since the late, great Brian Moore retired. For the rest of the game I had the Sky commentary, but I turned the volume down as Trevor Francis was part of their team. His nasally nonsense really is annoying after a short while, and he seriously harbors a grudge against Arsenal for the Cup Final defeats in 1993.
It was a routine win for Arsenal, the kind of which has been all too rare of late. I thought the two centre-halves looked good, and we now have three very capable central defenders. Koscielny is currently the most deserving of his place. Beyond Robin Van Persie he is my player of the season so far. The improvement in the play of the Frenchman this season has been marked, particularly since the Blackburn debacle. I would imagine that his international debut must be imminent, and it would be well deserved. Thomas Vermaelen slotted back in as though he'd never been away. It is very encouraging when you can have those two, Mertesacker and Djourou to call upon.
I called for a performance from Mikel Arteta in the match preview. I don't really know if we got that, but we did get a fine goal. I was pleased for Arteta as he is the man I think we all expected to be the most influential of the last minute signings. The quality of his finish yesterday was top class, and I had a bet on him to score at 5/2 so I was double pleased!
What can you say about Robin Van Persie? Another goal and two assists showed that his form is still fantastic. He is far and away the best striker in the country right now (if not Europe) and he is scoring all kinds of goals. Strangely I take more pleasure from seeing Robin score the kind of goal he got yesterday (and the two he managed against Stoke) than the individual strikes he is more famous for. It shows, for me, that Van Persie is a more complete player now, and is really learning to play the more traditional centre-forward role. Thierry Henry managed to develop the knack of scoring scrappy goals, and RVP seems to be getting there too. Ian Wright was the master, of course, but it all came naturally to him. With Van Persie it is something he has had to work hard to achieve. The international break is now upon us and that means Robin has to disappear with Holland. I really wish Arsene Wenger would do what other Manager's do and create an "injury" that prevents him from going. We all know that Arsenal will struggle without him, so anything that might help to keep him fit is most welcome.
It seems wrong to find a negative from such a comfortable win, but I must wonder about the final substitution yesterday. Van Persie was rested on Tuesday against Marseille in a move which, arguably, cost us a win on the night. Having done that I couldn't believe that Wenger then left Robin on the pitch for those last twenty minutes yesterday, when we were cruising at 3-0 up. Would it not have done Ju Young Park a bit of good to get some Premier League action for the first time, with no pressure to perform? Certainly Andrey Arshavin brought nothing to the team when he came on. I continue to not understand how the Manager's mind works at times. Having said that, it is not really fair to make a big thing of something so trivial (in the grand scheme of things) when we have won so well at home.

This Alex Ferguson business has been getting on my nerves the past few days. There is no doubt that a Manager spending 25 years at one club is a massive achievement. But it is of interest only to Manchester United supporters. I do not understand why the rest of us have had the "celebrations" inflicted upon us in such great detail. You can be certain that Arsenal's 125 year celebrations next month will not get covered in such detail.
It was a fine gesture by Manchester United to name a stand after Ferguson and, perhaps, it was not before time given his achievements. However, the conduct of Ferguson at the pre-match ceremony really did show that the man lacks class in a big way. Quite apart from seeming like he was under the influence (I am convinced he is drunk most of the time) he stood their chewing on gum while the dedication was made. Maybe I'm a bit precious, but I find such things to be incredibly disrespectful to all concerned. I am sure that, whatever his various faults, you would never get Arsene Wenger acting in such a dismissive way of something so special. You can't buy class, it seems. Especially from the Gorbals.

Friday, 4 November 2011

West Brom (h) preview

Mikel Arteta - due a performance?

Last time West Brom came to visit us it marked one of the genuine low points of Arsene Wenger's tenure. We found ourselves 3-0 down at home to a promoted team, who were being driven forward by a former Arsenal trainee, until Samir Nasri launched a one-man rescue mission and nearly succeeded. I hope I am not speaking far too soon but the complacency and arrogance of the team we were watching last Autumn seems a far cry from the unit we have today. If there was a positive to be taken from the defeats at Old Trafford and Ewood Park it was surely that this mob can never think they are too good. I honestly believe that there is a genuine team spirit in the current squad, never more prevalent than in the post-match celebrations last Saturday at Chelsea.
For once the injury news ahead of the game seems to be bad for the opposition, rather than for us. I was not upset to find out that Paul Scharner will be missing for West Brom, and that Peter Odemwingie is also struggling. Shane Long, of course, is out for a while after that horrendous tackle from Alan Hutton at Aston Villa a couple of weeks back. That is three of the Baggies' most dangerous players likely to be missing, which should be good news for Arsenal. I am a big fan of Scharner. He is the sort of player I would have liked to see join Arsenal as a squad man. He's a bit of a Gilles Grimandi type of player, who can cover a number of positions and is not afraid to put in a hefty tackle. The fact that he is absent tomorrow means that West Brom will, at least, be a little less threatening at set-pieces - with our record that is very important.
Robin Van Persie will return to the starting eleven tomorrow in place of Ju Young Park. I don't think Park did anything wrong the other night, and he worked his socks off. If, by some chance, we can get a couple of goals ahead tomorrow I would like to see him get at least twenty minutes under his belt in the Premier League. Similarly I would like to see him brought on to join Van Persie if we are struggling and need to score - he is, after all, a centre-forward. With Marouane Chamakh out with a knee injury (or so we are being told) there will hopefully be a chance for the Korean to prove to us all that he was not signed simply to boost shirt sales.
Elsewhere there might be one or two other changes to the team. I can see Koscielny coming back in for either Vermaelen or Mertesacker. There could also be a change in midfield with Rosicky getting a game, but who would he replace? Aaron Ramsey has played a lot of games, and a rest ahead of having to play for Wales may not go amiss. Arsene seems to have been determined to keep Mikel Arteta in the side, but quite a few fans are unconvinced by the Spaniard. I think we all knew he wasn't going to be a replacement for Fabregas, but perhaps a little more impact was expected. It is worth noting that Arteta is playing in Jack Wilshere's position, alongside Alex Song, rather than at the front of the midfield. This is, in my view, restricting his influence. There is a concern that he lacks pace, and his eye for a pass takes longer to focus than we might expect from an Arsenal midfield flair player. However, my big problem with Arteta is his tendency to look sideways all the time. You might recall I had a pop at Ramsey about this before the Spurs game (less in evidence recently), and Denilson got all sorts of stick for it. The more you see it the more you think it is done under instruction. The point is that Arteta is an attacking midfield player and should be allowed to play as such. I believe he is yet another victim, like Arshavin and Walcott, of Wenger's tendency to play people away from their best position. On his debut Arteta spent twenty minutes ripping Swansea apart in tandem with Van Persie and Arshavin. He then got moved deeper by the Manager, and has rarely been seen in attacking areas since. Arteta needs a performance, and there's no time like the present.

I can't go to the game tomorrow thanks to work. My six year-old, who broke his arm on Wednesday, is taking my place and will be attending in plaster and sling. I hope the boys give him plenty to shout about and a few goals to celebrate. A win is vital ahead of the two week break for yet another round of internationals.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Radio 5 Live, A small celebration

Alan Green - does he look like a football expert?

After the game on Tuesday I was listening to Radio 5 Live again on the way home. As ever I found myself getting annoyed with the nonsense being spoken. The culprits on this occasion were Lee Dixon and Alan Green.
Lee Dixon has annoyed me a lot in recent times. He seems to be one of those Arsenal legends who is determined to make it his business to slag the Club at every turn. His target after the Marseille game was Andre Santos. Dixon has decided that Santos isn't good enough and can't defend. He is "always out of position" according to our Dicko. Some of what Dixon says is not without merit - Santos is not a full-back as English fans would understand them. However, he is exactly the same sort of player as Roberto Carlos, Maicon and Dani Alves. When did you ever see any of those three in position at the back? Santos has also been in England for less than two months, and has been thrown in at the deep end following another injury to Kieran Gibbs. People like Dixon should be defending Santos, not slagging him. Give the bloke a chance to settle in, for God's sake. Perhaps that's a luxury only afforded to those who play at Old Trafford or Anfield.
Alan Green, if you didn't know, is the fat Northern Irish commentator who insists on commentating on everything at a football match except for the game itself. I think he must see himself as football's Henry Blofeld. He actually looks more like Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the James Bond films. He decided to close the show on Tuesday by slagging the Arsenal supporters for the way the Emirates falls silent if the team is not playing well. I can't argue with that, as it's true. However, he then went on to tell us that at Old Trafford (his beloved Old Trafford - he doth protest too much about his non-support of the Mancs) it is so much different. I'm sorry? Old Trafford? The Old Trafford where Man Utd play? The stadium where opposing fans are clearly heard at every game singing about 70,000 muppets? You couldn't make this stuff up. Maybe I imagined Roy Keane's "prawn sandwich" outburst. People like Green will clutch at any straw possible to get at The Arsenal, and that is why such cretins should be banned from our stadium. He is going on the soon to be published cretin list. Our place lacks atmosphere at times, that is true. But it is honestly no worse than Anfield, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge or St James' Park - just ask those who go away to watch Arsenal every week.

This is the 300th post on this site, so I thought it only correct that we should celebrate. What better way than to see 226 glorious Arsenal goals? More specifically the 226 goals scored by the man who holds the Arsenal record.
To view all of Thierry Henry's Arsenal strikes in just 14 minutes please click on this link. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Not so Silent Stan, The mugs never learn, Marseille (h) preview

Kroenke - finally doing the talking

We've been crying out for Stan Kroenke to let us know what his intentions might be following his takeover at Arsenal Football Club. Today we've woken up to newspapers full of his views on the way the Club is being run. The headlines have largely been grabbed by Mr Kroenke's observations on the way the Glazer family is running Manchester United. The way he extols the virtues of their method of ownership will be worrying for many Gooners. It is not too long a hop from admiring the ways of others to copying them. However, the main part of what Kroenke has had to say is more about the way Arsenal do their business. It seems, having read his interview in full, that Stan wants to keep the status quo at our Club. He is all for the current business model. Yes, this way of doing things has faults, and the lack of investment in the squad is more than frustrating to most of us, but I would far rather stick with our way of doing it than go down the route of leveraged debt founded against the name of Arsenal. Kroenke is keen, in his interview, to underline the perils of being funded by a single investor, as Chelsea are. He uses examples of numerous American sports enterprises that have fallen by the wayside as a result of such investment, and the fact that the whim of one man (or, indeed, the stock market) could irreparably damage the fabric of the Club. One line is key in all of this, and that is that Stan Kroenke has never yet taken money out of his sporting interests. There remains a very real concern that his role at Arsenal is an "investment" and that implies that he would want to turn a profit for himself at some stage. Time will tell.
It seems throughout the interview that Stan is a huge admirer of Arsene Wenger. He goes to great lengths to talk about the Manager and how he is quite the best man to be in charge at Arsenal. It may not be what some wanted to hear (me included to a certain extent) but it is quite unequivocal, and such stability is important. The players know that the Manager is very much the man being backed by the owner. Kroenke addressed the players after training yesterday, in the presence of Arsene Wenger, so they are fully aware now of what will be expected of them. Kroenke was at Chelsea on Saturday and I'm sure he will have been impressed by the togetherness of this group and the way the fans backed them and responded to them. 
I have never been in favour of one man owning too much of Arsenal. However, if it was going to happen, and it was a choice between Kroenke and Usmanov, I would have chosen the American. The soundbites he has finally given us do not have me changing my mind (though the start to the season seriously had me wavering). Hopefully we are in good hands.

I was working yesterday evening and got home quite late. As usual I put Sky Sports News on and went straight to the Arsenal page on SkyText. I couldn't help but chuckle when I read that Rafael Van Der Vaart has fallen in to the trap of so many Tottenham employees of the past twenty years. He says Spurs "are better than Arsenal." Add him to the list of Anderton, Sherwood, Hoddle, Jol, Keane and co. As a result of this outburst I am now confident that Arsenal will finish above Spurs this season. Whenever they get on a (rare) good run of results we hear the mugs coming out with statements about how they are stronger than Arsenal (or similar) and that this could be their year etc etc etc. They never learn. It always comes back to bite them. It is 1st November today, and the idiots from the Lane are doing their crowing. It never ceases to amaze me. Let's wait until May before we do any of our own.

It's back to the Champions League tonight and another tough game against Marseille. I have read that Arsene is planning a number of changes to the side for this evening. This concerns me. A win tonight puts us through. In my view it is far better to do all we can to secure that qualification at the earliest opportunity. We are on a really good run right now, and disrupting that by playing a team that might come up short is a risk not worth taking. I can see the merits of resting Robin Van Persie on the bench again, but I would rather see him get that break on Saturday (or even with the game put to bed early tonight when he could be taken off).
I fully expect Thomas Vermaelen to come in tonight in place of Mertesacker. The German has done just fine, for me, but his mistakes on Saturday perhaps betray a little fatigue since he has played almost every game since joining Arsenal. Mertesacker being replaced by Vermaelen is not going to weaken us in any way. Carl Jenkinson should also come back in for Johan Djourou at right-back.
The newspapers are indicating that Yossi Benayoun will come in tonight, and that would be fine by me, as his work rate is important. However, we also look likely to see Rosicky and Arshavin replacing Walcott and Gervinho. This is too much change in my opinion. Why interrupt the rythm of players when they are showing some form?
Marseille will be stronger tonight than they were two weeks ago. One of the features of the game in France was that they failed to trouble Arsenal at any point. I can't see that happening twice. I know they have been struggling domestically, but they are still the side that beat Borrussia Dortmund 3-0. Make no mistake, Marseille have quality players in their ranks. If Loic Remy can get some service up front then he has the ability to do some damage. Tonight is not a time for complacency to set in. Arsenal must concentrate and keep working hard.

I'll try and get a match review written before work tomorrow, but time may overtake me in that regard.