Carling Cup Final Preview & Odds

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Feb 262011
 

Profuse apologies to my legions of couple of followers. My broadband has been down for the last week or so and all the phone calls in the world couldn’t persuade my landlady to pull her finger out. Anyway, I’m back, and have now put in some measures to ensure I can blog from other locations.

I didn’t miss much, only our only victory against Barcelona in my lifetime… no use crying over spilt internet connections. What a game it was. We hardly dominated – they passed the ball twice as many times as we did, but the win puts us in a fantastic position when we travel to the Nou Camp.

Oh and I missed the game against Stoke, which was notable only for the injuries to our captain and to Theo Walcott. According to the Sun Cesc demanded a meeting with AW to persuade him to let him play in the Carling Cup Final tomorrow, but firstly I don’t believe anything I read in the Sun, and secondly, we’d be stupid to risk losing him for the Barça rematch. Thankfully, according to the Offical Site, it looks like Cesc will miss the Final and the FA Cup replay against Orient. Theo, or the “Bovingdon Bullet” as we say here in Hemel, is less fortunate and will be on the sidelines for a couple of weeks minimum, which will see him miss the second leg against the Catalunians, but possibly feature against ManUre in the FA Cup, assuming we beat Orient at home.

What we need tomorrow is for the squad players to replace Theo and Cesc and play their socks off, something we didn’t see when we faced Orient at Brisbane Road. Our ‘B’ team’s collective failure to beat the East Londoners gives us a yet another replay in an already congested fixture schedule.

So which of them will line up against the Brutal Brummies at Wembley? Diaby, Koscielny and v Persie are back after injury, and I think all three will start. I for one hope that we do see Diaby rather than Rosicky replacing the captain; the little Czech has been rather poor this season.

Cesc’s absence means an extra burden on the young shoulders of Jack Wilshere to step up and provide the creativity. That doesn’t concern me. As the boss says:

He’s had very good games. His confidence has grown, his responsibility has grown, certainly. Our game goes naturally through Fabregas. When he’s not there, it will go more through Wilshere. The way of the game is simple: it goes always through the team’s strong points. So that the game goes through Wilshere is a good thing for him because it means the players around him have confidence in him. He will enjoy this game.

I hope he does enjoy the game, and I’m looking forward to seeing hi sleft-footed passes out to Nasri on the right flank, but how he copes with Lee Bowyer is what concerns me. Bowyer will niggle, leave the boot in, go in hard in 50:50s and generally make life difficult for the young man. It takes a great deal of maturity to rise above such things, and the guy’s only 19. Keeping 11 men on the pitch may be more tricky than usual, especially when you add the giant Zigic into the equation.

So the team I expect is:

Szczesny; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Diaby – Song  – Wilshere; Arshavin – v Persie – Nasri

Odds

The bookies have Arsenal as clear favourites, with the odds of us claiming our first piece of silverware in five years a mere 4/7 at best. I’ve gone for a 3-1 Arsenal win at 12/1 with William Hill. 4-2 to us at 66/1 with Stan James was very tempting, but my Arsenally long shot is 4-3 at 150-1 with Victor Chandler. 7/2 on any player getting their marching orders was too tempting to pass up.

As for goalscorers, you’ve got to go for v Persie to score first, haven’t you? Well I did, at 15/4 with Bet365. The odds of Jack the lad finding the net at anytime are 5/1 and that got a few pennies as well.

So – can we lift the first bit of silverware since the FA Cup in ’05? Of course we can. Will we? The answer to that question depends very much on a mature performance from a very young man.

COME ON YOU GOONERS!!!!

Arsenal 2 Wolves 0 Review – A Good Spanking

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Feb 132011
 

Beating Wolves was never going to be too tricky – they hadn’t won at our ground in 35 years or so – but the way we played was most encouraging. Sadly, the stream I was watching on was reduced to a trickle by a dodgy internet connection, so all I’ve seen is the highlights on MoTD.

That said, it seemed like a fine team performance. Wilshere particularly impressed me, was did v Persie’s right foot with which he scored the first goal after a great pass from the captain. It’s good to see him score with his weaker foot, or as he likes to call it, his chocolate leg.

Big Mick McCarthy was impressed:

They murdered us. From one to 11 they were better than us, stronger than us and quicker than us. I have to admire their class and the way they play. And for us to get better we have to admit we got turned over – we were completely spanked. We had a slapping.

They certainly did, and it would have be a mauling, a romp, an orgy of goals, a battering (no… can’t think of any more quasi-sexual, faux-violent descriptions) were it not for a fine performance by Hennessey in goal for Wolves. And excluding a bump to v Persie’s knee courtesy of Zubar, we came away unscathed! Nothing short of miraculous.

Sadly Citeh didn’t do us a favour and beat the current Premiership leaders. Rooney scored a fantastic overhead goal flukey goal to win ManUre the game 2-1. They face Chelski in Fulham and Liverpool away at the start of next month, here’s hoping they drop a few points then. Le Boss had this to say about the title race after the game:

The title race is very much on. We want to give it our best shot to win the league and we are in a good position. If we keep playing like that we have a very good chance.

We certainly are in the hunt, especially when you consider how long is left of the season. And we host the scum from Manchester ourselves at the end of April. Ancelotti’s concession that Chelsea are out of the race is misinformation. There’s still a long way to go.

Nasri will have a fitness test on Tuesday to decide if he can play against Barça. I’d hesitate to throw a player just recovered from injury straight back onto the pitch, but if he can play on Wednesday at anything like level of form we saw before his injury, then I for one would like to see him against the Catalunians.

Another first-teamer returning is Vermaelen. According to AW on the official site, he’ll run out for the reserves in a couple of weeks:

When he [Vermaelen] is fit certainly we’ll play him in the Reserve team. But not before two or three weeks. You never know until he is completely fit to play again but we are hopeful [he is progressing well]. He feels he is over the problem but he played his last game in September and we are in February so it will take some time to come back to match fitness.

Good news indeed. Fingers crossed on that front. Full Barça preview soon.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Arsenal vs Wolves Preview and Odds

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Feb 122011
 

It’s very hard to concentrate on the Wolves game, and not to think of anything else. There’s the small matter of the Barçelona game on Wednesday; there’s also a game in Mansheikster at lunchtime. However, AW is focussed on the task at hand:

There is no Barcelona in mind. There is Wolverhampton in mind… [And the Manchester derby] will not influence us.

He might well say that, but one thing’s for certain – all the players will have one or both of those matches in mind when they take to the field tomorrow afternoon. I hope and pray that Citeh win, with Berbatov and Tevez colliding in a freak accident that sees both of them out for the season with broken heads, shoulders, knees and toes. If ManUre drop points, I want the players to be thinking of the ground we can make up; I want them to have the passion to get a result, see it out to the end, and close the gap on the league leaders.

What I don’t want is the Barça game on anyone’s mind. Yes, of course, a certain Catalunian club captain may be looking forward to entertaining his boyhood hero Guardiola and his international team-mates Iniesta and Xavi more than he’s looking forward to the company of Karl Henry and Mick McCarthy, but the Premiership title is still up for grabs, and there’s a job to be done against the bruisers from the Black Country.

And a bruising game is what I expect to see tomorrow. It must be noted that Wolves are the ultimate giant-killers this season, marking victories over ManUre, Chelski and Liverpool. I hope our hunger for the top spot in the league and desire to put right what went so badly wrong against Newcastle prevail in the face of the European distraction on Wednesday night.

While Song and Djourou are potentially available, I suspect they may be granted further time to recuperate. Diaby is injured and suspended so Denilson will be in, while v Persie and Fabregas return from their mystery sickness, and “will be playing” according to the AW on official site. Rosicky is out after a groin strain he picked up on his way back from the bookies the Czech Republic.

So I expect something like:

Szczesny; Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy; Denilson – Fabregas – Wilshere; Arshavin – v Persie – Walcott

I’d very much like to see Chamakh get a start alongside v Persie. We really haven’t seen very much of the Moroccan since RvP came back from injury. Bendtner is also fit but will more likely than not warm the bench. He really works hard to earn all that money, doesn’t he? Please just don’t ever speak again, Nicklas. Every time he opens his mouth he endears himself less and less to me. I’d rather he did this more often, and had his mouth sewn together to prevent any more foot-in-mouth situations.

As for the odds, it’s hard to find value with the best odds on a home win little over 1/5, reflecting the view of my Chelski-supporting work colleague who thinks we’ll “romp away with it”. But I fear for Wolves’ physicality and our players having half a mind on Wednesday night. And I fear for complacency in our ranks. We’ve also conceded far too much at set pieces this term and I can see that trend continuing, especially if Squillaci partners Koscielny at the back. No, I’m not a fan. Being fair, he should only now be completely used to the Premiership. Anyway, I’ve plumped for a 3-1 win at 21/2 with Unibet, but I put a few sly pennies on 6-0 with William Hill at 50/1. As for first goalscorer, I’m going for our bonkers little Russian at 6s with Bet365.

At 1pm tomorrow I’ll be praying for Citeh and their over-priced, money-grabbing w*nkers to get one over their neighbours. At 3pm, I’ll be praying that the team have got Citeh’s 4-0 mauling of ManUre firmly in the front of their minds. Sorry Arsène.

Come on you gooners!

Arsenally Yours,

Will