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Posts by Will
Worrying news from Twitter. Stade 2 – the French equivalent of MoTD has accused Rosicky of throwing the game. See here if you speak French. Unbelievable. He played pretty badly, but that’s nothing new. They claim he had a hand two of the goals, and that Interpol are opening an enquiry. They can’t, Interpol is just the means by which police forces communicate and they don’t have a ‘police force’. Complete rubbish. I hope Arsenal lawyers are onto them sharpish.
Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4 Review
Never has the tired cliché “a game of two halves” been more depressingly appropriate. Last night I couldn’t find the words to express the feelings of disappointment in our team and anger at the culprits – Dowd, Diaby, and the criminal Barton. And it must be added, fresh frustration in our transfer non-activity after the injury to Johan Djourou leaves us with two fit centre halfs.
It started so well, didn’t it? We were two up while some fans were still finding their seats. And the goals were so easy. Arshavin found Walcott after 43 seconds, and my fellow Hemelite found the back of the net. Next Djourou scored his first league goal for the club, heading in Arshavin’s free kick. Another good performance from the bonkers little Russian became irrelevant in the farce that was to follow.
Before half an hour we had four, and I was considering my 7-0 and 7-1 bets at 500-1 were a sound investment. There were signs, however, that the men in black hadn’t been to Specsavers. V Persie got crunched by two toon players, and was penalised for it. He took his revenge by getting the third and fourth goals, a cut back from Walcott and a totally free header from a Sagna cross.
There did turn out to be 8 goals as I’d predicted, but who’d have thought that the next four would be all Newcastle? Certainly not me. Even if you’d told me we’d have to play the second half with 10 men I’d have been confident that we’d have seen out the rest of the game with ease.
No doubt Pardew said something in the dressing room about commitment. No doubt he complained that they’d hardly put a challenge in. He’d have been right to say that, Newcastle in the first half were as dire as we were excellent. A different team emerged from the Toon dressing room, and it was one that craved blood.
They didn’t waste any time trying to get it. The convicted violent criminal that is Joey Barton went in hard and two footed on Diaby, in precisely the kind of challenge that breaks legs. The Frenchman’s reaction was one of fury, he grabbed Barton by the scruff of the neck and was rightly sent off. Given our number 2′s injury history, such a reaction was on some level understandable, but for the most part just plain idiotic. There was no way that Phil Dowd could allow him to stay on the pitch after that, and he knew it. Stupid.
All Arsenal players are routinely given more hard tackles than other teams receive, because of the view that “Arsenal don’t like it up them.” Some players, like Vieira was in his early playing days and Fabregas is now, are rountinely kicked around the park, in the view that it will disrupt our style of play. But both those players learnt that the only way to deal with it is not to react. To get one over their opponents by a goal and a hard tackle, not by getting themselves sent off.
I have no doubt that Barton got what he was after from Diaby, which just tells you all you need to know about the scouse git. How Phil Dowd let him stay on the pitch is just beyond me. But by reacting in such a way, Diaby’s just making the situation worse, and no doubt more teams will now act in the same way. We’ve got Wolves after the midweek international. Great!
Another decision that baffled me, was how Nolan could stay on the pitch. He did exactly the same thing as Diaby, if not worse. Szczesny clung on the ball after Barton had scored their first, a deserved penalty which Koscielny gave away. Nolan had him in a headlock and who got carded? You guessed it, Szczesny.
After they scored a lucky second, they got their third thanks to another refereeing blunder. I have no idea why a penalty was given. Koscielny jumped with Rosicky and a Toon player and the linesman waved his arm frantically. It wasn’t a soft penalty it was a ridiculous decision.
Tioté’s equaliser in the dying minutes of the game was a fine goal, to be fair. But my head had been in my hands long before then, as gooners everywhere could sense the goal coming. There was a brief moment of hope before the final whistle when v Persie scored, but it was disallowed for offside. He was level apart from his arm, which as I understand it makes him onside. But at least the decisions had a degree of consistency to them – they all went against us.
Game over, we’d managed to lose a four nil advantage. We could have been two points behind ManUre after they lost at Molineaux.
But that’s not the whole story. Yes, Diaby was an idiot, Barton’s a violent criminal, and Phil Dowd is as blind as a bat, but still. We showed a worrying lack of heart, muscle, leadership, and crucially mental strength to throw away the lead in that manner.
It’s often noticeable that a team’s performance drops when a key player is injured. Given how well he’s performed for us all this season, Johan Djourou has turned into such a player, and his loss is worrying. Fingers crossed it’s not serious. But such a drop in form – think England v Brasil in Japan when Rooney’s foot went – may be understandable, but it’s certainly avoidable.
It must also be difficult to stay focussed on discipline as a team when one of your own loses the plot in the manner that Diaby did. But you’d expect a team whose manager is constantly banging on about mental stength to have that focus, concentration and desire. They were not helped by the cauldron of St James’ Park, but they were also not helped in the second half by their captain, who as I saw it did little to raise his voice or the players’ spirits. Whether or not Cesc is captain, we need a vocal player on the pitch, and I don’t think we had one in Newcastle.
You also have to question the wisdom of bringing off two of our potent attacking weapons. It seemed as though the players on the pitch suffered a drop in confidence with the arrival of Eboue and Rosicky. Bringing them on said to Newcastle – we’re worried, and we’re not going to attack. Compound this with the fact that the Ivorian and the Czech were totally anonymous, and you have all the ingredients for the surrender of a four goal advantage. Shocking.
I hope the players are ashamed of how poorly they reacted to the adverse situation, to rubbish refereeing, and to rough tackling from the opposition. I’ve never seen such a bad half of a game from Arsenal in a long time, and I hope it’s a good while before we see the like again.
A mate of mine asked me today what my prediction would be for our game at St James’ Park tomorrow. He suggested that I could expect a romp, a mauling, a stroll in the park; that Newcastle have lost their best player, haven’t replaced him and have a long injury list. He also pointed out that the fat idiot in charge has replaced a successful manager with, well, Alan Pardew.
All valid ponits, and I agree with them all. However, I’m nervous about the game tomorrow. I read today that Arsenal have scored the fewest, and conceded the most goals from set-pieces this season in the Premier League. I had a think about Newcastle’s midfield and names like Nolan, Barton, and Tioté fill me with unease not just for the safety of our players’ tendons, bones, and muscles, but for the nature of the contest. Those are three players you could describe as ‘battling’ midfielders. Without Alex Song, who’s out for this game with a dead leg, I fear that our midfield will become overwhelmed by their strength as we were at the Grove.
Song’s likely replacement is Diaby, though Denilson is certainly a possibility. When we signed the former he was announced as our new Vieira. He hasn;t quite lived up to that billing, and I for one don’t feel that the defensive side of our midfield game is strengthened much when he’s on the pitch. Another thing about Vassiriki Abou Diaby (love the first name!) is that he blows hot and cold. Some days he’s strong in the tackle, accurate with his passing, and makes good driving runs. But other days he’s anonymous. I hope he starts in place of Denilson, but I’ll qualify that by saying that I’d rather an average Denilson performance against a poor game for Diaby. Come on Vassiriki!
I was surprised to see Rosicky start against Everton. I know Nasri’s form would make comparison with any teammate difficult, but for me the little Czech hasn’t had a single game this season – nor a substitute appearance – where you could say that he played well. He’s a great player to have to come on and add a measure of control to midfield passing when we’re ahead, and when he is on form his creative forward passing can be excellent. But he’s hardly on fire at the moment, and I’d rather see him warm the bench, with a midfield three of Wilshere, Fabregas and Diaby.
As I mentioned in my review of the Everton game I was happy to see Arshavin get on the scoresheet. Some say when he has off days that he’s supremely lazy, and doesn’t seem to care. It’s a classic example of the psychological phenomenon called the fundamental attribution error. It’s easy to assign character- and personality-based motives to someone for behaviour that is more likely caused by physical and situational factors. In other words, if he looks lazy and not interested it’s more likely that he’s just having an off day, and just not playing as well as he can, than that he’s actually lazy and not interested. Fickle fans are always quick to slag off a player they perceive as underperforming by labelling him lazy. I don’t think he is, simples as that. He’s now back among the goals, and I hope to see him get another to wipe the idiotic grin off that fat tw*t Ashley.
We’ll have the same back 5 that faced Everton, so I’m expecting:
Szczesny; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Wishere – Fabregas – Diaby; Arshavin – v Persie – Walcott.
In making my predictions and putting my money where my keyboard is, I’m bearing in mind what I said above about the the strength of their midfield, no Alex Song, and their performance at the Grove. It’s reassuring to hear AW say:
They had a fantastic game against us at the Emirates, where they did very well collectively…But they are still a good side, Newcastle. We expect [them] to be up for it against us and so we prepare ourselves to meet a good team.
I should think so too. I just hope that this message is passed on, inwardly digested, and borne out on the pitch by the players, and that we don’t have any complacency drifting into the back of any player’s mind. That would be fatal.
In the face of such pessimism, I’ve plumped for 2-1 at 15/2 with SkyBet. My long shot is the complete opposite of such negativity. When I saw both 7-0 and 7-1 at the very tempting 500/1 with Paddy Power, I couldn’t decide between the two. With the best odds of 6-0 a comparatively measly 175/1 I had to place a few pennies on both those scores, didn’t I!
As for goalscorers, I went for Cesc to score first at 13/2 with Bet365. Never forget he usually takes the pens. Having defended Arshavin in this post, I feel obliged to back him with the odd quid to score first at 7s with Bet365. If you’re feeling bold then how about Clichy getting his name on the scoresheet first at 66/1 with Coral? Having gone for two polar opposite scoreline wagers, I thought I’d better back that with some spare change. Money down the drain you say? I say “Come on Gaël”.
With ManUre a shoe-in to beat Wolves, let’s hope that Liverpool continue their resurgence, Suarez gets a hat-trick against Chelski and Torres breaks several bones and does both cruciates. But on a more serious note, only 3 points will keep us close on ManUre’s heels. Let’s take ‘em from the Toon.
COME ON THE ARSENAL!
Apologies for the tardiness of this post, I wasn’t murdered in my sleep but cut down in my prime by a poorly set up internet connection. There is much to discuss, and sadly little is about the football itself, but rather referees, rules, and reactions.
The game was an exciting one for a number of reasons. There was the fact that Everton seemed to have the opinion that if they attempted to break legs then that might interfere with our free-flowing football. But, and I’m very happy to report this, we stood up to them, and gave as good as we got.
It was after about 25 mins that the game became truly exciting, thanks to Mr Lee Mason. Here’s the “goal”:
Well, it’s just offside isn’t it? I’m certainly no expert, and I’ll leave it to others to discuss the finer points of the offside rule, but there is no argument to the facts that:
a) when the ball was played through to Saha he was in an offside position.
b) Djourou touch was not a pass back to the goal keeper.
In the light of those two points, it seems fairly clear to me that the “goal” and Mason and his henchmen’s “decision” was a farce.
Now, what interests me more are two points. Firstly, Cesc’s reaction, and secondly, the team’s reaction.
For the first point, and we are only having this discussion because David Moyes brought it up, Cesc asked the fourth official / referee / linesman (depending on who you read) how much he’d been paid to make the decision. I understand it was the heat of the moment. I would rather that his passion ran hot rather than cold. But if true, it’s really not good for our club captain to say such things. I may be approaching “old fart” territory here, but I was always taught that the referee’s decision is always right. It might not be correct, but it’s always right. And last week Cesc tried to get the Huddersfield player sent off. He defends his alleged comments on the official site here. As AW points out, if he was guilty of such an offence then he’d have been charged. The fact still remains that he represents the club on the pitch, and haranguing the referee is not what the Arsenal is about.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Cesc, in that both decisions were ridiculously bad. But it is up to the manager to raise these issues with the FA, and no player, especially the club captain, should be saying such things to the referee. We need to direct our feelings of injustice towards the ref or the opposition into playing well, playing hard, and scoring goals.
Which is, thank God, what happened anyway, bringing me on to my second point of the team’s reaction. Which was positive, and encouraging. Arshavin came on for the anonymous Rosicky and volleyed coolly past the Toffees’ keeper. Great finish, especially when you consider the pressure that he’s under after such a barren spell. One thing that interested my, though, was how the team celebrated the goal. It’s alwas interesting, as you can see who’s mates with who, and who doesn’t get on with other players. It seems to me that he’s a bit isolated. I could be reading too much into this, but if you compare the team’s reaction to Arshavin’s goal with the goal that Koscielny scored, you’ll see that the former is far more muted than the latter. Hmm.
It has to be said that our second was only down to poor defending by Everton. Not picking up the opposition’s centre-half is just a schoolboy error, and they paid dearly for it. After Koscielny’s goal went in, the fight went out of Everton, and we saw out the rest of the game with ease. We may not be so lucky on other occasions.
Speaking of luck, our older Polish keeper hasn’t got any, as he’ll miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery in Germany. I wish him well, and hope he returns full of confidence, and ready to challenge Szczesny for the number one shirt. It’ll be interesting to see who starts the next game between the sticks. With Fabianski injured, Almunia’s assumed move away couldn’t happen, and now we have a young keeper vying for the first team spot with an older, more experienced Spaniard who wanted to leave by all accounts. Watch this space.
So we face Newcastle on Saturday. Bring ‘em on. This team is building up a head of steam, and long may that continue. Injuries aside – and we did miss Nasri – we’re on a good run, and if we can keep it up then who knows where we’ll end up. One thing’s for sure though, we need ManUre to drop a few points, and Rooney’s return to goal-scoring form worries me. Taking 3 points from St James’ Park will relieve my concern – it’ll be a test of strength and will in front of a cauldron of some of football’s most passionate fans. Preview to follow tomorrow.
It’s been a particularly crazy day as £30 million is spent on a coke-snorting, tart-sh*gging long haired idiot with only 10 Premier League goals to his name. Sorry, what’s that, there’s a lawyer on the phone. I do apologise Mr Carroll, that’s 11 Premier League goals. Still, we have been afforded some hilarity when news broke of Sp*rs’ interest in Phil Neville. Oh, that made me giggle.
But the serious point for gooners everywhere is that – AS OF 2230 – we haven’t signed anyone, AW instead preferring to consider bringing players back from loan spells. And not just that, he’s sent Kyle Bartley off to Rangers, and Gilles Sunu off to Lorient. I hope they both fare well, and return better, hungrier players ready to be involved with the first team. You couldn’t ask for a better place for a young defender to get toughened up than Glasgow. Good things are expected of young Mr Bartley in the future. I’ll let you know how he gets on from time to time.
I’m all for inspiring confidence in the squad that we have, maturing young players, etc etc, but the sad fact is that we really do lack a decent centre half. I’m not just talking about the next 2 games when Squillaci’s injured, but for the forseeable future. We simply don’t know if Vermaelen’s injury woes are over.
Yes, we should be positive, but it may well turn into an Owen Hargreaves or worse, a Ledley King type of situation. And if that happens we need more on the bench than Ignasi Miquel, a player who has never played for the first team. Let’s face it, Djourou is playing very well, but he’s hardly been Mr Reliable Muscles-Tendons in previous seasons.
So I’m disappointed, but not overly surprised. There is some time left, and we all know that the club keeps transfers very close to their chest. I shall update as and when anything happens.
Anyway, lock up your valuables tomorrow evening as we face Everton in a late kick-off. If I had to speculate, I’d say that the no.1 shirt, as it were, will return to the young Pole after Almunia featured in the shop window clash with Huddersfield. Djourscielny will return, as will our regular full backs Clichgna [stop it, Ed]. I also expect returns for Fabregas, Song, Wilshere and v Persie. I’d like the question of who replaces Nasri to be answered in the person of ‘the Bovingdon Bullet’, as we Hemelites like to call Walcott. He lives up the road from here, you know. Arshavin or Bendtner or Chamakh? Pick two of them, I’d say the Russian and the Moroccan.
As for the odds, I have to consider how wrong I’ve been recently, and how Everton haven’t set the league on fire this year. I’m going for 3-0 at 9s with William Hill (and others). It seems to be our favourite scoreline at the moment, the Terriers aside. I like the look of Wilshere as first goalscorer at 16-1 with Coral. The Arsenally finances are a bit stretched – you would have thought my agent would be earning money today of all days but she’s been strangely quiet – so that’s it for me. The more adventurous, and optimistic of you might fancy my long shot – Theo to get a hat-trick at 66/1 with BlueSquare. Oh go on then, a few pennies.
I’ll levae you with the wise words of the ‘holic:
Name me the players who moved, that we would have wanted to buy, at a price that we would have wanted to pay, and who would have wanted to come to us? You can’t, can you?
Quite. The Verminator will be back, won’t he?
Have just realised that my team prediction includes 12 players. Walcott – v Persie – Chamakh is what I’d like to see. Sorry, it’s late, and I’ve just been screamed at by some psychopathic nutjob who I’m unhappy to report is my new housemate. I shall return with a review tomorrow night, assuming I’m still alive.
Huddersfield Town are also known as the Terriers and the played like, well, terriers. The feeling of getting through to the next round of the cup is somewhat marred by the injury suffered by Nasri, and the upcoming suspension of Squillaci after the latter got himself sent off for a professional foul.
After the first twenty minutes I thought that we were going to walk it and that my long-shot punt of 7-0 might even come off. Huddersfield sat back and waited for us to attack, in what seemed to me to be tactical suicide. After a few wayward shots from Arshavin and Bendtner we were soon ahead when the latter took a shot from the edge of the area, and it deflected off Peter Clarke into the net.
But it all changed when in about the 30th minute Nasri chased a ball over the top. He pulled up, and we could all see it was his hamstring that had gone. 3 weeks out, I tweeted. That now look optimistic with the news – albeit unconfirmed – that it’s a bad one. That means it could be about 6 weeks. Fantastic, our best player out for at least one of the two Champions League games against Barça. It’s a real shame for Sammy – just as he was finding some truly scintillating form that would certainly have found him back in his country’s national team, he finds himself out with a serious injury. We’ll miss him badly, I fear. Nonetheless, a chance for young Theo to prove his mettle and push for a permanent spot in the team.
Back to the Huddersfiled game. As so often happens when a player leaves the field with a bad injury, we looked shell-shocked, and Huddersfield could have gone two up before the end of the first half.
And just before the interval, things rapidly went from really bad to much, much worse. Squillaci blocked the impressive run of Jack Hunt, and got his marcfhing orders. When I saw it the first time, I called Mark Clattenburg some pretty terrible things, and won a rebuke from my agent for bad language in front of the Arsenally little one. It didn’t look like the Huddersfield player had the ball under control at all, but the benefit of a replay proved that it was, frankly, deserved. No sooner is he back from injury than the Fritalian defender finds himself suspended. Great.
And so the game rapidly swung in Huddersfield’s favour as they made the extra man count, if you’ll excuse the cliché.
He may be having a bad patch, as is so widely reported, but guess who tracked back to put in a last-ditch tackle to prevent a Huddersfield goal – our little Russian! I was impressed with his work for the team, if not for his finishing.
Huddersfield got their equaliser on the hour when Lee headed home a corner. Cue panic at Arsenally Yours, the tearing up of all my betting slips, etc etc. But I cheered up when I saw el capitano warming up, and was happier still to see him come on to replace the clearly rusty Diaby.
Yet again, he transformed the game. His presence alone seemed to calm the team, and we had chances with Koscielny, Arshavin and Bendtner going close.
As the game came to its close, and I was considering how best to rant about having yet another replay against lower league opposition, Bendtner was hauled down in the centre of the area, about 5 feet from goal, by the last defender. Clattenburg did point to the spot – I suppose we can thank our lucky stars for that – but why no red card? It couldn’t have been a clearer goal-scoring opportunity. Idiot. But I didn’t like seeing our captain trying to get said idiot in black to see sense and send the Terrier’s defender off. There’s just no need.
Up stepped Cesc, and slotted the penalty home. Thank God. Once again he saved our bacon, and we saw out the remaining minutes to win the tie and proceed to the next round. We’ll face Leyton Orient at the Matchroom stadium in the fifth round. Should be a great game, and one the Arsenally grandad would have treasured. The O’s were, if you like, his second team, and he’d also check to see how they got on every Saturday. A mate of mine is a fan, so I may well find myself there.
But that’s not for 3 weeks or so. In the meantime, we face Everton at home after a laughably short rest of 1 day. One day? I know they’re all supposed to be professional athletes, but that’s ridiculous. And, it’s worth pointing out, Everton may not be doing wonders in the league, but they managed to get a draw against Chelski.
Despite the win, it’s all a bit depressing, really. Nasri out for up to 6 weeks, our only reserve defender suspended, and no time to prepare for Everton. But how about this to cheer you up – Fulham 4 Sp*rs 0. That’s much better.
At noon on Sunday we face Huddersfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Clearly, complacency is our enemy here, as it was against Leeds and against Ipswich. Our other enemy, this time an enemy from within, is the dreaded rotation. I was tempted to abandon my usual team prediction, but I’ll give it a go nonetheless.
Here’s the injury news from the official site:
I imagine that the skipper may get a rest, as will young Mr Wilshere. Up front, I’m pretty certain that Chamakh will start. I’ve a feeling that Gibbs might get a place ahead of Clichy. So I’m going for:
Szczesny; Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs; Denilson – Song – Diaby; Nasri – Chamakh – Bendtner
That is a team that can easily beat Huddersfield, no matter how well they play, and even with Kevin Kilbane and Benik Afobe, our loanee who AW has allowed to play against us. The best price on an Arsenal win is a laughable 1/7. I’m plumping for 4-0 at 9/1 with Sportingbet, and our loud-mouthed Dane to score first at 9/2 with Bet365. My long shot? How about 7-0 at 66/1 with Sportingbet? I thought so too, to the tune of a few pennies.
Our bully-boy, leg-breaking opponents in the Carling Cup Final, Birmingham City, have signed Curtis Davies and Obafemi Martins is on his way. I don’t really think this makes them much of a tougher prospect – though Martins does have some qualities – but it just brings into perspective our lack of movement in the transfer window so far. As regards our bid for another youngster from Southampton, Alex Oxlade-Chaberlain:
There is no news and I’d be surprised if there will be any.
I’m disappointed about that. Yes, it could be the typical Wenger silence before the signing, but it could be that Southampton are pricing him out of our reach and into the likes of Chelski and Mansheikhster City. He might be worth the money if he’s as good as other former Southampton youngsters like Theo, and dare I say it, the chimp from up the road, Gareth Bale.
As for our defensive issues, we’ve been linked with as many CBs as the press can think of, from PSG’s Mamadou Sakho to Per Mertesacker to Chris Samba. So my bullsh*tometer was on high alert when I heard another rumour. But firstly because I read it first on the rather excellent Young Guns Blog, and secondly because he really does sound like a Wenger signing, I think this rumour might have some legs, so to speak. I’m giving it a 4/10 – certainly possible, but decidedly whiffy.
The player in question has possibly the most unpronouncable name in football I’ve heard yet – Šime Vrsaljko. My agent spent some time in Croatia and apparently it’s Sheemé Vursal(ye)ko, if you catch my drift. I think I’ll call him Shimmy. Anyway, he’s a right back who can play centre back, he’s young, quick, technically gifted, and great on FM. Apparently we’ve sent representatives to Dinamo Zagreb, so we shall see. I’m not holding my breath.
In other news, our favourite nutty Russian, Andrey Sergeyevich Arshavin, has been doing a little introspection and decided that he’s not on form. I’m absolutely positive that I saw this same story on the official site a few months ago. I hope this time he’s spurred on to perform better. He’s not playing badly per se, but he’s clearly lacking confidence. That we haven’t seen any shots from distance from him is a good indicator of this. Let’s hope he puts in a good shift against Huddersfield.
Profuse apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days. Arsenally Yours was decidedly ill; I think it was flu but my agent said it was just a bad cold. What do agents know anyway! Whatever it was, it was sufficiently bad enough for her to confiscate my dongle and confine me to bed.
I’m feeling better now, in no small part due to the fact that we’re going to Wem-ber-ley! On February 27th, we have the chance to lay our hands on some silverware for the first time in 6 years. We can avenge the defeat to Chelsea in the 2007 League Cup final by beating Birmingham or West Ham. As Cesc said after the game, it doesn’t matter who we face, it’ll be a Cup Final and we can expect a tough game from either. That said, we may still be in all 4 competitions, but this represents our best chance of silverware this year by a country mile.
I had some fears before the game that we’d rotate too much – that Fabregas, Nasri, Song and v Persie wouldn’t start and we’d lose the fluent, succesful style of play that we’ve all enjoyed watching in the last few games. Those fears proved partially unfounded, as Nasri and Song gave way to Denilson and Bendtner.
As it was, it’s a credit to Denilson that we didn’t miss Song, even against a team a combative as Ipswich. And if it wasn’t for Bendtner’s goal in the 61st minute, I fear it could have been a different result.
Ipswich played very well for the first 60 minutes, and it’s hard to reconcile that team performance with their poor league position. They really didn’t look like relegation candidates heading for League 1. Until Bendtner’s goal came, I did start to worry that they’d pull off a draw and knock us out. Obviously, they defended in numbers, but they didn’t park their tractors in front of their goal, and gave us a good run for our money.
We almost went behind when Sagna and Szczesny collided, gifting McAuley an open goal and a free header. Thankfully it went wide, but Sagna had to go off to be replaced by Eboue in an incident that predictably gave the commentary team the opportunity to roll out their best ‘Keystone Cops’ clichés. I hope the substitution was just precautionary. I shall try to keep you updated when I hear more.
We had a few more chances in the first half, V Persie hitting the crossbar, and Bendtner had a golden chance when their keeper dropped the ball, but sadly his shot was blocked. After the restart, there was an air of desperation, and although it looked like we’d score at any moment, I was having a serious case of the pessimisms.
But the goal came, and what a goal it was. Excellent first touch to take him past Carlos Edwards, a touch inside and a then Bendtner curled a great finish inside the far post. I really, really hope that the goal proves a springboard for a return to the kind of form that he’s lacked in the last few games.
That drew us level on aggregate, but we didn’t have long to wait for the goal that would put us ahead for the first time in 180 minutes. Corner to the Arsenal, Koscielny lost his marker, their keeper came and missed the ball, and the Frolish’s header found an empty net. Cue Arsenally Yours feeling a lot better all of a sudden.
And to cap it off, soon after that, Cesc nutmegged the keeper to put us 3-0 ahead! You won’t believe me, no doubt, but my Arsenally quids were on 3-0 at 11/2 so some bubbly was uncorked chez Arsenally Yours in celebration of our impending trip to Wembley and Arsenally Yours’ bank balance being augmented by no small amount.
Now we have a chance to rest until Sunday when we play our 9th game of January. Another game against opposition in a lower league, this time from 2 tiers below us. After complacency cost us a replay against Leeds and a nervy rematch with the Tractor Boys, let’s knock this one on the head on Sunday. No replays please!
Arsenally much better now,
Before we have the opportunity to book a place in the Carling Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve got the bread and butter of our league standing to attend to. Wigan arrive at the Grove tomorrow to face a buoyant Arsenal who seem to have put their recent poor form behind them.
The Latics are hovering around the relegation zone having only won 4 times this season. Their last 5 visits to N5 in the league have all ended in home wins and clean sheets. But on the other hand, Wigan have only lost one of their last seven games (but won just one of those); our last two games with Roberto Martinez’s men – both ‘oop north’ have yielded just one point out of six.
They have some talented players in N’Zogbia and Rodallega, the latter especially capable of creating a goal out of nothing. So while there is room for confidence, there is no room for complacency, as we discovered to our cost against Leeds and Ipswich.
I imagine that we’ll see something like a full-strength team with Fabregas returning to captain the side, along with v Persie and Wilshere. At the back the only question is whether we’ll see Kieron Gibbs or Gael Clichy. I’d prefer to see the Englishman continue his run in the side, and put some pressure on Clichy to get rid of the lapses in judgement / concentration / brainwaves that lead him to make glaring errors on a matchly basis.
Another selection dilemma is whether to continue with Arshavin. The bonkers little Russian doesn’t seem happy at the moment, and it’s easy to see why. Last season he’d have games where he’d hardly touch the ball, only to pop up and score or set someone else up with a marvellous bit of skill.
This season it’s been more the case that he’s worked hard, occasionally got an assist, but has only managed 4 league goals and at times looked badly out of sorts. His run of the mill passing is great, but when he tries anything beyond that, more often than not these days it ends up coming to nothing. As tempting as it is to bring Theo on as an impact sub to attack defenders’ tired legs, I’d prefer to see him play a whole game, and give the bonkers Russian a rest.
Another player who could do with a rest is Nasri. But when a player’s in his kind of sparkling form, it might be wisest to play him for the first 60 mins, and if a victory is secured throw on Rosicky in his place.
So I expect from Wigan:
Al-Habsi; Gohouri – Gary Caldwell – Alcaraz – Figueroa; Stam – Watson – Diamé – Thomas – N’Zogbia; Rodallega
And for us:
Szczesny; Sagna – Koscielny – Djourou – Gibbs/Clichy; Song – Fabregas – Wilshere; Nasri – v Persie – Arshavin/Walcott
Arsenally betting tips
Tellingly, the best odds on a home win are 2/9, and 5-0 is a miserly 9/1 with Victor Chandler. The Arsenally quids are boldly placed on a 5-0 romp at 22/1 with SportingBet. The same firm have 50/1 on 6-0 which may well get a few pennies. As for goalscorers, it’s got to be the captain, who of course takes the pens. Cesc to score first is 11/2 with Paddy Power.
In other news, it seems we’ve broken the habit of a lifetime and professed to an interest in another club’s player during the transfer window – shock, horror! It’s Bolton’s Gary Cahill, of whom AW said:
At the moment, I cannot come out with any name. I think Gary Cahill is a very good player but I cannot tell you more.
He really does crack me up sometimes, Arsène. I think his ‘silence’ speaks volumes. AW seems to be on good terms with Owen Coyle after Jack Wilshere’s loan spell, and more importantly, Bolton have signed David Wheater from Middlesborough as a possible replacement. He’d be a good signing – experienced, Premiership match fit, and used to battling against stronger opposition. My bullsh*tometer gives this a mere 2/10 – quite likely, but there’s a funny smell in the room.
In another break from our tradition omerta, “There’s a slight chance” that Almunia will leave in this transfer window. Given that this has been stated on the official site, it gets a 1/10 on the bullsh*tometer – as likely as it gets, and only trained dogs can sense the hint of cow.
Aaron Ramsey and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas are to go to Dave Jones’s Cardiff on loan, according to the ‘holic. It’ll be a great chance for the both of them to get some games under their belt. For Ramsey, this means recovering and getting back into his football by playing games not warming benches; for JET, it’s a chance to show AW that he’s got what it takes to stay at the club and push for a first team place. Good luck to the pair of them. I hope they return hungry to get (back) into the first team and push on with their careers.
I shall be travelling down to my mum’s this weekend for Christmas. Yes, I know what date it is, but she was away in Australia over the 25th December, so we’re having our family Christmas this weekend. And seeing as it’s Christmas, I’ll be going with the other men over to the pub at about, say, 3pm?
COME ON YOU GOONERS!
Well, my money was on 2-1 or 3-2 to Arsenal. So close. I looked at Sagna to score anytime at something like 50-1, but thought, nah, he’s already scored one this season, he won’t get another. Oh well. The Arsenally wallet may be feeling a little light, but I’m feeling great because we’re still in the FA Cup, thanks to a good performance by a team that was hardly our strongest.
We didn’t have Fabregas, Wilshere, v Persie or Walcott. The trio that had performed so badly against Ipswich – Denilson, Bendtner and Arshavin all started alongside Chamakh, Song, and captain for the day, Samir Nasri.
The little Froroccan played well and was rewarded with a goal on 5 mins. At first view, it looked a little fortunate, with Chamakh, Arshavin and Nasri exchanging passes somewhat awkwardly. But the replay proved it to be a top piece of skill and strength from Nasri. Last season, I don’t think he would have got as far as getting a shot away. Yesterday, he brushed aside two defenders, and buried it with the finish of a man brimming with confidence.
Denilson impressed me last night. Sometimes, it seems all he can do is pass the ball square and behind him. Last night he played some fantastic passes, and despite his slight frame, made his mark on the match. With Nasri playing well, and Song putting in a good shift, we controlled the game for long periods, and the home side were restricted to the odd counter-attack which Djorscielny cleaned up without Szczesny having a save of note to make.
Bendtner, however, did not. His touch was heavy, he found space on occasion but never used it. It was his dreadful first touch that allowed the ball to rebound to Sagna, who cut in and let fly into the top corner. Mini-Schmeichel had little chance, even though he got a finger to it. Good to see Sagna back after suspension; he had a top game all round, despite Bendtner not doing a lot in front of him. Of course, it was his cross that v Persie connected with to score our third, but apart from that, I certainly wasn’t impressed. I have to say, though, that Chamakh didn’t cover himself in glory either. Generally speaking, he was just a bit quiet. I hope having a fit-again v Persie competing with him for a place in the starting line-up will spur him on to better things.
As for Andrey, the butty little Russian, he did have some patches where he was playing well, creating opportunities for others, and having a few shots on target himself. He’s just not hitting the heights that we’ve seen from him in the past. However, as with Denilson, he was focussed and determined, which in my book goes a very long way towards a good, if not great performance. Opposing teams are careful with him; he’s learning that he can use that attention to feed others, and his play in the final third will only get better and better. The goals will come, and I hope he doesn’t start to get a complex about not scoring as much as he’d like. He very nearly scored at the start of the second half, and would have done were it not for the ludicrously named Robert Snodgrass putting in a great last ditch tackle.
Djorou and Koscielny had good games. The goal we conceded was an absolute corker, the only possible thing to say is that Nasri could perhaps have closed down a bit better, but if he did the same thing a hundred times again, I doubt we’d concede one goal in a hundred.
As the game wore on, Leeds pressed more and more, but when we brought on Bat-Cesc and Robin in place of Arshavin and Chamakh, the extra quality brought us a goal when v Persie connected with Bendtner’s cross. 3-1, and a sigh of relief from Arsenally Yours, and AW’s record of not going out before the 4th round left intact.
Ok I was secretly hoping for a last minute consolation for Leeds, but happier to have seen a good performance from some of our fringe-ish players and lose a few quid, than to have seen a rubbish performance and gained a few quid.
I did promise the fruits of my labour in terms of research into Achilles tendinopathy. However, I’ve seen on the website that he’s undergone surgery that I didn’t read about. So have a look, here on the official site, and join with me and fellow gooners in some serious finger crossing for good news in a month’s time.
Something is very clear in my mind. If we play with the same team that destroyed West Ham on Saturday, then we’ll progress through to the next round. We will, no doubt, rotate some players, but the starting eleven must be strong for us to progress.
The question is, will the boss give Bendtner, Denilson, and Arshavin the chance to make good on their poor performances against Leeds and Ipswich? I suspect he might. Gibbs for Clichy is another possibility, and on the other wing the defence will most likely be strengthened by the return of Sagna from suspension.
Nasri had a rest prior to the game against West Ham, and I expect him to start, perhaps as he did against the Hammers as one of the front 3 rather than in midfield. We must remember Jack Wilshere’s tender years, and Denilson is a likely replacement for him. Fabianski is still injured so his younger compatriot will start in goal. Up front, we may well see a return for Chamakh. I’d like to see Theo keep his place and inflict his pace on Leed’s back four.
So I expect something like:
Szczesny; Gibbs – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Song – Denilson – Fabregas; Nasri – Chamakh – Walcott.
I could well be utterly wrong and we’ll see Arsh, v Persie and Bendtner up front, but anyway, the key is the midfield. If Denilson is to start in place of Wilshere he really must get a handle on the game, and make sure his passes find their targets. The captain was hardly blameless against Ipswich, and I expect him to put in a good shift and prove he has the desire to win even in the FA Cup.
In terms of the odds, as a point of interest, the bookies have us as hot favourites, even away at Elland Road, with a home win 5-1 and us to win at only 8/13. Being Arsenally sensible, I’ve plumped for 2-1 (to the Arsenal, of course!) at 15/2 with Blue Square. The same firm have 3-2 at 28/1 which might get a few of my pennies. Not wanting to bet against us, but Sanchez Watt to score first is 16/1 with Blue Square again, which is my long shot. An alternative bet I placed a couple of penniew on had me considering a congested penalty area, and our striker Alex Song getting a goal at some point at 6/1 with Paddy Power.
This week could potentially see us get knocked out of 2 cups. To be knocked out against Leeds at Elland Road would be a nightmare to those of us who remember Leeds pre-collapse to League 1. The thought of a youthful Alan Smith is giving me shivers. AW has never been knocked out in the 3rd round before. Let’s keep that record alive.
COME ON YOU GOONERS!