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Posts by Will
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!