Man Utd vs Arsenal in the FA Cup – Preview and Odds

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Mar 122011
 

The result today is not just about the FA Cup. Success today will lift the players’ spirits, and show that we can beat United in their own back yard, and catch them up in the race to the Premiership title. Not having a replay would also give our title campaign a boost, while other teams in the League will take heart that ManUre can be beated, even at home.

Draw, and our confidence will still be lifted. We’ll show ourselves, and other teams in the top flight that United aren’t invincible at home. We’ll have the upper hand in the tie, and we’ll face West Brom next week with renewed optimism and determination to beat anyone.

Lose, and I would be concerned for the rest of our season. That would mean we’d have gone out of three cups in a fortnight. ManUre would still be difficult to beat in our minds, and their Premiership campaign would be given a boost, not ours.

So which will happen. I’m not full of confidence in a win, as much as I’d like us to thrash them, and see Ferguson’s face turn into a chewing beetroot. A feel a draw may well be on the cards. It seems obligatory for us to have cup replays this season.

We have to consider that a wounded ManUre is a dangerous, smelly beast. Having been not so much beaten as humiliated by Liverpool and given the league’s chasing pack a boost, I imagine a strong response from them in a competition that means much to the red-faced Scot. They haven’t won it since 2004. We’ve even won it since then, in 2005.

In terms of who starts for us, we’ll be without our captain Fabregas, Alex Song and Theo Walcott. Szczesny will be out for about six weeks, so James Shea will understudy Almunia, while the hunt for an emergency keeper goes on. I have concerns about the midfield, and if Rosicky starts then it’s crucial he has a good game. Diaby played well against Barcelona and I espect him to continue in Song’s absence.

So I expect:

Almunia; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Wilshere – Rosicky – Diaby; Arshavin – v Persie – Nasri

Odds

The bookies have the home team as firm favourites at odds only slightly better than Evens. We’re 11/4 with most bookies, which has got a few Arsenally pennies. In terms of correct score, I think the game will be close and the scoreline will reflect that. We’re 12/1 for 2-1 and 40/1 for 3-2 with Coral. The half-time/full time split gives good value on the comeback, with ManUre/Arsenal 39/1 with Unibet. I might go for a line on 2-1 with the half time/full time split as above. I’ll update you when I discover what odds I can get on that.

As for goalscorers, I’m down for Nasri to score first, widely available at 9s. We’ve been fairly effective from set-pieces; Djourou is available at 20/1 with Bet365.

Let’s book our place in the semi-finals. Let’s stay in one cup this fortnight. Let’s regain our confidence and beat the league leaders. Let’s take this season by the scruff of the neck before it threatens to run away from us.

COME ON YOU GOONERS!!!!!

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Arsenal 2 Everton 1 / Offside rule review

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Feb 032011
 

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.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

West Ham vs Arsenal – Match Preview & Odds

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Jan 152011
 

After our FA Cup 3rd round tie against Leeds at the Grove, AW was quick to note the only positive he could find after our poor performance last Saturday:

I think the Leeds game will help us focus well at Ipswich. We will certainly be on our toes going to Ipswich. That game [against Leeds] has shown that against a Championship team we must be completely up for it and focused from the first minute if we don’t want to be surprised. We have been warned.

As we all know those words turned out to be some of the most apt words ever spoken by a human being, ever. But not in a good way, as we didn’t heed the warning. We weren’t on our toes, we were crawling like strange fishy/lizard thingies emerging from the primordial ooze of complacency.

So what have we learned from the Ipswich game that will help us take the maximum three points away from Upton Park? [ and their owners, both pornographers, one of whom was an alleged fraudster. ] They lie at the bottom of the league. In one sense this is a positive for us as it shows quite how badly they’ve been playing this season, but it gives them extra motivation to try and get something from the game to rise out of the drop-zone. Whether or not the Hammers changing room is behind their beleaguered boss is another consideration.

I feel for Avram Grant. He has been at the club for what, 6 months, and he is already being given targets he must reach in order to keep his job. But then I wouldn’t expect anything less from that pair of smut sellers. Quite how any manager is supposed to build a team, and achieve long term success with 6 months and the squad Grant inherited is frankly beyond me. Their dealings with Birmingham City were always motivated by personal financial reasons. They had no love of Birmingham City – David Gold ended up being banned from the stadium. Despite their East End origins, I doubt they have any love for West Ham eitiher.

All that is by the by. What we can expect – for the third time in a row – is a team significantly worse than us technically but playing with a great deal of desire and commitment. And they have more decent players than Leeds and Ipswich combined. I just hope we truly have learned the lessons of Leeds and Ipswich, and that we play with passion and determination as well as skill and ability.

None of which we showed at the Ipswich game, but our captain has instead made a bit of an idiot out of himself in the Sun:

I don’t know if it was a long ball or a rugby kick that beat us but a lot of teams in England play like that to create their chances. Arsenal played football but the other team refused to play.

Cesc, they may have used the long ball, but they out-fought and out-thought us on the night, and that’s all that matters. It wasn’t a lucky goal, we were caught too far up the pitch, and Priskin took his chance with aplomb. If we’d played with an ounce of the passion and drive that they had, we’d have destroyed them. As it was most of the players looked llike they couldn’t give a sh*t and most of them also made errors. That includes our club captain. I was very disappointed to read that. He needed to say something about drive, determination, passion, will, strength, and instead it sounded like sour grapes.

Back to West Ham, who may be bottom but have only lost once in seven games, and when they came to the Grove at the end of October, we needed an 88th minute strike from Song to win it. We can’t forget that they’ve beaten ManUre and Sp*rs already this season.

To quote a Hammers’ blog, “if we [Hammers] can dig deep and organise and fight, we can give them a game.” That approach is absolutely what is great about English football. As long as the rules of the game aren’t broken it’s exactly what we should expect from every team. And, incidentally, that approach, combined with our skill and ability, has seen us win at the Bernabeu, the San Siro, and could see us win at the Nou Camp in March. So Upton Park shouldn’t be beyond us.

In terms of West Ham’s team, I expect:

Green; Bridge – Upson – Tomkins – Faubert; Stanislas – Parker – Spector – Noble; Cole – Piquoinne

I reckon we’ll have:

Szczesny; Eboue – Koscileny – Djourou – Clichy; Song – Fabregas – Wilkshere; Nasri – v Persie – Walcott.

It’s possible that Gibbs will keep his place instead of Clichy coming back in. Likewise Theo may keep Arshavin out. On current, form, I’d be happy if both those youngsters kept their places, despite the last two games, where to summarise, they were better than most. But that’s really not saying much, is it?

Fabianksi, formerly known as FlappyHandski has been confirmed as Arsenal’s number one keeper. Quite what this means for Almunia I do not know, but surely he’ll be leaving before the end of January. We’ll see. My money’s on Dubai / Abu Dhabi.

A little stat that will put the fear of God (or rather Upson / Piquionne) into you, courtesy of @Orbinho, 32% of the goals Arsenal have conceded have been headed goals, the highest proportion in the top flight. Injuries to Squillaelen have left Djorscielny to cope on their own. Djourou has had a fantastic season so far, his best yet by a country mile. I hope they’ve rested well over the last few days, and are wise to the aerial threat we face against the Irons.

Speaking of our centre halves – Thomas Vermaelen has had a “setback”, and Squillaci did his hamstring and will be out for “2/3 weeks”. It’s been erroneoously reported in the blogosphere that the Verminator would be heading for the surgeon’s knife, but this article on the official site says that he probably won’t need it. But we don’t know when he’ll be back. I’d rather he had the operation, and had a scheduled and controlled rehabilitation, rather than being out for ages only to suffer these ‘set-backs’. But I’m not a doctor, mind you, neither is the @ArsenalMedTeam, who tweeted:

Thom Vermaelen died back in September but we’re covering it up with injuries.

Well it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Whether he’s alive or dead, the Verminator is of no use to us at present, prompting feverish speculation in the media about another CB, and this from AW:

On a short-term basis you would say yes [to signing a new defender], more as an insurance policy than a need.

Chris Samba is insurance? Could be worse…

In terms of odds for the game, I’ve got my eye (and a few Arsenally quids) on 2-1, at eights with Ladbrokes. I know I’ve been a 9 goals off over the last two games, but I’ve got a sneaky quid (or two) on 5-1 at 80/1 with BlueSquare. I can see the game going two ways – either we destroy the team at the bottom of the league, and get Avram Grant sacked, or we squeeze past in a tightly-contested London derby. I can’t see us losing. Please no, that was our rough patch, and it’s over now, beginning with a 5-0 mauling of the Hammers. If Nasri scores first, I’ll be celebrating a win at 6-1 with Bet365.

Here’s a stat to cheer you up – Arsenal have avoided defeat in all but three of their last 31 meetings with West Ham in all competitions. And a nice picture of WIlshere, Gibbs, and Walcott.

Arsenally Yours,

Will