Wigan Review: One Step Back

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Dec 312010

I’ve found it hard to begin this post. What do you say in response to such a very disappointing performance and result? I’ve seen various comments in the media and on blogs about the line up, most of them criticising AW for fielding a ‘weakened’ or ‘second string’ team. It wasn’t either, it was squad rotation based on the necessities of the fixture list brought on by the idiotic FA. ManUre had a longer rest. They always seem to get a better deal from the FA, or am I alone in thinking that?

That said, such drastic changes resulted in the right-footed Eboue at LB, and the midfield trio of Diaby, Denilson, and Rosicky who offered little creativity. Ironically, Diaby’s injury improved our performance, as Wilshere came on and added urgency and inspiration to midfield, which qualities (Diaby,) Denilson, and Rosicky failed to deliver with any consistency over the 90 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the highlights by now so I won’t bore you with a breakdown of the game. If you haven’t seen them, go to the excellent Arsenalist. It wasn’t a bl**dy penalty, N’Zogbia dived like Tom Daly, and the ref bought it.

Suffice it to say that all the positive aspects of the Chelski game were forgotten. There was little collective desire, a complete lack of unified pressing of the opponents when we didn’t have the ball; virtually no organisation in defence; and we didn’t have any leaders on the pitch. It seems the squad needs another visit from Jacob Marley, aka George Graham.

Admittedly only 2 outfield players that faced Chelski started against Wigan, so hopefully those that didn’t play are rested, and the importance of the qualities we showed against Chelski were made even more clear to those that played as well as those that didn’t.

The only positives we can take from the game are that Arshavin scored for the first time since September and had some excellent patches; v Persie came through the game without an injury; Bendtner got a run-out; and err… that’s it.

In terms of negatives, apart from everything I’ve already mentioned, Diaby picked up a calf strain and will be out for 2-3 weeks. A real shame, as I believe a fit Diaby offers us something that currently only Song provides – a genuine box to box hard tackling midfielder. Pity his legs are made of polystyrene.

What is more troubling than the fact that AGAIN we missed a chance to get to the summit of the league is the lact of communication and leadership on the pitch. Cesc was rested, but in the absence of our captain, no-one t=picked up his mantle. Fabregas is never overly vocal, but whoever wears the armband, having a vocal player in the back 5 is not just a plus, it’s a necessity.

In the Sun, AW is quoted as saying:

There was no need to concede the corner which led to Wigan’s second goal. We have to make a bigger effort to communicate better.

I tell you what, Arsène, there was no bl**dy need for their second goal at all – I have no idea what the f*ck Squillaci was doing. One thing he wasn’t doing was looking at the effing ball, that’s for certain. Anyway, in typical Sun style they blamed it on the lack of good spoken English among the players. I don’t care if they shout to each other by Tibetan throat singing, they just need to start shouting, and someone needs to take charge.

In midfield and up front, the lack of drive, pressing, leadership and tracking back was blamed on a lack of leaders on the pitch. After the game AW said of our set-piece organisation:

It is a concern because nobody looks from the outside to take charge on the organisation side. There is no voice when the focus drops a little bit. You don’t feel that anybody takes charge on alertness and we need to communicate much better than that.

I’d like to see our Pole between the sticks becoming more vocal at the back. As I said above, we need one of the back 5 to step up and ensure everyone knows what they’re doing, and that everyone does it well.

In terms of the midfield and attack, and in Cesc’s absence, I’d like to see the boy Wilshere pick up this rôle. He’s a driven, technically gifted player whose talents include a great awareness of others, so he’d be ideal.

On Saturday we go to St Andrew’s, another potential away banana skin. They haven’t lost at home since the 2nd October, and let’s not forget that in between then and now, Chelski went to St Andrew’s and came away without any points. Their defence hasn’t conceded more than one goal for 6 games. We need a better team, and a better team performance than what we had against Wigan if we are to get the win we need.

I hope we see the benefits of having rested most of the ‘first team’ in Birmingham on Saturday.

Against the Russian rabble from Fulham, we took two big steps forward. Against Wigan we took one step back. Time to start marching forward, or we risk losing sight of the Manc clubs at the top of the league.

Arsenally Yours


Arsenal vs Chelski line ups and odds

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Dec 252010

It’s Christmas Eve and Arsenally Yours is preparing to don his Santa costume and sneak into the Arsenally little one’s room and leave a stocking. My agent tells me that Santa doesn’t have to be pissed to do this; I disagree, it’s a crucial part of the St Nicholas tradition. She’s good at her job, my agent, but she does like to have a nag about my eating and drinking.

Anyway, it’s about 36 hours till we face the Russian rabble from Fulham. The stats give us a mixed picture. Chelski have only won 2 of their last 9 but Drogba has 12 goals in 10 starts against us. We’re at home where our form this season has hardly been spectacular. Chelski’s away form is pretty poor though – the last time they won away was against Blackburn at the end of October.

The news regarding the Chelski line-up is that fat Lamps returns. So we can expect something like:

Cech; Ferreira – Ivanovic – Terry – Cole; Lampard – Mikel – Essien; Anelka – Drogba – Malouda

As for us, Fabianski returns, as does Diaby. I hope that we’ll start with both Chamakh and van Persie. So I expect:

Fabianski; Sagna – Koscielny – Squillaci – Clichy; Nasri – Fabregas – Song; Arshavin – Chamakh – v Persie

Comparing the two teams as I’m predicting them shows two important points.

Firstly, that Chelski will probably start with two defensive midfielders while we’ll most likely just have Song in that position. Against the better sides, sometimes we start with two ourselves so it’s possible we’ll have a middle three of Denilson, Fabregas, and Song with Nasri, Arshavin, and Chamakh up front.

I’m not in favour of making these concessions to other teams and compromising our attacking options. If we keep the ball and our front three apply themselves to their defensive responsibilities then we should ahve the confidence to start with a middle three of Nasri – Song – Fabregas.,

Another point  – and a very positive one, is a comparison of the likely benches. If my team predictions are accurate, we’ll have Walcott, Diaby, Wilshere, and Bendtner (maybe v Persie too) warming the bench. Chelski, however, will have Kalou, Zhirkov, Benayoun, and Sturridge. I know which bench I’d rather have.

Key to this match will be putting a lead on the Drog. Kosquilny® will both have to be on top of their game. Song will have to restrain his striking instincts and attend to his defensive duties. I fear that Drogba’ll put himself on Koscielny rather than his more experienced countryman. In which case we’ve got to pray for an intelligent and strong performance from the young Frenmchman.

As for the odds, the bookies only favour us by a small margin. Even given their current form Chelski are widely available at 7/4, whereas most have an Arsenal win at only 6/4. That doesn’t interest me much. I’m tempted by 13/8 on a home win with Bet365. I like the look of Nasri at 9/4 to score at any time, especially given his good run of form, but the Arsenally sensible quids will be on the captain to put one away at some point – 5/2 with Ladbrokes. We may well get a pen at some point – I’ve got the feeling that Terry will scythe down one of our players, and Ivanovic is hardly the world’s most accurate tackler. Ladbrokes also have 3-1 as the correct score at 18/1 and that’s my long shot.

Le Boss is concerned about how the FA will use Jack. I do think that the amount of U21 football that Theo played last year had an effect on his form. I really hope that the FA will deal with him sensibly. It’s not in their interests to burn him out or injure him.

In the Guardian, Arsène speaks of the large number of fixtures we have in January:

I’d say for us January is a vital month because we play many games, because we are involved in the FA Cup, Carling Cup and the championship. The way in which we can focus in every game will certainly decide our season.

Let’s keep that focus on destroying those Russian-backed upstarts before we start thinking about the new year.

I’m off to give the Arsenally little one his second ever stocking. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with you and yours. Make sure you plot your escape from distant relatives to get to the pub/telly at lunchtime on the 27th. I already have plotted mine and it involves an inescapable crisis at work. There are occasions when you should keep your agent in the dark, and this is one such occasion. I hope she’ll be too busy with her siblings to notice me and the Arsenally little one slipping away to our local. Fingers crossed.

Have an Arsenally Merry Christmas,