Arsenal 1 Villa 2 Review

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May 162011
 

I’ve just watched the Villa highlights again, and it’s hard to know exactly where to start. Vermaelen’s studs. That’s a place to start. Our players and staff are paid a fortune to be the best, and when you’re a player coming back from a long term injury, you shouldn’t be slipping and sliding around, risking another year out with a nasty injury. Unbelievable. Apart from that, it was fantastic to see him back after such a long time, and it was interesting to see that he set his partner in defence in deep contrast.

Speaking of which. Squillaci. I’ve rarely seen a worse performance. He looked like a fish out of water on a bicycle. For the Sun, that bastion of reliable comment, to give him 0/10 really is quite an indictment on what was a very poor performance. I expect to put in a much better shift  next time around, should he feature against Fulham.

Actually, I have seen a worse performance than Squillaci vs Villa. Firstly the entire Arsenal team (except v Persie) against Stoke. And secondly, Mike Oliver, the FA’s new ref, who managed to miss Ramsey’s blatant, obvious penalty from about one-and-a-half yards away, and contrived to give penalise Chamakh for scoring a goal. Unbelievable. If that’s the FA showing us a young ref with a promising future, gawd help us all.

It’s all quite preposterous and one thing is clear to me. Major surgery is needed on the rotten, gangrenous, pustule-filled wound that is the current Arsenal squad. There will be no Fabregas next year. We must replace him with a proper centre half, and a decent striker.

It’s far, far too early to be talking names, but watching the ‘Ammers go down, one can’t help but think that we could do with a certain Matthew Upson, once the promised Tony Adams reborn of Arsenal of yore. I wouldn’t mind Scott Parker either. Demba Ba would be better than Bendtmakh, or whatever useless combination of frontmen those two have transformed into.

As you can tell, dear readers, I’ve had a weeny little bit too much to drink, and proper comment should not be made at such emotional moments. Suffice it to say that I will always love the Arsenal, even if we finish fourth. Against Fulham it’s time for those who wish to have an Arsenal future show that they can play not just for medals, not just for fame, not just for money, but for pride and love of club as well.

Yours emotionarsenally,
Will

Bolton 2 Arsenal 1 Review and some soul-searching

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Apr 252011
 

It’s hard to know exactly where to begin; how to summarise a game that cruelly ended our title hopes. From 4 possible trophies a month or so ago to zero is a massive disappointment.

And it’s not the first time. For the third season in a row we have been fighting on all possible fronts, in with a shout of all possible trophies, only to slip away at the end of the season. AW mentions mental strength and mental fragility more than any other manager I know of; why is it then that we seem to lack the fight, the resilience, the edge – the mental strength, if you will, Arsene – to see the season through to the end?

I can’t be bothered, frankly, to go through all the games we’ve come close to winning but failed. Some just stick in the memory. That ridiculous game at St James’s Park, the recent game against Spurs. We just cannot seem to get through the last few minutes of a game without conceding a goal. And just taking the Bolton game as an example, can a side that concedes two goals from two corners compete for the title?

I’m a big AW fan (as you may be aware!) but reading this on the official site really p*ssed me off:

The facts are the facts. I feel the players [have] had an outstanding attitude [during] the whole season and they are not to blame. If there is someone to blame, it is me. I pick the team and I choose the players. For me, the players [have] had an outstanding attitude all season.
Yes, it is very unsatisfactory because that is one of the easiest run-ins we have had for a long time. We didn’t take our chances many times during the season and that is frustrating because you feel that the potential is there. But we live in a job where you have to take your chances and be realistic. We still lack something that is called maturity, experience or calmness in important situations.

Firstly, I’m not so sure that the attitude has been right. Attitude and the inability to keep a clean sheet for the last ten minutes are closely linked. The right attitude should mean that we do not, ever, concede such goals. And all too often some players – Arshavin, Bendtner, Clichy, I’m looking at you – have been respectively completely anonymous, unbelievably useless, and on a different planet.

Secondly, in terms of “something that is called maturity, experience or calmness in important situations”, that just can’t be used as an excuse any more. Let’s not forget it was Eboue who gave away the penalty to Sp*rs. An experienced international, not someone who can be marked down as young and inexperienced. The rest of the Arsenal ‘youngsters’ – Jack Wilshere excluded – all have years of Premiership experience and international tournaments behind them. It’s about time that youth stopped being an excuse. It never was a good excuse anyway, and for one thing, they’re just not that young any more.

So what is the future for this Arsenal team. I’m not going to join the ranks of those who campaign for an end to AW’s tenure, but I am going to suggest that this team requires some major surgery to turn it from a group of promising also-rans to a team of winners.

The problem is, will AW and our new owner countenance such changes? Do we need to change the philosophy of the club and buy experienced players? Do we need to change the way we play? These are difficult questions, and the answers requires more thought than a simple knee-jerk reaction to an awful performance, even it is a performance that relegates us to third, and puts an end to any hopes of silverware this season.

In my opinion, it’s certainly a good thing to be able to laugh at oneself, and a necessary ability in any gooner. Have a look at this from the Daily Mash.

Arsenally and unhappily yours,

Will

Blackpool v Arsenal Preview & Odds

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Apr 092011
 

I wanted to wait until today’s results were in befoe writing my preview. As expected, ManUre beat Fulham at home, or rather the referee and Fulham beat Fulham, and the Mancs lead at the top of the league has stretched into double figures.

Can we stay in the title race? We have 2 games in hand on United, and we face them at home. Chelski also face the Mancs. In theory, we should still be positive about the run-in. If we beat them and Chelski do us a favour, we win the title for the first time in 7 years.

The press thinks we are struggling, even the official website stating it very plainly:

Wenger refuses to accept the result nailed down the coffin lid on their campaign…when asked .. how he assessed this season, he retorted immediately: “The season is not over.”
His point was simple. Eight games represents 24 points and, in this title race especially, that is a massive margin…Yes, having gone five games without a win, Arsenal are at a low ebb right now but this is a season when presumption and prediction have often led to embarrassment. So Wenger is not going to give up now.

I’m not entirely sure what the logic is at the end there. It’s not about embarrassment, it’s about pride.

Elsewhere in the press it’s been reported that four Arsenal players will be on their way out. And that bastion of reliable football news, the Sun has reported that AW “is happy to be second rate”. This is their quote:

As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years. I believe we have done well. We have been hit very hard with big disappointments but we have not lost in the FA Cup or the Champions League against anybody, we have lost against good teams. Personally, I am very proud of the attitude, the behaviour and the quality of our season.

I don’t really believe that he said that for one minute. I bl&%#y hope not.

Seeing trash like this does make you wonder who among the players might be on their way out ion the summer. You’d have thought that for the sake of their careers players like Almunia, Rosicky, Clichy, Denilson, Bendtner, maybe Diaby and Arshavin too might be looking at their futures.

The little Russian just doesn’t seem to fit in at times, in a footballing and psychological sense. He’s seems completely on his own on the pitch, hardly even acknowledging his teammates between play. He does hook up well on the left flank of times, and has popped up with some important strikes, but I wonder if he’s happy at the club.

Nicklas Bendtner certainly not lived up to his own publicity this term and needs to find his shooting boots. Half-chances have not gone his way, his strikes have too often whistled wide.

Rosicky and Denilson have both been injured, and given their places to Wilshere and Nasri. Clichy hasn’t progressed further in the last two seasons, with a fit Kieron Gibbs the natural progression. We need a quick return to form from the young Adam Ramsey.

We need Almunia to show some of his considerable maturity and put aside contracts and concentrate on his responsibility to the club that’s paid his wages for such a long time. And stop flapping.

We do need squad players, but I think unless the current crop can take this title race by the balls, I think they should think about their futures, and I expect AW and the board to bring in some fresh talent.

Players who challenge the likes of Nasri, Wilshere, Walcott, and not be content to be second string. I’m getting sick of hearing about ‘second’ – second place in the table, Wenger settles for second…

The question I’m asking myself about the state of play at the top at Arsenal is whether repeated statements like this find their source in the manager’s stubbornness or intellect:

We’ve had a change in policy to sign younger players. It’s important for football that there’s another way than to just come in, put money on the table and buy a star. The way we are doing things is right. Whether they play here or somewhere else you’ll realise they’re big players.

I think that’s true but we haven’t signed even a slightly big name in a while. We need to bring in another Vieira or Adams. Their is a serious lack of a fit, regular starter who has a big enough vocal presence on the pitch to bring the game to the opposition. I’m a big Vermaelen fan, but he’s missed the whole season.

Buy another player like the Belgian and have two strong physical and vocal players. It would be worth £15-20 million. Don’t we have that kind of money?

I hope that they prove me wrong and dispel the gathering media gloom around the Grove. I want them to succeed and put us right back in the title race at Bloomfield Road tomorrow. I expect:

Almunia; Sagna – Koscielny – Djourou – Clichy; Fabregas – Wilshere – Ramsey; Nasri – v Persie – Arshavin

Odds

No team have kept a Premier League clean sheet at Bloomfield Road but Blackpool have scored in every home game. Blackpool are also the only promoted side we’ve beaten this season, the 6-0 romp at the start of the season. A few Arsenally pennies left my account on 3-1 to the Arsenal, widely available at 10/1. The optimist in me like the idea of a giving the Tangerines a 4-0 drubbing at 19-1 with Unibet. The highest odds on a Blackpool win are 15/2, with us the clear favourites to get the three points at 4/9. As for first goalscorer, v Persie is a clear favourite at 10/3 with William Hill and others. That got a few Arsenally quids, which are in drastic short supply. If Koscielny scores first, I’ll be up at 33/1, but such trying times called for a small punt.

I’m well up for the game tomorrow, and can’t wait to cheer the boys on. A turn-around in form is more than possible against a Blackpool side that have shipped 63 goals this season.

Let’s hope that just like his horse, Fergie’s side fail to finish this season. But we need maximum points tomorrow to kick off this critical league run-in. We can’t finish as poorly as we did last time around.

COME ON YOU GOOONERS!!!

Arsenally Yours,

Will