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

Awful for 80 minutes – Arsenal vs Leeds Review, Walcott Naivety

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Jan 082011
 

My betting tips for this game were perhaps a little over-ambitious, but I genuinely thought they were possible. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, 5-1 seems absurd.

Leeds played well, but not so well that if we had been playing well, we couldn’t have won. They harried, defended, closed down as well as any other team we’ve played this season. With more technical players we would have been a couple of goals down by half time thanks to their superior energy and desire.

Arshavin was frankly Arse. He had some good touches, but more dreadful ones. He went one-on-one with Schmeichel Jnr, but made it comfortable for the impressive Dane. When Walcott was about to come on, the little Russian started trotting over to the dug-out, despite the fact it was Chamakh’s number that was held up. That tells me he wasn’t in the mood.

But I have to say I don’t agree with fans getting on his back. That’s just not going to help. What he needs is a few stern words from the manager and captain. The question is – and it’s not one the average fan can answer – does that happen? Will he get a b*llocking? I hope so.

Schmeichel made a series of fine saves, especially towards the end of the game. There was one from Denilson that would have made his loud-mouthed daddy proud.

Song didn’t play terribly, and I’m glad he did start because without his physicality we’d have been overwhelmed in midfield.

And that’s mainly because Denilson was anonymous. In his role of defensive midfielder, and given his (lack of) build, he needs energy, commitment, drive, and the ability to pass well. He lacked all those today. The penalty he gave away was about as stone-wall and blatant as you get.

Rosicky was a bit better, but not much. Leeds did make it difficult for us to “pass through their lines”, as AW said, but all too often the two of them gave possession back to the visitors.

Bendtner was shocking. His first touch was poor, his second touch – if he got one – was worse. As for his finishing, the less said the better.

Out of those that started, the only players who shouldn’t be self-flagellating tonight are Djourou, Gibbs, Song and Szczesny. The Pole pulled off a top save to deny Becchio shortly after Leeds had gone one up. Djourou put in a good shift, and rate him as our best centre back this season.

What changed the game was first the introduction of Fabregas, and then Walcott. The captain’s passing and vision sped the game up, and Theo’s pass troubled Leeds’ tiring legs. All of a sudden passes weren’t going astray, and we had an incisive edge in the final third.

I thought we should have had 3 penalties until I saw this on the official site from Walcott:

I want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived. I was trying to win the penalty… I am not the sort of player to do it but I own up to it and apologise. It is something I don’t want to see in my game… I don’t have to own up to it and I can’t speak for other players but I have just expressed how I feel. I hope people respect that.”

I admire his honesty, but I fear it may come back to bite him in the arse. Now he’s admitted to a dive, maybe referees will be more likely to deny him geuine penalties. I honestly can’t remember a single occasion a player has actually admitted to and apologised for diving. You often hear players say, “I felt a touch” with an ironic smirk on their faces, but to come out with an official apology is a bit odd. Nice, but odd.

[edits blog] It appears the press are catching on to this – see the Sun here. Really don’t understand why it appeared on the official site. Was that with Wenger’s blessing? Of course the Sun’s screaming headline doesn’t mention the fact that he wasn’t successful in trying to con the ref.

That incident apart, Theo can be proud of his performance today. We were absolutely awful until he and Cesc came on. Beforehand we didn’t seem to have anyone on the pitch wide right. Eboue didn’t get forward much (credit to Leeds) and Bendtner drifted inside all the time. Song popped up on the right from time to time. Usually we have Nasri and Walcott, but without them we had no penetration on that flank whatsoever.

Only when those two came on did the pace of the game speed up, which is obviously to our advantage with our technical ability. All of a sudden we created chances, and the last ten minutes were nervy for the visitors. Theo, ahem, went down once, then got pulled back in the area to win the penalty which the captain converted. Our FA cup run saved.

And so we have another fixture to add to our already congested schedule. AW said:

It was not exactly the wish I had before the game but it was the second worst wish. The worst would have been to go out. We go to Ipswich on Wednesday, we play West Ham on Saturday and then the replay of the FA Cup is after that.

We’ll surely rest some of the ‘first team’ for Ipswich on Wednesday, but after that perfomance, can we afford to?

Arsenally Yours,

Will

The Brum Biter Bit

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Jan 022011
 

Despite my bold 3-1 betting prediction, I was more than a little concerned about the Birmingham game. My work colleagues, one a Chelski fan and one a ManUre fan (honestly – I’ve been tempted to hand in my notice at times) both told me how we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of a win, and that a draw was the best I could hope for.

Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong. We won with style, and we won with grit and determination in the face of severe provocation from a Birmingham team that seems to regard breaking our legs as just part of the game. There were three really bad challenges, and that’s leaving aside the stamp on Sagna from Bowyer. I hope other teams will learn from this that physical violence only makes us play better football, and we won’t be cowed into submission by their hooliganism.

birtacklebv309m Uploaded by arsenalist.

To be fair, though, v Persie was lucky, to say the least, to win the free kick that led to his goal. However, we outplayed them, outclassed them, and outfought them. AW was delighted.

Here’s the post-match BBC interview with RvP and Nasri:

ManUre could have lost to West Brom if only Chris Foy hadn’t been playing in red, and Chelski suffered a last minute sucker-punch to draw at home to Villa. So the stage is set for a battle at the Grove on Wednesday when we entertain football’s nouveau riche, Citeh.

For some comedy, please visit here to see the utter b*llocks that some ‘journalists’ come up with. Sp*rs to win the title. Please.

And to cheer you up some more, here’s Cesc on a good result and his New Year’s Resolutions.

Happy New Year, isn’t it!

Arsenally Yours for 2011,

Will