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

Orient Preview & Odds (injury nightmare)

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Mar 012011
 

Chelski’s win against the Premiership leaders tonight puts us right back in the title race. But before league hostilities are resumed, we’ve got smaller fish to fry in the shape of Leyton Orient. Win, and then we can fry the massive dogfish that is ManUre in the FA Cup as well as the league. Bring it on!

The curse of the dodgy internet connection struck again so apologies for the lack of a review to the Carling Cup Final, but then again, it would have been a meaningless drunken rant if I’d done it on Sunday night. I tried last night but to no avail. Here’s what I would have said in a nutshell:

We didn’t play all that badly, apart from Rosicky and Bendtner.
I hate all Brummies
If in doubt, kick it out. When did that stop being taught at school?
Why didn’t we play Nasri in midfield?
Here’s hoping that Koscielny and the rest of the squad can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of our Carling Cup Campaign and destroy all opponents for the rest of time the season this week.

Our first opponent is Leyton Orient, whom we must beat to set up a juicy tie against ManUre in the FA Cup. I hope – against bitter experience – that this set-back is only temporary and we beat them by a few goals, as we should.

But first, more bad news. v Persie is out for “a minimum of 3 weeks” after a scan on his knee revealed it to be made of cheese bad news.  Obviously he’ll miss more than just the Barcelona game, but that’s where we’ll miss him the most. Fabregas may well be back for the Camp Nou but only just. To miss both of them would be two huge nails in the coffin of the CL tie. With Fabregas? Maybe, just maybe. But let’s think about that nearer the time

Also missing the Orient game are Song and Koscielny. Fantastic. We may be wounded animal ready to pounce, but we’ll be missing the spine of the team. Diaby wasn’t even in the squad for Wembley but will surely play against the O’s. Up front we’ll have a couple of strikers who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo, score in a brothel, etc etc ad nauseam.

I feel able to make light of the injury / poor finishing situation because it’s only a League 1 side we face tomorrow night, but in all truth, I’m a little bit scared. Chamakh has hardly played since the start of the season, and the odd thing is, there’s no good reason why. Any ideas, Arsenally-intrigued readers? Bendtner’s current form is pretty poor to be honest. The only players who have been playing well and who will face Orient are Wilshere and Djourou. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the young Englishman is rested, as he’s been playing twice a week for a while now.

We may well see one or both of Gibbs and Eboue at left/right back. I’d like to see more of Gibbs, partly because I believe he’s got a real future, but also partly because Clichy still has his moments of serious defensive retardation.

So I expect:

Almunia; Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy; Diaby – Denilson/Wilshere – Rosicky; Nasri – Chamakh – Bendtner

Odds

As for the odds, I’m torn between hopeless pessimism and ridiculous optimism. Then I remember the injury list and it’s pessimism all the way. But I’ll never back anyone but the Arsenal so there you go.

There’s no value in the 1/5 generally offered for a home win, so I’m going for 33/1 with Ladbrokes on Orient ahead at the interval and Arsenal up at the end. The optimist in me put a few pennies on 4-0 with Unibet at an attractive 23/2. “We’ll score one or two, then Orient will have to come forward and we’ll score more,” he said. Possibly.

Denilson is an interesting 20/1 with Ladbrokes to score first, though that only gets some Arsenally small change, while Arshavin is my main tip for first goalscorer at 9/2 with BlueSq.

I can’t bear any more of the relentless p*ss-taking I’ve encountered at work so please, please Arsenal, let’s beat the O’s. Then we can wipe the smile off the faces of all those ManUre fans at Old Trafford.

Come on the Arsenal!!!!!

Arsenally Yours

Will

Arsenal vs Wolves Preview and Odds

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Feb 122011
 

It’s very hard to concentrate on the Wolves game, and not to think of anything else. There’s the small matter of the Barçelona game on Wednesday; there’s also a game in Mansheikster at lunchtime. However, AW is focussed on the task at hand:

There is no Barcelona in mind. There is Wolverhampton in mind… [And the Manchester derby] will not influence us.

He might well say that, but one thing’s for certain – all the players will have one or both of those matches in mind when they take to the field tomorrow afternoon. I hope and pray that Citeh win, with Berbatov and Tevez colliding in a freak accident that sees both of them out for the season with broken heads, shoulders, knees and toes. If ManUre drop points, I want the players to be thinking of the ground we can make up; I want them to have the passion to get a result, see it out to the end, and close the gap on the league leaders.

What I don’t want is the Barça game on anyone’s mind. Yes, of course, a certain Catalunian club captain may be looking forward to entertaining his boyhood hero Guardiola and his international team-mates Iniesta and Xavi more than he’s looking forward to the company of Karl Henry and Mick McCarthy, but the Premiership title is still up for grabs, and there’s a job to be done against the bruisers from the Black Country.

And a bruising game is what I expect to see tomorrow. It must be noted that Wolves are the ultimate giant-killers this season, marking victories over ManUre, Chelski and Liverpool. I hope our hunger for the top spot in the league and desire to put right what went so badly wrong against Newcastle prevail in the face of the European distraction on Wednesday night.

While Song and Djourou are potentially available, I suspect they may be granted further time to recuperate. Diaby is injured and suspended so Denilson will be in, while v Persie and Fabregas return from their mystery sickness, and “will be playing” according to the AW on official site. Rosicky is out after a groin strain he picked up on his way back from the bookies the Czech Republic.

So I expect something like:

Szczesny; Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy; Denilson – Fabregas – Wilshere; Arshavin – v Persie – Walcott

I’d very much like to see Chamakh get a start alongside v Persie. We really haven’t seen very much of the Moroccan since RvP came back from injury. Bendtner is also fit but will more likely than not warm the bench. He really works hard to earn all that money, doesn’t he? Please just don’t ever speak again, Nicklas. Every time he opens his mouth he endears himself less and less to me. I’d rather he did this more often, and had his mouth sewn together to prevent any more foot-in-mouth situations.

As for the odds, it’s hard to find value with the best odds on a home win little over 1/5, reflecting the view of my Chelski-supporting work colleague who thinks we’ll “romp away with it”. But I fear for Wolves’ physicality and our players having half a mind on Wednesday night. And I fear for complacency in our ranks. We’ve also conceded far too much at set pieces this term and I can see that trend continuing, especially if Squillaci partners Koscielny at the back. No, I’m not a fan. Being fair, he should only now be completely used to the Premiership. Anyway, I’ve plumped for a 3-1 win at 21/2 with Unibet, but I put a few sly pennies on 6-0 with William Hill at 50/1. As for first goalscorer, I’m going for our bonkers little Russian at 6s with Bet365.

At 1pm tomorrow I’ll be praying for Citeh and their over-priced, money-grabbing w*nkers to get one over their neighbours. At 3pm, I’ll be praying that the team have got Citeh’s 4-0 mauling of ManUre firmly in the front of their minds. Sorry Arsène.

Come on you gooners!

Arsenally Yours,

Will