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

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4 Review

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Feb 062011
 

Worrying news from Twitter. Stade 2 – the French equivalent of MoTD has accused Rosicky of throwing the game. See here if you speak French. Unbelievable. He played pretty badly, but that’s nothing new. They claim he had a hand two of the goals, and that Interpol are opening an enquiry. They can’t, Interpol is just the means by which police forces communicate and they don’t have a ‘police force’. Complete rubbish. I hope Arsenal lawyers are onto them sharpish.

On a lighter note, this is far more likely 😉 Phil Dowd’s betting slip, courtesy of twooner @darylbooth.

Newcastle 4 Arsenal 4 Review

Never has the tired cliché “a game of two halves” been more depressingly appropriate. Last night I couldn’t find the words to express the feelings of disappointment in our team and anger at the culprits – Dowd, Diaby, and the criminal Barton. And it must be added, fresh frustration in our transfer non-activity after the injury to Johan Djourou leaves us with two fit centre halfs.

It started so well, didn’t it? We were two up while some fans were still finding their seats. And the goals were so easy. Arshavin found Walcott after 43 seconds, and my fellow Hemelite found the back of the net. Next Djourou scored his first league goal for the club, heading in Arshavin’s free kick. Another good performance from the bonkers little Russian became irrelevant in the farce that was to follow.

Before half an hour we had four, and I was considering my 7-0 and 7-1 bets at 500-1 were a sound investment. There were signs, however, that the men in black hadn’t been to Specsavers. V Persie got crunched by two toon players, and was penalised for it. He took his revenge by getting the third and fourth goals, a cut back from Walcott and a totally free header from a Sagna cross.

There did turn out to be 8 goals as I’d predicted, but who’d have thought that the next four would be all Newcastle? Certainly not me. Even if you’d told me we’d have to play the second half with 10 men I’d have been confident that we’d have seen out the rest of the game with ease.

No doubt Pardew said something in the dressing room about commitment. No doubt he complained that they’d hardly put a challenge in. He’d have been right to say that, Newcastle in the first half were as dire as we were excellent. A different team emerged from the Toon dressing room, and it was one that craved blood.

They didn’t waste any time trying to get it. The convicted violent criminal that is Joey Barton went in hard and two footed on Diaby, in precisely the kind of challenge that breaks legs. The Frenchman’s reaction was one of fury, he grabbed Barton by the scruff of the neck and was rightly sent off. Given our number 2’s injury history, such a reaction was on some level understandable, but for the most part just plain idiotic. There was no way that Phil Dowd could allow him to stay on the pitch after that, and he knew it. Stupid.

All Arsenal players are routinely given more hard tackles than other teams receive, because of the view that “Arsenal don’t like it up them.” Some players, like Vieira was in his early playing days and Fabregas is now, are rountinely kicked around the park, in the view that it will disrupt our style of play. But both those players learnt that the only way to deal with it is not to react. To get one over their opponents by a goal and a hard tackle, not by getting themselves sent off.

I have no doubt that Barton got what he was after from Diaby, which just tells you all you need to know about the scouse git. How Phil Dowd let him stay on the pitch is just beyond me. But by reacting in such a way, Diaby’s just making the situation worse, and no doubt more teams will now act in the same way. We’ve got Wolves after the midweek international. Great!

Another decision that baffled me, was how Nolan could stay on the pitch. He did exactly the same thing as Diaby, if not worse. Szczesny clung on the ball after Barton had scored their first, a deserved penalty which Koscielny gave away. Nolan had him in a headlock and who got carded? You guessed it, Szczesny.

After they scored a lucky second, they got their third thanks to another refereeing blunder. I have no idea why a penalty was given. Koscielny jumped with Rosicky and a Toon player and the linesman waved his arm frantically. It wasn’t a soft penalty it was a ridiculous decision.

Tioté’s equaliser in the dying minutes of the game was a fine goal, to be fair. But my head had been in my hands long before then, as gooners everywhere could sense the goal coming. There was a brief moment of hope before the final whistle when v Persie scored, but it was disallowed for offside. He was level apart from his arm, which as I understand it makes him onside. But at least the decisions had a degree of consistency to them – they all went against us.

Game over, we’d managed to lose a four nil advantage. We could have been two points behind ManUre after they lost at Molineaux.

But that’s not the whole story. Yes, Diaby was an idiot, Barton’s a violent criminal, and Phil Dowd is as blind as a bat, but still. We showed a worrying lack of heart, muscle, leadership, and crucially mental strength to throw away the lead in that manner.

It’s often noticeable that a team’s performance drops when a key player is injured. Given how well he’s performed for us all this season, Johan Djourou has turned into such a player, and his loss is worrying. Fingers crossed it’s not serious. But such a drop in form – think England v Brasil in Japan when Rooney’s foot went – may be understandable, but it’s certainly avoidable.

It must also be difficult to stay focussed on discipline as a team when one of your own loses the plot in the manner that Diaby did. But you’d expect a team whose manager is constantly banging on about mental stength to have that focus, concentration and desire. They were not helped by the cauldron of St James’ Park, but they were also not helped in the second half by their captain, who as I saw it did little to raise his voice or the players’ spirits. Whether or not Cesc is captain, we need a vocal player on the pitch, and I don’t think we had one in Newcastle.

You also have to question the wisdom of bringing off two of our potent attacking weapons. It seemed as though the players on the pitch suffered a drop in confidence with the arrival of Eboue and Rosicky. Bringing them on said to Newcastle – we’re worried, and we’re not going to attack. Compound this with the fact that the Ivorian and the Czech were totally anonymous, and you have all the ingredients for the surrender of a four goal advantage. Shocking.

I hope the players are ashamed of how poorly they reacted to the adverse situation, to rubbish refereeing, and to rough tackling from the opposition. I’ve never seen such a bad half of a game from Arsenal in a long time, and I hope it’s a good while before we see the like again.

Que Sera, Sera! Arsenal 3 Ipswich 0 Review

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Jan 252011
 

Profuse apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days. Arsenally Yours was decidedly ill; I think it was flu but my agent said it was just a bad cold. What do agents know anyway! Whatever it was, it was sufficiently bad enough for her to confiscate my dongle and confine me to bed.

I’m feeling better now, in no small part due to the fact that we’re going to Wem-ber-ley! On February 27th, we have the chance to lay our hands on some silverware for the first time in 6 years. We can avenge the defeat to Chelsea in the 2007 League Cup final by beating Birmingham or West Ham.  As Cesc said after the game, it doesn’t matter who we face, it’ll be a Cup Final and we can expect a tough game from either. That said, we may still be in all 4 competitions, but this represents our best chance of silverware this year by a country mile.

I had some fears before the game that we’d rotate too much – that Fabregas, Nasri, Song and v Persie wouldn’t start and we’d lose the fluent, succesful style of play that we’ve all enjoyed watching in the last few games. Those fears proved partially unfounded, as Nasri and Song gave way to Denilson and Bendtner.

As it was, it’s a credit to Denilson that we didn’t miss Song, even against a team a combative as Ipswich. And if it wasn’t for Bendtner’s goal in the 61st minute, I fear it could have been a different result.

Ipswich played very well for the first 60 minutes, and it’s hard to reconcile that team performance with their poor league position. They really didn’t look like relegation candidates heading for League 1. Until Bendtner’s goal came, I did start to worry that they’d pull off a draw and knock us out. Obviously, they defended in numbers, but they didn’t park their tractors in front of their goal, and gave us a good run for our money.

We almost went behind when Sagna and Szczesny collided, gifting McAuley an open goal and a free header. Thankfully it went wide, but Sagna had to go off to be replaced by Eboue in an incident that predictably gave the commentary team the opportunity to roll out their best ‘Keystone Cops’ clichés. I hope the substitution was just precautionary. I shall try to keep you updated when I hear more.

We had a few more chances in the first half, V Persie hitting the crossbar, and Bendtner had a golden chance when their keeper dropped the ball, but sadly his shot was blocked. After the restart, there was an air of desperation, and although it looked like we’d score at any moment, I was having a serious case of the pessimisms.

But the goal came, and what a goal it was. Excellent first touch to take him past Carlos Edwards, a touch inside and a then Bendtner curled a great finish inside the far post. I really, really hope that the goal proves a springboard for a return to the kind of form that he’s lacked in the last few games.

That drew us level on aggregate, but we didn’t have long to wait for the goal that would put us ahead for the first time in 180 minutes. Corner to the Arsenal, Koscielny lost his marker, their keeper came and missed the ball, and the Frolish’s header found an empty net. Cue Arsenally Yours feeling a lot better all of a sudden.

And to cap it off, soon after that, Cesc nutmegged the keeper to put us 3-0 ahead! You won’t believe me, no doubt, but my Arsenally quids were on 3-0 at 11/2 so some bubbly was uncorked chez Arsenally Yours in celebration of our impending trip to Wembley and Arsenally Yours’ bank balance being augmented by no small amount.

Now we have a chance to rest until Sunday when we play our 9th game of January. Another game against opposition in a lower league, this time from 2 tiers below us. After complacency cost us a replay against Leeds and a nervy rematch with the Tractor Boys, let’s knock this one on the head on Sunday. No replays please!

Arsenally much better now,

Will