Man Utd 2 Arsenal 0 – Review.

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Mar 132011
 

In my preview I wrote of what impact of a win would have on our confidence, the rest of our season, and the race to the Premiership title. I also wrote that a draw would also give us belief, and that we’d likely beat ManUre at the Grove to progress in the cup.

Well, we lost, going out of the third cup competition in the space of just two weeks. We didn’t collapse at Old Trafford; we didn’t play terribly badly. We had much more possession than United; we had several shots on target. We just didn’t have enough composure in front of goal, and United were able to catch us on the break.

The team looked jaded. In fact, they didn’t look much like a team at all. There didn’t seem to be a lot of mental strength, and the injury to Djourou robbed us of whatever resilience and fighting spirit we had at the start of the game.

Diappointed Wenger at Old Trafford

Not again!

The manager attributed our lack of oomph to the crushing defeat at the Nou Camp:

Subconsciously I feel the disappointment of Tuesday [against Barcelona] played a part in the game. You could see something has gone, not in our effort or attitude, but confidence-wise.
But I don’t feel like the season is slipping away. I believe we can do it. It is a good test for us now to show we can regroup and show the mental strength and togetherness quickly.
We will have to answer this kind of question in the next two or three weeks. We have to show we have an answer.

Whether or not we do find an answer, whether or not we fight for the title, and whether or not this season ends up like the previous five – trophyless and disappointing – depends very much on our back five.

According to the official site
, Djourou will miss the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated shoulder against ManUre. He will be sorely missed. His performances this season have shown that he has come a long way, and has become the defender that we’d previously only seen in glimpses in seasons past. He’s been solid, and formed a great partnership with Koscielny at the back in Vermaelen’s absence.

Speaking of whom, where is he? I’d been given the impression here on the official site that he’d play for the reserves before the end of February. That hasn’t happened.

Even if Cesc and Robin stay fit, they still need support in the form of a good reliable keeper, a strong defence, and good defensive players in the middle of the park. Assuming Song returns, that’s the latter sorted. But if Vermaelen doesn’t return soon, we’ll be relying on the services of Ignasi Miquel. With the greatest respect to him, I don’t know that he’s up to the job at such a tender age, and with so little first team experience.

Although Almunia played well against Barcelona, he flapped when Rooney scored, and I don’t think he has the confidence and backing of either the team or the manager. Our goalkeeping Poles, both threatening to establish themselves with the No. 1 jersey when they got themselves injured, will be missed. Will James Shea stay on the bench till the end of the season? That doesn’t inspire me with confidence.

Wenger now has a chance to really earn his wages. He must motivate a deeply disappointed squad. He must find an emergency keeper. In short, he must inspire his team to fight for what remains of the season.

We were in a good position at the end of last season. We could have won the title, but defeats to Sp*rs and Wigan allowed Chelski to lift the title as we collapsed with a distinct lack of confidence. It may not feel like we’re doing well, but in terms of the most important competition, we certainly are. Wenger must make the players realise how much we can still achieve. Only 3 points separate us from the league leaders, and we have a game in hand.

We can still win something this season. The title, the most important prize of all.

Arsenally still believing,

Will

Man Utd vs Arsenal in the FA Cup – Preview and Odds

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Mar 122011
 

The result today is not just about the FA Cup. Success today will lift the players’ spirits, and show that we can beat United in their own back yard, and catch them up in the race to the Premiership title. Not having a replay would also give our title campaign a boost, while other teams in the League will take heart that ManUre can be beated, even at home.

Draw, and our confidence will still be lifted. We’ll show ourselves, and other teams in the top flight that United aren’t invincible at home. We’ll have the upper hand in the tie, and we’ll face West Brom next week with renewed optimism and determination to beat anyone.

Lose, and I would be concerned for the rest of our season. That would mean we’d have gone out of three cups in a fortnight. ManUre would still be difficult to beat in our minds, and their Premiership campaign would be given a boost, not ours.

So which will happen. I’m not full of confidence in a win, as much as I’d like us to thrash them, and see Ferguson’s face turn into a chewing beetroot. A feel a draw may well be on the cards. It seems obligatory for us to have cup replays this season.

We have to consider that a wounded ManUre is a dangerous, smelly beast. Having been not so much beaten as humiliated by Liverpool and given the league’s chasing pack a boost, I imagine a strong response from them in a competition that means much to the red-faced Scot. They haven’t won it since 2004. We’ve even won it since then, in 2005.

In terms of who starts for us, we’ll be without our captain Fabregas, Alex Song and Theo Walcott. Szczesny will be out for about six weeks, so James Shea will understudy Almunia, while the hunt for an emergency keeper goes on. I have concerns about the midfield, and if Rosicky starts then it’s crucial he has a good game. Diaby played well against Barcelona and I espect him to continue in Song’s absence.

So I expect:

Almunia; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Wilshere – Rosicky – Diaby; Arshavin – v Persie – Nasri

Odds

The bookies have the home team as firm favourites at odds only slightly better than Evens. We’re 11/4 with most bookies, which has got a few Arsenally pennies. In terms of correct score, I think the game will be close and the scoreline will reflect that. We’re 12/1 for 2-1 and 40/1 for 3-2 with Coral. The half-time/full time split gives good value on the comeback, with ManUre/Arsenal 39/1 with Unibet. I might go for a line on 2-1 with the half time/full time split as above. I’ll update you when I discover what odds I can get on that.

As for goalscorers, I’m down for Nasri to score first, widely available at 9s. We’ve been fairly effective from set-pieces; Djourou is available at 20/1 with Bet365.

Let’s book our place in the semi-finals. Let’s stay in one cup this fortnight. Let’s regain our confidence and beat the league leaders. Let’s take this season by the scruff of the neck before it threatens to run away from us.

COME ON YOU GOONERS!!!!!

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