It’s really not that bad… Ipswich 1 Arsenal 0 Review

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Jan 142011
 

I was going to post last night, but I was too full of disappointment and frustration to write anything comprehensible. Now I’ve had a chance to calm down, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not the end of the world. We certainly shouldn’t panic. It’s not as if we’re all doomed.

Yes, it was the worst performance of the season, even with Cesc, Wilshere, Walcott, and Arshavin all starting. Yes, there was a lack of desire and commitment. Yes, we couldn’t pass the ball. Yes, we created hardly any chances after the 2nd minute. Yes, we were beaten by a side that’s 19th in the Championship.

If you’re feeling masochistic you can see the highlights, sorry, lowlights of the game here, thanks to Aunty.

But, dear gooners, every team has a slump in form, and what’s more, we can rescue the situation – for both the FA cup against Leeds and the Carling Cup against Ipswich. In both cases it’s only half-time.

Of course, it’s not ideal, and for both cup competitions we should have already won the ties. In the case of Ipswich, we’d still have the second leg even if we had won 4-1 at Portman Road and the Arsenally bookie coughed up. But if we’d won by that kind of margin, which we certainly could have, the tie would effectively be over. Instead, it’s now an uphill battle.

Some bloggers have concentrated on the poor individual performances, and there were plenty of those, I don’t disagree with that. But I think that we have to look at the games against Leeds and Ipswich as aberrations, mistakes and yes, disappointments, but in the context of our fine form so far this season, it’s a bad patch, nothing more.

Granted, Denilson and Arshavin had shockers – again. For the former, it’s a shame because we need him to push the more regular starters into better form with some competition for places. He failed to do that, and didn’t give the boss any reason to pick him again. He did pass the bal well in patches against Ipswich, but generally speaking he was very disappointing in both games.

As for Arshavin, his form has been poor for a while now. The reation of the fans was predictable, but to my mind self-defeating. It’s unlikely to inspire him to pull his socks up, pull his finger out and generally get his Arsh in gear. I don’t understand supporters paying to watch a game only to boo their own team’s players. But that said, his perceived attitude has shifted from casual with flashes of brilliance, to lazy, and only occasionally bothering to play well.

There is a tendency in all of us to see character faults instead of looking at situational reasons for certain behaviours. In other words, Arsh trotting over to the touchline twice when he sees a substitution being made might not be laziness, but instead caused by the fact that he’s our most substituted player. Which he is. I hope he finds some form, and soon.

Others in the media and blogosphere have concentrated on how AW’s comments after the game, that ‘we lacked a little bit the sharpness’ and that some players are “fatigued” are simply poor excuses, when we could all see that what was missing was desire and commitment, and in place of confidence the team was arrogantly complacent.

I wholeheartedly agree with that. But the point we’ve always got to bear in mind with Le Boss’s press and media appearances, is that he’s not one of those managers who just says what’s in his mind and b*gger the consequences. He’s very careful not to make any comments about players unless they’re positive. That’s why he’s often derided for not seeing bad tackles on opponents. Of course he sees them, he just won’t air our dirty laundry in public. He’s certainly not going to say that we lacked desire or commitment to the press, but you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll say it to the players. Every time he says anything to the press he ensures that he keeps his thoughts on his players private, and doesn’t undermine his relationship with them. And quite right too.

I haven’t been on the happy pills. I was as disappointed as any gooner about Wednesday night, but I’d rather we had a patch of poor form in domestic cup competitions than in the Premier or Champions League. We still have the chance to put it right. Let’s hope the players really do learn the lessons of these domestic cup games, beat Leeds and Ipswich, and start to gain ground on ManUre in the league.

Arsenally hopeful,

Will

Jumpers for goalposts, Arsenal vs Leeds Preview, Line-ups and Odds

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Jan 072011
 

The FA cup has turned from one of my favourite competitions to one of my least favourite. This is mainly due to two press-induced factors.

Firstly, I can’t stand the clichés that get aired every time FA cup ties come around. “The romance of the cup”, “giant-killing” are just a couple of the turgid excuses for commentary that we will hear. Expect the likes of Andy Gray to trot out as many as he can in his allotted 90 minutes. You half expect a white horse to prance onto the pitch at any moment.

The second thing I hate about the FA cup, no actually, I detest, is the constant, unrelenting, recurrent, incessant, and persistent replaying of THAT goal. You know the one I mean.

Anyway, Leeds. A word of caution. In the third round last season, they beat ManUre. They will be up for this game, their support is excellent, and they have a good young English manager in Simon Grayson. The latter clearly believes the travelling support will play an important part:

It’s a great draw for the fans as well. They will travel in their 1000s and I hope they have a good day out. Last season was different for them as well because of the rivalry and I think that win will have meant more than anything we could achieve on Saturday. We know we’ll have a fantastic support, we always do, and it’s a support that is the envy of every other club in the country. They’ll certainly ensure there is a great atmosphere on Saturday and they are incentive enough to make sure we do our best.

Any assumptions in the Arsenal dressing room that this will be easy must be dismissed, and a serious approach to the game is essential if we want to progress to the next round without any drama. A draw and not only will we have to add another game to our already congested fixture list, but it would be at Elland Road.

In their last game against Cardiff (which they lost), Leeds fielded this side:

Schmeichel; Connolly – Collins – O’Brien – Parker; Gradel – Howson – Johnson; Snodgrass – Paynter – McCormack.

Our own Sanchez Watt (or Herschel Oulio Sanchez Watt, what a name!) has been generously released to play against us and may start if he recovers from a head injury, The team that played against Cardiff looks like a 4-3-3 so we can expect that to become 4-5-1, or we may see at least one fewer forward and at least one more midfielder.

As for our line-up, AW said on the official site:

We will rotate. There are going to be changes, many changes. It will be good to have Kieran back and Eboue will play as Sagna is suspended. I cannot give you the team yet. I have somewhere in my mind that I will make changes but I don’t know who will play. From last night, we have no serious injuries. I believe that Nasri and Van Persie could be short for Saturday.

According to the Guardian, Aaron Ramsey may be back in contention. I think we may well see him on the bench. It’d be great to see him take the field in an Arsenal shirt again. I imagine the captain and Song will get a break (but hopefully warm the bench just in case); I think we’ll see Wilshere and Denilson with Rosicky in the centre of the park. If we do see those three in midfield, they must ensure they’re not bullied or crowded out. I’d be happier with the more physical Song instead of Denilson.

At the back, I expect Szczesny between the sticks, and Squillaci to start alongside Koscielny. I have to say I’d prefer to see Djourou and Koscielny together again. Defensive partnerships need time to gel, and I think of all the Squillaci – Djourou – Koscielny combinations, the Swiss and Frolish together has worked the best. Gibbs is back, and Eboue will be in to replace the suspended Sagna.

We may well see the Great Dane and Theo up front with Chamakh, while (the first choice front three?) Nasri, v Persie, and Arshavin have a breather. Despite what AW has said, I hope to see at least two of those three on the bench, to be used if the plucky northerners are tough to break down.

So for us I expect something like:

Szczesny; Eboue – Koscielny – Squillaci – Gibbs; Denilson – Rosicky – Wilshere; Walcott – Chamakh – Bendtner.

As for the odds, I like the look of 5-1 at 33/1 with William Hill. You can get 66/1 with the same firm for us to score 6 of the best without reply. Very tempting, and I think that will be my long shot. If we play as fluently as we can, we could score that many. I like Theo for first goalscorer, at 17/2 with Victor Chandler. A red card for either side is at fives with Paddy Power.

As much as the FA cup winds me up a bit, I do love the mis-matches, the excitement of the lower league teams when they draw a top side, the fact that it’s on proper TV, the times less good teams get an away draw and and celebrate the home replay, jumpers for goalposts… oh bugger it, I love it really.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Nil all, not too disappointed

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Jan 072011
 

Arsenally Yours had a difficult Wednesday at work, the Arsenally little one was being a cheeky monkey, and I struggled to get a decent stream. So, I’m afraid, I can’t give you the review I’d like because I hardly saw the game. And I’d like to apologise for saying that Jack Wilshere was suspended when, err, he wasn’t.

The Arsenally quids didn’t do well either. As it ended nil-nil, obviously my bets on first goalscorer came to nothing, and it was hardly the 2-0 victory I’d predicted either. There was some hope for the bet I placed on first yellow card, but Gareth Barry contrived to get himself booked before de Jong, so I’m Arsenally down for the season for the first time after my success against Chelski.

City’s performance highlighted the Italian-ness of their manager. They didn’t play to win, they just played to contain us and only attacked on the break. Which is to be expected, and not just when the opposing manager has a name ending in “-ini”. Try as we might, we couldn’t get the goal the game badly needed to bring it to life.

We were unlucky though. Van Persie went close on a couple of occasions, as did Nasri and Fabregas. But we didn’t get a last-gasp winner, and essentially dropped two points rather than saving one.

These are the kind of games that ManUre are winning. Not that we played badly as they have recently, but the football gods were against us, and despite our domination, we came away with the same points as City, who hardly had a sniff.

There are positives though – especially that last point – that City didn’t create many chances. Granted, they were happy to sit back, and despite Tevez’s boundless energy, he didn’t create any chances for himself or his team mates either. So, we dominated, but came up short in the finishing department. However, it’s good that v Persie had another game without suffering a quadruple leg fracture; Nasri continued his good form, and Theo had a successful run-out.

Yes, I’d be happier if we’d won, but the fact that we were hardly threatened by the Premiership’s new ‘top four’ team is cause for at least some celebration.

I’m not happy about Sagna though, and I’m even less happy about Clatten-pillock. Sagna’s ‘coming-together’ with Zabaleta was pure handbags, nothing more. Why Clattenburg chose to send them both off remains a mystery to me. Two yellows would have sufficed.

We’ll miss Sagna during his suspension. He’s been one of Arsenal’s better players so far this season. He’s the kind of player, and possibly the kind of man that doesn’t draw much comment or attention. I can’t remember a single interview with the man, and he’s been with the Arsenal for a few seasons now. He falls easily into the clichéd category of ‘unsung hero’. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, he’s been excellent both defensively and offensively, and just like that girlfriend you still dream about, we’ll only miss him now he’s gone for a few games.

Next we face Leeds in the FA cup. We’re still competing in all 4 competitions; and the FA cup is one that is certainly within our capabilities. The game against Leeds is ripe for all sorts of terrible punditry about ‘giant killings’; it’s imperative we approach this game as we would any other, and forget the fact that they play in the Championship.

According to the official site, v Persie and Nasri may well be rested on Saturday. Chamakh has now had a decent break, and Theo looks like he needs a whole game to show us what he can do. Let’s hope those two give AW and the fans reasons to want them on the pitch every week.

Also on the official site is the disappointing news that Havard Nordtveit has been sold to Borussia Mönchenladbach. It’s a shame that he hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’d played in midfield as well as at the back, and that made me think he’d turn into a top ball-playing centre half. Now that won’t happen at the Arsenal. Good luck Havard.

Leeds preview tomorrow.

Arsenally Yours,

Will