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.