West Ham vs Arsenal – Match Preview & Odds

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Jan 152011
 

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.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Wigan Review: One Step Back

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Dec 312010
 

I’ve found it hard to begin this post. What do you say in response to such a very disappointing performance and result? I’ve seen various comments in the media and on blogs about the line up, most of them criticising AW for fielding a ‘weakened’ or ‘second string’ team. It wasn’t either, it was squad rotation based on the necessities of the fixture list brought on by the idiotic FA. ManUre had a longer rest. They always seem to get a better deal from the FA, or am I alone in thinking that?

That said, such drastic changes resulted in the right-footed Eboue at LB, and the midfield trio of Diaby, Denilson, and Rosicky who offered little creativity. Ironically, Diaby’s injury improved our performance, as Wilshere came on and added urgency and inspiration to midfield, which qualities (Diaby,) Denilson, and Rosicky failed to deliver with any consistency over the 90 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the highlights by now so I won’t bore you with a breakdown of the game. If you haven’t seen them, go to the excellent Arsenalist. It wasn’t a bl**dy penalty, N’Zogbia dived like Tom Daly, and the ref bought it.

Suffice it to say that all the positive aspects of the Chelski game were forgotten. There was little collective desire, a complete lack of unified pressing of the opponents when we didn’t have the ball; virtually no organisation in defence; and we didn’t have any leaders on the pitch. It seems the squad needs another visit from Jacob Marley, aka George Graham.

Admittedly only 2 outfield players that faced Chelski started against Wigan, so hopefully those that didn’t play are rested, and the importance of the qualities we showed against Chelski were made even more clear to those that played as well as those that didn’t.

The only positives we can take from the game are that Arshavin scored for the first time since September and had some excellent patches; v Persie came through the game without an injury; Bendtner got a run-out; and err… that’s it.

In terms of negatives, apart from everything I’ve already mentioned, Diaby picked up a calf strain and will be out for 2-3 weeks. A real shame, as I believe a fit Diaby offers us something that currently only Song provides – a genuine box to box hard tackling midfielder. Pity his legs are made of polystyrene.

What is more troubling than the fact that AGAIN we missed a chance to get to the summit of the league is the lact of communication and leadership on the pitch. Cesc was rested, but in the absence of our captain, no-one t=picked up his mantle. Fabregas is never overly vocal, but whoever wears the armband, having a vocal player in the back 5 is not just a plus, it’s a necessity.

In the Sun, AW is quoted as saying:

There was no need to concede the corner which led to Wigan’s second goal. We have to make a bigger effort to communicate better.

I tell you what, Arsène, there was no bl**dy need for their second goal at all – I have no idea what the f*ck Squillaci was doing. One thing he wasn’t doing was looking at the effing ball, that’s for certain. Anyway, in typical Sun style they blamed it on the lack of good spoken English among the players. I don’t care if they shout to each other by Tibetan throat singing, they just need to start shouting, and someone needs to take charge.

In midfield and up front, the lack of drive, pressing, leadership and tracking back was blamed on a lack of leaders on the pitch. After the game AW said of our set-piece organisation:

It is a concern because nobody looks from the outside to take charge on the organisation side. There is no voice when the focus drops a little bit. You don’t feel that anybody takes charge on alertness and we need to communicate much better than that.

I’d like to see our Pole between the sticks becoming more vocal at the back. As I said above, we need one of the back 5 to step up and ensure everyone knows what they’re doing, and that everyone does it well.

In terms of the midfield and attack, and in Cesc’s absence, I’d like to see the boy Wilshere pick up this rôle. He’s a driven, technically gifted player whose talents include a great awareness of others, so he’d be ideal.

On Saturday we go to St Andrew’s, another potential away banana skin. They haven’t lost at home since the 2nd October, and let’s not forget that in between then and now, Chelski went to St Andrew’s and came away without any points. Their defence hasn’t conceded more than one goal for 6 games. We need a better team, and a better team performance than what we had against Wigan if we are to get the win we need.

I hope we see the benefits of having rested most of the ‘first team’ in Birmingham on Saturday.

Against the Russian rabble from Fulham, we took two big steps forward. Against Wigan we took one step back. Time to start marching forward, or we risk losing sight of the Manc clubs at the top of the league.

Arsenally Yours

Will

Youth news, Evra, ManUre team news

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Dec 112010
 

Good afternoon to you all. It feels very much like morning to me after the Arsenally little one decided it was time to move from anarchy to monarchy, and literally throw toys at me, the little angel. That said, my decision to always wear an Arsenal strip when we’re watching football together seems to be paying off. He’s started to play with the crest on my shirt and burble something like “Arshenl”. Aah.

According to the excellent YoungGunsBlog, we’ve a very good chance of winning our appeal re Welly Silver, which is good news indeed. I’m guessing that even if we do, he’ll still go to Liga Segunda till next season, where he can hopefully get some games under his belt. Other youth news to report is that Emmanuel Frimpong is back in training. He proved himself useful and we need a good young player to put pressure on Song and Denilson.

Alan Hansen, a man whose opinion I rarely pay any attention to because he’s so patently bigotted against Arsenal, has spoken via the BBC Sport website about our chances on Monday night:

it is an absolute certainty that Sir Alex Ferguson will tell his players to put Lukasz Fabianski and the central defensive pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci under pressure at every opportunity.

That’s a given. It’s unfortunate that Fabianski made such bad errors when he first came into the team, because he is now regularly targetted with long balls, as we saw against Sp*rs. But it’s nothing more than we’d face from the likes of Blackburn, Wolves or Stoke. What we must do is ensure that we mark Vidic and Ferdinand well at set pieces. I know Rooney hasn’t scored since March – well apart from each time he visits the Salford Golden Oldies Massage Parlour – but he does pose an aerial threat as well.

According to some ManUre sites I had a quick look through, Ferdinand, Evra and Scholes may feature. But I take that with a pinch of salt as Ferguson always lies through his teeth and then has a tendency to throw up a surprise or two.

If there’s one area we can get to them it’s in midfield. Scholes is aging fast, Fletcher is just a thug, Carrick’s never been more than quite good in my book, and regardless of whether the skipper’s back or not, we should be all over them there. I’d prefer Wilshere to Denilson, with Song and Nasri. Clichy must stay alert to Nani.

The legendary Arseblogger makes an interesting comment about the shite Evra’s been spouting:

If we’re being honest the reason Evra’s comments sting is because there’s more than a hint of truth to them. Unpalatable as it might be to admit, there just is. It doesn’t mean that Evra isn’t the scuttery, infected discharge from an swollen anal polyp, because he is, and more, but our record is there. Lots of nice football, just not enough of it and no trophies.

Painfully true. Let’s hope that Nasri and Walcott (as sub?) make a mockery of his words and leave him in a mangled heap.

From the press conference, it sounds like we’ll be without Cesc. There’s going to be a late fitness test, which isn’t promising. Clichy will return (concentrate, concentrate, concentrate), and Djorou’s a possibility at the back. I’d like to see the big Swiss play because he’s so tall and good in the air. In other injury news Gibbs will be out for about 3 weeks with a sprained ankle. Chin up, Kieron, you’ve still got a very bright future.

So, expected line-ups for Monday night:

ManUre – van der Sar – Silva – Ferdinand – Vidic – Evra – Nani – Fletcher – Scholes – Giggs – Rooney – Berbatov

Arsenal – Fabianski – Sagna – Squillaci – Koscielny/Djorou – Clichy – Wilshere/Denilson – Song – Nasri – Chamakh – van Persie – Arshavin

Rather hilariously, AW has stated that snoods were suggested by the medical staff. Pansies – but I’d rather they didn’t injure their precious necks and spend four months out having horse placenta baths.

There’s some nice memories from Martin Keown and Tony Adams in the Mail here.

More tomorrow.

Arsenally Yours,
Will

Just seen a great youtube vid. If you’re in any doubt we CAN do it on Monday night, watch it. Thanks to @goonerzade – read her Arsenal blog here