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

Arsenal – Wigan Preview, Teams, and Odds

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Jan 222011
 

Before we have the opportunity to book a place in the Carling Cup Final on Wednesday, we’ve got the bread and butter of our league standing to attend to. Wigan arrive at the Grove tomorrow to face a buoyant Arsenal who seem to have put their recent poor form behind them.

The Latics are hovering around the relegation zone having only won 4 times this season. Their last 5 visits to N5 in the league have all ended in home wins and clean sheets. But on the other hand, Wigan have only lost one of their last seven games (but won just one of those); our last two games with Roberto Martinez’s men – both ‘oop north’ have yielded just one point out of six.

They have some talented players in N’Zogbia and Rodallega, the latter especially capable of creating a goal out of nothing.  So while there is room for confidence, there is no room for complacency, as we discovered to our cost against Leeds and Ipswich.

I imagine that we’ll see something like a full-strength team with Fabregas returning to captain the side, along with v Persie and Wilshere. At the back the only question is whether we’ll see Kieron Gibbs or Gael Clichy. I’d prefer to see the Englishman continue his run in the side, and put some pressure on Clichy to get rid of the lapses in judgement / concentration / brainwaves that lead him to make glaring errors on a matchly basis.

Another selection dilemma is whether to continue with Arshavin. The bonkers little Russian doesn’t seem happy at the moment, and it’s easy to see why. Last season he’d have games where he’d hardly touch the ball, only to pop up and score or set someone else up with a marvellous bit of skill.

This season it’s been more the case that he’s worked hard, occasionally got an assist, but has only managed 4 league goals and at times looked badly out of sorts. His run of the mill passing is great, but when he tries anything beyond that, more often than not these days it ends up coming to nothing. As tempting as it is to bring Theo on as an impact sub to attack defenders’ tired legs, I’d prefer to see him play a whole game, and give the bonkers Russian a rest.

Another player who could do with a rest is Nasri. But when a player’s in his kind of sparkling form, it might be wisest to play him for the first 60 mins, and if a victory is secured throw on Rosicky in his place.

Likely Teams

So I expect from Wigan:

Al-Habsi; Gohouri – Gary Caldwell – Alcaraz – Figueroa; Stam – Watson – Diamé – Thomas – N’Zogbia; Rodallega

And for us:

Szczesny; Sagna – Koscielny – Djourou – Gibbs/Clichy; Song – Fabregas – Wilshere; Nasri – v Persie – Arshavin/Walcott

Arsenally betting tips

Tellingly, the best odds on a home win are 2/9, and 5-0 is a miserly 9/1 with Victor Chandler. The Arsenally quids are boldly placed on a 5-0 romp at 22/1 with SportingBet. The same firm have 50/1 on 6-0 which may well get a few pennies. As for goalscorers, it’s got to be the captain, who of course takes the pens. Cesc to score first is 11/2 with Paddy Power.

Transfer News

In other news, it seems we’ve broken the habit of a lifetime and professed to an interest in another club’s player during the transfer window – shock, horror! It’s Bolton’s Gary Cahill, of whom AW said:

At the moment, I cannot come out with any name. I think Gary Cahill is a very good player but I cannot tell you more.

He really does crack me up sometimes, Arsène. I think his ‘silence’ speaks volumes. AW seems to be on good terms with Owen Coyle after Jack Wilshere’s loan spell, and more importantly, Bolton have signed David Wheater from Middlesborough as a possible replacement. He’d be a good signing – experienced, Premiership match fit, and used to battling against stronger opposition. My bullsh*tometer gives this a mere 2/10 – quite likely, but there’s a funny smell in the room.

In another break from our tradition omerta, “There’s a slight chance” that Almunia will leave in this transfer window. Given that this has been stated on the official site, it gets a 1/10 on the bullsh*tometer – as likely as it gets, and only trained dogs can sense the hint of cow.

Aaron Ramsey and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas are to go to Dave Jones’s Cardiff on loan, according to the ‘holic. It’ll be a great chance for the both of them to get some games under their belt. For Ramsey, this means recovering and getting back into his football by playing games not warming benches; for JET, it’s a chance to show AW that he’s got what it takes to stay at the club and push for a first team place. Good luck to the pair of them. I hope they return hungry to get (back) into the first team and push on with their careers.

I shall be travelling down to my mum’s this weekend for Christmas. Yes, I know what date it is, but she was away in Australia over the 25th December, so we’re having our family Christmas this weekend. And seeing as it’s Christmas, I’ll be going with the other men over to the pub at about, say, 3pm?

COME ON YOU GOONERS!

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Awful for 80 minutes – Arsenal vs Leeds Review, Walcott Naivety

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Jan 082011
 

My betting tips for this game were perhaps a little over-ambitious, but I genuinely thought they were possible. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, 5-1 seems absurd.

Leeds played well, but not so well that if we had been playing well, we couldn’t have won. They harried, defended, closed down as well as any other team we’ve played this season. With more technical players we would have been a couple of goals down by half time thanks to their superior energy and desire.

Arshavin was frankly Arse. He had some good touches, but more dreadful ones. He went one-on-one with Schmeichel Jnr, but made it comfortable for the impressive Dane. When Walcott was about to come on, the little Russian started trotting over to the dug-out, despite the fact it was Chamakh’s number that was held up. That tells me he wasn’t in the mood.

But I have to say I don’t agree with fans getting on his back. That’s just not going to help. What he needs is a few stern words from the manager and captain. The question is – and it’s not one the average fan can answer – does that happen? Will he get a b*llocking? I hope so.

Schmeichel made a series of fine saves, especially towards the end of the game. There was one from Denilson that would have made his loud-mouthed daddy proud.

Song didn’t play terribly, and I’m glad he did start because without his physicality we’d have been overwhelmed in midfield.

And that’s mainly because Denilson was anonymous. In his role of defensive midfielder, and given his (lack of) build, he needs energy, commitment, drive, and the ability to pass well. He lacked all those today. The penalty he gave away was about as stone-wall and blatant as you get.

Rosicky was a bit better, but not much. Leeds did make it difficult for us to “pass through their lines”, as AW said, but all too often the two of them gave possession back to the visitors.

Bendtner was shocking. His first touch was poor, his second touch – if he got one – was worse. As for his finishing, the less said the better.

Out of those that started, the only players who shouldn’t be self-flagellating tonight are Djourou, Gibbs, Song and Szczesny. The Pole pulled off a top save to deny Becchio shortly after Leeds had gone one up. Djourou put in a good shift, and rate him as our best centre back this season.

What changed the game was first the introduction of Fabregas, and then Walcott. The captain’s passing and vision sped the game up, and Theo’s pass troubled Leeds’ tiring legs. All of a sudden passes weren’t going astray, and we had an incisive edge in the final third.

I thought we should have had 3 penalties until I saw this on the official site from Walcott:

I want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived. I was trying to win the penalty… I am not the sort of player to do it but I own up to it and apologise. It is something I don’t want to see in my game… I don’t have to own up to it and I can’t speak for other players but I have just expressed how I feel. I hope people respect that.”

I admire his honesty, but I fear it may come back to bite him in the arse. Now he’s admitted to a dive, maybe referees will be more likely to deny him geuine penalties. I honestly can’t remember a single occasion a player has actually admitted to and apologised for diving. You often hear players say, “I felt a touch” with an ironic smirk on their faces, but to come out with an official apology is a bit odd. Nice, but odd.

[edits blog] It appears the press are catching on to this – see the Sun here. Really don’t understand why it appeared on the official site. Was that with Wenger’s blessing? Of course the Sun’s screaming headline doesn’t mention the fact that he wasn’t successful in trying to con the ref.

That incident apart, Theo can be proud of his performance today. We were absolutely awful until he and Cesc came on. Beforehand we didn’t seem to have anyone on the pitch wide right. Eboue didn’t get forward much (credit to Leeds) and Bendtner drifted inside all the time. Song popped up on the right from time to time. Usually we have Nasri and Walcott, but without them we had no penetration on that flank whatsoever.

Only when those two came on did the pace of the game speed up, which is obviously to our advantage with our technical ability. All of a sudden we created chances, and the last ten minutes were nervy for the visitors. Theo, ahem, went down once, then got pulled back in the area to win the penalty which the captain converted. Our FA cup run saved.

And so we have another fixture to add to our already congested schedule. AW said:

It was not exactly the wish I had before the game but it was the second worst wish. The worst would have been to go out. We go to Ipswich on Wednesday, we play West Ham on Saturday and then the replay of the FA Cup is after that.

We’ll surely rest some of the ‘first team’ for Ipswich on Wednesday, but after that perfomance, can we afford to?

Arsenally Yours,

Will