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

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

Vermaelen, transfer and loanee news

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Jan 052011
 

At the latest press conference, we had some welcome news about the Verminator. We’re playing so well up front at the moment, it’d be such a boost to have him return and add some stability to the back five. What could we achieve with our current front 6 and a stronger back 5? I’m creaming myself to think of it. AW said:

Should Thomas Vermaelen not come back quickly, that’s an area we would be short because we have only three centre backs available at the moment. But I’m confident he will come back. There’s a big test for him this week, he starts to run again so the first signs of how he feels will be very important.

The implication that some have drawn is that we might have to buy another centre half if TV doesn’t get back to full match fitness soon. I don’t think it would be a bad thing if we strengthened our defence regardless of the Verminator’s fitness.

According to the Metro, Liverpool are trying to hijack “our £8.5 bid” for Werder Bremen’s Per Mertesacker. Quoting figures when discussing Arsenal transfers is laughable as these issues are always kept as secret as possible, but nonetheless this is at least feasible so it gets a 4 on the transfer bullsh*tometer – 1 being pure sh*te and 10 being quite likely. It’s poo-shaped, with a guilty looking cow next to it, but it is at least possible, and desirable too. I think he’d make a great signing, though I have to say I’m unsure he’s got enough pace for the English game.

Here’s an interview with Alan Davies from the online version of Football Focus. He’s a funny guy and I couldn’t agree more with his statement that we could do with a 21-year-old Martin Keown in our current squad.

So on to some transfer news/speculation. According to the Mirror, Carlos Vela could find himself on his way to a loan spell at Bolton. I think it would be a good move, a chance for him to show AW that he’s worth keeping.

As it is he’s never reached the heights I’d hoped for. He’s a natural finisher, but needs to toughen up and to learn how to hold the ball up and track back better. Bolton would be a good place to add those qualities; he could do worse than learn a thing or two from Kevin Davies.

Given that Jack the lad’ had a successful loan spell under Owen Coyle, this gets a 6 on my bullsh*tometer. So this is possible with a mild whiff of cow poo.

On the subject of loans, according to Billy Davies, Aaron Ramsey has been a credit to himself, Arsenal, Forest, and everything he touched turned to gold. Shame he didn’t play more and I respect Davies immensely for holding him back. I hope he returns to us fired up and ready to face tougher foes than the likes of Scunthorpe and Doncaster.

Don Vito Mannone of the enormous hooter returns from his load at Hull, where he was injured in their draw with Reading. Apparently Hull are after another keeper, so there’s little chance he’ll return for the rest of the season.

According to the excellent Young Guns Blog, Ryo Miyaichi has serious pace – 10.84s in the 100m – which suggests that there’s more to him than just an opening into the Asian market. Technical, two footed and speedy – qualities we know AW looks for. Maybe I was a bit hasty in writing him off as an economic purchase rather than a footballing one.

City preview and odds to follow really shortly.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Hi folks, I’m feeling arsenally fired up about this game with City.

At AW’s

<a title=”BBC – Alan Davies” href=”http://http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/football_focus/9336852.stm” target=”_blank”>Here’s an interview with Alan Davies</a> from the online version of Football Focus. He’s a funny guy and I couldn’t agree more with his statement that we could do with a 21-year-old Martin Keown in our current squad.

So on to some <strong>transfer news</strong>/speculation. <a title=”Mirror – Vela loan at Bolton?” href=”http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Transfer-news-Bolton-waiting-for-Arsenal-to-green-light-Carlos-Vela-loan-switch-article663075.html” target=”_blank”>According to the Mirror</a>, Carlos Vela could find himself on his way to a loan spell at Bolton. I think it would be a good move, a chance for him to show AW that he’s worth keeping. As it is he’s never reached the heights I’d hoped for. He’s a natural finisher, but needs to toughen up and to learn how to hold the ball up and track back better. Bolton would be a good place to add those qualities; he could do worse than learn a thing or two from Kevin Davies. Given Jack the lad’ had a successful loan spell under Owen Coyle, this gets a 6 on my bullsh*tometer – 1 being pure sh*te and 10 being quite likely. So this is possible with a mild whiff of cow poo.

On the subject of loans, <a title=”Official Site – Ramsey” href=”http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/davies-ramsey-is-a-credit-to-arsenal-” target=”_blank”>according to Billy Davies</a>, Aaron Ramsey has been a credit to himself, Arsenal, Forest, and everything he touched turned to gold. Shame he didn’t play more and I respect Davies immensely for holding him back. I hope he returns to us fired up and ready to face tougher foes than the likes of Scunthorpe and Doncaster.

Don Vito Mannone of the enormous hooter returns from his load at Hull, where he was injured in their draw with Reading. <a title=”YoungGunsBlog – Don Vito” href=”http://younggunsblog.co.uk/2011/01/ramsey-signs-off-randall-scores-plus-plus-miyaichi/” target=”_blank”>Apparently</a> Hull are after another keeper, so there’s little chance he’ll return for the rest of the season.

According to <a title=”YoungGunsBlog – Miyaichi wun fast” href=”http://younggunsblog.co.uk/2010/12/miyaichi-rivals-walcotts-100-metre-time/” target=”_blank”>the excellent Young Guns Blog</a>, Ryo Miyaichi has serious pace – 10.84s in the 100m – which suggests that there’s more to him than just an opening into the Asian market. Technical, two footed and speedy – qualities we know AW looks for. Maybe <a title=”Arsenally – Ryo Miyaichi” href=”http://arsenally.com/2010/12/20/fixture-congestion-ryo-miyaichi-youth-news-and-mental-fragility/” target=”_blank”>I was a bit hasty</a> in writing him off as an economic purchase rather than a footballing one.