Arsenal 2 – Huddersfield 1 Review

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Jan 302011
 

Huddersfield Town are also known as the Terriers and the played like, well, terriers. The feeling of getting through to the next round of the cup is somewhat marred by the injury suffered by Nasri, and the upcoming suspension of Squillaci after the latter got himself sent off for a professional foul.

After the first twenty minutes I thought that we were going to walk it and that my long-shot punt of 7-0 might even come off. Huddersfield sat back and waited for us to attack, in what seemed to me to be tactical suicide. After a few wayward shots from Arshavin and Bendtner we were soon ahead when the latter took a shot from the edge of the area, and it deflected off Peter Clarke into the net.

But it all changed when in about the 30th minute Nasri chased a ball over the top. He pulled up, and we could all see it was his hamstring that had gone. 3 weeks out, I tweeted. That now look optimistic with the news – albeit unconfirmed – that it’s a bad one. That means it could be about 6 weeks. Fantastic, our best player out for at least one of the two Champions League games against Barça. It’s a real shame for Sammy – just as he was finding some truly scintillating form that would certainly have found him back in his country’s national team, he finds himself out with a serious injury. We’ll miss him badly, I fear. Nonetheless, a chance for young Theo to prove his mettle and push for a permanent spot in the team.

Back to the Huddersfiled game. As so often happens when a player leaves the field with a bad injury, we looked shell-shocked, and Huddersfield could have gone two up before the end of the first half.

And just before the interval, things rapidly went from really bad to much, much worse. Squillaci blocked the impressive run of Jack Hunt, and got his marcfhing orders. When I saw it the first time, I called Mark Clattenburg some pretty terrible things, and won a rebuke from my agent for bad language in front of the Arsenally little one. It didn’t look like the Huddersfield player had the ball under control at all, but the benefit of a replay proved that it was, frankly, deserved. No sooner is he back from injury than the Fritalian defender finds himself suspended. Great.

And so the game rapidly swung in Huddersfield’s favour as they made the extra man count, if you’ll excuse the cliché.

He may be having a bad patch, as is so widely reported, but guess who tracked back to put in a last-ditch tackle to prevent a Huddersfield goal – our little Russian! I was impressed with his work for the team, if not for his finishing.

Huddersfield got their equaliser on the hour when Lee headed home a corner. Cue panic at Arsenally Yours, the tearing up of all my betting slips, etc etc. But I cheered up when I saw el capitano warming up, and was happier still to see him come on to replace the clearly rusty Diaby.

Yet again, he transformed the game. His presence alone seemed to calm the team, and we had chances with Koscielny, Arshavin and Bendtner going close.

As the game came to its close, and I was considering how best to rant about having yet another replay against lower league opposition, Bendtner was hauled down in the centre of the area, about 5 feet from goal, by the last defender. Clattenburg did point to the spot – I suppose we can thank our lucky stars for that – but why no red card? It couldn’t have been a clearer goal-scoring opportunity. Idiot. But I didn’t like seeing our captain trying to get said idiot in black to see sense and send the Terrier’s defender off. There’s just no need.

Up stepped Cesc, and slotted the penalty home. Thank God. Once again he saved our bacon, and we saw out the remaining minutes to win the tie and proceed to the next round. We’ll face Leyton Orient at the Matchroom stadium in the fifth round. Should be a great game, and one the Arsenally grandad would have treasured. The O’s were, if you like, his second team, and he’d also check to see how they got on every Saturday. A mate of mine is a fan, so I may well find myself there.

But that’s not for 3 weeks or so. In the meantime, we face Everton at home after a laughably short rest of 1 day. One day? I know they’re all supposed to be professional athletes, but that’s ridiculous. And, it’s worth pointing out, Everton may not be doing wonders in the league, but they managed to get a draw against Chelski.

Despite the win, it’s all a bit depressing, really. Nasri out for up to 6 weeks, our only reserve defender suspended, and no time to prepare for Everton. But how about this to cheer you up – Fulham 4 Sp*rs 0. That’s much better.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Huddersfield Preview, Odds, & New CB Rumour

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Jan 292011
 

At noon on Sunday we face Huddersfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Clearly, complacency is our enemy here, as it was against Leeds and against Ipswich. Our other enemy, this time an enemy from within, is the dreaded rotation. I was tempted to abandon my usual team prediction, but I’ll give it a go nonetheless.

Here’s the injury news from the official site:

I imagine that the skipper may get a rest, as will young Mr Wilshere. Up front, I’m pretty certain that Chamakh will start. I’ve a feeling that Gibbs might get a place ahead of Clichy. So I’m going for:

Szczesny; Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs; Denilson – Song – Diaby; Nasri – Chamakh – Bendtner

Odds

That is a team that can easily beat Huddersfield, no matter how well they play, and even with Kevin Kilbane and Benik Afobe, our loanee who AW has allowed to play against us. The best price on an Arsenal win is a laughable 1/7. I’m plumping for 4-0 at 9/1 with Sportingbet, and our loud-mouthed Dane to score first at 9/2 with Bet365. My long shot? How about 7-0 at 66/1 with Sportingbet? I thought so too, to the tune of a few pennies.

Transfer News

Our bully-boy, leg-breaking opponents in the Carling Cup Final, Birmingham City, have signed Curtis Davies and Obafemi Martins is on his way. I don’t really think this makes them much of a tougher prospect – though Martins does have some qualities – but it just brings into perspective our lack of movement in the transfer window so far. As regards our bid for another youngster from Southampton, Alex Oxlade-Chaberlain:

There is no news and I’d be surprised if there will be any.

I’m disappointed about that. Yes, it could be the typical Wenger silence before the signing, but it could be that Southampton are pricing him out of our reach and into the likes of Chelski and Mansheikhster City. He might be worth the money if he’s as good as other former Southampton youngsters like Theo, and dare I say it, the chimp from up the road, Gareth Bale.

As for our defensive issues, we’ve been linked with as many CBs as the press can think of, from PSG’s Mamadou Sakho to Per Mertesacker to Chris Samba. So my bullsh*tometer was on high alert when I heard another rumour. But firstly because I read it first on the rather excellent Young Guns Blog, and secondly because he really does sound like a Wenger signing, I think this rumour might have some legs, so to speak. I’m giving it a 4/10 – certainly possible, but decidedly whiffy.

The player in question has possibly the most unpronouncable name in football I’ve heard yet – Šime Vrsaljko. My agent spent some time in Croatia and apparently it’s Sheemé Vursal(ye)ko, if you catch my drift. I think I’ll call him Shimmy. Anyway, he’s a right back who can play centre back, he’s young, quick, technically gifted, and great on FM. Apparently we’ve sent representatives to Dinamo Zagreb, so we shall see. I’m not holding my breath.

In other news, our favourite nutty Russian, Andrey Sergeyevich Arshavin, has been doing a little introspection and decided that he’s not on form. I’m absolutely positive that I saw this same story on the official site a few months ago. I hope this time he’s spurred on to perform better. He’s not playing badly per se, but he’s clearly lacking confidence. That we haven’t seen any shots from distance from him is a good indicator of this. Let’s hope he puts in a good shift against Huddersfield.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

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