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

Back on form! Review West Ham – Arsenal 0-3

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Jan 182011
 

What a return to form! Three away goals; a team performance; a clean sheet good individual performances – you couldn’t ask for much more. Well, five would have been nice, and made me substantially richer, but you can’t win everything. But all my unremitting joy was, err, remitted with the new that the best defender we had last season, in his first year at Arsenal, Thomas Vermaelen heads off for surgery. I wich him well.

We dominated West Ham and created a decent amount of chances. The midfield and front 3 all put in a good shift, with some excellent attacking play.

Here’s some individual ratings.

Szczesny 8 Solid. If he keeps putting in performances like this he’ll put pressure on Fabianski. Vocal – I like that.

Eboué 6, Needs to concentrate on defending if he’s playing RB and not R midfield

Koscienly 6 Still needs some time in the gym. in the air?

Djourou 7 Another solid display.

Clichy 7 No glaring mistakes a welcome positive on his return

Song 7 Solid, good passing. Played his part in the goals. Still makes me nervous when he gets forward

Fabregas 8 Ran the show. Great to have the captain on top form

Wilshere 8 Great triangles with Song and Fabregas. Lovely ball to Nasri for first goal.

Walcott 8 (Gibbs 88 6) Tore Wayne Bridge a new one

Van Persie 8 Scored with his right foot! Emphatic penalty; denied hat-trick by the post. Set up Theo’s goal.

Nasri 7 (Arshavin 88 6) Not quite top form, still awesome at times.

Bridge 9 Brilliant. Star Man. Had a part to play in all goals. Without him, would Arsenal have won?

It was a comfortable win, made a whole heap easier by the non-performance of West Ham’s new £90k-a-week star Wayne Bridge. Not to jump on an anti-Bridge bandwagon, but the guy’s always struck me as a bit over-rated. He had a good season – but a good few years ago. He’s now just seems a classic case of an once young and over-hyped English player.

I’ll grant that he’s a hard worker, and reasonably good technically, but he switches off defensively, having caught Clichy’s Syndrome and developed extensive symptoms of being complete unaware of his surroundings and being pants. Everyone sides with him over the lumpen thug Terry, and says Bridge is a nice guy. But Chris, one of my Hammer mates – you’ve got to worry about your latest signing gifting the opposition not just a goal, but the whole game. They

West Ham are paying £90k a week for Bridge. If we want to sign a top CB, which we will definitely need to do, we’ll have to fork out a similar amount in wages in the current climate, and that’s just a loanee. With the market bent out of shape by the oil slick in Manchester, we’ll be lucky to sign a decent centre half for a reasonable fee. No, strike that, it’ll be a miracle. It will be interesting to see if we actually pay over the odds for someone when we really need them. We can’t have another Chamakh situation. We need someone now.

Various names like Mertesacker, Samba, and Gary Cahill have been bandied about. Of those, I think I like the sound of Mertesacker the best. If only because his name sounds like the name of a commanding, hard and rugged defender. He’s also an experience international, and some German efficiency would be welcome at the back. However, he lacks experience of the English game, which would come as a shock to anyone.

Chris Samba would be a safe bet. He’s got plenty of experience in the league, and is built like a brick sh*tter. My only reservation would be that he’s not the quickest.

All this is mere speculation, as usual the club won’t make any official statements, but anyone else got any ideas, or genuine gossip?

I’ve been doing a bit of research into Vermaelen’s likely achilles tendinopathy treatment, so that will follow soon, with a preview of the Leeds tie. I’m nervous we’ll rotate the squad. Please let’s stay in a trophy…

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