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

Leeds 1 Arsenal 3 Review

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Jan 202011
 

Well, my money was on 2-1 or 3-2 to Arsenal. So close. I looked at Sagna to score anytime at something like 50-1, but thought, nah, he’s already scored one this season, he won’t get another. Oh well. The Arsenally wallet may be feeling a little light, but I’m feeling great because we’re still in the FA Cup, thanks to a good performance by a team that was hardly our strongest.

We didn’t have Fabregas, Wilshere, v Persie or Walcott. The trio that had performed so badly against Ipswich – Denilson, Bendtner and Arshavin all started alongside Chamakh, Song, and captain for the day, Samir Nasri.

The little Froroccan played well and was rewarded with a goal on 5 mins. At first view, it looked a little fortunate, with Chamakh, Arshavin and Nasri exchanging passes somewhat awkwardly. But the replay proved it to be a top piece of skill and strength from Nasri. Last season, I don’t think he would have got as far as getting a shot away. Yesterday, he brushed aside two defenders, and buried it with the finish of a man brimming with confidence.

Denilson impressed me last night. Sometimes, it seems all he can do is pass the ball square and behind him. Last night he played some fantastic passes, and despite his slight frame, made his mark on the match. With Nasri playing well, and Song putting in a good shift, we controlled the game for long periods, and the home side were restricted to the odd counter-attack which Djorscielny cleaned up without Szczesny having a save of note to make.

Bendtner, however, did not. His touch was heavy, he found space on occasion but never used it. It was his dreadful first touch that allowed the ball to rebound to Sagna, who cut in and let fly into the top corner. Mini-Schmeichel had little chance, even though he got a finger to it. Good to see Sagna back after suspension; he had a top game all round, despite Bendtner not doing a lot in front of him. Of course, it was his cross that v Persie connected with to score our third, but apart from that, I certainly wasn’t impressed. I have to say, though, that Chamakh didn’t cover himself in glory either. Generally speaking, he was just a bit quiet. I hope having a fit-again v Persie competing with him for a place in the starting line-up will spur him on to better things.

As for Andrey, the butty little Russian, he did have some patches where he was playing well, creating opportunities for others, and having a few shots on target himself. He’s just not hitting the heights that we’ve seen from him in the past. However, as with Denilson, he was focussed and determined, which in my book goes a very long way towards a good, if not great performance. Opposing teams are careful with him; he’s learning that he can use that attention to feed others, and his play in the final third will only get better and better. The goals will come, and I hope he doesn’t start to get a complex about not scoring as much as he’d like. He very nearly scored at the start of the second half, and would have done were it not for the ludicrously named Robert Snodgrass putting in a great last ditch tackle.

Djorou and Koscielny had good games. The goal we conceded was an absolute corker, the only possible thing to say is that Nasri could perhaps have closed down a bit better, but if he did the same thing a hundred times again, I doubt we’d concede one goal in a hundred.

As the game wore on, Leeds pressed more and more, but when we brought on Bat-Cesc and Robin in place of Arshavin and Chamakh, the extra quality brought us a goal when v Persie connected with Bendtner’s cross. 3-1, and a sigh of relief from Arsenally Yours, and AW’s record of not going out before the 4th round left intact.

Ok I was secretly hoping for a last minute consolation for Leeds, but happier to have seen a good performance from some of our fringe-ish players and lose a few quid, than to have seen a rubbish performance and gained a few quid.

I did promise the fruits of my labour in terms of research into Achilles tendinopathy. However, I’ve seen on the website that he’s undergone surgery that I didn’t read about. So have a look, here on the official site, and join with me and fellow gooners in some serious finger crossing for good news in a month’s time.

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