Newcastle vs Arsenal – Preview, Teams, and Odds

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Aug 132011
 

Yaaawwwn! I’m still a bit sleepy from my off-season-long coma, but I was rudely awoken from my slumber with the news that we have signed yet another pacey winger/striker. No, really. Yes, we have. No, I’m afraid he can’t play centre-back.

The player in question is Joel Campbell, a 19-year-old Costa Rican who has played well for his country, but who has not played for a club outside his native land. Hmm. But still, any signing should be applauded and welcomed, and I have genuinely heard good things about this lad. I do envisage a lengthy period of acclimatisation while he gets used to the Premier League pace and occasional brutality, but I’ve seen a few clips on YouTube and I’m looking forward to seeing him play.

Speaking of brutality, we may well line up against that criminal nutcase whose tweets have revealed him to be, well, a nutcase. Completely bonkers. But let’s not forget the nasty side of Barton’s game, which resulted in Diaby completely losing it in the 4-4 disaster earlier this year. I hope he doesn’t feature.

According to the official site, Vermaelen is fit (woo!) and so is RvP (double woo!). These two players will be absolutely crucial to our season, and every game I will say a little prayer that they finish the 90 minutes with all of their limbs intact.

Interesting to see the list of shirt numbers on the official site. Those two midfielders who will not be named were on there, which strikes me as complete denial. The slightly more interesting bit is that Szczesny has the number 13 shirt, and Alex OC has the number 15. Gervinho, somewhat strangely, is way down with 27. I know little should be read into these numbers, but you could reasonably assume that Szczesny will be ahead of Fabianksi, and that Alex OC may pay more of a part this season than I for one expected him to.

Wilshere’s ankle injury sounds extremely worrying. He’s been “put in a boot. He has an inflamed ankle and it is difficult to set any specific date on his return, but we hope he will be back soon,” according to the official site. I know he’s quite small, but that’s still got to be a pretty massive boot. Well anyway, I hope he get’s better soon, because without the two who shall not be named and young Jack, we’re somewhat short in the creative department.

Team Line-up

So I expect something like:

Szczesny; Gibbs – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Sagna; Song – Ramsey – Rosicky; Arshavin/Walcott – v Persie – Gervinho

I’m very curious as to who we’ll see on the bench, as it may give us an indication of how much we’ll see the likes of Alex OC this season.

Odds

Having made some significant wins but an overall loss last season, I’m going to be quite choosy about my bets. For first goalscorer, it’s got to be Gervinho on his debut at 6/1 with BlueSq. 2-0 to us looks good with William Hill at 10-1. My long shot of the day has to be a v Persie hat-trick at 25/1 with William Hill, and a few pennies have gone on Vermaelen to mark his comeback with a goal anytime, 8/1 with Coral.

We’re all disappointed about Cesc and Nasri, and more so that we haven’t signed a good replacement for either or a decent centre-half. But tomorrow there’s a team out there that need our support.

Come on you Gooooooooners!

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Bolton 2 Arsenal 1 Review and some soul-searching

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Apr 252011
 

It’s hard to know exactly where to begin; how to summarise a game that cruelly ended our title hopes. From 4 possible trophies a month or so ago to zero is a massive disappointment.

And it’s not the first time. For the third season in a row we have been fighting on all possible fronts, in with a shout of all possible trophies, only to slip away at the end of the season. AW mentions mental strength and mental fragility more than any other manager I know of; why is it then that we seem to lack the fight, the resilience, the edge – the mental strength, if you will, Arsene – to see the season through to the end?

I can’t be bothered, frankly, to go through all the games we’ve come close to winning but failed. Some just stick in the memory. That ridiculous game at St James’s Park, the recent game against Spurs. We just cannot seem to get through the last few minutes of a game without conceding a goal. And just taking the Bolton game as an example, can a side that concedes two goals from two corners compete for the title?

I’m a big AW fan (as you may be aware!) but reading this on the official site really p*ssed me off:

The facts are the facts. I feel the players [have] had an outstanding attitude [during] the whole season and they are not to blame. If there is someone to blame, it is me. I pick the team and I choose the players. For me, the players [have] had an outstanding attitude all season.
Yes, it is very unsatisfactory because that is one of the easiest run-ins we have had for a long time. We didn’t take our chances many times during the season and that is frustrating because you feel that the potential is there. But we live in a job where you have to take your chances and be realistic. We still lack something that is called maturity, experience or calmness in important situations.

Firstly, I’m not so sure that the attitude has been right. Attitude and the inability to keep a clean sheet for the last ten minutes are closely linked. The right attitude should mean that we do not, ever, concede such goals. And all too often some players – Arshavin, Bendtner, Clichy, I’m looking at you – have been respectively completely anonymous, unbelievably useless, and on a different planet.

Secondly, in terms of “something that is called maturity, experience or calmness in important situations”, that just can’t be used as an excuse any more. Let’s not forget it was Eboue who gave away the penalty to Sp*rs. An experienced international, not someone who can be marked down as young and inexperienced. The rest of the Arsenal ‘youngsters’ – Jack Wilshere excluded – all have years of Premiership experience and international tournaments behind them. It’s about time that youth stopped being an excuse. It never was a good excuse anyway, and for one thing, they’re just not that young any more.

So what is the future for this Arsenal team. I’m not going to join the ranks of those who campaign for an end to AW’s tenure, but I am going to suggest that this team requires some major surgery to turn it from a group of promising also-rans to a team of winners.

The problem is, will AW and our new owner countenance such changes? Do we need to change the philosophy of the club and buy experienced players? Do we need to change the way we play? These are difficult questions, and the answers requires more thought than a simple knee-jerk reaction to an awful performance, even it is a performance that relegates us to third, and puts an end to any hopes of silverware this season.

In my opinion, it’s certainly a good thing to be able to laugh at oneself, and a necessary ability in any gooner. Have a look at this from the Daily Mash.

Arsenally and unhappily yours,

Will

West Brom v Arsenal Preview & Odds.

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Mar 182011
 

There’s a strange mix of good and bad news before this West Brom game. Some bookies have us favourites to lift the title, with ManUre preoccupied in other competitions. We have a better run in to the end of the season than that Northern lot. We have a game in hand, albeit against Sp*rs.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we’ll miss two defenders and two goalkeepers until the end of the season. Szczesny may return right at the end, but it’s unlikely. Djourou is out till September, despite the best attempts of the Swiss FA to defy reason.

The really bad bit of all that really bad news is that Thomas Vermaelen will not feature for us until next season. And even that, by the sound of it, is not certain at all:

I relapsed six times. Every time I had a goal to come back, but that was then broken again and again. At first they said I would need four or six weeks after the operation. But it soon became apparent that it would last longer.
I feel no trouble in the Achilles tendon itself, but the muscles around it still need to be made stronger. I do not know when I will be back.

That’s bad news. Really bad news. He suffers from the same problem that Owen Hargreaves has. Need I say more? There’s a real possibility that he will not play for us again in any meaningful way.

That terrible news is made even worse by the fact that the player who has stepped into the breach, showed his qualities and begun to perform at the level we all hoped for, Johann Djourou, is also out for the season with a dislocated shoulder. Our season now rests squarely on Squillaci’s shoulders. And that does not fill me with confidence.

But before we can even consider thinking about the end of the season and titles, there are some baby steps to take in the form of West Brom away. Baby steps? Hardly. I respect Roy Hodgson hugely, and I reckon we’ll be in for a tough afternoon at the Hawthorns. Apart from the back five, we’ll be without Song, Fabregas, and Walcott.

Regular readers will know that I’m not a big fan of Rosicky, certainly not this season anyway. We’ll need him to put in a big performance alongside Diaby and Wilshere in midfield. Up front we have Bendtner back – err… hooray? – but much more importantly, v Persie will be leading the line. I expect:

Almunia; Clichy – Koscielny – Squillaci – Sagna; Diaby – Wilshere – Rosicky; Arshavin – v Persie – Nasri.

As long as Diaby and Rosicky have fair-to-middling games, then the combination of our front three and Wilshere should ensure that we create and convert chances. We must prevail. Our season depends on it.

The emergency goal-keeper signing was a bit of a surprise. At 41, no one can say that Lehmann doesn’t have experience. I can only speculate about how the dressing room will be affected by his relationship with Almunia, which we all know was about as sour as it can get in football.

The German is a complete nutter, but in his prime, a great keeper. He’d make sure that the opposition strikeres knew he was there, all right, usually by standing on the toes, if not, with the occasional karate kick.

I hope he turns out to be a positive influence on the squad. They could learn a thing or two about getting underneath an opponent’s skin. To celebrate his return, here’s a video of his finest moments:

Odds
The bookies seem to think that we’ll recover our form and beat the Baggies, with us at 17/20 and them at 4/1 for the win. I’m aware that I’m well down for the season, and so I’ve plumped for 2-0 to the Arsenal at 9/1 with Unibet. BoyleSport had 4-3 to us at 150/1 so that got a few pennies.

As for goalscorers, v Persie to hit the net first at 4/1 with Coral was too good to miss, as was Squillaci to get one anytime at 14/1 with Bet365.

Tomorrow, ManUre are at home but without several key players against Bolton. I’ll have my fingers crossed that Owen Coyle does us a favour.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this game defines our season. If we play to our potential, then we should walk it, and send a message out to United that we’ll be chasing them all the way. We need confidence, and we need it now. A good win, even a scrappy win on the back of a good performance, and we’re in with a chance at the only title that matters.

Arsenally yours,

Will