Carling Cup Final Preview & Odds

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Feb 262011
 

Profuse apologies to my legions of couple of followers. My broadband has been down for the last week or so and all the phone calls in the world couldn’t persuade my landlady to pull her finger out. Anyway, I’m back, and have now put in some measures to ensure I can blog from other locations.

I didn’t miss much, only our only victory against Barcelona in my lifetime… no use crying over spilt internet connections. What a game it was. We hardly dominated – they passed the ball twice as many times as we did, but the win puts us in a fantastic position when we travel to the Nou Camp.

Oh and I missed the game against Stoke, which was notable only for the injuries to our captain and to Theo Walcott. According to the Sun Cesc demanded a meeting with AW to persuade him to let him play in the Carling Cup Final tomorrow, but firstly I don’t believe anything I read in the Sun, and secondly, we’d be stupid to risk losing him for the Barça rematch. Thankfully, according to the Offical Site, it looks like Cesc will miss the Final and the FA Cup replay against Orient. Theo, or the “Bovingdon Bullet” as we say here in Hemel, is less fortunate and will be on the sidelines for a couple of weeks minimum, which will see him miss the second leg against the Catalunians, but possibly feature against ManUre in the FA Cup, assuming we beat Orient at home.

What we need tomorrow is for the squad players to replace Theo and Cesc and play their socks off, something we didn’t see when we faced Orient at Brisbane Road. Our ‘B’ team’s collective failure to beat the East Londoners gives us a yet another replay in an already congested fixture schedule.

So which of them will line up against the Brutal Brummies at Wembley? Diaby, Koscielny and v Persie are back after injury, and I think all three will start. I for one hope that we do see Diaby rather than Rosicky replacing the captain; the little Czech has been rather poor this season.

Cesc’s absence means an extra burden on the young shoulders of Jack Wilshere to step up and provide the creativity. That doesn’t concern me. As the boss says:

He’s had very good games. His confidence has grown, his responsibility has grown, certainly. Our game goes naturally through Fabregas. When he’s not there, it will go more through Wilshere. The way of the game is simple: it goes always through the team’s strong points. So that the game goes through Wilshere is a good thing for him because it means the players around him have confidence in him. He will enjoy this game.

I hope he does enjoy the game, and I’m looking forward to seeing hi sleft-footed passes out to Nasri on the right flank, but how he copes with Lee Bowyer is what concerns me. Bowyer will niggle, leave the boot in, go in hard in 50:50s and generally make life difficult for the young man. It takes a great deal of maturity to rise above such things, and the guy’s only 19. Keeping 11 men on the pitch may be more tricky than usual, especially when you add the giant Zigic into the equation.

So the team I expect is:

Szczesny; Clichy – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Diaby – Song  – Wilshere; Arshavin – v Persie – Nasri

Odds

The bookies have Arsenal as clear favourites, with the odds of us claiming our first piece of silverware in five years a mere 4/7 at best. I’ve gone for a 3-1 Arsenal win at 12/1 with William Hill. 4-2 to us at 66/1 with Stan James was very tempting, but my Arsenally long shot is 4-3 at 150-1 with Victor Chandler. 7/2 on any player getting their marching orders was too tempting to pass up.

As for goalscorers, you’ve got to go for v Persie to score first, haven’t you? Well I did, at 15/4 with Bet365. The odds of Jack the lad finding the net at anytime are 5/1 and that got a few pennies as well.

So – can we lift the first bit of silverware since the FA Cup in ’05? Of course we can. Will we? The answer to that question depends very much on a mature performance from a very young man.

COME ON YOU GOONERS!!!!

Arsenal 2 Wolves 0 Review – A Good Spanking

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Feb 132011
 

Beating Wolves was never going to be too tricky – they hadn’t won at our ground in 35 years or so – but the way we played was most encouraging. Sadly, the stream I was watching on was reduced to a trickle by a dodgy internet connection, so all I’ve seen is the highlights on MoTD.

That said, it seemed like a fine team performance. Wilshere particularly impressed me, was did v Persie’s right foot with which he scored the first goal after a great pass from the captain. It’s good to see him score with his weaker foot, or as he likes to call it, his chocolate leg.

Big Mick McCarthy was impressed:

They murdered us. From one to 11 they were better than us, stronger than us and quicker than us. I have to admire their class and the way they play. And for us to get better we have to admit we got turned over – we were completely spanked. We had a slapping.

They certainly did, and it would have be a mauling, a romp, an orgy of goals, a battering (no… can’t think of any more quasi-sexual, faux-violent descriptions) were it not for a fine performance by Hennessey in goal for Wolves. And excluding a bump to v Persie’s knee courtesy of Zubar, we came away unscathed! Nothing short of miraculous.

Sadly Citeh didn’t do us a favour and beat the current Premiership leaders. Rooney scored a fantastic overhead goal flukey goal to win ManUre the game 2-1. They face Chelski in Fulham and Liverpool away at the start of next month, here’s hoping they drop a few points then. Le Boss had this to say about the title race after the game:

The title race is very much on. We want to give it our best shot to win the league and we are in a good position. If we keep playing like that we have a very good chance.

We certainly are in the hunt, especially when you consider how long is left of the season. And we host the scum from Manchester ourselves at the end of April. Ancelotti’s concession that Chelsea are out of the race is misinformation. There’s still a long way to go.

Nasri will have a fitness test on Tuesday to decide if he can play against Barça. I’d hesitate to throw a player just recovered from injury straight back onto the pitch, but if he can play on Wednesday at anything like level of form we saw before his injury, then I for one would like to see him against the Catalunians.

Another first-teamer returning is Vermaelen. According to AW on the official site, he’ll run out for the reserves in a couple of weeks:

When he [Vermaelen] is fit certainly we’ll play him in the Reserve team. But not before two or three weeks. You never know until he is completely fit to play again but we are hopeful [he is progressing well]. He feels he is over the problem but he played his last game in September and we are in February so it will take some time to come back to match fitness.

Good news indeed. Fingers crossed on that front. Full Barça preview soon.

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