Alex Song – Presser in Chief. Mens Suits £8.50, Ten shirts for £15.00

December 7, 2010

Written by SharkeySure

I started to write this on Sunday evening, and have also read through yesterday’s debate without getting the chance to comment much. So now my rambles have been requested by Peaches for a post in Song’s defence. I make no apology for the biased reporting and rewriting of recent history that follows. I’ll even steal a line of MickeyDidIt’s to make matters even clearer: “I must stress, every one of my theories and brilliant ideas have absolutely no basis on factual research or rational thought!”

I guess football is about opinions, but whilst I agree that Song wasn’t at his best on Saturday, I can’t see that he did much wrong bar horribly misplace two or three passes, and take a wild shot from a very difficult angle.

I watched it on a stream at 3pm then again on footie first at 8pm, and I was surprised to see how much closing down he did and how many balls he won in the air and on the deck, that hadn’t registered that forcefully with me earlier in the day.

Before horribly miscuing a pass to Arshavin, he won an aerial battle against two Fulham players, one of whom was the man mountain Hangeland. Credit first for coming out with the ball from a position in which he almost had no right to. Song also had a good penetrating run into Fulham’s bus garage (?) which opened them up a bit and led to Rosicky’s volley that went narrowly wide. Again, good pace shown to get in there.

Prior to his wild shot it was a long sprint after Pantsil, whom he caught and robbed (you all saw that right – Song’s slow ..Lol !) . I’m very happy to see him doing that, as it shows us pressing higher up the pitch. We started last season that way, and then it tailed off a bit, for some reason.

This season Song seems to be tasked with being presser in chief, and I for one think that he does it very well. When required, he sits deeper and is much more disciplined as a pure DM (M City, Everton and Villa away?).

Maybe part of the reason is that Song is very adept at using his strength and physicality to break up play, and perhaps Arsène feels that it’s better that he does this further away from our goal, in an area of the pitch where the opposition are less likely to roll over for a foul and set piece opportunity. Additionally he’s less likely to get a yellow for fouls high up the pitch.

Beyond his strength, Alex Song really is one of the best CMs in the Prem in my humble yet unbiased opinion. It’s rare to combine his physical strength and sublime technique. His quick feet and speed of thought get him out of many sticky situations that would have many others hoofing the ball into touch. He is also a very good passer of a football – slide rules inside the full back, chips, dinks, deft touches, he’s got the lot.

Yesterday Gunner N5 posted some wonderful stats that showed Song as being the 2nd most successful passer of a football in the Prem this season (up until Nov 27th). To see Song’s passing stats at 87% and to know the sort of cute and sometimes audacious passes that he attempts is fantastic for me, as I am just about one of his biggest fans. He’s second only to the Black Ray Wilkins at Chelsea (on 88%) who may as well be called CrabMan, and work at the CrabShack. (My Name is Earl is just about my fave comedy!)

To see Song do that receive and turn, look up to pass, then glide away in the opposite direction is a thing of much beauty and grace to me. To watch Crab Obi Mikel knocking the ball 2 and 3 yds to Ivanovic, Terry and back to Cech is horrible to watch. So taking into account points for artistic merit, Song’s a very clear winner. Simple really. So whilst I accept that his standards may have dropped a little I still believe that he remains one of our most effective and consistent players, who gets through the donkey work and adds the steel and never say die spirit (W ham at home!!) that we’ve all been crying out for since Flamini left. Anyone got Flamini’s passing stats for his final season..??

As this post lacked the humour I’d ordinarily aim for, here’s a gag to finish. A blonde (no, not our beloved Alex !!!) took her car to a garage as it wasn’t running too well. She left it with the mechanic to look at for an estimate of the problem and likely cost. One hour later she returns to hear the car running smoothly.  “Wow you’ve fixed it already,” she says, “yeah just shit in the oil filter” says the mechanic. “Really” replies the blonde, “how often do I need to do that..?”


The One Move Wenger MUST Make to Reclaim the Title

December 6, 2010

Never mind another swoop into the French league for Eden Hazard, or a crafty pickpocketing of the Hammers midfield to land Scott Parker.

The one move that Arsène Wenger can make this winter to transform Arsenal’s title aspirations is sitting right under his fine Gallic nose.

All he has to do is move Alex Song back to the position that suits him best.

I have banged on about this before but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of good banging. So consider this to be the Song Bang Part Deux.

First some home truths for the misguided souls who take time away from their very pressing duties watching daytime TV to write comments on the internet about how rubbish our defenders are.

  1. Squillaci and Koscielny have both started extremely well this season. They were never intended to be a starting partnership but the Vermaelen injury has thrust them into the firing line from the outset and they are showing signs of adapting quickly to the physical nature of the EPL.
  2. Johann Djourou inevitably made a slow start back to first team action after a year out through injury but he, too, is showing his class. In his last couple of outings (including against Fulham on Saturday) he has been outstanding.
  3. Bacary Sagna is back to his best form of two or three seasons ago: solid as a rock defensively and starting to put over some really good crosses.
  4. Gael Clichy is, er, no more accident prone than last year.

During the second half of last season we started to get into a bit of a groove. Our previous defensive fragility was gradually replaced with a grittier, more effective shield for whichever dodgy ‘keeper happened to be playing.

How did we manage this? Well, we had a good central partnership of Vermaelen and Gallas and we had an excellent defensive midfielder sitting in front of them in Alex Song.

Then the wheels fell off. Song got injured before the Tottenham away fixture and in that game Vermaelen suffered a serious injury and had to go off after 19 minutes. I don’t need to remind anyone how that match ended up.

Without Song and Vermaelen we went on to suffer two more bad defeats in our final run-in – the infamous 2-3 away at Wigan, where we collapsed like Rooney in the penalty area after a non-contact challenge; and the 1-2 at Blackburn.

Who knows what might have happened if TV and Song had stayed fit?

And so to this season. No Gallas, but two new centre backs came in and we could also look forward to having the fastest improving defensive midfielder in the Premiership.

We got off to a flyer but after only three games two bad things happened: Vermaelen’s achilles tendon started twanging like a country guitar; and Alex Song started thinking he was Lionel Messi.

There’s nothing to be done about the first misfortune, but surely it’s time to do something about the second.

In game after game Song has traded the defensive cover role for what is probably meant to be a marauding box-to-box role. It’s as if he’s trying to be a Stephen Gerrard (minus the punching people in bars) or a Frank Lampard (minus the pie-eating). The only problem is that until this season Gerrard could maraud because he had Mascherano watching his back; and Lampard gets all those deflected goals because Essien is watching his.

When Song charges forward the defensive cover at Arsenal is left to either Wilshere or Denilson. They’re both decent players, but JW is young and inexperienced and, in any case, has a style of play much more suited to the attacking midfield role; and Denilson, while excellent in possession, has the attention span of an amnesiac goldfish when we don’t have the ball.

End result: two central defenders completely new to the EPL are left with negligible midfield cover in most games. It’s no wonder they’ve looked exposed at times.

Clearly, as a highly paid professional, Song hasn’t dreamed up this new role all by himself, so the responsibility lies with Wenger.

In early November, after Song scored the winner against West Ham, the boss had this to say about his cuddly Cameroonian:

“Song wants to get forward. Sometimes defensive midfielders just want to defend. It’s not just his main role. He does it well in fairness. He came here as a centre-back, maybe he will finish centre-forward.

“He sees there is big competition in midfield and that helps. Nobody is guaranteed a place. We’ve had so many good players and so many players who have become exceptional here but, at the moment, Song is moving forward.”

Well bloody well tell him not to move forward then Arsène! It’s not as if his forward momentum is unstoppable; he’s not a glacier, despite the dusting of light frost on his bonce.

If it’s an experiment to create our own Gerrard/Lampard it was doomed from the start because without Song shielding the defence we don’t have a Mascherano/Essien.

Wenger has also gone on record as saying that Denilson takes the holding role when the two play together – but who, reading this, really feels comfortable with the little Brazilian as the chief protection for our defence?

There were some excellent comments on Arsenal Arsenal yesterday about this issue. As someone pointed out, last year Song was a round peg in a round hole. This year he’s a round peg who’s flirting with all sorts of squarey, oblongy and rhomboidy type holes while ignoring the lovely round hole that’s sitting waiting for him.

It almost cost us dearly against Fulham. I have no doubt he worked extremely hard and put in a lot of miles in that game, but too often he was in the wrong place when Fulham attacked.

Aside from the weakness this causes our defence, he is also not as good at the attacking midfield part of the job as most of the other candidates for the role, including Rosicky, Nasri, Wilshere, Fabregas and Arshavin.

It makes no sense to have moved him from a position in which he was becoming world class to one in which he will never be better than average.

Come on Arsène, give us back the Song we love.

RockyLives


One Nil to The Arsenal

October 31, 2010

League positions usually go out of the window when there is a local derby, and West Ham who had fared quite well against us in recent years came with the obvious intention of not losing. Expectations were high amongst the home supporters after seemingly scoring for fun whoever we played in the last few weeks,yet it soon became apparent this was going to be in the main an all out attack against a resilient defence. I don’t think I am being too harsh in saying that this wasn’t one of our most fluent performances as unusually Cesc and co weren’t on top of their game yet others who had been criticised lately, mainly Clichy and Sagna both had outstanding games. Koscienly is performing better with every game and his partnership with Squillaci looked solid. Fabianski had little to do, but he is reborn,oozing confidence and commanded his area well. Long may that continue.

Arshavin is just totally out of form and should have been substituted earlier and Denilson didn’t have the best of games. Chamakh is only human, and he too found it difficult to impose himself.

Nevertheless as the game progressed Nasri started to control the game and the surge continued, and he blasted a free kick from a full 35 yards which hit the crossbar. Song,who obviously enjoys his role as an attacking/defending centre back or is it midfielder kept moving forward more and more. Eventually Walcott was introduced and within minutes was unfortunate not to score, hitting the angle of the post which rebounded to the excellent Green. Green made several other outstanding saves, primarily from Fabregas and Walcott and many watching felt resigned to us drawing against our East London neighbours.

Everyone was on edge and the clock was ticking down, when Clichy cut inside from the left flank and sent in a curling ball and there was our unsung hero  Song to head the ball into the net.That is three goals in three games for the much maligned Alex.

The final minutes were a master class of possession by the lads and as the final whistle blew there were smiles all round and a huge sigh of relief.

1-0 to The Arsenal 🙂

Player ratings courtesy of RockyLives:

Fabianski: Not a lot to do, but when he had to do it he was composed and sure. His confidence is growing visibly and there was a wonderful moment when he was literally dragging Cesc onto position in the box as we defended a free kick or corner. (I gave him an extra half mark for that). 7.5

Sagna: some misplaced passes in the final third but excellent defensively. 7

Koscielny: didn’t put a foot wrong. His tackling and positional play were first rate and he’s brilliant at staying on his feet and steering opponents away from danger without diving in. MoTM: 8

Squillaci: another good game for The Squid, who is forming a solid partnership with Kozzer. He made some strong tackles when needed, always looks calm and is a threat in the opposition’s box from set pieces. 7

Clichy: comes in for a lot of stick for his positional play but he was good today (partly helped by West Ham’s lack of ambition). And a rare assist for the vital goal. 7

Song: worked his socks off playing box to box and scored the late winner. West Ham’s lack of threat in attack meant you never felt too worried about any potential holes he was leaving. Got his customary first-half yellow for diving in in a non-crucial area. 7.5

Denilson: Tidy, if unspectacular. Nevertheless with Song charging forward his conservative positioning was important. 6.5

Fabregas: Not one of his better games. His touch was off and he misplaced a third of his passes, which is very uncharacteristic. On the plus side he kept trying to make things happen and had a couple of attempts on goal. 6

Arshavin: what’s happened to the player who single-handedly destroyed Liverpool? Nothing worked for him and it was painful to watch at times. Sadly the time has come to take him out of the spotlight for a few games. 4

Nasri: not as influential as he has been in other recent games (partly because Cesc and Arsh were misfiring, so our rhythm was never properly established). But he still did well and was driving us forward at the end. 7

Chamakh: some have criticised him for yesterday’s performance but in truth he was a victim of our general lack of fluidity and West Ham’s packed defence. It’s not as if he missed a hatful of sitters, it’s just that he couldn’t get in the game. 6.5

Subs

Walcott: continued his good recent form and was unlucky not to score. 7

Bendtner: didn’t have time to make much of an impact but definitely added to our threat as we chased the winner. 7

Eboue: a typical Eboue cameo: 6


Song’s Position In Question – written by RockyLives

September 30, 2010

What’s wrong with Alex Song?

Last year he was well on the way to becoming the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder. After some false starts he seemed finally to have perfected his game: pick up the ball from the centre backs; move it on quickly to the more progressive-minded midfielders; always be available to receive and pass when we need to keep the ball; break up the opposition’s attacks when we lose it. For a period last year he was doing that job brilliantly.

Now, suddenly, he’s playing a totally different game.

I lost count of the amount of times he was our most advanced attacking player on Tuesday night. And when he wasn’t furthest forward he was bursting into the opposition penalty area time and again to break up our best attacking moves.

It was as if his head was possessed by the ghost of Thierry Henry, his feet by the spirit of Willie Young. Perhaps the soul takeover happened at the same time he got his Norman Beaton haircut.

Imagine if Andrei Arshavin started a game in the left forward position, but spent most of the 90 minutes covering right back. That’s the equivalent of what Song was doing.

The question is why?

It can’t really have been down to sheer stupidity, because it’s a pattern we have seen in the last few games. If Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice disapproved they would surely have given him a good slap round the back of the Colney bike sheds by now.

Instead his forward movement was so pronounced in this game that he must have been instructed to play this way, which is really worrying. When you finally get a player to fulfil perfectly the role for which his footballing gifts suit him, why would you switch him out to do something he’s less skilled at?

Don’t get me wrong. I think Song is a great player. But he’s a great defensive midfielder, not a great attacking midfielder. He does not have the touch, control or eye for a quick killer pass that is essential for the position he was playing in on Tuesday night. That’s a job best done by the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky and Wilshere. Yet I would bet that on average across the game he was more advanced than either Wilshere or Rosicky. Hell, there were even times when Chamakh had dropped deep to pick up the ball and Song was our centre forward.

I know Denilson was playing a holding position which theoretically gave Song the freedom to roam, but if that’s the case there’s no need for Song at all – let’s have a more skilful midfielder in there instead. Against Belgrade Song was generally the reason our attacking moves broke down. His misplaced passes around the edge of the Belgrade box became too many to count and when he got inside the box his less-than-refined close control did the same.

He still managed to carry out his midfield defensive duties to some degree and I’m not going to criticise him for leaving holes because, on the night, Belgrade were offering very little in attack.

I’m more concerned with his cack-handed contribution to our attacking moves. We have the best attacking midfield options of any team in the Premiership – and Song is not one of them.

Come on Arsene, you must know the saying about square pegs and round holes. If you had a bottle of premier cru claret you wouldn’t put it in the fridge (unlike Owen Coyle http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-1315023/Des-Kelly-Arsene-Wenger-needs-cup–glass-wine.html). So don’t put your best defensive holding player in the position that belongs to an attacking midfielder.

RockyLives


Goodbye Denilson – written by RockyLives

September 20, 2010

Written  by RockyLives

In a game of many villains for us it may seem odd to pick out one, but I’m sad to say that Denilson does not belong in the Arsenal first team.

Before I elaborate, it’s worth having a quick word for each of the other villains of the piece (and some heroes):

Alex Song: idiot for the first booking (he was carded for the dissent, not for the non-foul). Idiot for the second booking: when you’re in a minefield you don’t start doing Riverdance. Song knew that another booking would mean red yet he kept making niggly fouls. The obstruction that led to his second yellow would be a booking seven times out of ten. Aside from the bookings, he seemed leaden-footed and went marauding forward on too many occasions leaving us vulnerable in midfield, as if his goal against Bolton has made him think he’s Thierry Henry.

Phil Dowd: many people’s hate figure for allowing the Sunderland goal in the fifth out of four stoppage time minutes. But we all know that the official allocation of extra time is a minimum and anything above that is discretionary. After the flak that the ref in the Everton v Man Utd game took last weekend for blowing the whistle during an Everton attacking move it’s not surprising that refs this week were hyper-sensitive to the issue. Anyway, we’ve benefitted in the past from extra-extra time goals ourselves. If I was going to take issue with Dowd (who was generally pretty good) it would be over the fact that Bramble twice scythed down our players on the edge of the box as they bore down on goal and neither foul produced a card.

Rosicky: he had a good game overall, but the penalty miss makes him a villain. However, even the best players fail to convert pens occasionally and there’s no point dwelling on it.

Jack Wilshere:  London made the point on here yesterday that in the first half he was leaking balls like a pair of torn underpants and perhaps should have been rested after the Braga game. He certainly struggled in the first half, but I thought he played very well in the second and, unlike the more experienced Song, was careful not to incur a second yellow.

Andrei Arshavin: will whoever has pinched his shooting boots please return them immediately to Mr A. Arshavin, Ashburton Grove, London N5. No questions will be asked.

Heroes: although Sunderland played really well and made a few half decent chances, Almunia, Kozzer and Squelchy all played well. Up front, Chamakh put in a tireless shift but in the last 15 perhaps he should have been replaced by Vela. Nasri and Rosicky also had good games overall.

And so to Denilson.

Let me start by saying I’m not a Denilson hater and I don’t like scapegoating players. I was at the Wigan game when so-called fans were booing Eboue and I was not one of them.  I was away at Fulham when a 17-year-old Alex Song was shamefully booed by the traveling support and I did not boo then either.

Two seasons ago I thought Denilson was a promising player, tidy on the ball and efficient with his short passing game. He was far from the finished article but, if he continued to progress, he had the potential to end up being a first team regular. What’s more, he was Brazilian and we all know that Brazilians have an extra bit of brain devoted exclusively to footballing skills (it’s in place of the ‘don’t cut down rain forests’ bit of the brain).

Sadly little Den has not progressed and has, in fact, regressed.  Two seasons ago he seemed able to maintain his focus and work rate.  That’s not the case now. He was rightly condemned for some of his woeful performances last year (being overtaken by the ref during a Man Utd break which led to a goal was a particular low point). Looking at his 37 minutes and 15 seconds yesterday it seems he’s learnt nothing from that criticism. In that relatively short space of time I counted three occasions on which the Sunderland player he was challenging did a give-and-go, and Denilson turned to stand and watch the path of the ball instead of going with his man. It was as if he was a spectator while his opponent raced ahead into dangerous positions. Even Sunday League players know that when the man you’re supposedly marking or closing down gives the ball and runs you’re supposed to go with him. On other occasions when Sunderland won the ball in their own half and attacked at pace, you could see most of the Arsenal players sprinting back to cover – apart from one: there was Denilson, jogging gently back as if it was the end-of-game warm down.

To reluctantly steal a quote from Alan Hansen, it’s as if his football brain is not fully developed; as if his awareness of what to do in crucial situations has gone adrift. I feel sorry for him, I really do. I would love nothing more than to see him turn into a world class midfielder. Elements of his game are still good – his short passing in particular – but it’s not enough. He has become a liability and I have no doubt his inattention will lead directly to us conceding goals this year.

I have a sneaky hope that Arsène knows this too, which is why Denilson has slipped down the pecking order behind Wilshere and Diaby (and no doubt behind Ramsey too when he returns).

I will never boo him, I will never barrack him, and when he turns out for Arsenal I will support him, but I fear the time has come to say goodbye to Denilson.

RockyLives


So far so good Part 2. Midfield and Attack – written by BigRaddy

September 9, 2010

The midfield has been very good. Nasri continued his pre-season form and looks a fantastic player, his injury is a blow.  To see Nasri  take on and beat a player then lay off an accurate pass is to see the future of this Arsenal team. Should /When Cesc goes, this will o’ the wisp is his natural successor – assuming he remains fit.

But how brilliant has Rosicky been?  In the absence of Fab and Samir he was my MotM against Blackpool and showed what we have been missing. Barring injury I anticipate a great season for him.  That our lightweight midfield outplayed a very strong L’Pool midfield consisting of 2 England first choice players and Mascherano (who was superb) gives enormous hope for the future.

It was brave of Wenger to play Wilshere at Anfield but he wasn’t overawed and gave good account of himself. He has yet to stamp himself upon a game though we all know his time will come. Whether he accepts a bench role for a season or two is another matter, but whilst we have such a wealth of superb atttacking MF’s , he will have to wait his time.

Diaby has been solid, not spectacular, though his goal at the Emirates was the best we have scored this season. His link-up play has improved and he looks very comfortable, releasing the ball earlier and not trying to beat everyone in front of him. It was noticeable at Ewood that Diaby was very concentrated upon defence and was always in the middle at set plays; either marking Samba or getting under the long throw in, he managed to disrupt B’burn’s giants.Three starts in 3 games shows Wenger’s belief in him, though I expect him to give way to Fabregas. I cannot recall shouting at him once, which I can assure you is a major shift!

We needed Song back for B’burn and he looked rusty. Perhaps like Samson he has lost some power with his new haircut (must be a lost bet). A few games will see him back to the man upon whom so much rests. Cesc plays so much better knowing the Song is alongside him. I have grown to enjoy Song’s game, he is unassuming, tough, plays with a smile and is surprisingly skilful for a defensive midfielder. I have no doubt he will become a far better player than anyone imagined when he was first introduced to the team, and is an essential to our prospects of winning the title.     p.s.  I have just read that Alex Song has 17 sisters an 10 brothers!!!

Arshavin looks to have regained the enthusiasm in his game. Scoring twice already and looking dangerous, plus his tackling has been spiky. A mistake at Anfield caused by trying to play out of defence led to a goal, but that apart he has been energetic and tricky. The man almost never loses possession. His website is a hoot and is highly recommended,. Arhavin has said that he has lost his “sparkle” and that he no longer scores amazing goals – well I don’t care if he scores 20 tap ins (he is in my Fantasy Team), the fact that he is becoming a team player is of far more importance. Last season was so frustrating because he appeared to be playing in B minor when the rest of the team were in C major. Hopefully he will tune up this campaign and we get to see him become a lethal instrument in midfield.

Chamakh has looked very solid without being very dangerous. I like the way he closes down the opposition defenders giving them few passing opportunities which results in them hoofing and by-passing the midfield. At Blackburn he took the role (with Diaby) of marking Samba at set plays and did a fine job, which shows how strong the Moroccan must be. He looks superb in the air, his goal from RvP’s corner was a beauty and reminiscent of Alan Smith – we have missed an aerial threat for many years. First time control is good – a lesson to Nik, and he appears comfortable on either wing, allowing RvP/Theo to interchange the central striker role. Perhaps he will not be a 20 goals a season man, but he will score and in the inevitable absences of RvP will be a good spearhead for the attack.

We haven’t seen enough of Cesc to assess his form, but from what we have seen of Mozart, Samir, JW, and Diaby, he will struggle to regain his place (joke). He may be tired but he remains the best player in the PL (how did Giggs get the gong? )

No-one would have been surprised by the injury to RvP. It is so bloody frustrating to have a player of his talent spend so much time in the treatment room. His pass to Theo for the goal at Ewood was sublime, he will be a big miss as always. I have to admit to questioning why it was necessary to risk Robin at Ewood. We all know what happens up there, and it was no real surprise to see him carried off. Had the medical staff any qualms about RvP’s fitness they could have waited for the Interlull and given him 2 weeks of further training. IMO playing him was a costly mistake.

Theo. What can one say? His form for Arsenal is a revelation. This is the Theo we have been waiting for. Making the correct decisions, scoring goals with lightning pace, (the poor Blackpool FB must have left the pitch bewildered), moving all the way across the frontline, not getting pushed around. His goal at Ewood was a masterclass in movement and powerful, accurate finishing. It is hard to believe this is the same player, and yes, I know we are talking about just two great games but if we cannot celebrate now when can we? His confidence is sky high as is his fitness. Arsenal need him to be a superstar, we need an English Face (does the nation really have to be represented by the likes of Rooney, Cole, Terry and Gerrard?).  Please, pretty please Theo stay injury free and brilliant.(written pre-England game and am too saddened to write amendments)

7 points out of 9 from two away and one home games, 9 goals, unbeaten, 2nd to the Chavs who have a very easy opening run, players in form, Cesc to come. What is there not to love?

8/10


So far so good. Part 1. The Defence – written by BigRaddy

September 8, 2010

Written by BigRaddy

The Interlull (tm Arseblogger) allows assessment of the season so far,  and despite the paucity of games, we have much to discuss.

I would like to start with our esteemed manager. Apart from the GK blip, Wenger has been very good with 3 top class signings in close season. In my opinion the biggest signing of the summer (or of any summer) was the renewal of Mr. Wenger’s contract. To agree such a long contract (4 years) at his age shows an enormous commitment by a 60+ year old and the level of his love of the club.

It should be remembered that AW could have gone to any club in the World and yet has chosen to stay; for all their wealth and glory neither Barca nor Real Madrid have managed to co-erce him away. Ask yourself this, had AW chosen to take the France manager’s position that he was offered, would France have so badly under-performed and would we be one of the top 6 teams in the World (we currently rank 4th in UEFA’s listings)?

In the games so far we have seen nothing new where substitutions are concerned. At Anfield, 2 subs on 60 mins and RvP on at 76 –  Blackpool 3 subs within 3 minutes on the hour, and Blackburn, 3 subs , two through injury/tiredness and one to give Jack a runaround as he was annoying AW by playing with his gameboy.  I have to say that I have been infuriated in the past with AW’s subs but this season he has changed things when the need has arisen. Taking off two attacking MF’s and replacing them with Vela and RvP at Liverpool was a very positive move and one which eventually brought results.

Mr. Wenger’s tactics have been spot on as well. The first half at Anfield was the template for what we have seen since, the classic Wengerball of possession, changes of pace, overlapping fullbacks and a high defence.

Almunia. Too much has been written about him, but in my opinion he has played as he always does, pulling of some fine saves but being inconsistent on crosses. The Liverpool game encapsulated Almunia – great saves followed by coming for crosses he had no chance of catching and in my opinion a mistake for Liverpool’s goal – I hate to see a GK beaten at his near post, no matter how hard the shot is. That said, he played a blinder at Ewood, and he is our GK.

The new signings are always under the microscope and I believe we have much to be grateful for. Koscielny’s baptism at Anfield was always going to be difficult, yet he passed with flying colours looking confident and comfortable, linking well with TV and covering Sagna when he attacked. The sending off was extremely harsh, though his first yellow for a full bloodied tackle was a delight to see. He is clearly a tough man, to come back after that dreadful tackle by Cole (as deserving a red card as any we will see this season) shows a determination to succeed at his new club. How he would have fared against a fully fit Torres remains to be seen. He wasn’t bullied by Blackburn and more than held his own with the aerial attacks, but he got badly turned by Hadj Diouf (spit spit) for Blackburn’s goal.  One mistake in two games for a newbie is very acceptable.

The signing of Squillaci is very good. I cannot recall seeing him play, but the stats are very impressive. A man with huge experience, played in a CL final and a regular International. I believe he will be the first choice CB ahead of Koscielny in the big games. We have definitely strengthened in the centre of defence, by replacing the creaking limbs of Swiss Phil, WG and Sol with younger players with top flight experience.

Our two full backs have had differing starts. Sagna is in great form, both in attack and defence. One could say that he went missing for Blackburn’s goal but if he is to be an attacking threat (particularly with Theo going central), he is reliant on coverage from others. His is an awkward position because of Theo’s attacking skills outweighing his defensive abilities. How does Sagna choose when to go forward? As he is such a potent weapon both in adding numbers on the right side of attack and in allowing Theo to move centrally , his choices have to be perfect. The space behind him has to be filled by Song or Diaby, and he is dependant upon their awareness of Sagna’s forays.

Clichy has been criticised  for his continuing poor form and many call for the emergence of Gibbs, but I think he needs more games to re-establish himself as one of the world’s top left backs. He has been turned too often for comfort and his distribution has been poor, in particular his crossing.  However,class will out and Clichy is a class performer. Some of his interplay with with Arshavin is excellent as they become an effective team, I love to see Gael with the ball at his feet in a tight situation and with AA in front of him – they contrive to play almost magical football in turning defence into attack. It is also interesting to note that Blackburn were a non-existent threat down our left.

Vermaelen. Excellent as always. What a find this guy is, already the rock upon which our defence is built. Hard as nails, athletic and a fine reader of the game.  The Blackburn game was the test to see if we had learnt to defend continual long balls and he led the defence in a manner the great TA would have been proud of. The signing of Squillaci has extinguished my fears should  TV  get a long -term injury, at last we have decent cover for this wonderful defender.

3 games. Two goals conceded. We look tight and secure and the communication appears to have improved. The only negative is no defender has scored yet.

7/10


So, Do You Think We Can Win The League?

July 16, 2010

I don’t know why but I am not as confident about winning the league this season as I was last which is unusual for me because when it comes to optimism and blind faith I make Stevie Wonder look like he has twenty, twenty vision.

This time last year I was getting quite excited, we had just managed to offload the disruptive Adebayor to City while fleecing them shortly after in the form of Toure. Our attack looked solid helped by the long awaited return of Eduardo. The midfield was bolstered by the return of Rosicky and the defence was augmented with Vermaelen. This gave us the partnership in central defence of Gallas and Vermaelen with Senderos, Silvestre and Song as cover all of which sat well with me. Manu had lost Tevez and Ronaldo, the dippers were totally reliant on the fitness of Gerrard and Torres and the chavs, well that one was always going to be the biggest hurdle to get over but nevertheless, I put my faith in my optimism and arrived at the conclusion that we were going to win the league.

This season, I am not so sure, we have Chamakh which is very exciting, although, for those expecting to see an out and out number nine alla Ian Wright I think you are going to be disappointed. From the five full games I have watched him he plays the channels, he is far more of a team player than the selfish Wright, although, that is not to suggest that being selfish is a bad thing for a striker, it just makes the point that they are very different. The clever advantage, above all, of having a player like Chamakh is that by reputation he will not expect to get an automatic starting place  – he will know that he will have to earn it; the other advantage is that the rest of the attack won’t feel threatened but he will keep them on their toes.

The midfield is so obviously reliant on Fabrégas that there seems little point of discussing the possibility of life after Cesc, as far as I am concerned — Denial is a river in Egypt — and Cesc will lead the good guys out at Anfield.

On a serious note there is only one issue out there that the Cesc bashers are still clinging to and that is what his father is rumoured to have said: the next time you get into a debate with one of them ask if there is a shred of evidence to show that Cesc’s father actually said that his son would like to leave and you will find out very quickly that there isn’t and do you know why that is true? Because if there was, those so called Arsenal supporters would be throwing it in our faces at every opportunity — Cesc has acted impeccably throughout this trying time.

I digress or perhaps I was just trying to put this off — the midfield — I have to admit that such a pivotal role falling to Diaby scares the life out of me the idea that he can stay focused for the whole season seems way beyond his capabilities but hey ho in Arsène we trust as they say.

The central defence: “we won’t win anything until we get four world class centre backs.” Don’t you just want to strangle people who make statements like that? It is about as banal as saying grass is green, it also suggests that such a revelation might not have crossed Wenger’s mind. Four world class CB’s at a club at any one time is a mirage, an impossible dream, you may be able to keep two happy but which two other self respecting world class players would be prepared to sit on the bench for what could be the best part of a season if not more, Chelsea with their inflated wages come close but even their situation is far from perfect.

When it comes to Wenger’s signings we as Arsenal supporters are used to having to make a leap of faith; there was a time when the names were so obscure that I was chuffed just to have heard of the country of origin never mind their pedigree.  Last year it was Vermaelen, although, in his case we had the reassuring knowledge that he was captain of Belgium and captain of Ajax. This year we are really being tested with the signing of Koscielny —  I have to admit I am nervous, this is possibly the biggest leap of faith we have ever been asked to make. Still we won’t have to wait long, his first appearance is on Saturday at Barnet when, if all goes well, people will return with glowing reports of how Wenger has unearthed yet another gem and this uncomfortable pessimism will evaporate………I certainly hope so.

Written by London


Gunners Must Send Wolves Packing……

April 3, 2010

Now the full extent of our latest glut of injuries is clear (Cesc out for at least six weeks, Gallas at least three and Arshavin possibly back for the Man Shitty game, on April 24) our beleaguered team entertain Wolves at the Grove today.

Were I a hopeless romantic, I would interpret the fact that the last time the Wanderers made their only previous foray into the Premier League we were Champions, as a portent of our crowning as Champions this season. However, not only have recent setbacks on the injury front and crucially, two dropped points at Ginger McLeish’s ploughed field, soured my view of our chances, but as an engineer by education, I’m fairly unromantic (as many ex-girlfriends will confirm).

Wolves, as original founders of the football league, were formed nine years before us and therefore their glory days are well behind them; a League Cup win in 1980 being their last silverware. Having been promoted this season as Championship winners, it would seem they are safe from joining Pompey, and hopefully Hull, in the Championship next year, lying as they do in fourteenth place, five points above the drop zone. Their form has been indifferent, three losses, two draws and two wins in the last seven games points to a home win for us however one of those two wins was away at West Ham.

The Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, will no doubt be quietly confident of  catching us on an off day, with an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” kind of lethargy he will hope to exploit.

The press will portray McCarthy as an honest, blunt-speaking type – a typical product of a Barnsley upbringing; his flat, Yorkshire tones would not go amiss on an episode of Emmerdale (farm). I enjoyed him taking down the Mank mad dog Roy Keane a peg or two after he had a pre-pubescent style hissy-fit during Irelands 2002 world Cup campaign.

The danger man will obviously be Kevin Doyle, their top scorer with seven for the season, their next highest scorer being defender Jody “Fanny” Craddock who has chipped in with five strikes– clearly a player to watch out for when the referee awards a free kick against us near the penalty area for the first foul we commit tomorrow.

As for us, we know in all likelihood we won’t see Cesc till the World Cup at the earliest, however I harbour a secret hope he’ll be back for the last league game and the Champions League final – so maybe I am a tiny bit romantic! Wenger has bluntly denied rumours circulated by the mischief-making press that Cesc was played with a leg already broken by one of McLeish’s muggers last Saturday.

Nasri would be the shoe in to take Cesc’s place but the centre back partner for the Verminator is a conundrum I am glad I don’t have to solve. The question is Campbell or Song? Assuming Sol is only good for one game a week, and then if he plays today he is out for Tuesday’s return leg at the Camp Nou.

The problem is, do we risk a less mobile Sol on Tuesday or save him for League games only? If we play Song at centre back on Tuesday, we’ll lose his midfield drive against the Catalans and that could be crucial as only a win (or an unlikely a score draw of 3-3, or above) will suffice. Being radical, one could argue for Song to be at centre back today as Wolves do not have the midfield brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi and Keita, add to that the fact that we don’t play next Saturday then conceivably Sol could play on Tuesday and be able to return for the NLD (where the assembled masses of cro-magnon Spuds will give him a sporting welcome back to the Lane, of that I’m sure), on the fourteenth of April. The caveat there would be that we would then have the away game at Wigan on the Sunday after the NLD and that would surely test Sol’s fitness.

Assuming the minor strains attributed to Clichy and Denilson clear up, I would guess Wenger will select the following 4-3-3:

Almunia
Sagna Sol Verminator Clichy
Nasri Song Denilson
Eboue Bendtner Diaby

My own selection would be with an eye to Tuesday:

Almunia
Eboue Song Verminator Clichy
Denilson Nasri Diaby
Walcott Bendtner Rosicky

One thing’s for sure, if we see a draw at Old Toilet before we kick off, then it’s game on for our title chances and a much jollier pre match Peroni (or four) at the Arsenal Tavern.

So to all of you going today, crank up the volume to 11 for our Wednesday night heroes – “Come on you rip roaring Gunners!”

By our guest writer charybdis1966



Villains to Heroes ….. it’s been worth the wait!

March 23, 2010

Be honest with yourselves fellow gooners – how many of you at the start of the season would had expected to be in with a real chance of winning the premiership and have the mouth-watering prospect of playing Barça in the quarter finals of the Champions League. Not many I would guess, and if you’re in the mood for confession, how many amongst us have expressed serious doubts (in some cases vitriolic character assassination) over some of our present squad? I have, I’m ashamed to admit.

Song, Eboué, Diaby, Bendtner and Denilson are 5 of the 6 that have come in for the most flak; I shall come to the 6th later.

These 5 players were bought for less than £10m and probably have a combined worth in excess of £50m and rising – not bad business! Let’s look at them one player at a time.

Alex Song: made his debut in September 2005, scored his first goal against pool in January 2007; later that month he went out on loan to Charlton Athletic until the end of the 2006/2007season. From 2008 onwards he has featured in the Carling Cup and been integrated into the first team. He is now first choice holding midfielder. This player has probably caused more disagreement amongst fans than any other, but the quality and consistency of his performances this season have won over even his harshest critics.

My verdict: I can honestly say, I always felt he needed time and would become a great player. I wouldn’t swap him for any player in the world in his position.

Can he get better? – YES

Emmanuel Eboué: joined Arsenal in 2005 for a fee rumoured to be £1.5m. In 2006 he became the first choice right back. In the 2007/2008 season, Arsène announced that he wanted to move EE into right midfield following the signing of Sagna. He has made himself unpopular with some fans due to occassional diving and ‘Drogba-esque’ protest for seemingly innocuous challenges. The low part of his career came when he was booed off the pitch by a section of fans in December 2007.  Since that day, with the sensitive management of AW, he has rebuilt his popularity with the fans (the other players have always loved him) and become a key player at both right back and in the midfield.

My verdict: I had my doubts about his ability to play in midfield but he’s proved me wrong.

Can he get better? – if  he can further reduce his ‘histrionics’ and work on his finishing – YES

Abou Diaby: signed for Arsenal in January 2006 for a fee believed to be in the region of £2m. He had an early setback to his career suffering a broken leg and a dislocated ankle in a match at Sunderland on 1 May 2006. He made his return to first team action as a 74th-minute substitute in Arsenal’s 6–3 victory at Liverpool in the League Cup at Anfield on 9 January 2007. Diaby made progress through the 2008/9 season but lacked consistency and his tendency to dwell on the ball and sloppy passing often let him down.

My verdict: Even at the start of the season I had a few doubts, but he has moved up a level and produced some scintillating performances. His defending is more assured, his reading of the game has improved and he looks very dangerous going forward.

Can he get better? – YES, I expect him to be a world class player in 2 years.

Denilson: errrrr….. next…. No, I jest. He’s come in for some serious abuse at times. If a player is picked for his side and does his best, we should not criticise. He’s not going to say to the manager “sorry boss, I don’t think I’m up to it” His apparently amazing stats have infuriated bloggers who don’t get the same picture watching him on the pitch. He was thrown in at the deep end when injuries gave Arsène few other choices, but he has a great shot and is not afraid to let loose and he works his socks off.

My verdict: with the current crop of players, he’d be a valuable ‘bench player’ for most games. Ramsey would have overtaken him in the pecking order for the midfield slot. He needs to improve his strength in the tackle.

Will he get better? – YES

Nicklas Bendtner: joined in the summer of 2004 and made his debut on 25 October 2005, in a League Cup match against Sunderland. His first prem appearance against Everton on 29 December 2007 was marred when he was sent off for two bookable offences. In the 2007/8 season he was very much 3rd choice striker behind Van Persie and Adebayor who he clearly didn’t get on with as was evident when they had a much publicised dust up in the 5:1 defeat to totnum. This season, he has become something of a cult figure, missing easy chances but never giving up. His work rate and self belief has seen him prove many critics wrong and his goals have come at important times.

My verdict: often has a poor first touch, not always pleasing to watch and obviously needs to improve his strike rate.

Can he get better? – YOU BET, I think he will be a £20m striker by the time he’s 25.

The aforementioned players have all been bought for very little money, had the unwavering support of the manager and battled through adversity, criticism from the media and periods of poor form to become the HEROES who have got us to this unlikely stage of the season………. which brings me to the 6th, and in my opinion most important ‘villain’ – Manuel Almunia.

I am no great fan of the affable Spaniard as a keeper. He lacks the authority to be world class. His poor communication, indecisiveness and propensity to ‘flap’ have made our defence look vulnerable and jittery at times. He is the only one of our regular first teamers not to have played for his national side at some level. But oddly, he has the opportunity to be the greatest hero of them all. He has started with the penalty save against Wham. Can he make up for the howler in conceding the 2nd goal at his near post in the 2006 CL final? Of all the players mentioned, he is the one we need to see step up and prove the detractors wrong (myself included) if we are to pursue the dream of a prem and CL double.

My verdict: I really want to be proved wrong. We need Manuel to play the best football of his life for the next 2 months.

Can he get better ….. can he?