Happy New Yearn …. Resolution Required ….

January 1, 2011

No it’s not a spelling mistake, but I will take the opportunity to wish all Arsenal supporters everywhere a Very Happy New Year. And to all those of you who Yearn for silverware and titles, I offer these words of comfort…….

The season is half over. We’ve done well; we’re 2 points off the top of the table in 3rd place.

Could we have done better? …. YES

Are we fortunate to still be in touch with the top? …. YES

Is it within our power to win the Premiership? …. YES, YES, YES ….. if we show the RESOLUTION and work rate we did against chelski

It all starts today when we face Birmingham City. They are hovering just above the relegation zone on 19 points and represent something of a bogey team for us in recent years. Apart from Martin Taylor putting an end to Eduardo’s Arsenal career, we also have to right the wrong of the very soft late equaliser conceded last season from a Kevin Phillips lobbed header that Stevie Wonder could have saved. Before that game we had a realistic chance of winning the title, but that result accompanied by yet more injuries to key players heralded the start of the collapse of our title hopes as we only collected 7 points out of a possible 18 to the end of the season.

Birmingham are no pushovers as they proved in a hard earned draw against the mancs. They play for one another and are a better side than their position of 16th in the table would suggest. Their team is a mix of ex-Arsenal players (Sebastian Larsson & Alex Hleb), seasoned pros (Stephen Carr), scumbags (Lee Bowyer – but thanks for the goal against manure) and an array of enthusiastic journeyman players schooled by their tough manager Alex McLeish.  They also have a giant up front in Zigic who has already scored from a header against us in the home tie which finished 2:1 back in October.

Zigic is a player we have to be aware of, not because of his sumptuous ball skills (because he doesn’t possess any) but simply his physical and aerial threat and for that reason, I implore Arsène to put Song, Djourou and Sczcesny in the side.  We need to put pressure on the ball and outclass them in midfield and Big Johan will have to remove Drogba from his pocket to make room for their big Serb.

After Wednesday’s game I have absolutely no idea what side Arsène will put out. I’m not going to second guess him, so this is the team I would pick.

Chamakh looks tired and a little lost so I’d keep resting him and play RvP. The jury is still out as to whether these two can gel in the same team. We cannot afford to have any passengers for this game so Nik and AA would be on the bench for me.

I’m pretty sure Fabiasnki will be in goal and AW is unlikely to pick all the players I have chosen as he will have half an eye on the citeh game coming up on Wednesday. My philosophy is simple, (some of you will probably say flawed and naive) win this game and then worry about the next. If we have the luxury of being 3 goals up with half an hour to go, we can substitute the more important players with any of the excellent options we have on the bench.

We’ll have our captain back and hopefully vice captain in waiting Thomas Vermaelen will shore up the defence very soon. Can we win? can we keep winning?

To the Michael Buble cover song – It’s a new life:

It’s a New Year

It’s a new day

It’s a new game

For Arsenal

And I’m feeling good


Mr Wenger’s 800th game and Birmingham Preview

October 16, 2010

Jumping Jehovahsphat, it’s back, the familiar Saturday morning frisson, that tingling in the lower extremeties that signify game day. And for you lucky chaps going to the game, the resumption of years old pre-match traditions.

A two week break at this time of the season is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as our injury problems. How can it be that with so few games played in the past 2 months we have lost so many players to injury? Koscielny is the latest to enjoy the warm sensitive hands of the medical team. Not having the spine of our team is finishing our season before it starts, I believe that had TV, Cesc, RvP and TW started at the Bridge, we would have come away with at least a point – but we will never know. What we do know is that we have taken 1 point out of a possible 9 and are 7 points off Chelsea.

We need to get back to winning ways, however Birmingham are no easy 3 points, they are a team in the image of their manager, hardworking, energetic and pragmatic. Inspiration and flair will be supplied by the fresh air loving Alex Hleb who is accompanied in midfield by another ex-Gooner, Seb Larsson. I watched Larsson play for Sweden v Holland on Weds and he looks in fine form.

Birmingham have yet to beat us in 25 PL games, and we have never lost two consecutive PL games at the Emirates (I think). We have conceded in all but two games this season and Birmingham have scored only once in their last 4 PL games. It should add up to an easy victory for the Gunners, but we just do not know how this team will perform if pressured, and we can be sure this is a point that McLeish will be pummelling into his team – “close them down, harry them, defend from the front and pack the 12 yard line, look for the breakaway”. And we must beware of a late Kevin Phillips goal should he play, he may be as old as Methusaleh but he remains a threat

The team almost picks itself assuming Bendtner and Theo are on the bench

I would be tempted to give JW a rest and play Rosicky, but Mozart played twice for his nation during the break whereas Jack only played once and as such should be fresher. With so many games coming up we have to pray that our CB’s remain unscathed –  heaven forbid another injury to Djourou who desperately needs a few games to return to top form.

And here is this weeks strange City fact  – The curry known as the “Balti” was invented in Birmingham, and exported to India! Such is the magnificence of the Second city’s Curry culture (and of course Lee Dixon owns a curry house chain based in B’ham). Plus B’ham is the birthplace of two of rock’s finest acts Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

Today is Mr. Wenger’s 800th game in charge. Where have the years gone? I was at his first game and there when the press were saying Arsene Who?  They know him well now, and I wish him an easy and relaxed afternoon with us 2 up at half-time, and 4 up after 90 minutes (we can but hope!)

As a postscript I must mention the sad passing of Malcolm Allison. A tremendous character and the manager of one of the finest teams of my youth. The cigars, the hats, the posturing – he was a one off . There is no-one in football like him anymore – a true maverick  RIP.

Can we win today? Of course we can.


No subs at half time……. I blame Hleb

October 15, 2010

Friday is traditionally a quiet day on the blogosphere so we have decided to reinstate Rant Friday. This is an opportunity for bloggers to submit a paragraph on anything that has been bugging them. It is not an excuse for an assault on the club or the manager, but a good way of encouraging new bloggers to write for Arsenal Arsenal.

Carlito11’s offering

Picking up on a comment by Jekyll yesterday, I want to question Arsene’s other ill (aside from scouting for keepers!)… the mollycoddling worry about damaging player’s confidence that causes him to never sub off a poorly performing player. Any other winning manager (from the specious one to old rednose to the centurion who is currently leading England to ruin) has been known to make big changes at halftime, but I cannot remember a time Wenger has done this except because of injuries.

The time has come for Wenger to treat these players like men, and shame some of them into better performances. We need anger from players not playing well enough- and a tougher mental attitude. Let’s hear a big more “play better or you’re off”. George Graham would have done it and the best part of our winning attitude during the Wenger era was forged by Graham and the players who remained from his era.

Rant over!



Rasp’s rant ….. Hleb’s a weaner

I first saw Alexander Hleb play for Arsenal in a pre-season friendly at Borehamwood back in 2005. I was immediately struck by his amazing ball retention and quick feet. Here was an exciting prospect for the team surely destined to be a pivotal player in the new team Arsène was building to continue the legacy of the Invincibles.

As the weeks/months passed and Hleb became a first team regular, I listened to supporters eulogizing over his intricate passing and clever link-up play, but growing inside me was an increasing frustration. I realised that here was a player who was more interested in exhibiting his technical brilliance than helping his team win games. I’d swear he got more pleasure from turning the same defender inside out 3 times than slamming the ball into the back of the net. His over-complicated play would slow down our attacks and allow the opposition time to get everyone behind the ball.This would lead to the all too familiar scenario of us playing brilliant possession football around our opponents box, but frustratingly, seldom piercing their defence.

I blame Hleb for being the forefather of clever possession at the cost of incisive attacking football. How many times would he wriggle his way into a perfect shooting position only to shun the chance and slot a clever sideways pass to  a teammate in a worse position and the opportunity would be lost?

Hleb’s a weaner. He lacks power. He could pass the ball 20ft very accurately but did you ever see him blast a diagonal pass across the pitch onto A.Cole’s chest or curl a shot into the top corner from outside the box. The way he behaved to engineer his way out of  Arsenal was despicable and his lame attempts to lure Cesc away as soon as he arrived at Barça show that he never had Arsenal in his heart.

The man who thought he was going to be the leading light at the Camp Nou is now a footballing outcast who will be representing Birmingham City (the club he dreamt of playing for as a young boy!) on saturday …. I don’t consider him even worth booing.

Think Brum ….. Barça can wait ….

March 27, 2010

We’ve had a weeks break after The Hammers and enter a huge week in our trophy hunt. Birmingham are a decent team, 9th in the PL,  and under the stewardship of Alex McLeish easily capable of upsetting our plans. Home draws against Man U, Chelsea and the Spuds show they are no pushovers at St Andrews. We beat them 3-1 at the Emirates despite a feisty showing from Birmingham in the second half.

The centre of defence is the conundrum for this encounter. As TV is banned for this game we are left with 3 choices of centre back – Sol, Silvestre and Song. Wenger has said that neither Silvestre or Campbell are fit enough to play two games in a week, and after Birmingham we have the big midweek game against Barcelona. As such, we will be forced to play Song at centre back. My guess is that AW trusts Sol more than Silvestre and therefore Sol will play midweek. Song was superb alongside Sol during the second half last Saturday, and I have no qualms at seeing him there, however he will be sorely missed as our midfield enforcer against a team who have already shown a battling disposition. Of course the news of Gallas’s “miraculous” recovery gives AW the chance to play both Sol and Silvestre , hence even more permutations

The CB’s can expect a busy afternoon. Cameron Jerome has scored 4 in his last 3 games and looks a fine player, and Chucho is a player with Tevez like energy (thankfully not the skill!). Plus the Blues have a super-sub in the ancient Kevin Phillips. Birmingham have a decent midfield led by Barry Ferguson, and the Spaniard Michel, a creative MF signed from Gijon in January. They also have McFadden and Lee Bowyer, who in recent games have been on the bench.

I see this as a key game in the run in. As we have seen, Chelsea underestimated a Blackburn team that wouldn’t lie down, and they are similar to Birmingham insomuch as they have only lost twice at home all season. Some inspiration from any of our attacking players is a must. Our forwards cannot afford to be profligate with our chances (are you reading AA and NB?) as we cannot continue to rely on our midfield, and in particular, Cesc to keep scoring. I believe this is a good game to start Walcott as his pace could upset an ageing Blues defence (Stephen Carr?) Apparently Nik will not be fit for the match and Arsène has been bigging up Eduardo for the main strike role. Obviously it is his return to the scene of that horrific injury, so the boss is right to focus on the positives rather than dwell on that day.

I envisage a team of:-


Sagna  Silvestre  Song   Clichy

Eboue Denilson Cesc  Nasri/TR

Walcott  Eduardo

I see Cesc coming off after 60 minutes to be replaced by Nasri/TR/Diaby – we need to keep our team fresh for Wednesday. Arshavin on the bench as he is a vital player for us in Europe, and needs a rest. An  cameo appearance from Eduardo late in the game.

Clearly Wenger will have one eye on the Barcelona fixture, whilst at the same time focussing on what could be a banana skin. Three points at St Andrews and the world will start to believe this could be our year.