Home Run to Continue?

October 28, 2017

Saturday. 3.00 p.m. kick-off. Home game. It feels wrong.

I have read and heard that Swansea are our bogey team but , didn’t we beat them last season with just 10 men? Yes, I know we lost a couple at home and got beaten in Swansea in 2016, but we beat them 0-4 in Wales. Why not today?


Swansea’s form is wretched at the moment, ours is variable but on an upswing swing (hopefully). We have no further injuries with both Mustafi and Chambers back in the squad. We haven’t lost a home game since January.

It augurs well.

But there is many a slip between the cup and the lip and we can be sure that Swansea, who have conceded just 3 goals in their away games, will be fired up. Fabianski continues to be their stand-out player and it delights an old romantic that he has done so well after his troubles at AFC.

Swansea like a goal from set pieces, their second highest scorer is the CB Mawson, as such I would keep Mertesacker in the teaming give Mustafi more recovery time.

My Team: Same as at Everton.


Koscielny    BFG    Monreal

Bellerin   Ramsey    Xhaka    Kosanovic


Lacazette     Sanchez

Let us hope their is no complacency or arrogance following our thrashing of Everton. What we have seen are the green shoots of the growth of what could be an excellent team, but that is all it is, Everton were rubbish and we put them to the sword, but we scored 3 goals against 10 men in the final few minutes.

Once again, we have an outstanding bench, almost certainly the best in the PL. It gives options.

Let’s keep the home form strong and make the Emirates impregnable (as if).



Almunia Back in the First Team

February 22, 2011

With Fabianksi out for the rest of the season, we’re only one injury away from Manuel Almunia resuming his position as Arsenal’s starting goalkeeper.

Let’s say Szczesney picks up a knock in training or gets Shawcrossed on Wednesday night – it would mean Big Al coming in for a string of important games that could include Barcelona away and the Carling Cup Final.

This sort of scenario could happen any time between now and the end of the season and whenever it does the timing will be inconvenient. Let’s face it, the games are only going to get more intense the closer we get to May.

I know that most Gooners would welcome the prospect of Manuel’s return about as much as a cyclist would welcome a bad case of piles during the Tour de France, but it’s a distinct possibility.

So what do we do about it?

For me it’s simple. We throw out the preconceptions, we ditch the bitching and we get behind our man.

If Fabianski, Song, Eboue, Arshavin, Clichy, Walcott and others can find their form again after becoming the butt of the fans’ frustration, Almunia should be given the same chance.

He is being blamed by many for the Orient goal on Sunday – although opinion seems divided as to whether he was at fault. But even if he could have done better, it was one mistake by a player lacking competitive game time.

What many Arsenal supporters seem to forget is that Manuel Almunia can be a very good ‘keeper.

And before you shout me down, take a look at this:

Yes, you can point out that that was way back in ‘08/’09, but cast your mind back just a year ago to this:

There was a time when Almunia was being seriously mooted as a possible England goalie. When the competition included David ‘Calamity’ James, Paul ‘Air Kick’ Robinson and Robert ‘Butterfingers’ Green, you can see why Manuel was in the frame.

Almunia has played very well for Arsenal in the past and, while he’ll never be in the Seaman or Lehmann class, he’s a solid professional who, if he played in a mid table EPL team, would probably be highly thought-of by the fans.

He has had bad spells as well as good, but some of the bad spells have coincided with having a defence in front of him offering about as much protection as a cotton condom.

In his good spells he has been very good and, in my opinion, his greater stature makes him less likely to be bullied than Fabianski. (I’ve never seen us concede a goal by having Almunia bundled into the back of the net, as has happened with Fabiasnki).

Szczesney is undoubtedly in Pole position (pun intended) for the Arsenal number one spot but if Almunia comes back into the first team in this exciting season he will need our support, not our ridicule.

Apart from anything else, I have never heard Almunia complain about his lot, I have never heard him slag off the boss or his team mates. He has not sulked. He has just consistently tried to do his best for the club.

So if he does come back in a big game, let’s not give him the ironic cheer treatment and let’s remember his great moments instead of his bad ones.

Let’s forget the Spanish Waiter and Coco the Clown jokes and give him the respect and credit he deserves.

Our season may yet depend on him.


A Case for the Defence

February 9, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Yet again after the weekend result it is the defence that has been called into question, the cries of weakness are again heard and the calls for a return to the glory days of the famous four of Adams, Bould, Winterburn and Dixon. Add to those four Keown and yes we had an impressive back line available. Put behind those legends, the one and only David Seaman and we looked unbreakable.

Fast forward to the current generation, our first choice back four, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, and Clichy, with Vermaelen waiting for permission to rejoin the trenches. I honestly think this defence is one we can build a successful side on. I also believe that in Szczesny we have a keeper who will be one of the best in the world. Suddenly this defence is looking solid, assured and dominant.

The media continue to point to our weak defence for a reason why we won’t be succesful. I think most of us who have seen games this year would agree that Kozzer and JD are forming a good understanding, Kozzer is as fearless as any Centre Back I have seen at the Arsenal for some time, and JD is becoming a considerable force dominating opposing centre forwards for entire games. In Sagna we have probably the best right back in the league and Clichy is becoming a better defender every game (5th most tackles in EPL this season with highest success rate of the top 5 tacklers (78%)).

The team went 4 Premier league games without conceding through January, when we did concede in the league in 2011 it was to a Mason assisted goal by Saha, then came Saturday and our trip to St James Park. Up until then I really believed that we had turned a corner, Szczesny providing confidence and communication to an improving back four, so what went wrong, where did this new found stability disappear to?

We went down to 10 men, but that does not guarantee the opposition a route back into the match, so scratch that as a reason.

JD got injured and on came Squillaci, one change to the back four however hopeless some Arsenal fans think he is (he isn’t by the way) should not cause a problem.

The midfield were asked to defend and dig in……now this is where I think the problem lay and is often a problem for any footballing side, but more often than not for us. Our inability to defend as a team.

I am not talking about the pressing and harrying up the pitch at 0-0, we have done this really well this season, I am talking about when the opposition start to have more possession, and push themselves into our half for long periods. Sooner or later if we are under pressure our midfielders start to give away needless free kicks and so invite more pressure.

This leads to the biggest problem, defending set pieces, this is also why I get annoyed with the criticisms of the defence, as they are not the only ones defending set pieces, watch Chelsea, and you will see Drogba, Lampard, Essien, Mikel, Malouda all doing their jobs in their own box, could you really say the same of Cesc, Samir, Jack, Theo and Arshavin? They will never be able to win a ball in the air against the Premier League giants.

We need to change the way we defend from set pieces, we need to hold a much higher line. For now I’m talking freekicks in the final third, too often we have conceded goals as the players hold the eighteen yard line and just before the ball is struck you will see them drop five yards and invite the opposition into our area and make it very tough for our keeper to come and claim the ball.

Look at the video below, the Newcastle goal and the Chelsea goal over Christmas were the two best examples I could find of this.

For Andy Carroll’s goal the defence takes up position on the edge of the D, by the time the ball is kicked we are already on the 18 yard box, and by the time it has travelled to 10 yards from goal both Newcastle and Arsenal players are in the 18 yard box making it very difficult for Fabianski to come and claim.

Even worse is the Chelsea goal, again the defence hold a position of the 18 yard box but before Drogba has struck the ball we are almost on the penalty spot and the ball can be delivered in to the dangerous area just outside the 6 yard box.

In both situations we would have benefited from holding a much higher line and when I say hold I mean HOLD, not follow runners, let them run offside. For the Newcastle goal if we had taken up residence 10 yards further forward there is no hope in hell that Carroll would have time to reach a ball played onto the penalty spot and stay onside. Again with the Chelsea goal ask yourself whether Ivanovic would make contact with that ball if the line was held on the D, the pace Drogba plays that ball it would be in Fabianski’s hands (hopefully) in a split second, with the whole area free of bodies.


Dropping deep from set pieces before the ball is kicked is a pet hate of mine, I would never allow my defenders to come that deep into my area, it was mine I took responsibility for it, I think Szczesny might just have the confidence to do the same, then we can say goodbye to being petrified everytime the opposition has a freekick in the final third.

Anyway this is a tactical issue one that I think Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice are more qualified to put right, the main reason for my post was to stress that this current defence is not as bad as everyone would like us to believe, sometimes we have to look at the rest of the team (and not just the normal scapegoats) to dig in and help them out on occasion.

Afterall even the great Tony Adams admitted that he had to talk Wenger in the early days to explain that they needed the midfield to provide a screen for them, and break up attacks, they couldn’t do it all on their own either once the shackles had been taken off the rest of the team.

A Chance to Blow the Blues Away

December 27, 2010

Written by Big Raddy

At last a game and what a game –  the chance to get a monkey off our backs and put some distance between us and Chelsea.

I trust that you all had a fine Xmas and are recovering from the effects of over-eating and that last pre-bed Brandy. What better than a dose of fresh air and a home match against the pretenders to our crown as Kings of London?

In very recent years Chelsea have bought their way  to become a major force in European football, no-one could deny the quality of their Double win last season which was achieved with a rash of goals and some superb entertaining football. With Malouda in form they became as artistic as they were effective, but he has suffered from post-WC withdrawal and following the injuries to Fat Frank, Drogba, and JT, Chelsea have struggled for points. Ancelloti will be delighted to have his full team back on the pitch and expect a return to winning ways.

This is not the place to discuss the total lack of class exhibited off-pitch by Chelsea and their players, but from the top down they are as dodgy as 3 week old Turkey sandwiches and it is for this reason that whatever the result of today’s match Arsenal will remain London’s top team.  Yes, it is true that we have a dreadful recent record against them, yes it is true they have amassed a pile of Silverware in recent times but I would suggest one checks out the Trophy rooms and see whose is stacked with treasures representing a long, proud history, and whose has just a few pots gathered in the last few years. Our fans have been complaining about lack of silverware  – well, I suggest you look at the decades between Chelsea’s first Championship and their second (5 was it?).

Today’s match is interesting because neither team is firing on all cylinders, both losing points to teams well beneath them in quality and PL position. To our Newcastle, Spurs and WBA one can compare Chelsea’s losses to Sunderland and Birmingham. Had they lost last week’s postponed game against Man Utd, Chelsea’s season could have been over by the end of today’s match!

Onto the “hoodoo”. Can we beat one of our rivals for the title? The loss to MU pointed to an improved attitude – I never felt we were outfought or that our players didn’t believe they could win, they just were found out by a lucky, well drilled team. I look forward to the Mancs return to the Emirates. It was a similar story at Stamford Bridge, we weren’t outplayed but were beaten by a superb Drogba goal and an unstoppable shot from Alex. In between we were well on top and had Koscielny scored an early header from 2 yards out, we would have gone on to win the game.

We all know the Chelsea team, full of great players from Ashley through JT, Essien, Fat Frank, Anelka and Drogba (can we stop his outrageous run of goals against us , 13 in 11 games?). A truly formidable side who on their day can seriously be considered to be challengers to Barca as the best side in Europe. But they are struggling and we can take advantage.

If Cesc is firing and Nasri shows the form he has everywhere except OT we can and will win. I am happy that Fabianski is fit despite Chesney looking very good last time out.

My team:

Bench: Chesney, Gibbs, Kos, Chamakh, Diaby, AA, Eboue

I would love to see us attack them at pace. Chelsea are not going to worry about Chamakh’s aerial ability – they are fantastic in the centre of defence, so we need to test them with guile and speed.

I firmly believe we can win this game ( I always do!), we are rested , have our Captain and best player back and have excellent players on the bench. Mr. Wenger will have been stung by the criticism of his tactics at OT and will be eager to pit his wits against one of the World’s top managers in Ancelloti.  In a topsy turvy season a good run will win the title and we can start today.


Roll on Spurs, we just can’t wait.

November 15, 2010

Written by kelsey

Those who are regulars on here would have read that I had positive vibes for the game at Goodison in my early comment yesterday morning. kelsey positive!!! Never they cried. Well the oracle for once was proved right.

This was never going to be an easy game, with Everton having strung together a sequence of good results at home after a somewhat shaky start, nevertheless I hoped after a tricky but deserved win at Wolves for once the momentum would continue.

The first twenty minutes were somewhat cagey but both sides were intent on playing football and though physical it was a test that we hoped would show that there was a new determination in the way we fought for every ball, and we weren’t disappointed.

The first goal came from an unlikely source through Sagna and then shortly after half time with as astute substitution of Wilshere for Denilson, he himself was instrumental in providing Fabregas with our second .

Everton are no pushovers these days and we knew that we had to be at our very best to await the onslaught on our goal, yet if Nasri had scored with his dazzling run through the middle or Chamakh had just stretched another six inches we would have been 3-0 up and the game would have been literally over. However it was not to be and the much maligned Fabianski yet again came to our rescue on more than one occasion, showing what amazing reflexes this young man has, and that his confidence is growing by the day.

A late scrambled goal inevitably by Cahill near the end made the score just about fair,though there was more than a hint of a foul on Song in the build up.

Webb had a strange game, again focusing on the inconsistency by referees, but one thing is clear Distin fouled Fabregas and the referee got that booking completely wrong.

Man of the match for me was Nasri, who is fast becoming an immense player for us. A special mention also to Djourou arguably our forth choice centre back, who had his best game of the seaon and his partnership with Squillaci stood in the main, firm.

Just a word about squad strength when we have RvP, Walcott, Gibbs,  Rosicky and Denilson starting on the bench today, Bendtner to return and Ramsey only a few weeks away from strengthening our squad even more.

So roll on Spurs.

Fabulous Fabianski – at least for now – and three points in the bag.

November 11, 2010

Football never ceases to amaze me.  Last night, many supporters were full of trepidation to see if we could bounce back after two disappointing and lack lustre performances and while it wasn’t exactly a bounce it was a hard fought three points.

We didn’t have to wait long as within the first minute an exquisite cross from Song found Chamakh and he powered the ball into the back of the net.  I would argue that was the best header of the season by any of our players.

Within five minutes, Arshavin should have wrapped the game up with a one on one with Hahnemann but as is so often the case, it wasn’t to be, and that gave Wolves renewed confidence and they slowly but surely came more into the game.

We showed defensively that we could give as good as we got. The back four, notably Sagna and Squillaci, seem vastly improved in recent weeks and although Djourou showed why he is fourth choice with some errors of judgement in the first half, he improved as the game progressed.

It was a great game to watch (possession 50% each) and showed not for the first time this season that on any given day there is not much difference between the sides at the top and the bottom of the premiership. The hope is that while we are not at our most fluent we are right in the mix and still have key players to regain full fitness and form to return to the side.

I would say that the save Fabianski made in the 90th minute was world class and overall he had a truly excellent game, all credit to him for showing “mental strength” after last Sunday.

Fabregas was sadly not at the races and hopefully it is just that he is ring rusty and not thinking elsewhere. His tackle will be discussed by many, but the tackle on Arshavin was worse and has not received the same level of scrutiny by the media.

If there has to be a man of the match it has to go to Fabianski for a near faultless performance and a close second to Chamakh for his brace. He may have drifted in and out of the game but he did what I had hoped he would do, take the opportunities when presented, as a striker should.

Next up Everton, and hopefully with Nasri, Walcott and RVP thrown into the mix, the omens are promising.

Written by kelsey

Rasp’s player ratings for you to disagree with….

Fabianski 9

Sagna 7

Squillaci 8

Djourou 7

Clichy 6

Song 6

Fabregas 6

Wilshere 7

Arshavin 6

Rosicky 6

Chamakh 8

Sheikh, Rattled and Rolled

October 25, 2010

Written by kelsey

By now you will have most probably read several reports about the game at Eastlands, and those lucky enough to have witnessed it will now have a broad grin on their faces.

The general consensus of opinion beforehand was that a draw would have been a good result, but with United winning, the nerves were on edge and many thought could we turn up and possibly bag three points. With Wilshere suspended, Diaby was dropped and Sagna regained his rightful place at right back and Denilson came in to bolster the midfield.

The game kicked off and within a minute Tevez tricked Djourou into a mistimed challenge and passed to the talented Silva who flicked the ball goal bound and the much maligned Fabianski made a tremendous save. To me that was even at this early stage the turning point of the game.

Within a further 4 minutes Boyata fouled Chamakh and there was no hesitation from Mark Clattenburg to issue a red card. Refs come in for a lot of criticism but he had an exceptional game and got almost every decision right, a rarity these days.

So it was ten against eleven and City were primarily defensively minded. I am one who believed that the one man advantage didn’t benefit us greatly until the final 15 minutes when City were run ragged.

Arshavin gets a lot of stick, but yet again his assist for Nasri was sublime. A second goal was needed,and when Fabregas was brought down,we thought 2-0 but Hart made a magnificent save. The first half had been feisty, with 4 of our players booked and many thought at half time we would finish playing ten again ten. Wenger must have given explicit instructions at half time, and as the game fanned out, the team grew in confidence and we added two further goals.

I have to say that I haven’t seen a keeper look as assured as Fabianski for many a game. Hopefully his confidence will be sky high and he will remain as our number one. Cesc got man of the match but to me Fabianski and the highly skillful Nasri were just as good. Overall a really good team performance and if one was to critisize anyone it would be Clichy and the ring rusty Djourou.

It was good to see a real team that has been built with integrity and patience triumph instead of a cash rich hastily manufactured side who spent a further 100 million this summer and had 100 million pounds of talent sitting on the bench – a message of hope to all well run teams who aspire to compete with the billionnaires.

A better day at the office ….. three points in the bag

October 17, 2010

This was another of those games where the title of the match report could be ‘What is Diaby for?’ How many times did he go on a great run only to come to a grinding halt at the edge of the penalty box? Those long, strong legs with feet that obviously have the ball magnets in their boots have to be attached to the most infuriating footballer in our squad.

He doesn’t have to keep the ball at his feet while he’s running but he does have to keep running. His awareness of where his team-mates are is virtually non-existant. His shooting ability has never been in question so why doesn’t he look up and check what’s happening around him. BigRaddy said last night that once Theo returns Diaby will have company on his runs but that won’t be of any help if Diaby hasn’t got his brain switched on. I can run with the ball at my feet into space – admittedly not with the grace and speed of Diaby – but if I didn’t know what my next move was going to be what would be the point?

Maybe Diaby just doesn’t know what his job is  – I’m afraid to me he is just a  ‘headless chicken’, but he’s been like this for far too long and needs to answer some stern questions. Footballing skills are great but pretty pointless if you don’t fit into a team.

But there were positives to take from this game. Our favourite flapper was considerably more solid than I can ever remember. If Birmingham were ever to score it was going to be from a free kick or a corner and Fabianski wasn’t at fault for their goal. With a fledgling partnership in front of him in the form of Djourou and Squillaci it could have all gone horribly wrong but he was vociferous and didn’t at any time look vulnerable. Shame on those supporters who hammed up their applause of his first touches of the ball, when he’s wearing the shirt at least give him a chance.

Jack Wilshere was once again at the heart of all that was good. Some great interplay between him and Chamakh that should have yielded a goal but once again there were too many passes. Arshavin was unlucky today that none of his back flicks found a man but he kept on trying. I’ve just seen Jack’s tackle again that led to his red card and he was late and could have hurt the player – who thinks that Arsène Wenger sent him out to let the player know he was there? Obviously not and having watched Jack in pre-season I felt that he had a fiesty tendency that he’s so far kept under control – good for him,  he’ll learn I’m sure.

Watching Theo, Rosicky and Nikki warming up after half-time did bring a flutter to my heart. When Rosicky came on he added great directness to the play managing to sting the keepers hands with 2 rasping shots. Nikki also got a chance to join in and could have scored with his first touch. He’s way behind Chamakh and van Persie in the pecking order which hopefully he won’t mind. I thought this game was crying out for Theo but we’ll have to wait for Tuesday night against Shaktar to see him. I don’t want to put a hex on it but its worth noting that the penalty was scored by a cool penalty taker who smashed the ball into the back of the net.

So, overall this was a game we were expected to win, it wasn’t pretty by any definition but on reflection we actually ground out a result. I’m not going to say it was comfortable because it certainly wasn’t and the last 10-15 minutes were suitably nervous as we looked, as usual, like we could concede at any moment but we hung on and added three points to our total…….. more than the chavs and the manks ha ha. Sometimes its nice to win ugly.

Here are some player ratings from BigRaddy

Fabianski. A solid performance, not at fault for the goal – it was a superb header.His distribution was a bit suspect. 7

Eboue. Added little to the attack and was guilty of a very poor tackle. Good application 5

Squillaci. Improved performance. Unlucky not to be on the scoresheet. Could be the answer once TV comes back. 7

Djourou. Still looks rusty to me. Probably the most mobile of our CB’s. Got caught under the ball for a couple of headers and was outjumped for the goal. 6

Clichy. What has happened to his positioning? A shadow of the player we saw 3 seasons ago. 5

Song. A dynamic performance. Drove the team forward and put in some fine tackles. One of his better games though his passing was wayward on occasion 8

Nasri. Got a bit lost in the midfield hurly-burly but once again was aggressive in his attacking play. Not at his best. 7

Wilshere. Our best player prior to his rash tackle, let’s hope it is a lesson learned. Strong and disciplined in defence when required, excellent link up play and moved the ball very quickly when required. 8

Arshavin. Started really well and faded. Mr Inconsistent ran about for 20 mins the first half and went missing prior to his substitution. Is he fully fit? Does he need a break? Does he know that Arsenal play in Red? 4

Chamakh. As usual worked hard. Scored , got the penalty (I believe it was the correct decision), the focal point of our attacks. He is improving. 7


Rosicky. Came on for Arshavin and immediately shot from distance (clearly under instructions). A good cameo. 7

Bendtner. Only had a few minutes but almost got on the end of a cross. 6


Arsenal Back To Winning Ways – written by London

September 29, 2010

That’s better, now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by that nightmare on Saturday? Ah, yes I remember we were talking about how people were yet to realise how good the squad is and from it a team to rival the Invincibles could emerge; well, we might have to rethink the latter but last night went some way to help prove the former.

Wenger made six changes to the team that were embarrassed on the weekend, fielding a combination that included Belt and Braces, that’s both Song and Denilson for those who do not read my reports that often. With Wilshere placed ahead of them which together created a midfield axis that the whole team revolved around.

Song and Denilson sit like guard dogs in front of the defence alternating vertically in their attacks, when Song goes forward Denilson stays back and visa versa, this enabled Wilshere to do what he does best: be creative without the hindrance of defensive duty – and it worked. Wilshere linked with Arshavin to create in car terms what I can only describe as two Ferraris in a sea of Ford Sierras, their partnership was head and shoulders above anything else on the field. This paid dividends in the form of the first goal: sublime interplay between the two, with a back heel from a different footballing planet, setting up the Russian to lash home.

One nil up and we were in control but only after the defence had blown off the cob webs. Djourou looked like Bambi on ice and Fabianski appeared as scared as a person who would be looking for a new job next Monday if he messed this chance up.

More opportunities fell to Arshavin, Chamakh and Rosicky but the Partizan goal keeper was obviously using this game as a show case for better paid employment else where and decided to put on a show of stopping pretty much everything that came his way.

What is it with these teams in blue and white stripes? Why don’t they just roll over and give in as they are supposed to do? Again, not tonight, irritatingly they were awarded a penalty and worse, they scored from it. I am not sure what Denilson was doing but what ever it was he shouldn’t have been waving his arms around in the air when the ball is travelling towards him.

One each at half time, but we were clearly the better team a fact that I am sure Wenger emphasised to them during the break – it worked. Arsenal came out and dominated play but although we huffed, puffed and were even awarded a penalty we still couldn’t score. Chamakh was put through with only the goal keeper to beat but before being able to pull the trigger his legs were clipped and down he went, the ref pointed to the spot, up stepped Arshavin and lazily hit it down the middle allowing the keeper to save.

Still one one but it helped that the ref saw fit to give us a hand by reducing their team to ten men. With an extra man it wasn’t long before we were able to take advantage: Rosicky sent in a beautifully flighted ball for Chamakh to climb and head goalward, unfortunately it hit the bar but that was the last of the goal keeper’s nine lives and it rolled kindly back to the Moroccan who poked it home.

Two – one and the gods were smiling: all the things we had written on our wish list before the game began to be ticked off one at a time. Squillaci scored his first goal from a wonderfully taken corner which actually cleared the first man, why can’t we do that more often? Fabianski saved a penalty sending his confidence sky high, Djourou settled down to play a decent second half and Wenger was able to take off and rest key players ahead of our big game on Sunday. All in all, a good day at the Belgrade office. The smiles are back, have a good day.

Written by London.

Partizan. Fabianski to have a quiet but impressive game – written by BigRaddy

September 28, 2010

I have to be honest and say that prior to my research I knew little of Partizan Belgrade, not even knowing which country they represent (my geography tuition ending prior to the destruction of Yugoslavia). I read that they are top of their League and have won the Serbian League and Cup double for the past 2 years.

Their ground holds 32,000 fans who appear to have considerable influence over the club; a few years ago the fans were unhappy with their trainer and refused to attend home games until he resigned, which he duly did. This requires a level of organisation that we Gooners can only contemplate  – perhaps there is a way to persuade the club to buy a new GK !

They lost their opener 1-0 away to Shaktar and showed themselves to be a decent team. Their star player is the inevitable Brazilian, a striker named Cleo who has scored 14 goals in 15 European games.

But this game is about how Arsenal bounce back from the weekend, it is a test of character in what is a difficult week. Poor Fabianski will be under enormous pressure knowing that millions of viewers will be awaiting his first error; should he fail tonight the repercussions will surely end his Arsenal career and many would give away 2 points to see him do just that, an appalling desire from so called “fans”.  I would like Fabianski to have a very quiet evening but make two wonder saves, thereby giving him the confidence to play well at Stamford Bridge. A clean sheet would be great.

As usual I have no idea of the team but I would play these chaps:

The entire defence had a terrible game at the weekend, Almunia took the brunt of the blame but they were very poor as a unit. Tonight can only be better. Partizan play a packed midfield with a lone striker, a formation which tends to blanket our passing game, patience will be an issue. We need to be mindful of the ball over the top, particularly as our defenders normally play high up the pitch. I hope we attack from the off and quickly build a platform to win the points, if we score first we will go on to win, but with confidence having been shaken, an early Partizan goal could be ruinous.

Founded in the 6th Century BC, Belgrade is the 4th largest city in S.E.Europe with a population of 1.6m. It has one of the biggest rivalries in World football between Partizan and Red Star. Serbs are very good at tennis having reached the final of the Davis Cup.