How many Spurs players would get in Arsenal’s First X1?

April 21, 2011
Sorry all, Rasp and I are really busy today, we haven’t been offered a match report but BigRaddy wrote this before he went away so it would be churlish not to use it for discussion today following last night’s thrilling 3-3 at the lane.

We had some fun recently with a post discussing how many Man Utd players would fit into our team playing in the same formation as Mr Wenger employs.

Today I will do the same with Tottenham Hotspur :-

Szczesny v Gomez.

We missed our young Pole during his injury, his influence over the defence in such a short time is profound. He bosses the area in a way we have missed since Mad Jens and Seamo. Gomez is flaky, there is no other word for him. He can be excellent – a fine shot stopper and dominates at set pieces but he is prone to regular lapses of judgement. Given that our lad has so far only made one glaring error (and I blame Koscielny for that), it’s the Pole in Goal.

Sagna v Corluka.

Sagna has returned to the reliability he showed a couple of seasons ago and IMO is the best RB in the country. Corluka is a fine player, has good ball skills, a decent engine and can cover at CB, but he is not as good as Sagna.

Clichy v Assou Ekotto

Gael has his critics but remains an excellent full back. Ekotto has a loyal fanbase amongst Spurs fans and has been very good whenever I have seen him. Clichy is the better attacking player and apart from his weekly lapses in concentration is the better tackler.

Centre Backs

It is hard to establish just who are Spurs first choice CB’s. Woodgate and King are fine defenders, in fact The Master (TH14) has said that King is the best defender he played against. But they are permanently injured. This leaves Gallas, Dawson and Kaboul and for the sake of discussion I will drop Kaboul.

Is Gallas as good as Djourou? In his prime certainly, but one must ask why Mr Wenger chose to sell him to our local rivals; obviously because he believes he has better replacements, and a fit JD is a wonderful CB.

Dawson v Koscielny is not so clearly defined. IMO Dawson is the best English CB, I would have liked to see him in an Arsenal shirt, but Kos has the makings of a great player and an Arsenal legend. In his first season he has made silly mistakes but which player hasn’t? Koscielny gets the shirt because he is  better at passing and driving forward the team.

Midfield.

Again it is difficult to decide upon Spurs first choice midfield. Like us they have a glut of quality players but unlike us they have no set go to 4  players. I will choose Modric, Huddlestone, Van de Vaart and Bale. Probably more attacking than Harry would choose as he often plays 2 DM’s (he has Palacios, Huddlestone, Krancjar, Jenas, Pienaar and Sandro to choose from!)

Song v Huddlestone

Easy choice really. Song is amongst the finest young DM’s in world football. He has improved so rapidly over the past 2 years that we noticeably miss him when he is injured. He has a fantastic first touch, good engine, is a decent tackler and is good aerially. Song’s main fault is that he can get too adventurous and in trying to get back to defend makes rash tackles – he has picked up numerous yellow cards this season without making one really dirty tackle. Huddlestone, according to my Spurs mad nephew, is an integral part of both Spurs and England’s future. He too has made huge strides in his career; capable of playing an accurate and intuitive long pass and assisting defensively, he is one to watch – but he is just not as good as Song, and nor are any of Spurs other DM’s

Fabregas v Modric.

We all know the answer to this! Cesc is a genius; the best creative MF in the PL and a World Cup winner. Modric has had a fantastic season and it would be no exaggeration to say that I am sure Mr Wenger would have liked to sign him; phenomenal energy, a perceptive passer, excellent ball control and a player who knows no fear. But sadly not in Fab’s league.

Wilshere v Van der Vaart.

When playing this parlour game there are inevitably clashes that don’t really gel, and this is one of them. VdV doesn’t play the same game as JW. However, if one had to choose a player for our team I would certainly take the reliability of Wilshere. He turns up every game and gives his all whereas VdV goes missing which I guess is why Real sold him so cheaply.

Nasri v Bale.

Both fine players. Both at the start of their careers. Both up for Player of the Year. They have different skill sets which work very well for their teams. Bale could add what we lack on the left of our attack – pace, but Nasri is a better ball player and can beat a player by looking at him. Nasri scores more goals. Bale is the better defender.  I was going to give the shirt to the least ugly player but they are equal in this area as well. I will take a rain-check ….

Walcott v Lennon

Lennon – ugly, no final ball, phenomenal pace. Theo . good looking, developing tactical awareness, even faster. Capello prefers Theo, so do I.

RvP v Defoe/Crouch/Pav.

Robin is better than all of them. True, Crouch is better in the air. Other than that the Dutchman has it all and would prove it if he could stay fit for a season.

Manager:

Wenger v Redknapp.

Credit where credit is due. Harry has done a wonderful job at Spurs. Taking a team that was threatened with relegation to the Champions League in such a short space of time is a great achievement. Had it not been for economic reasons Redknapp would be England Manager and I am sure that if wants it  he will be after the Euro’s. But check out the Trophy Cabinet. Harry –  1 x FA Cup. Mr Wenger  – 4 x FAC. 3 xPL . French League and Cup, Japanese League and Cup.   Mr Wenger OBE voted World Manager of the Decade.  Mr. Redknapp  – Zip.

So the team looks like this:

Szczesny

Sagna   Djourou  Koscielny  Clichy

Song   Fabregas  Wilshere   Nasri

Walcott  Van Persie

Managed by Mr Arsene Wenger OBE

Why no Bale? Because he is so prone to injury, and he is a throwback.

Why no Spurs players?  Check out the table since 94/5

And this site is called Arsenal Arsenal not Dear Mr. Levy ……

Advertisement

Up for the Cup??

March 12, 2011

Lucky Arsenal? This season we have drawn Newcastle and Spurs away in the Carling Cup, Barcelona in the CL, and now Man Utd away in the FA Cup.  I can only imagine Mr Wenger has spent the season walking under ladders and crossing the path of black cats. No-one wanted this fixture, neither Arsenal who are coming off the back of an emotional defeat at Camp Nou nor Man Utd, who are facing Marseilles in an important contest on Weds.

And yet neither manager will give up on this game. In my opinion both will put out as strong a team as injury permits, pride will dictate their actions. However, we are without (I hate writing this …) Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabregas , Song, Fabianski and Szczesny, and United are without Nani, Ferdinand and Park.

The loss of Szczesny has brought about the situation that (almost) all Gooners feared – a run of games for Almunia. Many point out that Manuel had a fine game in Spain and it would be churlish to argue. However, there is a reason why two Poles under the age of 23 are ahead of him in the AFC rankings and that is because Almunia is notoriously inconsistent. It was said at the start of the season by most pundits that Arsenal cannot win the league with Almunia, unfortunately we are about to find out. That said, I am sure he will give his all for the cause (and promote his flagging career). He must be given 100% support.

Having a more reliable defence will give Manuel confidence. We have tightened  to the point where there appears to be some understanding at the back; something missing since Sol left. Who would have thought that Djourou would be the man to come to the fore (apart from GG, and yours truly)?

We still have the midfield creativity problem in Cesc’s absence. Many have called for Nasri to take Cesc’s role, which make much sense. He has the vision and pace to push the team forward and has been given the Captain’s armband (though Almunia will take it tomorrow) which indicates he has the character to lead the team, and character he will need because at OT Fletcher has the licence to kick anyone off the park. Song is a big loss – Diaby plays better when he has the security of a strong defensive midfielder. Will Mr Wenger dare to start Ramsey rather than Denilson? I would take the risk but this is more a reflection of my opinion of Denilson. The Brazilian has much to recommend him, but not at a team at the level of Arsenal. I am sure he will be a huge success in Malaga, Mallorca or Juventus but not at the Grove – sorry.

Up front Van Persie will be chafing at the bit after his infuriating red card, he is playing as well as any time during his Arsenal career.  Bendtner will be desperate to show that with more than 10 minutes on the pitch he can score, but if Nasri and Arshavin are to start I see no place for him. I expect Nik to leave in summer (and I will be sad to see him go), if I was him I would be fuming that having played in most rounds of the Carling Cup and being one of the main reasons we got to the Final, he was dropped for RvP.  Vidic is back for MU which is a huge fillip for them, and a negative for us. Time for Arshavin to rediscover his shooting boots.

Man Utd have been an anomaly; at no time have they looked a title winning team and yet they have led the Premiership for most of the season. With a dull but effective midfield they rely on power rather than guile. What would they give for a young Bobby Charlton? In losing their last two big games they have seen that Giggs and Scholes fading powers are useful but not dependable. Expect a buying spree from SAF this summer –  a GK, a left back (who wants the lamentable Evra?), 2 creative MF’s, and a CB –  Modric, Rodwell, Bale, Cahill, Neuer have all been mentioned. Valencia has suffered from injury and can perhaps become the Giggs replacement, but MU have yet to replace the brilliance of Ronaldo. What they have replaced is Ronaldo’s penchant for acting with an even worse cheat in Nani. – fine player, shame about the histrionics. Rooney has flickered all season, capable of the brilliant but then petulant and obnoxious – once again his career has been boosted by SAF’s influence at the FA. . Berbatov is the PL’s top scorer and yet remains as unreliable as ever – another capable of brilliance or anonymity. His place is under threat from Hernandez who looks a fine signing –  that valuable fox in the box.

Mr Wenger has continually stated Arsenal will fight on all fronts this season, and I expect him to put out his strongest available 11.

My team:

Personally, I expect us to lose; we are not playing with fluency nor with confidence; we usually go down at Old Trafford and we will be forced to play against 14 men (11 players and the officials). Arsenal have yet to score more than one goal in a game at Old Trafford in the PL, so we are unlikely to see a goal-fest. To win we need to score first and force Man Utd to come onto us, thereby allowing Arsenal to play on the counter-attack. And above all, we need a good and fair performance from the referee, Chris Foy.

It is the final game of the season against Man Utd on Mayday which is more important to me and I imagine to both managers –  this is just the Hors d’oeuvre. I would give the Claret- nosed Caledonian (Thank you RL) the win today in exchange for the 3 points at the Grove.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners

February 27, 2011

My first post for Arsenal Arsenal was just over a year ago and I sit today writing a Cup Final pre-match. What drought?

And what of this team that today can earn some silverware and stop the ludicrous carping from the media and a few of the fans? Why are we favourites to win a Cup for the first time in 6 years?

Cometh the time, Cometh the Man. And in this case it is Cometh the Men. Arsenal have moved forward as a club in a very short time and the sudden impact of 4 players has given the team a solidity not seen for many a year. Step forward Messrs Wilshere, Koscielny, Djourou and Szczesny. Suddenly we look solid at the back, and have a new and very young spine, one that can take us to glory.

In just a few games our problemic goalkeeping position has found a pillar of strength, our young Pole has shown against the differing attacks of Barca and Stoke that he is the real deal, and likely to be the Arsenal number One for at least a decade.

Djourou was written off by many, nicknamed Bambi for his ungainly style he has had a checkered injury filled career at Arsenal, but now, fully fit. he is established as the first name of the defensive teamsheet. His absence from the pitch at Newcastle led to 4 goals in 20 minutes – can anyone doubt that we would have won the game had he remained on the field? When Koscielny took the field in an Arsenal shirt I was one of many who questioned Mr Wenger’s signing. He looked lost, lacking in height and pace; yet here we are a mere 4 months later and he looks the real deal. I would even go so far as to say that Vermaelen will struggle to regain his place in the team. JD and Kos have an awesome record playing together, they have a fine understanding and both are just 23!! Probably the youngest CB pairing in the League.

And then there is Jack. What can be said that hasn’t been written? In half a season he has become an integral part of the team and forced two regular Internationals to become B teamers. He is always available for the ball when the defenders are under pressure, and with the ball at his feet is comfortable in the tightest situations. The man has genius.

And what of our other players who have improved beyond recognition? Samir Nasri has become a World Class player, a possible Player of the Year and a man who can mesmerise a defender, He can tackle, he can beat a player with pace, he can cross, shoot, pass with precision – he is a pleasure to watch. And he maintains the ability to give a sly dig which is essential in the hurly burly of the Premiership.

Van Persie is playing the best football of his career, Walcott has come of age, The full backs are back to the form they showed 2 seasons ago – Clichy was brilliant against Barca and Sagna has been strong all season.

Cesc is a big loss today, not because we cannot win without him but because if the game gets hairy, he is “the man”. Cesc has developed into the real leader of the team and I am very sad he will not have the opportunity to lead the side up the Wembley Steps. His injury leaves a midfield berth which I would give to Diaby, who is a more creative player than Denilson. He also has the height to cope with the inevitable Birmingham aerial bombardment.

Walcott’s absence opens a space for Bendtner. I like Nik, he always gives his all and despite not being the most elegant of players can be very effective, he is important when defending corners and set plays. Nik’s goal in the semi-final was as good as any seen at the Grove, and in his two appearances since he has had two assists. A goal and an assist would cement his place in the Arsenal fermament. However, Arshavin has been looking dangerous of late and we could play Nasri on the right with Arshavin on the left which allows us more movement than with the slightly ponderous Bendtner.

My team:

With Arshavin and Denilson coming on after 60 minutes

Birmingham are not a team studded with star players, they have lost the creativity of Hleb through injury and will look to play as a tight unit. They are clear underdogs. A midfield of Ferguson and Bowyer are sure to be combative. Should Birmingham win today it will be as a result of a huge team effort whereas we have the individual brilliance all over the pitch to win the game by having one player on fire.

One may wonder why I have used so few words on this Birmingham team. Truth is, I am bored by them – they are a reflection of their manager. Nothing more needs to be said.

The man who really deserves to win a trophy this season is our esteemed manager. Year after year he has had to listen to the same inane question about our lack silverware whilst delivering the best football seen in the Premiership week after week. Like Birmingham our team is a direct reflection of our manager, and I am very proud that our manager is Mr Arsene Wenger.

Birmingham is the birthplace of some of heavy metal’s stellar bands. The wondrous Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the very Kings of Rock, Led Zeppelin all hail from Birmingham.

We are better than Birmingham in every department – it is a game for us to lose.

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy


Hair-Raising Issues.

February 11, 2011

Written by MickyDidIt

Unbelievably, I think I have unearthed a quite brilliant observation. Now bear with me, and if someone is reading this to you, I don’t mean “let’s get naked”.

Anyone else noticed improvements in the performances of JD and Alex Song this season. Well, I have, and do you know what, there is a common denominator. Yip, you’ve guessed it.  Dramatic change up top in the head fur department. Let’s look at the evidence. Is JD a better player with some colour up top? Yes he is. Has Song’s game improved since he yellowed up? Yes it has. You may think I am being silly, however I have tested this theory out on a person and it is bulletproof. Let’s continue. Freddie Lljungberg: did his development step up a notch with the addition of the red Mohawk. I believe the answer is: yes, it did. Stevie Bould and hair loss. Would we have celebrated his recession with “Stevie, Stevie Bould, Got no hair, We don’t care” with such relish had the lowering of the hair line not been matched by heightened performances on the green stuff.  I think not. Seaman:  poneytail and tash?  Worked for him.  Marouane arrived with a German styley short top, long back, and bingo in they flew. He has since “normalized” his hair by doing away with the back bit, and guess what? The goals dry up. Cesc: George Michaeling his trimmed beardy look, world beater. Bacary Sagna: arrived at The Arsenal with something on his head. It has remained, and he continues to be the league’s best right back. Change should not be considered.

All of this brings me to the serious point about this post and an area of deep concern that it highlights (highlights! Oh, that is so good). Jack Wilshere, without doubt the most talented Arsenal and Englishman of his era,  is but one small tub of gel away from disaster. There are very many performance enhancing hair creations, however I simply cannot stress the dangers that lie ahead of the gelster. I am not referring to the spikey-up version. There is something way more sinister and I am alluding to the wet look comb forward. This is known as the Cretin Cut. It is the chosen look of the wayward lad. There are great dangers that lurk beneath the mop that dons the gel, and it is evident that the Wilshere hair is, how can I say this, forward looking.

At this point, I want to send out a clear message to Rosicky, Denilson, Eboue and the rest of the untreated, and it is simple: get busy upstairs. I am no stats man but the evidence is overwhelming. “Normalizing the thatch” is a means of compromise, moving into the safe middle ground. Extinguishing the flames and blunting the edge. It is not clever and it is not mature.  We need the extremes for our boys. That’s the extra 5%, or the bit that separates the winners from also-rans.  I appreciate there are many football experts with a far superior knowledge of the technicalities than I, but we all make mistakes, and it is easy with all the tactics nonsense in the modern game to overlook the bleeding obvious.

This post could easily bring in the smallest ever number of comments, and I am happy to take the flak, but do you know what, I am above that kind of thing. Ego must not stand in the way of things that need to be said.  I know this post will give us nothing whatsoever to discuss today, but frankly, I think just for once, some of you should get on with some bloody work!

I hate International week.

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium on the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znq7tshzDU0

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.


No Retreat, No Surrender

February 3, 2011

Written by Wonderman

It was back in August 2007, I remember arriving at my new seat in the North Bank Upper  for the opening game of the season, to a fantastic view of the resplendent Emirates pitch.

Our opponents that day were Fulham,  ‘easy game’ we thought,  except David Healy and Jens Lehman had other ideas. Within 52 seconds we were 1 nil down, you could have heard a pin drop when the ball went in the net. But that day the boys refused to be beaten.

The spine of Lehman, Gallas, Cesc and Van Persie complimented  by the aggression of Flamini and footwork of Hleb  pulled 3 points out of the bag,  by virtue of a Van Persie penalty and an Alexander Hleb goal. Fast forward to the end of January 2008  and we had tasted defeat only once, away at Middlesbrough and even then the squad was robbed of Cesc, Van P, Flamini and Hleb  through our friend injury.

However,  before our very eyes we were  witnessing  the birth of a new paradigm – ‘no retreat  no surrender’ we were refusing to be bullied . It took an injury of savage proportions at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s stadium  to Eduardo to disturb that mental psyche, and it has taken 3 years to regain it.

This season we have the best away record in the league. We have gone to Liverpool, Blackburn Sunderland and Everton and not tasted defeat. Phil Neville was quoted as  stating that ‘Arsenal can’t be kicked off the park anymore’ in mid November . That is some compliment !!

The most emphatic sign of our rediscovered  ‘no retreat no surrender’ attitude was the home win against Chelsea the following month. In that game we were aggressive tactically by imposing our strengths. Walcott not only kept Cole back through Cole’s fear of his blistering pace , but he also defended like his life depended on it every time they tried to attack down that side.

And aggressive physically. Djourou dominated Drogba  for the entire game like never before, whilst Song and Wilshere kept Essien and Lampard quiet whilst Cesc weaved hs magic, it was an unbelievable sight especially as we had been the better team against Man U in the previous game only to return with no points. Our attitude made the most powerful team in the league look powder puff.

Is this a coincidence ? I think not . When you look at what is emerging as our preferred back four Clichy and Sagna are two aggressive full backs who give wingers no peace. I don’t know about you but the look in the eyes of Vermaelen’s first Arsenal photo’s scared me to death  before I even saw him play for us,  but even then, I only had to recall his duel with Van P at the Amsterdam tournament to know his temperament. Who remembers Djourou almost taking the head off a Man U loan player who I think was playing for Wigan at the time, never mind his neutering of Drogba. Kosser has been a revelation for his first season

In midfield we have Nasri who showed Barton what he was about early doors , Wilshere who almost cut Salgado in half at the Emirates cup a couple of years ago, Song  who scraps as much as he delivers exquisite passes, Cesc who gives as good as he gets and Walcott who showed against Chelsea he can deliver in both attack and defence with spite.

Up front Robin is as aggressive as they come and Chamakh has shown he is no slouch.

This season I have sensed a new found refusal to be denied . The key, I think,  is to ensure that the likes of Diaby, Bendtner, Denilson and in fact who ever comes on the field to bring with them our new found mentality … no retreat no surrender once they do that we will not be denied.


Holy Johan – We Live To Fight Another Day

January 9, 2011

Ahh, there is nothing like the FA Cup for a bit of spice is there?

 

Anyone expecting Leeds to just show up and enjoy the experience of the Emirates were having a laugh. I have seen a couple of Leeds’ games this season and they are a more than decent unit (their unbeaten run was only stopped by Cardiff in midweek). The term “unit” is important here, while they played like one, we didn’t. And can we really be surprised? They played with pretty much their first XI, while there was massive changes to our side. These were changes Wenger had to make though and I don’t begrudge any of his selections.

Chesney was an obvious starter in goal. Gibbs was coming back from injury and giving Clichy a breather. There was no choice but to play Eboue with Sagna suspended, and the CB pairing was a no-brainer as well. In midfield, I felt Wenger called it right, starting Denilson and Song with Mozart. Arshavin also got a chance to prove he was deserving of a regular starting berth, as were Bendtner and Chamakh.

The performance itself wasn’t bad. We still got our passing game going and created some half-chances, the problem was we weren’t quick enough or fluid enough. And despite there being two or three very rash challenges (Bruce on Chamakh), I personally felt Leeds played and defended very well. Their CB pairing were excellent throughout and the whole side defended as one. They also have a fine young keeper in Kasper Schmeichel – that save from Denilson in injury time was outstanding. Our own ‘keeper produced a fine save of his own from Beechio’s header.

First of all the bad.

What has happened to Arshavin’s first touch? Too often the ball got away from him and too often he just stood there and didn’t bother to try and win it back. We expect so much more from Arshavin and its no surprise to see him slipping down the pecking order. Hopefully he can get a good game under his belt and get back some confidence. He had some touches during the game (including the volley that was saved in the 1st half) that reminds us that he is a top player.

Next was the penalty, silly by Denilson. It was a lazy leg just left there and was always going to be a penalty. Overall I felt Denilson had a good game and was more influential (defending and going forwards) than a tired Song.

Now for the good.

Theo came off the bench and did brilliantly. He used his speed really well and won us two penalties, even though we were only allowed to take one. Great cameo from Feeeeo. Cesc also did well and tried to get the team going.

But the best part of the whole game (apart from the equaliser) was watching Johan Djourou command the defense. Since his return from injury he has done brilliantly and only reconfirmed how good he is becoming yesterday. Any high balls that came in were usually met with his head and he’s not afraid to put his body on the line. Man of the Match by a clear mile and hopefully we get to see him and Vermaelen team up pretty soon.

So off to Elland Road, a replay is not ideal but its better than being out of the cup.


More gloating or Wigan?

December 29, 2010

Here we are still wallowing in the glow of Monday’s memorable night, and yet forty eight hours later, it is once more ‘over the top’ and into battle. I do have a problem with inking a pre-match. From a footballing standpoint,  I take a great interest in all things Arsenal. However, I take none whatsoever in any other team, which leaves me with a big problem. I have absolutely no idea what a Wigan is. I know what a David Beckham is because I have a gay friend who says David is very handsome indeed. In the same way I know what a Posh Spice is, because my Wife has her hair done by someone called Trace. Now neither my gay mate or Trace have heard of any Wiganers, which must mean that they are butt ugly and their wives do not not make the pages of Halo Magazine.

I mean no offence to Wiganists, it is simply my heavily blinkered outlook.

So, back to what I think I do know. Firstly, we have a deep and very capable squad. Cesc is taking a wee breather, which is fantastic, and as I have discussed previously, I think the fitness of RvP and his influence over the remainder of the season will be paramount to what we achieve. Of course two games in two days is nuts, so some juggling will be performed by our string puller.

Also previously, I have aired my thoughts on defensive understanding, so I would always tamper with this department as little as possible. TV will be back at some point, so right now I would go with JD and Kozzer once more. We do have cover on the mend for Clichy in Gibbs, so for the sake of continuity, Gael begins.

We have the little matter of some other Chavs to entertain next Wednesday, so it is imperative to build on the momentum we created in such style against Chelsea. We all know about our vulnerability in being over confident and underestimating some teams. We also know that the teams around us are as capable of dropping unexpected points, which just reinforces how “Up For Grabs” the title is this season.

To my mind one of the great things about the aftermath of a massive win, is that it elevates the level of  belief within the squad. This in turn makes everyone want the ball, and the only way to get that ball is through selection. Voila, a hunger for places. Healthy competition. My only area of concern is in the cover for central midfield. I think we need Denilson back. He will be very valuable. I have to say that as soon as Rambo returns to Arsenal action, I will have considerably fewer worries.

With what looks like being one of the closest Title contests in years, it will be decided by these types of games. The fitness of key players amongst the protagonists will be key, and so will the ability to rotate during the periods of fixture congestion. We are very well placed in this department. Only City can match our bench, and lets face it, with Adebeyor, Tevez and Balotelli amongst their ranks, solidarity will not be one of their strengths. So tonight is where we discover what we are made of. This title will be won by twenty players, not eleven.

COME ON YOU GUNNERS.

Written by MickyDidIt89

Title inspired by London


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