Big Night for Theo

November 3, 2010

Still feeling that warm glow from the fairy tale ending to the home tie? Me too. The Eduardo goal was the icing on an excellent cake. Think that we will achieve the same scintillating performance tonight? No? Me neither !

It’s not the warning signs emanating from Wenger’s press statements, nor is it the absence of Cesc, Song, Diaby, Arshavin and perhaps Denilson. No, it is the fact that a decent team like Shakhtar cannot possibly play so poorly at home. We overwhelmed Shakhtar at the Emirates with a performance of staggering efficiency and panache; with 4 goals coming from our midfield Donetsk were left bamboozled. Yet Shakhtar are a side dominating their League and will almost certainly accompany Arsenal into the final 16.

The Shakhtar coach has been entertaining the press with his opinion that Shakhtar were the equal of Arsenal at the Emirates. Apparently the main difference was the referee – we were clearly watching different games. Their recent record is excellent with only 2 defeats in 30 games (one to us) and 18 wins out of their last 20.

It was my fervent hope that Mr. Wenger would send out our first choice 11 with the aim of taking the three points, thus negating the need to use his first team in the remaining League ties, however a few of the team need a week off.

Wilshere is back, much to the delight of Mr Capello, and I expect to see Theo start alongside Bendtner. Rosicky will almost certainly play in what will be his 5th CL game against Shakhtar, having played them with both Dortmund and Sparta. Who plays alongside Jack and Mozart is anyone’s guess, but here is mine …


Sagna  Squillaci  Koscielny   Clichy

Eboue  Nasri  Wilshere  Rosicky

Walcott  Bendtner

It must be admitted that we do not travel well in Europe, particularly to the frozen East. The win in Belgrade was our first in some time. However, with the above team I believe we can get a result in Donetsk. We must continue our defensive solidarity and rely on Theo’s speed to create chances for the Dane. Mr Wenger has been talking up Walcott in the press, saying that he is ahead of TH14 at the same age, one can only hope he develops in the same manner. Games like tonight are made for Walcott, and his early season form suggests he is ready to step up to the plate and become the player we all so fervently wish him to be (if only to shut up Hansen). Nasri will once again have to show his new found brilliance. Can Eboue play as a midfield enforcer, does he have the discipline or will Mr Wenger use young Eastmond?

Donetsk has had a short but troubled history, established  in 1869, it has been overrun by both Communist Russia and Nazi Germany. Prior to World War 2 there was a large Jewish congregation which was murdered when a concentration camp opened outside the city. Following the war the city was rebuilt using forced labour from the surrounding Communist held countries during which thousands died of malnutrition. The city remains an almost even split of  Ukranians and ethnic Russians (wiki).

Can we win? This will be more difficult than the home leg. Will we win? Depends upon Theo


Donetsk Forget To Mind The Gap In London As We Celebrate 6 Goals

October 20, 2010

“I don’t think I will celebrate,”  Eduardo.

True to his word, everyone’s favourite Crozilian didn’t even acknowledge his consolation strike, but how we celebrated. You guys behind the goal, I saw you, jumping up and down like it was an Arsenal goal, and the Nicklas Bendtner look-alike in the crowd I saw you too, holding that number 9 shirt proudly aloft, and we all heard the announcer acclaim the goal as if it had been scored a year ago. The standing ovation afterwards was just proper order for a player who didn’t get a real send-off, he has now. Yes, us being 5-0 up at the time helped the mood a lot, but be honest, how many shouted “yes” and punched the air when he scored? We all want the clean sheets but exceptions must be made, and this was one of those times. Its almost like a weight off our shoulders that we gave Dudu his dues.

Eduardo aside, last night’s game was very comfortable. The Ukrainian visitors should know that when you come to London you must mind the gap, not alone on the underground but those around the Emirates pitch. Give us enough gaps and we will punish you.

Donetsk are a far better side than what they showed last night. In the second half we saw they could pass the ball and press a lot better than what they did. Its almost as if they had decided before the game that they would lose here, give us the group, try and get something from us in Ukraine and go for second which they should get based on the evidence so far. Not a great plan and honestly a much harder match might have suited us with Manchester City coming up on Sunday. Not that we should have been ran into the ground, but it was almost a five-a-side training session at times and we rarely had to move out of second gear.

Apart from Eddie, the other opposition player to bring a smile to our face last night was Pyatov – what a shocking ‘keeper he is! His missed catch for Song’s goal even had van der Saar laughing, while my eyes may have deceived me, I thought I spied our Moroccan making a cup of tea after checking was he onside for our fifth.

It was good to see Fabregas and Walcott get a run out. Cesc’s touch was a bit off at times but that’s to be expected after his lay-off, hopefully it will be better by Sunday. It was also interesting to see Wenger play Walcott in the middle when he came on. He didn’t have much time, but on one occasion near the end in particular we saw how his speed has the potential to wreck havoc in the opposition defence.

We now have 9 points from 3 games, with 14 goals scored and only 2 against. A draw away in the next match should see us top the group and after that Wenger can bring out the kids and rest some key players.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski (7) – Didn’t have a whole load to do but made an excellent save at the start of the second half to keep the score at 2-0. Looks more solid in recent weeks.

Eboue (7) – Not too much defending to do, and concentrated on attack. Linked up well at times, but was wasteful on occasion.

Squillaci (7) – Again didn’t have much to do, but should have got out quicker to Eduardo to stop his shot.

Djourou (7) – Made a fine last ditch tackle in the second half and won us a penalty. Will be back on the bench once Vermaelen and possibly Koscielny return.

Clichy (6) – Bombed forward when he could and wasn’t overly troubled by the opposition. I do still worry about his positioning at times.

Song (8) – I thought Song had a great game last night. He won ball around midfield, tidied up, linked well and scored a goal.

Wilshere (9) – Played a central role even though Cesc was back and in the first half completed more passes than the Captain. Great vision, great positioning and great finish.

Rosicky (8) – Started well and his name kept popping up. Involved in defence and attack.

Fabregas (7) – Not at his sharpest but for me he did a fair share of defensive work when it was needed. Well taken penalty.

Nasri (9) – Brilliant once again. Played some superb passes and scored a great goal.

Chamakh (9) – I thought he would be a good signing. WRONG! He has been a great signing. Tremendous work-rate, pressures from the front, excellent hold up play and a cool as you like finish.


Denilson did well when he came on. Made some strong challenges.

Arshavin was given a breather by Wenger and played little more than a cameo. Got involved in some good link up play.

Walcott didn’t get a whole load of time and the game was well won but hopefully we’ll see more of him down the middle in weeks to come.

(It would be remiss of me not to mention the “situation” at Old Trafford. First Tevez, then Ronaldo and now Rooney – smells of a selling club to me!)

Written by Irishgunner

Another step upon the road to European Glory.

October 19, 2010

First off, there is the possibilty that Cesc is fit, so is Theo and Nik. At last we have the opportunity to rotate the squad. Without diminishing the threat of Shakhtar, it is time to give certain players a rest before the real business of the PL at the weekend. Arshavin for one needs a break.

Tonight I would like to see Theo start on the right and Chamakh play centrally, with Chamakh getting a rest after 60 minutes, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nik start. Bendtner does well in European ties.

I expect Wilshere to start ahead of his 3 match ban, his form has been outstanding and Shakhtar will be stunned by our 18 y.o marvel. Should Cesc start we will play a very attacking midfield  though I expect him to be on the bench ahead of the important game at Man City. The defence picks itself with so many injuries, though perhaps Gibbs will be fit in which case I would expect him to start ahead of Clichy.

My team

Shakhtar bring our old friend Eduardo back to THOF and  he will get a hero’s welcome. Despite never reaching the heights expected of him on his return from injury, he gave all for the cause and left with dignity. I wish him well but not tonight.  Shakhtar have a decent record in the CL however we have a superb home record in the CL and I expect it to continue. That said, Shakhtar not having conceded a goal in the CL this season plus they have won 15 out of 17 in the Ukranian League. They are level on points with us and having won 3-0 in Braga are clearly no mugs, but we will surely beat them if we play to our potential.

This Arsenal team look great on European nights and appear to play better against foreign teams who play the passing game as opposed to the muscularity of the Premiership, though Shakhtar who play with two hard tackling midfielders are not afraid of the physical challenge.

It should be noted that Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup in 2009 and are a fine team.

Donetsk is Ukraine’s second city with a population of over a million. It was founded by a Welshman (John Hughes) in 1869 (no kidding!!). More Russians live in Donetsk than Ukranians and the city was  called Stalin until 1961. The Euro 2012 semi-final is due to be played in Shakhtar’s stadium. The most famous son of Donetsk is Sergei Bubka the brilliant pole vaulter who between the years 1984 -1994 broke his own world record 18 times! He remains the world record holder 16 years later.

Can we win?  Yes.   Will we win?  Yes