We’re gunning four the cup.

September 22, 2010

Well, last night was one of those nights where getting up at 03:40 felt great and wholly worthwhile. The team played an outstanding first half and it was a bit ironic that our first goal was both set up and finished by two English players, considering the fact that Hairy Redknob had been saying before the game that we are a team that is bereft of English players. I am sure that Wenger will have been particularly pleased that it was two youngsters that finished the move. I thought that Lansbury, Gibbs and particularly Wilshere played very well.

 

The team was almost as I hypothesized yesterday, with Fabianski, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs, Lansbury, Denilson, Wilshere, Nasri, Rosicky, Vela starting, the exceptions being Lansbury for Eastmond, and Wilshere for JET. The subs were Almunia, Sagna, Clichy, Arshavin, JET, Eastmond and Chamakh.

 

After being totally dominated in the first half, Spuds made two changes at the break and got immediate payoff when Keane scored an early second half goal that Fabianski really should have saved. He got a hand to it but it wasn’t enough. What made things worse was the fact that Keane was offside so the goal shouldn’t have stood. But, it was poor keeping really as Keane’s effort really should have resulted in a run-of-the-mill save. You do have to wonder how many chances Fabianski will get before Wenger decides that enough is enough. I can’t remember a game, off the top of my head, that he hasn’t made a mistake in which cost us a goal.

 

We were a little shaky for a few minutes after the goal but slowly came back into the game again and got back on top. As the game headed for extra time, Wenger threw on Chamakh and Arshavin. Then in the second minute of extra time Bassong made slight contact with Nasri, the referee gave the penalty and Nasri converted to put us 2-1 up. Just a few minutes later Chamakh was brought down for our second penalty and up stepped Nasri again to convert it. The game was over at that stage and the icing on the cake was the addition of a fourth goal by Arshavin. It’s strange watching a game when it starts at 03:45 because you have to at least try and show some restraint in order to not wake up all of the neighbours. But, on night’s like last night, showing restraint isn’t easy… It was funny to see just how few Tottenham fans were left in the stadium by the time the game ended. A sweet, sweet victory. I thought that Koscielny had a very good game and he continues to improve week by week.

 

The only black spot on the evening was the potential metatarsal injury to Gibbs. We should learn more about that later today so all we can do is cross our fingers that it is just some bruising and not a break.

 

Lansbury also had a very good game and it was interesting to hear Wenger compare him to Ray Parlour in the post-game press conference. If he can have the same kind of career with us as Parlour, then I will be happy. We need that kind of box-to-box player in our squad.

 

I’m sure that the Spuds hierarchy were scheming for the release of their latest DVD during the break between the end of the ninety minutes and the start of extra time. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Hehe. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see them release a DVD of the ninety minutes and celebrate the fact that they held us to a draw.

 

It was revealed by Nasri that the reason he took yesterday’s penalties and not the one at the weekend is that he had a superstition that it was bad luck to take a penalty if you are the person that wins the penalty. However, following the Sunderland game he had a chat with Wenger and Wenger explained to him that that superstition is a load of old cobblers. Though, if I remember correctly, wasn’t it a similar superstition that led to the Pires and Henry penalty debacle in front of the Clock End at Highbury a few years ago? Anyway, Nasri converted the penalty that he was fouled for last night and that should be good to help him put that particular superstition to bed.

 

Right, that’s about that for today. I’m going to sit down this evening and watch the game again, with beer in hand.

 

Take it easy.

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Carling Cup Tottenham preview.

September 21, 2010

Yesterday saw the FA deciding to  charge Wenger with improper conduct for placing his hands on the fourth official. It has been reported that they have offered him the chance to accept a one game touchline ban and an 8k fine, or risk more severe punishment by fighting the charge. Having spoken out last week about how the FA need to do something to stamp out dangerous tackles, it was no great surprise that the FA decided to charge him and I think that he would be wise to just accept the punishment and move on.

 

Elsewhere, Fabregas revealed that there is no major damage to the muscle itself, just a build-up of fluid and that he should only be out for about two weeks. Fingers crossed that it will clear up before the Chelsea game next week. However, the official website lists it as a hamstring injury which may see him ruled out for up to three weeks.

 

Fabianski has been talking about how the Carling Cup is his big chance to stake his claim for the no1 spot, but I am still hoping that the rumour going around yesterday about it being Szczesny that will start in goal against Spuds tonight is true. There’s no harm in hoping. JET, Lansbury and Eastmond have reportedly been included in the squad for tonight’s game, though I haven’t been able to track down an actual squad list as of yet. Nordveit is reportedly set to miss out due to injury.

 

So, that will more than likely see us line up with Fabianski, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou and Gibbs in defense. (Still crossing fingers for Szczesny…) Midfield is a bit trickier to call, but I think that we may see Denilson and Nasri play as both need to get some playing time under their belts as they continue their comebacks from injury. Eastmond may get the chance to start in place of Song. JET and Vela may also start with Chamakh getting the nod up front given the lack of options we have in that position due to injury. The big risk in playing Chamakh is that he could pick up an injury, which would leave us up the creek. So, we may see Rosicky start with Vela up front instead of Chamakh.

 

It will be interesting to see which side each team starts with given their respective fixture schedules and injury lists. Generally, Tottenham start with a strong team in the Carling Cup but their Champions League involvement may have an influence on their selection. As we all know, Wenger likes to go with youngsters in the Carling Cup but maybe, just maybe, there will be a bit more experience than usual in our starting eleven tonight. What the manager has to decide is whether it is better to play a slightly stronger side than usual in order to progress, or to risk playing the less experienced players straight off the bat and hoping that they have enough to go through. If the rumour of just three youngsters in the squad are true, well three youngsters added to our usual squad of youngsters, then it seems that the manager may be leaning towards the former.

 

On The Mirror’s website today, John Cross reckons that the starting eleven will be: Fabianski; Eboue, Djourou, G Hoyte, Gibbs; Randall, Denilson, Lansbury, Rosicky; Vela, Emmanuel-Thomas. Which indicates that there may be more than the three reported youngsters in tonight’s squad. I like the great unknown that is the Wenger Carling Cup team selection.

 

I think that if we are going to play Fabianski in goal, we will need to play one of Koscielny or Squillaci instead of Hoyte alongside Djourou in order to give him some much needed extra protection.

Ray Parlour and Nigel Winterburn have been talking ahead of the game tonight and it’s worth a read. They also talk about the Fabregas and Almunia situations.

 

One way or another, tonight’s game is one that we want to see the team win. I know the Carling Cup is the lowest of the team’s priorities but the fans want to see some silverware and if getting that silverware involves knocking Spuds out along the way, all the better.

 

Not looking forward to getting up in the middle of the night to watch it, but that’s the price you pay for living in Japan.

 

* UPDATE: apparently, if Wenger accepts the charge by noon today, he will miss tonight’s game.

* UPDATE 2: Wenger has accepted the misconduct charge and will be banned from the dugout for tonight’s game.

 

Come on you Reds!! Take it easy.


…and the horse you rode in on.

September 20, 2010

Apologies for no posts over the last few days, I have been busy travelling to various locations around Tokyo and Yokohama to attend work events and then drinking in the evenings, so there just wasn’t any time to get anything posted.

 

Stories emerging on different websites in the last 24hrs or so highlight perfectly the stupidity and ignorance as to what is actually important in the game. Steve Bruce, instead of backing Wenger in the call for dangerous tackling to be dealt with, chooses to highlight the fact that Wenger doesn’t share a post-match drink with him. Why that is important, I don’t know. It’s as pointless a thing to point out as Wenger’s refusal to shake hands with someone after a game. Both are things which should only be done if there is a genuine friendship or respect. If you think that the other person is a tool, or has spoken out of turn about you or your club, then it is entirely within your rights to refuse to shake his hand or have a post-game drink with the offending party. I wouldn’t go for an after-work drink with someone that I didn’t like or didn’t respect, so why should Wenger have to do it? Likewise, if someone has disrespected me, I am not going to shake that person’s hand afterwards just to stick to protocol and appearances. Screw them. I’m not saying that Wenger dislikes Bruce, I’m just saying that he has no obligation to have a post-game drink with him.

 

It’s funny how something like that gets highlighted, yet a woeful tackle on Messi at the weekend goes largely uncommented upon in the British media and the subsequent call by Guardiola for players to get more protection by referees also fails to see him get labeled a whinger. I’m not saying that the media are anti-Arsenal, I’m just saying they are a bunch of cnuts that continually misrepresent what Wenger says. Guardiola basically said exactly what Wenger said just a week ago, that players need more protection and that the media have a responsibility too in the way that the report and cover things.

 

One thing that made me laugh today is the fact that Van Der Fart has been talking up how big the Carling Cup game is for Spuds and how much their players have been talking about the game, yet there aren’t a huge number of Arsenal fans that are taking the game all that seriously. For us, it will be a game where there are a number of our youngsters getting a run-out against what will almost certainly be the first choice Tottenham team. Again, that signals the difference between the two clubs.

 

I want some silverware at the club as much as anyone but, the Carling Cup is certainly at the bottom of our list of priorities for the season. Of course, it would be sweet if we could beat them with our second string and it will give some of our youngsters the chance to experience playing in a charged, hostile environment. Fingers crossed we get a good result and progress. There are rumours that Szczesny will play in goal tomorrow and let’s hope that the rumours are accurate as we stand a better chance of getting a result with him in goal rather than Fabianski.

 

Arshavin spoke to his own site after the Sunderland game and he had praise for both the fans and the defense. All he needs to do now is learn from his teammates and add some of that performance and work-rate to his own game.

“Today we had, as expected, a difficult match. Our opponent played well, but I think our defense courageously coped with their attacks and pressure at our gate.

It was especially hard for the guys after Song was sent off the pitch. On the one hand, we can say that luck was on our side at the very beginning of the game – we scored. On the other hand, it turned away from us later – we didn’t manage to score a penalty and missed an unfortunate goal at the very end. It was a very unpleasant moment.

As for the game I think that it pleased the audience but not our fans. They are great guys, they’ve been supporting us today and I hope that they see the way we play and understand that our victories are ahead. Of course we are unhappy with the result, but what’s done can’t be undone.”

 

Speaking of the Sunderland game, the manner of the result was very frustrating and it was one of those games where the draw felt like a defeat. I don’t care about the fact that the goal came fifteen seconds after the signaled four minutes of allocated injury time as the signaled time is just the minimum that should be added. What annoys me is the fact that the game had been there for the taking before that point, but we squandered the chances that came our way, most notably the penalty that Rosicky missed. Anyway, to look on a positive, an away trip to Sunderland is never an easy game and Saturday’s point is a point more than we got there last season. Also, the performance of our central defenders was very impressive and looks positive as we head towards the game against Chelsea next week.

 

That’s about all I have for today. Take it easy.


It’s a long one today – (that’s what she said)

September 17, 2010

Yesterday saw the annual shareholders Q&A taking place with the manager. There wasn’t a huge amount of new information to come from it, but it is always nice for the shareholders, who are also fans, to ask questions to the manager and hear what he has to say. For more detailed comment on, and quotes from, the Q&A, check out The Goon Blog which has a three part post on the event: Part One; Part Two; Part Three. Arsenal Insider also has an in-depth post on the evening.

 

Wenger spoke about how Almunia and Fabianski were exposed to a lot of pressure in the summer, but neglected to mention the fact that all of that pressure was put on them by the manager himself by carrying out his open quest to sign Mark Schwarzer, always refusing to confirm who would be the club’s no1 for the current season.

 

There were some questions about signings and club ownership but the manager did a Matrix style dodge of the latter by just saying that he is a club employee and it is not his position to try and influence the ownership structure of the club. Regarding signings, he said that he is happy with the business that we did in the summer and that he always makes sure to meet a player before signing them. Unlike Ferguson, who signed Bebe without even having seen the player, neither in the flesh nor on DVD. I don’t understand why someone would sign a player without ever having seen him play or met him, especially when you consider that millions of pounds are at stake.

 

Anyway, on the financial side of things, the manager defended his spending policy by pointing out that in his time at the club we have built both a state of the art training ground and a new stadium which are the envy of most clubs across Europe. Whilst this is a very important point to remember, it also seems clear that there has been some money there to spend and the frustration that the fans feel, and vent, stems from the fact that we know there is money available and that over the past few seasons we have always been just one or two signings away from being a trophy winning team, but the necessary player investment has not happened, or at least the investment that the fans have perceived to be necessary anyway. Knowing the team is so close to being great, but for the required investment not to happen is hard for fans to take.

 

However, the manager should be applauded for keeping the club in the Champions League, and competitive, throughout the transition phase from the start of construction on the Emirates until now, despite such a restricted financial environment. To an extent, I can understand the slight reluctance to spend the available money as he knows that if the signing doesn’t work out, then he has chucked money away that he couldn’t afford to chuck away. Unlike someone like Redknapp, Wenger thinks long-term, but fans think short-term and get frustrated. He did reveal that the club is trying to get him to look at lucrative pre-season tours and it is something that he is open to as long as it isn’t in the same year as an international tournament and that it is for the right reasons.

 

There is an article in The Daily Mail where Keown talks sense and Townsend talks through his chocolate starfish about Wenger’s call for players to get more protection. The frustrating thing about this whole issue is that people are conveniently ignoring that Wenger isn’t calling for more protection for Arsenal players, he is calling for more protection for ALL players and an end to reckless tackling where players have no intention to play the ball. There is a difference between a hard and fair tackle where a player is honestly going for the ball, and a tackle where the player is more interested in stopping the other player than going for the ball. Anyway, it seems like the media and the English managers have once again begun circling the wagons and Wenger’s calls for change will get lost under the tag of ‘whinging.’ Warning, the above link has a horrible picture of the Eduardo injury towards the bottom of the article. Surprise, surprise, Graham Poll also misses the bigger point that Wenger is trying to make.

 

Following Wenger’s calls for a crackdown on bad/reckless challenges the media have, predictably, trotted out the xenophobic and moronic views of Allardyce and Coyle. The former being a long-time walrus lookalike and the latter probably being a bit bitter that he didn’t get Wilshere on loan again this season. I’m just waiting for them to complete the unholy trinity by cracking out the comments of Pulis over the coming weekend, whether or not the article with his comments will come with a picture of a naked head butt remains to be seen. Googplaya talks a lot of sense on the issue here.

 

Speaking of stupid tackles and recklessness, Aaron Ramsey has been talking about his comeback from injury. Fingers crossed that his recovery continues without any major setbacks, though I suppose some niggling muscular injuries are to be expected:

“No, I won’t have any second thoughts. I’ve seen the X-rays, I’ve seen the scans and the leg is strong so I won’t be thinking about the injury when I go in for a challenge. I have started running now and I have had good days and bad days but it is coming along and hopefully I can get back soon. There is no pain anymore.

The only good thing to come from this is that it has helped me realise how much my career means to me. Now I can’t wait to get back training and playing.”

 

Jack Wilshere has been talking about his breakthrough into the first team and how much he enjoys playing alongside and learning from Cesc. Let’s hope that he will have more than just this season to learn from our Catalan captain:

“It is perfect playing with Cesc and Alex in midfield. Playing with people like Cesc Fabregas makes it easy for you. He will talk to you and talk you through games. You saw what Cesc could do against Braga – it is perfect for me to learn from him.

It is good to get games and hopefully I can push on from here. I am just trying to break into the Arsenal first team. Last year, I had to go out on loan to get some games because there were some world-class players at Arsenal, but I have come back with more experience and the boss thinks I am ready to challenge for a place. All I can do is challenge and show them what I can do.”

 

On the injury front, there must have been some flying pigs over north London on Wednesday evening as the team came through a full game without picking up any new injuries. The news got slightly better when it was revealed that both Vermaelen and Diaby have been penciled in to be back for the West Brom game. Though it is disappointing that Vermaelen won’t be available for the trip to Sunderland tomorrow and his recovery has been a bit slower than expected. The squad for tomorrow’s should be the same as for the Braga game but there should be some rotation of the starting eleven.

 

Cesc and Clichy have been talking about how they feel that we can win the something this season and the fact that the Champions League final is going to be taking place at Wembley just serves as extra incentive to do well.

 

Right, I think that I have written enough for today, hopefully you have managed to stick with it until the end.

 

Have a good Friday. I have a busy weekend of high school festivals during the day and evening drinking sessions ahead. I will TRY to make a post tomorrow with a match preview, but may not have the time.


We’ve got Six Fabregas.

September 16, 2010

Good morning. I think that we can all be happy with the result of last night’s game and especially with our performance. The team played really well and it is a great sign that even with so many players absent due to injury the team can still put in top quality performances.

 

Granted, Braga may not be the greatest team in the world and they made the team’s job a lot easier by allowing our players space and time on the ball. But, we shouldn’t forget that they dispatched Celtic and Sevilla in order to get to the group stage and they finished ahead of Porto in the league last season. So, they are by no means pushovers.

 

As expected, the team, lined up in defense with Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci and Clichy. Though, in midfield, we started with Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Fabregas and Arshavin with Chamakh playing up front. I had thought that Wilshere may have been rested for the game as he has played quite a lot so far this season but he had a good game and his cheeky little back-heel for Chamakh’s goal was the icing on a good all-round performance by him. Let’s hope that he can keep his feet on the ground, because if he can do that he will develop into a world class player.

 

The goals came from Fabregas (penalty and header), Chamakh, Arshavin and two for Vela. Fabregas was great again and I think he is now back to his normal level, which is great. I also think that the arrival of Chamakh has made a difference too as his link play, holding up the ball and work rate is something that we were missing up front and it is nice to have a striker that is not afraid to get hurt in order to get on the end of a cross.

 

The most exciting thing about this season is that the team seems to have grown, learned and improved when compared with the last two seasons. That is great to see and it is also good to hear the manager say that we can no longer use being young as an excuse for not winning. The manager, players and fans all know that it is time for this team to deliver, no excuses. I, for one, really have a feeling that this could be a big year for us.

 

I’m not just getting carried away on the basis of last night’s result, but if you look at our games this season we have certainly grown as a team and the only blemish on our record is the 1-1 draw at Anfield, which is never a bad result, especially when you are a goal down with one minute left on the clock. Compare that with ManUre, whereas we are gaining a point late on, they have twice lost points late on.

 

The team has character and is showing signs of a greater resilience. Let’s hope that they can continue this vein of form as we can all remember them starting well before only to let their work-rate drop and as a result the performances and results  reflected that. Hopefully this year they will put right that issue.

 

After the game the manager spoke about the quality of our performance:

“We won the game but I believe as well we played the game we wanted to play, at a high pace, with top technical quality and with a lot of creative attitude and a good concentration and collective spirit. Our game is based on that. It’s our philosophy and, for long patches of the game, we managed to express that. I believe we had many good performances on the pitch. Everybody played quite well, we were sound at the back, Wilshere had a very good game as well. Everybody played well.”

 

I suppose the only real downside of the performance was the poor accuracy of Arshavin’s passing and that is an area that he needs to work on. At one stage his passing accuracy was around 56%, which just isn’t good enough at that level. Defensively we could be a bit more solid, but hopefully that will come as Koscielny and Squillaci get used to the league and each other. Clichy is also a bit of a worry and it can only be a good thing that he now has Gibbs breathing down his neck.

 

The manager also revealed that Diaby has some bruising and ligament damage. We can only hope that they crack out some Oleg Luzhny placenta to help his recovery along and that he is back in training sooner rather than later.

 

Next on the agenda is a trip to the Stadium of Light at the weekend and it is a game where the team will need to stay fully focused in order to keep our current good run going and to keep pressure on Chelsea and ManUre. The game is a 17:30 GMT kick-off, which means that it’ll be a delightfully convenient 01:30 JST kick-off here… I hate when we have a late kick-off, though at least Sunday is a day off.

 

That’s about all for today. Check out Arseblog and Gunnerblog who will probably have a more in-depth report on last night’s game. Though, I suppose that’s what newspaper websites like The Guardian are for.

 

The shareholders’ Q&A session should be taking place this evening from 6pm-7pm, so hopefully there will be some interesting things to come out of it.

 

Right, that’ll do for today. Take it easy and enjoy the feeling of a 6-0 victory in the Champions League.


Hoping for a Braga-n 3 points.

September 15, 2010

Tonight sees us take on Braga at the Emirates and it is a game that we really need to win in order to get our Champions League campaign off to a good start. We need to hit the ground running. The team needs to be careful though, because it won’t be any easy game and Braga have already dispatched of some decent sides (Celtic and Sevilla) to get to this stage, so I imagine that the pre-game team talk will involve a warning to not mess around and to take the game seriously.

 

On the injury front, we will be without Diaby whole is currently out for an undetermined period of time. At the moment, only the next two games have been confirmed. Though, when it comes to our players, and Diaby in particular, I think that we can  expect it to be a minimum three or four week layoff. We don’t do short term injuries. That’s not how we roll. I guess we should just consider ourselves lucky that his leg didn’t end up destroyed like Eduardo’s or Ramsey’s. The art of tackling is certainly a dying one, if not already dead. The player himself was certainly a lot more laid back about the tackle than I would be if I were on the receiving end of that it:

“I will miss our first game in the Champions League but to be honest I am lucky to only miss two or three games, I really thought I would be out for a long time. Bolton is a very physical team and to be honest the tackle was a strong one, but it is Premier League football, people are committed, so it is fine for me.

I hope the team start the Champions League with a victory, the first game in any competition is always very important.”

The terms ‘physical team’ or ‘committed team’ is British newspaper speak for ‘dirty.’ At least that statement won’t allow the likes of Pulis to come out with his ‘moaning like a drain’ rubbish.

 

The manager has again called for more protection for players, but you get the feeling that the empty-headed English managers and media will get all xenophobic and say that there is no need for something to be done and that Wenger and Arsenal are a team of softies. That kind of attitude drives me nuts and I really don’t think that anything will be done until one or more of the current England squad are put out of the game for an extended period of time.

“The tackle was very bad. I cannot protect the players; only the FA can do that. I love the English game but people are more interested in controversy than protecting the players. Why should I create another story? You asked me how the tackle was and it was bad. But I don’t know if my views are taken seriously. Diaby has been injured from an unfair tackle. I’ve watched it 10 times and it is an unfair tackle. But people just think I’m protecting my players by saying that and that I have a [vested] interest.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes my players commit bad fouls. Yet the beauty of the game is down to the fact that you play with commitment, with passion but also with the right intention. If you have a good sliding tackle where the player takes the ball, it’s as good to see as a player scoring a goal. But when a guy closes his eyes and jumps with anger it’s not right.

I’m not enough, alone, to change things. Managers, referees, people who watch games, even journalists have to take responsibility. It’s a matter of respecting the rules. The problem is that, when I say it, it is only considered ‘controversial’ and it is just ‘Wenger, Wenger, Wenger, Wenger’.”

The problem is a mixture of racism and stupidity, the former by the media and the latter by stupid pundits like Mark Bright that come out with statements along the lines of ‘I’d rather be elbowed in the face than spat upon.’ That’s the kind of idiocy that you are up against and it’s the type of stupidity that gets broadcast on TV and radio and then absorbed by the average fan. There is nothing wrong with a physical game, that’s what we love to see but it has to be played with the right attitude and desire. Players need to try to win the ball rather than rough up their opponent. I truly believe that if the likes of Kevin Davies were not English he would have umpteen red cards to his name but, as he is English, he just isn’t that kind of player. (I should point out that I am not anti-English, I’m against xenophobia, especially when it gets in the way of improving the game.)

 

Anyway, rant done. Tonight should see the recall of Sagna and Clichy to the defense and that would see us line up with Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci and Clichy at the back. In midfield, I expect us to line up with Song, Fabgreas, Nasri, Eboue and Arshavin with Chamakh again plowing the lone furrow up front. Well, that’s the team that I would go with, but the manager may well decide to go with Denilson instead of Nasri to offer a bit more defensive stability. Though I am sure that Rosicky will also be hoping to get a start. Vermaelen is still unavailable with his achilles injury.

 

There is an interview with Chamakh on the FIFA website where he talks about life so far at the club.

 

Here’s hoping that we take all three points tonight and that my waking up at 03:45 to watch the game will be worthwhile.

 

Take it easy.


A look back at the weekend.

September 13, 2010

Saturday saw us run out 4-1 winners over Bolton with goals from Koscielny, Chamakh, Song and Vela, the Vela goal coming at the end of a twenty-four pass move. Song’s goal was the thousandth scored in the Premier League under Arsene Wenger’s reign. It was a big result for the team as we are traditionally a bit slow to get back into things after an international break, so to get the three points was very important for the team’s confidence and to keep its title challenge on track.

 

The defence did well overall, although there were some shaky moments, but that is to be expected when you consider that it was comprised of Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci and Gibbs, with both centre backs being new to the English game. It was a bit of a gamble for the manager to take with that selection but it paid off and means that Clichy and Sagna will be rested and ready to go for the Braga game.

 

Fabregas made some fantastic passes and is showing signs of regaining his form, which is great to see and not a moment too soon. With the number of strikers we are currently missing, Cesc’s ability to pick and execute the perfect pass at the right time will be vital for us in the coming weeks. Speaking about Fabregas, the manager said:

"I have seen a few good performances from him and it is difficult to compare them. I don’t deny that there was a Barcelona story but I was always convinced he really loves Arsenal and he loves to play football. We play the game he loves to play and the game turns around him. He grew up in this team and to make this team win will be a bigger achievement than anything else for Fabregas."

The referee didn’t have the best of games, it must be said, and his sending off of Cahill was a bit harsh, to say the least and was made worse by the fact that it cost me three points with my fantasy football team. He could just have let play continue, with Arshavin surging forward and later book the player. Anyway, Bolton’s loss was our gain and from that point onwards we didn’t really look in any kind of serious danger.

 

Some people were blaming Almunia for the goal, but it was Koscielny’s header that put him in trouble and I don’t think that he did an awful lot wrong. I suppose the flak he took was directly linked to the ire still felt in some quarters that we didn’t sign a keeper in the summer. I think that we can expect similar outbursts by disgruntled fans towards our keepers each time a questionable goal is conceded, although I hope that won’t be the case.

 

Elsewhere, Wenger was talking about how the new financial regulations should benefit us as the club has been run in the right way, assuming of course that they are correctly implemented:

“It will be a massive advantage to Arsenal Football Club as soon as it’s applied if it’s well introduced. I don’t want to go into excuses but you want a business to be run properly and I believe that to lose £150 million a year you don’t deserve a lot of credit to win a competition. Meanwhile, we have balanced our books. Maybe some people think it’s right because they don’t care but if they had to run a business I don’t think it’s right.”

The News of the World again links us with Crewe’s 16yr old midfielder, Nick Powell. To be honest I am finding it harder and harder to get excited by the signing of a teenager. I’d prefer to see us linked with signing an established player.

 

Ahead of this week’s start of the Champions League group stages, Wenger said:

“For us a win next Wednesday night is vital, because I believe the group is much more difficult than people expect it to be. Braga finished in front of Porto last year – we played against Porto and know they are a good side. Also, they have just kicked Seville out in the play-offs.  Shakhtar Donetsk are one of the best European sides, that is why I believe it is very important we start well at home.

Belgrade is a good opportunity – if you want to well in the Champions League you need nine points from your home games and you need one result away from home. But let’s first start well against Braga and then we will see how far we can go.”

I am looking forward to the return of the Champions League but am not particularly looking forward to the 03:45 kick-offs. Lets hope that the team can hit the ground running and get three points against Braga.

 

That’s about all I have for today. Take it easy.