3pts but defence almost Villain of the piece.

November 28, 2010

Yesterday was, in the typical Arsenal fashion that we have now become so accustomed to, a really nerve wracking game. The game should have been dead and buried at half-time when we were two goals up through goals from Arshavin and a deflected shot from Nasri. Arshavin’s goal came after he raced onto a ball on the left wing after Fabianski’s kick-out was missed in the middle of the pitch by Collins and Young, he cut in and scored with a nice right-footed shot that Friedel got his hand to but couldn’t keep out. Nasri’s goal came from an Arshavin corner which the Frenchman met on the volley, the ball took a slight deflection (off Young, I think) on the way through and this was enough to take it past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net.

 

The two goals were split by two glorious opportunities for Nasri and Chamakh. Nasri’s came after a great through ball from Arshavin put him one-on-one with Friedel, he took the ball around the keeper but could only manager to hit the side netting. This chance was then followed by a great save by Friedel from a Chamakh header. In fairness though, the ball was at a perfect height for the keeper to save, a bit more to the keeper’s right or a bit lower and it was a certain goal. But, at 2-0 you would like to think that the game was relatively safe. However, this is the 2010 model Arsenal and the days of a game being won when two goals to the good are a long distant memory.

 

Like most Arsenal fans, I spent the first few minutes of the half-time interval thinking about the 2-0 lead we had against Spuds last week, the 4-2 lead we had against them last year and the 2-0 lead we had against Wigan towards the end of last season. I was thinking that in years gone by I could have quite happily changed the channel safe in the knowledge that having gone in  front, we’d get all three points. Ah, those were the days. Unfortunately, this Arsenal team are more akin to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle or Real Madrid during the Galactico era. We have a team ethic that forgets about defending and pretty much relies on having to outscore the opposition as they will, inevitably, concede at least one goal per game.

 

We have quality players in midfield and attack, although we could still strengthen those areas, but we are largely bereft of any kind of real quality at the back, Vermaelen aside. The problem is that the manager thinks that we have a good defence, although the number of goals we concede and the manner in which we concede them should be telling him otherwise.

 

It’s all well and good trying to outscore the opposition, but all too often we struggle to pick our way through a team that keeps things compact, safe in the knowledge that we are rubbish at putting good crosses into the box. Then, when we do create chances, we tend to be chronically profligate in front of goal. This profligacy wouldn’t be such an issue if we had a team capable of regularly keeping clean sheets but we don’t, so those two factors combined mean we fail to kill off games, or hold out for a 1-0 or a 2-1.

 

Anyway, that’s what was going through my mind at half time yesterday and the team did nothing to allay my fears when just a few minutes into the second half came the obligatory goal for Villa. A ball was crossed from the left towards Clark and Clichy for some unknown reason at first looked like he was going to challenge him then inexplicably stopped, worrying about the ball being laid off for the player hovering on the right of the penalty area. This left Koscielny and Squillaci with absolutely no chance of getting close enough to make a block and to compound this shambolic attempt at defending, Carew was standing in an offside position directly in the line of sight of Fabianski giving the Pole no chance of making the save. Replays showed the Pole trying to look around Carew to see where the ball was just as the shot was being taken. But, the referee didn’t give it and it was 2-1, time to panic. Well, I say panic, but it was more like a feeling of ‘ah, for **** sake, here we go again…’ Clichy is an accident that doesn’t even wait to happen, he gladly serves up mistake after mistake for the neutral’s pleasure. He learned too much from Silvestre during the latter’s short time at the club.

 

At least the team quickly responded when a nice pass from Rosicky was finished with a flick of the foot by Chamakh which took the ball past the onrushing Friedel. 3-1, but yet the game felt far from safe.

 

Sure enough, Villa’s second goal came from a set piece. A corner was floated into the box, Koscielny failed to beat Dunne to the ball. The big Irishman’s header looped back into the six yard box and was met with a deft little flick of the head by Clark which went in off the underside of the bar. 3-2 and in my head air raid-esque sirens were starting to go off. I was glad that my new TV hadn’t yet arrived because as their second goal went in, I went mental and a Pepsi bottle that had been sitting on the coffee table in front of me, quietly minding its own business, was rudely awakened by the full force of my right foot which catapulted it across the room, narrowly missing the TV. Missing the target? Maybe there is a berth for me in the Arsenal front line…

 

Finally, in injury time, we got the fourth goal which made the result certain. Denilson took a shot from the edge of the penalty area which was blocked. The ball looped  up to Chamakh who unselfishly played the ball over to an unmarked Wilshere who duly nodded home for his first league goal for the club. The three points were in the bag but it was far from an assured performance. There is still an awful lot of work for the management team to do on the training ground and, hopefully, one or two signings to be made during the January transfer window.

 

It may seem strange to have such a negative view of our situation after getting the three points, but it is the state of our defence and defending that has me very worried about our prospects for winning any silverware this season. I’m not sure how many times myself and every other Arsenal fan, pundit, journalist have to say that we are defensively weak before the coaching staff and manager realise that something needs to be done, and soon, to address these long-standing issues.

 

Right, that’ll do for today. Take it easy.


Time to get the finger out.

November 27, 2010

Right, I was going to start off by saying something along the lines of ‘it’s time for the team to bounce back and show that they have learned from blah blah etc etc’ but decided that there is no point in saying that because this team that has, so far, been totally incapable of learning from its mistakes.

 

The simple fact is that we absolutely must pick up all three points against Aston Villa today. We hear so much about how this team has ability, talent, intelligence, maturity and that it has grown. Well, it’s time for them to get their collective fingers out and show that on the football pitch. As nice a gesture as it is, I don’t want to read any more apologies from players on Twitter for losing a game or have to watch Denilson come on ATVO and say sorry. Sorry doesn’t cut it if you don’t back that apology up with good performances and, most importantly, wins. So, more wins and less apologies, please.

 

I didn’t write any posts all week because I was just so bloody annoyed with the team that there was no point in adding to the negativity that was already floating around.

 

You could argue that it isn’t the end of the world because we are still just two points off the top of the league. But, the point is that we should be top of the table now, clear of our rivals. Instead we have let a glorious opportunity slip by us. Our rivals won’t keep dropping points forever and, unless we sort out our defence we will continue to spunk 3pts against the wall due to our inability to keep a clean sheet or defend as a team.

 

Anyway, on to today’s game and Fabregas, Eboue and Vermaelen are definitely out. So, we should line up as:

 

Fabianski

Sagna      Squillaci      Koscielny      Clichy

Denilson      Song      Wilshere

Nasri                                        Arshavin

Chamakh

 

Today’s game should see us come up against former player, and all-time legend, Robert Pires. It will be great to see him playing against us, but let’s hope that he has a very quiet game, should he be involved.

 

Okay, that’ll have to do for today. Take it easy. Here’s hoping for a much needed three points today. Come on you Reds!!!!


Jekyll and Hyde Arsenal.

November 21, 2010

Yesterday saw the best and worst of the Arsenal that we have come to love and loathe in equal measure. In the first half we played some good football and tore Spuds apart and, in truth, should have been more than two goals up at half time. The team started brightly and were clearly up for the game. Before the game had even kicked off, Cesc had ignored Gallas in the tunnel and Nasri ignored him as the teams shook hands, so you knew that the game was going to get off to a flier. Nasri was up for putting one over on his former captain.

 

The Nasri goal came after a fantastic ball from Cesc from just inside our own half found Nasri and he did well to get to the ball before Gomez after his first touch let the ball run a bit further ahead of him than he would ideally have liked, he took it around Gomez and scored from an extremely tight angle. Cue this blogger going ballistic in celebration. You could see how much the goal meant to the player by the manner in which he celebrated. Nasri had earlier been clipped in the face by Gallas and whereas in years gone by he may have then disappeared out of the game, it only served to strengthen his resolve.

 

Spurs just weren’t able to compete and our players were finding themselves in space and with time on the ball. Our second goal came from a cross from the left from Arshavin and was met with a very nice finish from Chamakh. Yet again another goal for him and another assist for our mercurial Russian. We really should have been three up at the break but Cesc scuffed a glorious chance well wide when through on goal. That miss was to prove costly.

 

At the break, I have no idea what happened in our dressing room but the team seemed to come out half asleep. They just didn’t get going. The drive and urgency had gone. Perhaps they thought that the game was won. However, with a defence like ours, a game is never won when you are only two goals ahead. Spuds made a change in bringing on Defoe and it proved to be the key in the build-up to their first goal. Defoe won a header just inside our half, the ball flicked on to Van Der Faart who released Bale and he finished left-footed past Fabianski. Game on and we were looking so flat footed and lackluster that you just knew that Spuds were now in the ascendancy.

 

Their equaliser came from a free-kick that, to be honest, was quite harsh. Anyway, regardless of whether or not it was a soft free-kick, there was no excusing Cesc’s handball whilst standing in the wall. It’s hard to know whether Cesc was the one to raise his arm first or, if it was Chamakh that raised his arm and due to Cesc holding onto Chamakh’s arm, his arm went up, too. Regardless, Van Der Faart scored the resulting penalty and it was just a matter of time before Spuds got their third and get it they did. A free-kick was floated in and both Cesc and RvP (who was again well off the pace) failed to make any kind of telling challenge and Kaboul got enough on it to guide it past Fabianski. 3-2 and that was that. Infuriating. Incomprehensible considering how good we had been in the first half. To go from playing so well, to playing so poorly is hard to understand. The only way I can explain it is by assuming that the players thought that at 2-0, the game was won and they took their foot off the pedal. Defoe said as much himself after the game and I agree with him.

 

That’s THREE home defeats in the league so far this season and we aren’t even at the halfway point. Not good enough. The only silver lining is that Chavski later went on to lose to Birmingham and so we remain just two points off top, though we have now dropped to third after ManUre beat nine man Wigan to go joint top on 28pts. While Chavski losing is a silver lining, it just serves to strengthen the sense of frustration at a fantastic chance to go a point clear at the top being blown. Extremely disappointing.

 

You could argue that Spuds didn’t really create much, but the point is that they didn’t really have to because we have a defence that is more susceptible to leakage than an STD infected cock. Once the team stops hassling and pressing as a unit, our defence is laid bare and will, more often than not, concede a goal or three. Perhaps the manager should have retained Djourou instead of bringing Koscielny back into the team, but I think that our defence as a whole had a fairly poor game.

 

Bendtner must have sat looking at that game and wishing that he had kept his mouth shut. He certainly would have made more of a telling contribution than RvP did. RvP is still well off the pace,which is to be expected given how little football he has played since the World Cup.

 

So, where do we go from here? Some might say that it was a derby and anything can happen. But, for me, that just doesn’t wash. We have witnessed some poor performances at home this season and although we are still well in contention at the top of the table, it is clear that massive improvement is needed. Vermaelen is badly missed. The sooner we can get him back to full fitness the better. I think that there are lot of defensive changes to be made, we’re just not even close to being up to scratch in that department. Clichy is one player that I would look to offload, possibly Sagna too. Our full backs just don’t offer enough, especially Clichy. Although I like Koscielny, he just isn’t at Premier League level just yet. Squillaci has done okay so far, but he isn’t exactly the rock at the heart of our defence. Perhaps if he played alongside Vermaelen and developed a partnership we would be more solid.

 

It’s hard to write anything after the anger, frustration and disappointment felt after sitting through yesterday’s second half performance. When the team lacks motivation and drive, it’s hard to find the motivation to write about it, but maybe writing about it helps to exercise some demons and frustrations. This was written from a beer-hazed memory of watching the game live, I haven’t had a chance to check out MOTD or the ATVO highlights yet.

 

To try and finish on something kind of positive, on our day we can beat anyone. We just need to have more of those days.

 

That’s all for today from a very depressed North Bank blogger. I’m off to have a few beers to drown my sorrows.


Derby day.

November 20, 2010

I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet. Today’s north London derby feels like the biggest and most important one for a few years. If we win today we will go top of the table, for a few hours at least, and we will also show Spuds that they are still not as good as they would like to believe they are.

 

Another reason for wanting to win this game is that it would give us three league wins in a row and would go some way to dispelling the view real or otherwise, that we tend to go through a bad spell in November in terms of both results and injuries.

 

Of course, the biggest single reason for wanting to win is because we are playing the scum. I remember being at the Villa game at Highbury on the final day of the 1998/1999 season when we missed out on the title and after the game a bunch of Spuds scum travelled down to the area outside Finsbury Park station to rub it in and cause trouble. Bloody pikeys. That is a massive reason for our players to go out onto that pitch today and give their all to shut those cuntbuckets up. We need to show them that they will never reach the same level as us, both in terms of ability and the class of the club as a whole. I really hope that the fans at the game today give it their all to vocally support the team.

 

Team news is that Wilshere, Arshavin and Rosicky are all fit to be included in the squad. The only unavailable players are Almunia, Diaby, Ramsey and Vermaelen. Our squad is, touch wood, finally beginning to get back to full fitness and it looking quite strong, which feels like a very unusual thing for an Arsenal fan to be saying as we approach the depths of winter. Usually we begin to drop like flies right around now. Maybe this year we have gotten our spell of injuries over with early doors. Fingers crossed that’s the case!

 

I still think that we will line up as:

Fabianski

Sagna      Squillaci      Koscielny      Clichy

Fabregas      Song      Denilson

Walcott                                         Nasri

Chamakh

 

Although Wilshere has passed his fitness test, I think that the boss may go with Denilson to offer a bit more defensive protection. I also think that the starting of Walcott down the right will give Spuds something to think about before giving Bale licence to go down the wing. The manager has a tough decision to make over playing Koscielny or Djourou and given that Koscielny is good in one-on-one situations, I have a feeling that he will shade it. Djourou has done well recently and deserves to keep his place, but I think it will go to Koscielny. Apparently, Bendtner is not going to be included in today’s squad because it is felt that he needs some extra practice by himself as he is returning from injury. Of course, it is totally coincidental that his non-inclusion coincides with the little outburst he had last week. A total coincidence…

 

That would give us a bench of Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue, Wilshere, Rosicky, Arshavin and RvP.

 

All in all, that is one of the strongest match day squads that we have been able to put out for quite some time. I can’t wait for kick-off. The adrenalin is pumping. Now all I need to do is get some beers in, choose my bets to place and I’m all set.

 

NewsNow screwed me a bit yesterday by taking too long to include my post in their feed. So, if you haven’t already, please check out yesterday’s post.

 

Have yourselves a great day and here’s hoping for a massive three points and a humiliation of the scum. Remember, you can also follow me on Twitter: @colm_smyth

 

Take it easy.


Derby weekend and memories.

November 19, 2010

There is no better way to bounce back from the mini international break than to have a tasty north London derby tomorrow to get us back into the swing of things. The game is at the Emirates and kick-off is at 12:45 GMT (21:45 JST) and will be shown live on Sky Sports 2 and J-Sports Plus. Coverage on J-Sports will begin at 21:39, a good time here in Japan for some sociable drinking.

I was lucky enough to win a competition to go to the game at White Hart Lane in 2004, luckily in the away end with the Arsenal fans. Tottenham went a goal up, possibly from a free-kick from Ziege(?) and we then equalised through a Pires penalty (so my brother has informed me anyway, as I had remembered it differently…) But, the atmosphere on the way into and out of the stadium was some of the most hostile and intimidating that I have ever experienced. Back in those days there was the added element of Sol Campbell to add some extra spice to a fixture that really doesn’t need any spice added. The stress of such an environment was relieved somewhat when upon entering the ground my brother was whisked off by security to a private room wherein he was searched for drugs, or a bomb, or something that he shouldn’t have. I, of course, upon seeing him being nabbed by the Tottenham security filth, slinked into the stand to take up my seat. There was no way I was going to miss the game because of that! I suppose I should say that they promptly let him go after giving him the once over and he was able to watch the whole game.

Now, you may think that this was a bit of a bastardo thing for me to do but I suppose that, subconsciously, *cough cough* I did it because of an incident that took place a year or two earlier when myself and said brother were attending the north London derby at Highbury, this time we were sitting in the East Lower. We got a penalty in the 85th minute, or thereabouts, and Lauren stepped up and scored it. The resulting manic celebration resulted in my brother cracking one of my ribs with his elbow. So, I’m sure you will agree, my subconscious’s attempt at exacting revenge at the Lane was justified a few years later.

Usually, I always sat in the North Bank (hence the name of my blog) The only times that I haven’t sat in the North Bank was that one against Tottenham in 2001/2002 and a Champions League Quarter Final against Chelsea, in 2004, where we sat in the West Stand. Apart from those, from 1994 until 2006 we always went to the North Bank. I loved that stand.

Anyway, I digress. The game against Spuds is now a bit bigger than it has been for the last few years due to the fact that they are now a bit more competitive than they used to be. They still are nowhere near the level that Arsenal are at, but they have a few decent players in their squad. I think that we will need to keep a close eye on Modric and Van Der Faart. I have a feeling that they will start Crouch up front and lump balls into the box in order to test Fabianski and our central defenders. So, we will need them to be on their toes and put in a good performance.

Team news ahead of the game is that Wilshere will have a fitness test sometime today and perhaps we will get more information on how that goes at the manager’s lunchtime press conference. Apparently Wilshere has a ‘little strain of a little muscle,’ though I am pretty sure that the injury isn’t linked to today’s Sun story of Jack having a saucy encounter with a lap dancer. Not sure Jack will appreciate the boss referring to his meat and two veg like that. Hehe. Seriously though, he was referring to a muscle in Jack’s back.

Arshavin and Rosicky are slight doubts for the game and they will be checked over by the medical staff. RvP played 45min for Holland during the week so he should be a little fitter if required to come off the bench. Almunia, Ramsey, Vermaelen and Diaby are all still out injured. One suspects that Almunia is more likely to be out with a broken heart than an injured elbow at this stage. I think that our squad must hold some kind of world record for slowness to recover from injury, we tend not to do a four or five day knock anymore.

That should see us line up with; Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Denilson, Nasri, Walcott and Chamakh. That line up is based on the assumption (before hearing the press conference update) that both Wilshere and Arshavin will both just be fit enough for a place on the bench. The bench will likely be made up with Szczesny, Djourou, Eboue, Wilshere, Arshavin, RvP and Bendtner.

Some interesting stats from Opta are that Lukasz Fabianski has the second best saves-to-shots percentage, 83%, in the league. This is only bettered by Petr Cech who has an 85% saves-to-shots percentage. Also, the top four players in the whole of the Premier League for passing accuracy in the final third are Diaby, 87%; Rosicky, 86%; Denilson, 86% and Nasri, 85%. Impressive, and surprising, stats. One final stat which relates to last weekend’s game against Everton is that Arsenal have now scored 77 goals against that team, which is more than any team versus any single opponent in Premier League history.

Ahead of the game, Sagna has called on Arsenal fans to refrain from booing Gallas and that is something that I am in agreement with. We should not boo a player that gave us what we all wanted, a move away from the club. Perhaps instead of a booing, we should all just laugh every time he is on the ball. Mess with his mind. But booing doesn’t help anyone. If you are lucky enough to be at the game, please don’t boo. Instead of booing, try to vocally support our own players. Get a really good atmosphere going. This is a big game, no doubt about it and three points are essential in order to go top of the league, for a few hours at least.

Arsene has sat Bendtner down for a tete-a-tete and has told him to be patient as the team are doing well and he must earn his place back, he can’t expect to just walk back into the team. Our big Dane said in the Express:

“I have been talking to Arsene Wenger and he has told me the same things that he said publicly, that I have to be patient. He is right and I have known that all the time. I just want to play, like any other player. But I am aware that my team-mates have been playing well in my absence and some have been scoring goals as well, so it won’t be easy for me to regain my place among the starting XI.”

Before I wrap things up, I would just like to take a moment to wish former Arsenal legend Robert Pires all the best in his time at Aston Villa. I really hope that he can get a good amount of playing time there and finish out his career playing in the Premier League. It’s the least that he deserves. I hope that he can rejoin Arsenal in some capacity once he retires from playing. How great would it be if both Pires and Bergkamp were to join our staff in the next few years?

Finally, some Paddy Power odds for tomorrow’s game:

Money-back Special – If Bale or Walcott scores the last goal, all losing 1st /last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the match will be refunded.

Half-time/full-time: Draw/Arsenal is 7/2, Arsenal/Arsenal is 6/4 and Spuds/Arsenal is 19/1.

Correct score: Arsenal to win 2-1 is 13/2; 3-1 is 11/1 and 3-2 is 18/1.

Anytime goalscorer: Fabregas 17/10, Nasri 23/10, Squillaci 11/1 and Song 6/1.

If any of those bets catch your eye, click on the Paddy Power banner on the right of this page, sign up and you will get a FREE £10 bet which you can let ride on one of the above if you choose to do so.

That’s that for today, here’s to a big performance and three points against the scum tomorrow. Remember to make it a great atmosphere because this it the 50yr anniversary season since Spuds last won the league!

Take it easy.


Cocky Bendtner & get a FREE £10 bet.

November 13, 2010

Ah, the bloody frustration of having 600 words written only for the installation of the latest version of iTunes to restart my computer before I had saved the draft. Bye bye, writing. Microsoft, you can suck my balls for not having an auto save feature in Windows Live Writer. Why I oughta!

 

Anyway, I suppose I should just jump straight into the Nicklas Bendtner story that is being reported by both John Cross in The Mirror and David Hytner in The Guardian, today. In a move that simultaneously smacks of over-cockiness and a lack of intelligence, our big Dane has said that he will look to get a transfer away from the club if he isn’t given more playing time. Now, had he been fit and available for selection for the majority of this calendar year, that wouldn’t be an unreasonable thing for him to say. But, the fact is that he hasn’t been fit for the majority of this year and has only just recently returned to training following his long-term groin injury. So, for him to come out so soon after returning to fitness with a statement like this is, at best, ill-advised. I suspect that part of the frustration that has led him to make the statement is borne out of seeing a clearly unfit RvP come on as a substitute in the Newcastle game instead of our overly confident Dane. To be honest, I have absolutely no sympathy for his plight as had he not gone off to the World Cup still carrying said groin injury, he would probably have been fit to start the season and would have had more playing time by now.

“If the situation doesn’t improve – if I keep sitting on the bench at Arsenal – I must leave. It’s as simple as that. My first priority is – as it has always been – to play for Arsenal. I’ve had a lot of patience and won’t be warming the bench anymore. I want to play regularly and I hope it will be for Arsenal.”

Regardless of his reasons for making the statement, he would do well to keep his mouth shut and do his talking on the field in the form of goals, a sentiment echoed by Wenger in the same articles that I have linked to below. Bendtner is a player that divides loyalties, he is either loved or hated by the fans. There aren’t many sitting on the fence, and I have a feeling that he could well lose some of his supporters with an outburst like this. When you consider that Chamakh has made such a great start to his Arsenal career scoring goals and winning penalties, it is just right that Bendtner (and RvP) will have to be a bit patient before getting back into the starting eleven. They can’t realistically expect to walk straight back into the team. If you would like you read the Mirror’s article, click here, and if you would like to read the article in The Guardian, click here.

 

A piece of potentially Arsenal related news is that David Moyes has revealed that he no longer thinks that Pienaar will sign the contract offer that has been on the table for some time now and that he is set to leave on a Bosman at the end of the season. He is a player I like and he could do a good job for us. The fact that he would be going on a free would mean that we would still have a sizeable transfer kitty to strengthen the defence and goalkeeping departments.

 

Looking at tomorrow’s game, it will be the final game of Koscielny’s two match ban and hopefully his will be the last suspension that we pick up for a while. So, as I said yesterday, we should line up with  Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.

 

The referee for the game is Howard Webb, who so far this season has refereed nine games in which he has given thirty-three yellow card and no red cards, which averages out to about 3.7 yellow cards per game. To be honest, I am not a fan of Webb at all. To me, both Webb and Clattenburg are the refereeing equivalent of our big Dane; arrogant, overly-confident, cocky ballbags. I don’t mean Bendtner is a ballbag, just making a comparison of their cockiness.

 

An interesting statistic ahead of tomorrow’s game is that, should we manage to keep a clean sheet, it will be the first time since May 2005 that we have kept three consecutive clean sheets away from home. Is it any wonder that we haven’t won anything for so long?

 

There was an interview excerpt with Cesc and Walcott on the BBC website yesterday and it may appear in a fuller form on today’s Football Focus, I think. Though don’t quote me on that.

 

Lee Dixon talks a bit of sense on tackling, here, and he is big enough to hold his hands up about MOTD not showing, or even mentioning, Karl Henry’s tackle on Arshavin on Wednesday night.

 Henry tackle on Arshavin

 

Finally, as you may, or indeed may not, have noticed there is now a Paddy Power banner on the right side of this page. If you click on that banner, it will take you to their site and you can get a FREE £10 bet with them if you sign up for a new account. There is no pressure on you to continue betting with them afterwards. The one thing I will say is that putting a few pounds/euros down on Premier League games really helps to make the games a whole lot more fun and interesting. I’m a BIG fan of the goal scorer markets, going back to the days when Freddie couldn’t stop scoring in the season run-in way back in 2002. So, get your finger out, click on the banner, sign up and put your FREE £10 bet on Arsenal this weekend. Remember, you can get Everton/Arsenal (half-time/full-time) at 22/1. Pretty good odds! Arsenal are  5/4 to win, a draw is 9/4. Fabregas and Arshavin are 15/2 for first goal, Walcott is 8/1 and Nasri 9/1. Good luck!

 

You can follow me on Twitter here: @colm_smyth

 

That’s about all I have time for. Have a good weekend.


A look ahead to Everton at the weekend.

November 12, 2010

This weekend sees us take on Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. Kick-off is at 14:00 GMT, which means 23:00 for those in Japan. The game will be screened lived on J-Sports Plus, coverage begins at 22:54. The fact that our game will finish before Chavski’s kicks-off gives us a great chance to put extra pressure on them by picking up the three points in our own game.

 

No doubt about it, this game is going to be a big test for the team, but at least Everton will be without the suspended Fellaini, who’s height and pointy elbows would have caused us some trouble. One player that still has the potential to cause us a lot of problems from set pieces is Cahill and we will need to make sure to keep a close eye on him and not allow him any free headers.

 

Injury news ahead of the game is that nobody picked up an injury against Wolves, so we should have largely the same squad as we had for that game, with the possible exception of a return to the match day squad for Gibbs.

 

The starting eleven is likely to be Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.

 

In the manager’s weekly interview it was interesting to see his response to whether or not he will dip into the transfer market in January should Vermaelen’s injury rule him out for the season. he said that he couldn’t deny that buying someone would be a possibility as we would only have three experienced centre halves were that to be the case. What was more interesting was the fact that he said that he hasn’t yet totally given up on Vermaelen returning to fitness, which seems to indicate that it does indeed look likely that he will be out for a long stretch. There was a lack of conviction in his statement. The manager said that the scan looks okay but they cannot really understand exactly why Vermaelen is feeling pain. Time for a new and improved medical team? I think that Vermaelen could be out for the season. If so, it’ll be one of Cahill or Jones in January, who would you prefer? I’d go for Cahill.

 

Diaby came through the first of his series of fitness tests okay and his ankle has responded well. Fingers crossed he will come through the rest of the tests okay and that he won’t be out with yet another long term injury.

 

As hinted at here a few days ago, Szczesny has signed a new long-term contract. My sources have told me that it is a five year deal, as also revealed here a few days ago. The new deal has already been confirmed by the club.

 

On Paddy Power you will get odds of 23/10 on a draw and 6/5 on an Arsenal win. If Walcott scores the last goal, all losing 1st/last goalscorer, correct score and scorecast singles bets will be refunded. Considering our propensity for conceding a goal to a teams first shot on target, you can get Everton/Arsenal (half-time/full-time) at 22/1.

 

That’s all I have time for today. Here’s hoping for some slip-ups by ManUre, ManShitty, Liverpool and Tottenham tomorrow.

 

Take it easy. I’m off to tinker with the innards of this site.


Brief Thursday thoughts.

November 11, 2010

Last night’s result against Wolves could prove to be massive come the end of the season. It has helped to halt the slide and has made our November look a little less bleak.

 

In the past few days we have seen the best and worst of Fabianski. He made the error that cost us the game against Newcastle on Sunday, yet it was his saves that helped to ensure that we took all three points last night. It’s clear that the Pole is capable of making very good saves, but he is always liable to drop a massive clanger that will result in a goal that could cause the team to drop points. He will need to make important saves, and no errors, between now and the end of the season in order for me to believe that he may be a decent keeper after all. I do hope that he will prove me wrong and that my fears about him are unfounded.

 

I can’t really comment too much on the game itself as I was sound asleep when it was on, due to the game kicking off at 04:45. However, @arseblog and @Gingers4Limpar gave some great coverage of the game on Twitter and I was able to get blow by blow Tweets on the action when I woke up. So, for a detailed report on the game, check out Arseblog or some of the blogs listed in my blog roll in the sidebar on the right side of this page.

 

There are some, as yet unconfirmed, reports circulating that Vermaelen may be out for the season. That is very bad news, if true. I think that if he is ruled out for the season, due to having surgery on his achilles, then I would be pretty sure that Wenger will make a move for either Bolton’s Cahill or Blackburn’s Jones in January. Either one of those would be a good addition to the squad. There were rumours going around in the summer that Arsenal have been keeping close tabs on Cahill, so I would be thinking that it’ll be him that we sign in January should Wenger deem it necessary. I think that we would probably need to part with somewhere in the region of 15m to get Cahill, but I think that it would be money well spent.

 

Apologies for the brevity of today’s post. My work schedule today has left time at a premium. Will try to get a more comprehensive weekend preview post up tomorrow. Will also have some betting odds for the game against Everton, too.

 

Take it easy.


November Rain.

November 10, 2010

Talk about getting off to the worst possible start to the month of November. The first defeat to Shakhtar was largely down to complacency and inept defending. The defeat to Newcastle was not down to complacency, we just weren’t good enough to cope with the challenge that Newcastle posed us.

 

To hear Wenger talk after the game about how Fabianski was maybe too confident of getting the ball when jumping with Carroll was more than a little annoying as the last person in our goalkeeping department that should feel confident in winning a ball in the box is Fabianski. Carroll is a real handful in the air and once Chamakh failed to make any kind of telling contribution to marking him, Fabianski was never realistically going to win that ball. I suppose his rising from the ashes of a potentially ruined Arsenal career was too much to hope for, though hope we did. The problem is that when your goalkeeper makes a mistake, it is almost certain to result in a goal. Our first and second choice keepers have made making mistakes and costing us points something of a forte. Infuriating.

 

A key part of Arsenal’s game is to get the first goal, that way the opposition has to attack and that will leave plenty of space for us to hit them on the counter and leave a bit more space for our passing. When we fall behind, the opposition have no real desire, or need, to come at us because they know if they keep things compact, more often than not we will not be able to find a way through. Teams know that we will endlessly pass the ball sideways but have no real cutting edge.

 

The most annoying thing about Sunday was that Newcastle scored with their first shot on target, that simply isn’t good enough. There is no hope for winning the league if you are so susceptible to conceding. We badly miss Vermaelen and it is looking like it will be a while before we see him back in the team again. According to John Cross (@johncrossmirror on Twitter) he keeps breaking down with sharp pains in his achilles. Not good news at all.

 

If Reina is available in the summer, we need to pull out the stops and sign him. We will never be successful with either Almunia or Fabianski in goal. End of story. I know there are some that will promote Szczesny as our next no1, but I would much rather see Reina as our no1 and then play Szczesny in the cups and in any meaningless Champions League group games.

 

I wouldn’t mind, but Arsenal’s ineptitude on Sunday cost me money, too. Luckily, I recouped it on the Spuds game last night. I am going to steer clear of betting on Arsenal for a while, their form is just too erratic. The worst thing is that no matter how many times Wenger says that we have learned our lessons from defeats past, the team continues to make the same stupid mistakes and turns out below par performances. The players need to step up and make sure that our season doesn’t finish in November because if we fall too far behind Chavski now, it’ll be very hard to claw them back. I know that we did it last year only to fall away again near the end but I don’t think that they will be as easy to catch this year. Our home form must improve.

 

If we had beaten West Brom and Newcastle, we would be top of the table with the way the other results went. The Emirates is not the fortress that it should be. We need to change that and maybe a good way to start is to get some atmosphere going in the ground. I know that it is easy for someone to say that when they are living abroad and don’t get to go to many/any games but, those who are lucky enough to go there should at least make some effort to generate an atmosphere. The away fans are great for generating atmosphere, we need to transfer that to our home games.

 

Anyway, looking ahead to tonight’s game against Wolves and the team news is that Koscielny is out after the FA upheld his red card from the Newcastle game. So, that should see us line up with; Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Wilshere, Walcott, Nasri and Chamakh.

 

I don’t think that Arshavin will start as he has been, by and large, pretty poor away from home. Koscielny’s ban is for two games, so he misses tonight and the weekend’s game against Everton. When did a red card stop being an automatic three game ban, especially as this was Koscielny’s second sending off of the season? Seems odd to me, but I’m certainly not complaining at the fact that the ban is a game shorter than I’d expected. Djourou is getting more games this season than many of us had expected, hopefully it will help him develop into a good centre-half. I expect Szczesny, Denilson, Arshavin, Rvp and Bendtner to all be on the bench tonight

 

I haven’t seen any reports in the media yet, but expect a new 5yr deal to be announced soon. The good news is that the player involved isn’t Clichy. I really hope that someone is foolish enough to bid £10m+ for him this summer because, if they do, we should jump at the chance to offload him. He makes way too many costly mistakes and just isn’t up to scratch. Thanks, Camolli.

 

Right, that’ll have to do for today. Here’s to getting an essential three points against Wolves tonight. Let’s hope that Karl Henry doesn’t maim any of our players.

 

Take it easy.


Time to do an Alan Partridge.

November 6, 2010

Yes, you read that title right. Though you will only get the meaning of it if you have watched the show and know that in it he had an autobiography called ‘Bouncing Back.’ That’s exactly what we have to to against Newcastle this weekend.

 

Apologies for no post-Shakhtar blog, I have been struggling with some kind of bastardo illness. Hopefully I can shake that off this weekend. Suppose it also means that I can save some money, and my liver, by staying indoors. That money can now be used for a bit of speculate-to-accumulate action on Paddy Power for this weekend’s games.

 

Team news ahead of tomorrow’s game is that Gibbs and Diaby are out, as are the more obvious Ramsey, RvP and Vermaelen. Though RvP is now back in training and Vermaelen is nearing a return to training. According to the manager, Vermaelen is a matter of days away from a return to training. Great news. It is looking good on the injury front, touch wood. Also returning to the squad are Koscielny and Sagna who were rested in midweek, along with Cesc, Song, Arshavin and Denilson who didn’t travel to the Ukraine as they were carrying knocks. However, there is still a question mark over Cesc’s involvement on Sunday and he will have a fitness test sometime today.

 

Diaby is still out with an ankle injury which I assume to be a consequence of the tackle in the game against Blackburn. If I remember right, that is the same ankle that he injured against Sunderland in 2006, an injury which could easily have ended his career. Diaby is a strange player, he has all the skill needed to become a class act but he lacks the work rate and desire at times and this is slowing his progress. If he gave 100% in every game, he would be a real asset for our squad but, more often than not, he has frustrated. Listening to manager talking about the fears they have for Diaby’s fitness, it sounded like the player could have some serious ongoing long-term issues with that ankle. Fingers crossed that that isn’t the case and that he can regain fitness and become the player that the manager clearly believes he can become.

 

It will be important to keep Carroll in check tomorrow and we will also need to keep an eye on Nolan at corners. I’m sure that Newcastle will try to put a bit of pressure on Fabianski and he will need to be strong and stand up to the challenge. Our players will also have to prepare themselves from some kicks being delivered by Dolly Barton.

 

I think that the starting eleven tomorrow will be Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.

 

I would like to see Walcott start ahead of Arshavin however, as he played in the Ukraine in midweek, he may have to settle for a role on the bench. I am still not at all convinced that Nasri is suited to playing in a wider position, as he has his best games for us when he plays more central, but he could always drift inside leaving space for a Sagna to move into.

 

The fact that we will play before Chavski will give us a great chance to close the gap on them and put them under increased pressure to get a result against Liverpool. Newcastle will be a tough opponent, but it is a great chance for the team to get the month of November back on track after the shaky start in the Ukraine.

 

The new owners of Liverpool have again raised the idea of playing a Premier League game abroad. Now, if I were a UK or Ireland based fan I would be against the idea. However, as I now live in Yokohama, I am totally in favour of the idea, assuming that it is feasible. These days, a game played abroad is the best, and cheapest, chance that I would have to see a game. For the most part, it seems an unworkable idea given the already packed league schedule. The only way that I could see it working is if it takes place on the opening day of the season, thus allowing teams to travel to their destination ahead of time and even incorporate it into their pre-season schedule, or tour. Apart from that the only other way I see it being workable is if there was a winter break and the game abroad was played as the final game just before that break starts, thus allowing the players to recover from the trip during the break. One thing is for sure, with more and more teams being owned by overseas investors, it is an issue that is unlikely to go away.

 

I just want to say that I won’t be discussing the alleged affair which our manager is supposed to have had. It is a totally private matter between the man and his family. The shitrag that is reporting it should never be bought by any true Arsenal fan ever again. I mean, who cares if he has had an affair anyway? In my opinion, it’s better for someone to have an affair than to leave club after club in financial ruin, a la Hairy Rednob. I hope that this matter will serve to unite the team even more in their support for the manager and start an us-against-them siege mentality. That’s all I have to say on the matter.

 

If you are based in Japan there is plenty of football action live on TV, as usual, this weekend. Tonight at 21:39 there is Bolton vs. Tottenham, followed by ManUre vs. Wolves at 23.54. Both games are on J-Sports Plus. On Sunday, you can catch Arsenal vs. Newcastle at 22:24 on J-Sports Plus, West Brom vs. ManShitty at 23:54 on J-Sports 2 and Liverpool vs. Chavski at 00:54 on J-Sports Plus.

 

On Paddy Power you will find odds of 21/10 for a penalty being scored by either side, 5/1 for Nasri to score from outside the box, 17/2 for both Chamakh and Carroll to score, 20/1 for Dolly Barton to be sent off and Wilshere is 16/5 to score anytime.

 

Once again, a reminder that if you would like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at @colm_smyth.

 

One last thing before I go, if you are going to the game tomorrow make sure you sing your hearts out in support of the boss. A banner or two wouldn’t go astray either. The boss is going to need our support, as will the team. Time to get the Emirates rocking in support of both.

 

That’s all for today, have a good weekend folks.