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.

Shak in the USSR.

November 3, 2010

Greetings from a mild and sunny Yokohama. Today sees us take on Shakhtar Donetsk in what should be a bloody chilly night in the Ukraine. Thankfully it isn’t as cold here.

Team news is that Cesc is definitely out, with the manager opting to err on the side of caution with his hamstring. Apparently there isn’t a strain but he did feel pain in it during the weekend’s game against West Ham, so it is best that he is left at home to rest rather than take a chance on his fitness as we have Wilshere available and he can form the creative axis of our team along with Nasri.

The team will probably line up with Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Eastmond, Wilshere, Nasri, Walcott, Rosicky and Chamakh.

The above line-up is based on  the revealing by John Cross, via Twitter (@johncrossmirror) that Song, Diaby, Arshavin and Denilson didn’t travel to the Ukraine. I wonder if the manager might give Chamakh a little breather by starting him from the bench tonight and instead go with Bendtner up front. However, Chamakh’s scoring record in the Champions League coupled with our lack of experience in midfield may convince the boss to start the more experienced Moroccan up front tonight. Walcott has had a few games coming off the bench and he is ready to start.

I think that we will encounter a very different Shakhtar tonight and the players will have to be on their toes and ready to compete for every ball. Hopefully we can come out of it with a win, but a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world considering the fairly poor record that we have when playing in that part of the world and the number of players that are absent through injury. Tonight will be a good chance to give some of our younger players the experience of playing away from home in a big European game.

The game is live on Sky Perfect ch183 in SD and on ch193 in HD. Both channels begin coverage at a marginally more reasonable 04:30, kick-off is at 04:45.

In the manager’s pre-game press conference he basically said that the statements that have been reported recently about Szczesny and his unwillingness to discuss a contract extension are a load of septic donkey cock. The comments are rumoured to have come from the agent, yet Wenger says that they are currently talking to said agent. I hate football agents. I imagine that if Hairy Rednob wasn’t currently plying his trade as a wheeler dealer, he would be a football agent. No doubt about it.

More good news was revealed when Wenger said that Ramsey may take part in the next reserve game. It will be a massive milestone for the player to reach on his long road to recovery and a sign that his injury hell is, finally, almost at an end. I’m looking forward to having him back and available for selection. Fingers crossed he won’t have any kind of setback, though we should brace ourselves for some niggling little muscular injuries between now and January or February. Those kind of complaints are normal after a long injury layoff, which we saw with both Rosicky and Eduardo.

Since my last post, Jack Wilshere has signed his new deal with the club. The contract is rumoured to be for five years and, depending what reports you read, is worth around £50,000 per week. To be honest, you really can’t have any complaints about that kind of salary for the player, if true, as he is certainly a future star and he deserves to be duly rewarded. Loyalty is all well and good, but it must be a two-way thing and so Arsenal have stepped up and rewarded Wilshere handsomely for his rapid rise to the first team. I’m looking forward to seeing him being a major force in our midfield for years to come. It is fantastic that his future with us is now secured for the foreseeable future. However, as he is under 23, we will probably have to renegotiate the contract in two year’s time. That’s just a fact of modern, post-Bosman and post-Webster, football.

The Carling Cup Quarter Final against Wigan will take place on Tuesday, November 30th at 19:45. Tickets are a bargain £20 for the upper tier and £10 for the lower tier. When you consider the strength of the team that will take to the field for this game, it is a bargain. Get a ticket while you can.

Matt Scott reports in The Guardian that there is ‘at least one’ party in discussions with a view to acquiring Lady Nina’s shares now that the club’s share price has come closer to the £13,000 that she would be willing to accept, despite it being previously reported that she hoped to get £15,000 per share. The fact that people are interested in buying her shares isn’t surprising as they have been on the market for around six months now, but it seems that things may be about to get interesting again on the ownership front. It would also give extra weight to the reason for PHW not wanting to comment on Kroenke Tonk Stan’s intentions as it would breach market rules. If rumours of Fiszman’s deteriorating health are accurate, then it would make sense for KTS to make a move for Lady Nina’s shares first, then purchase Fiszman’s shares. Watch this space.

I might have a punt on Nasri and Walcott to score at any time tonight, both are 13/5 with Paddy Power. Koscielny and Squillaci are both 33/1 for first goal.

That’s about that for today. Take it easy.