Birmingham preview & Ian Selley question.

December 31, 2010

Right, seeing as it’s New Year’s Eve I figure that it’s time to start looking ahead and being positive. Time to try and put the clusterfuck that was the Wigan debacle behind us and focus on getting maximum points from our first two games in 2011.


2011, Jesus. Is it just me or does saying that make you feel like you are living in the future? Must mean that I am getting old. Balls.


Anyway, looking ahead to tomorrow’s game I think that we will again see a raft of changes made to the starting eleven. Unfortunately, barring some David Seaman-esque accident at home, I am pretty sure that Fabianski will start in goal despite the fact that his lack of organisational ability and weakness on aerial balls is a big part of our defensive issues. Though, in fairness, the four players playing in front of him don’t exactly do him any favours in terms of offering any form of protection.


I think that the starting team will be:


Sagna      Djourou      Koscielny      Clichy

Fabregas      Song      Nasri

Walcott                                     Arshavin



At least that is what I hope it will be, given the players available. I think that Djourou is better than Squillaci and also that Koscielny looks to be more comfortable playing alongside him. I hope that Nasri will be moved back into the middle as that is where he is most effective as I think that we may see Wilshere getting a rest, though hopefully he will still be on the bench. Moving Nasri into the middle would allow the starting of Walcott and Arshavin out wide. Arshavin is a player  that can deliver a goal or an assist no matter how little overall contribution he makes to the team effort. His work ethic annoys me, but you can’t really say that he doesn’t offer an end product. Walcott’s pace would pose Birmingham a big threat right from the off.


That would leave the likes of Szczesny, Squillaci, Eboue, Denilson, Wilshere, RvP and Bendtner making up the bench. Quite a strong bench.


Diaby will be out for a number of weeks following the injury he picked up against Wigan. So, we probably won’t see him playing again until mid-February if his previous recovery rates are anything to go by. I’m not all that bothered by his absence, to be honest, and wouldn’t shed a tear were he to be offloaded at some point in 2011. Vermaelen, Gibbs and Almunia remain unavailable.


There are reports going around that Nordveit has joined Borussia Monchengladbach on a two and a half year deal. The initial reports were that he left for a fee of €800,000 but @YoungGunsBlog (website link) is today reporting that the club have foregone any fee in place of getting a hefty sell-on percentage clause inserted into the deal.


Ryo Miyaichi is currently taking part in the All Japan High School Soccer Tournament (全国高等学校サッカー選手権大会) for his school Chukyodai Chukyo Sigh School (中京大中京 or 中京大中京高校) after which he will join up with Arsenal. The games are being shown on Nippon TV (日テレ), ch4, here is the link for the website. It’s in Japanese.


Thanks for reading over the past year. Here’s hoping that Arsenal can bring home some silverware in 2011. Any silverware will do, as long as it isn’t just the Emirates Cup. That would suck balls. Whilst I’m hoping for things in 2011, would somebody please beat ManUre in the league before the season ends? Don’t want that lot calling themselves The Invincibles.


The blog will be turning two years old in March, bloody hell, time flies!


Finally, I have a question that has been bugging me for the last day or so. I have a very hazy memory of being at a game at Highbury in the mid-90s, sitting in the North Bank as usual, Keown and Selley went for the same ball in or around the half-way line, Keown ended up kicking(?) Selley and Selley had to go off injured. Did this actually happen or has my memory been destroyed by the amount of boozing that I have done in the intervening years? I’m not talking about the serious leg break that effectively ended Selley’s career prospects. Neither my brother nor friend that were at the game with me can remember any such incident, nor can @DarrenArsenal1 or @sms_adrian, so it may be that I have gone mad. Tried a Google search last night, but to no avail. Anyway, if you can remember anything about whether or not this actually happened, please stick it in a comment.


Right, I’d best be off. Have yourselves a great New Year’s and I’ll see you on the other side, hopefully with three more points on the board.


Take it easy.


N’ot good enough.

December 30, 2010

Well, where do you start after that load of rubbish last night? Personally, I lay the blame for last night’s result squarely at the door of the manager. He made some big decisions which in my opinion cost us the game. The first was his decision to make EIGHT changes to the side that beat Chavski on Monday night. Now, I am all for rotating the team, but considering that the team had a good long rest due to the postponement of the Stoke game, there shouldn’t have been a need for so many changes.


Cesc’s suspension and the injury proneness of Djourou, Diaby, RvP and Walcott should have been the five obvious players to be rested. According to @orbinho (on Twitter) the manager has now made eight changes to his side on three occasions in the Premier League, of which one was a draw and two were defeats. However, the team that started last night should have been more than capable of beating that Wigan side.


The team started off slowly and were punished with the awarding of a penalty following a blatant dive by N’Zogbia, which Watson scored. Then Diaby picked up his mandatory injury and was replaced by Wilshere. The young Englishman’s arrival marked a turnaround in our fortunes and we were soon rewarded with a cracking goal from Arshavin who showed fantastic technique to pull of a scissor-kick volley to make it 1-1 following a Bendtner shot that was saved by the keeper. Arshavin soon turned provider for the young Dane and we were 2-1 up going in at the break.


2-1 up against Wigan was never going to be a safe score line and the team really should have pushed on in the second half. But, as the minutes ticked by there was no real sign of a third goal coming, an Arshavin one-on-one aside. Wigan were creating some chances of their own and looked like they might sneak another goal against our porous defence.


At that point I was both shouting at the TV and on Twitter for the manager to make his final two substitutions in order to redress the balance back in our favour. Wenger seemed intent to waiting as long a possible to make any further changes. The only thing missing was the sight of him rubbing his face a la Roy Hodgson a few weeks ago. It also had echoes of last season at Wigan when the substitutions came too late.


N’Zogbia got sent off for a stupid off the ball head butt on Wilshere but instead of any changes being made to put some extra drive and energy into the team and go for the throat, nothing was done. Then Wigan scored after some truly shambolic defending from a corner. Fabianski made a half-arsed attempt to come for it, but if you go for a ball you should make sure you get there or else just stay on your line. This mistake was compounded by Squillaci making a pig’s arse of defending and heading the ball into his own net.


The fact that we should have had a nailed on penalty following a hand ball in the wall from a Nasri free-kick, which was no different to the one that was given against Cesc in the Spuds game, certainly added to the frustration. However, we shouldn’t have been in a position where we were hoping for a late penalty to beat 10-man Wigan. The referee got both penalty decisions wrong.


More annoying still were the post game comments from Wenger where he said:

“As long as we didn’t score the third goal in this kind of game it can end 2-2.”

Which begs the question, why sit on your hands and make no changes until the 83rd minute when Wigan had already been allowed to get back to 2-2 instead of us making some changes and trying to kill them off?


This was followed up with:

“I’m frustrated because it looks like nobody takes responsibility for our organisation on corners.”

Well, you are the manager and it is your job to select people that can do their job properly. To paraphrase @DarrenArsenal1, if you buy bargain basement defenders, you get bargain basement defending. Szczesny would have been more vocal in organising his defence than Fabianski and that is a problem of Fabianski’s that has been highlighted already this season but I can’t for the life of me remember in which game.


Dropping points isn’t the end of the world, it is just the manner in which we dropped them that is so frustrating, especially as ManUre had drawn the day before. A chance to close the gap has been missed.


Beating Chavski didn’t make us brilliant and drawing with Wigan doesn’t make us rubbish. Anyone that has regularly read this blog will know that I have always been pro-Wenger and I still am. However, I think that he got it badly wrong last night and there is nothing wrong with saying that you think that he seriously dropped the ball.


If we can come out of the festive period with ten points out of twelve, then that would be a good return and one we would have gladly signed on for before playing Chavski. The team has to deliver in the next two games. I’m getting sick and tired of saying that and then seeing the team under-perform.


Right, angry rant over. The demons aren’t exorcised but writing this has certainly helped. I know we got a draw yesterday, but it feels like a defeat.


Try and enjoy your day as best you can.We simply must bounce back against Birmingham at the weekend.


Take it easy.

Nine days that could define our season.

December 29, 2010

Just like pints to Gazza in a bar, the games are coming thick and fast over the festive period. Monday saw us take on and beat what can best be described as an average Chavski side. That’s not to detract from our own performance but clearly, on current form, Chavski will have their work cut out for them if they are to maintain a title push. That feels very nice to write, although it’d be foolish to write them off just yet as they are still in contention given ManUre’s draw last night.


As mentioned in the title, we are in the midst of nine days that could go a long way to showing whether or not this team will be capable of mounting and maintaining a credible league challenge. The first of the four games in nine days was Chavski, tonight is away to Wigan, Saturday is away to Birmingham and next Wednesday will see us take on Man Shitty at the Emirates. I think that we must get maximum points out of these four games, especially as Chavski have already been successfully overcome.


On Monday, our players stood up to the challenge and showed a lot of energy and drive. They really wanted to show, to themselves as much as to the fans, that they were capable of beating one of the big teams. Cesc picked up his fifth booking of the season and so will miss the Wigan game, but you would be thinking that he may have missed that game anyway as the boss tries to ease him back into things following his long-standing injury problems. So, maybe the suspension is a blessing in disguise at it removes any temptation from the boss to risk our captain.


Our goal came at the perfect time, just before half-time. In truth, a penalty could have been given for a foul on Cesc in the build-up, but Alex Song was able to finish sweetly with a shot across the keeper into the bottom corner of the net. A massive goal that sent the team in at the break on a high.


The game swung heavily in our favour after going three up early in the second half with two goals in quick succession from Cesc and Walcott.


However, Arsenal are not a team that likes, or is able, to do things easily. You could probably add defending to that, too. We were no sooner three goals up when a Drogba free-kick from their left flank was hit into the box and nobody really made any kind of telling challenge on Ivanovic. Koscielny really could have made a better effort at a challenge on that. That brought a period of resurgence from Chavski, but they didn’t manage to find a way through.


There was an incident of customary dithering on the ball by Clichy in the second half which allowed Chavski to regain possession but they failed to do anything with it.


From the moment Chavski scored I was filled with the enormous dread that we were going to blow it big style. I even sat there thinking about what the odds would be on a 4-3 turnaround. However, the depression induced by such thoughts prevented me from checking it out. The team were definitely shaky for a while after conceding, but they held on for the all important three points and the massive psychological boost that that should bring.


As important as those three points were and the morale boost they have given the players and the fans, it will all be for nothing if they don’t now go out and beat Wigan tonight and Birmingham at the weekend. It is important to get some momentum going as we head into the new year and the push for honours.


Which brings us on to tonight’s game. There are sure to be some changes from the game against Chavski, some will be rested and Cesc is suspended.


I think that we may line up with Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Walcott and Chamakh.


I don’t want to see Djourou drop down to the bench, however given his injury record the manager may decide to rest him ahead of the game at the weekend. Likewise for RvP, who is so brittle that we shouldn’t risk him playing two games in three days so soon after returning from injury.


The suspension of Cesc should see Diaby get a rare start and I think that the manager may just decide to rest Wilshere as Wigan may be seen as a better game for him to miss rather than miss Birmingham. Personally, I’d like to see Wilshere start tonight. I think that Walcott may keep his place in the side as he offers more in terms of both work rate and his pace than Arshavin.


Apologies for the brevity/accuracy of the Chavski match ‘report’ as I was in Tokyo all day yesterday and am now stuck with a dodgy wi-fi connection and ATVO appears to be down today, so I am unable to access match highlights, interviews or the manager’s press conference. So, this has all been guesswork, blurry drunken memory and very much off the top of my head.


If you are bored, you can follow me on Twitter: @colm_smyth where you may find some intelligent comments amidst all the drunken and ranting ones.


Tonight’s game is on J-Sports 2 and coverage begins at 04:39. If you are interested in keeping an eye on other games’ scores, Liverpool vs. Wolves is on J-Sports 1 from 04:54 and Chavski vs. Bolton is on J-Sports Plus from 04:39.


Right, I’m afraid that’ll have to do. Take it easy.

A brief Chavski preview.

December 27, 2010

Today sees us take on Chavski at the Emirates in a game that is a must win for the team. The game was already a must win before the results of yesterday, but considering that ManUre, Man Shitty and Spuds all won it has made today’s game even more important. Anything less than three points will leave us five points adrift of ManUre having played one game more.


The team also needs to reverse its horrid run of poor results against ManUre and Chavski. Today would be a good time to start that. Can they beat Chavski? Well, honestly I am not so sure, I no longer feel the same confidence going into the big games that I used to. A run of something like 11 goals conceded and one scored against Chavski in the last four games against them does not bode well.


The team should line up as Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Diaby, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.


However, given how horrid that Arshavin was against ManUre I wouldn’t be surprised to see either RvP or Walcott start in his place. Though no matter how many times you hear Arsene talk about Walcott and his future, it is hard to see him as anything more than an impact substitution for the time being. Fingers crossed that we’ll see the good Diaby, instead of the usual Diaby tonight.


To be honest, I would rather see Szczesny start in goal as I think that he would be better at dealing with balls into the box and be a bit more vocal. Hopefully Fabianski won’t revert to his previously flap-happy reincarnation.


It’s strange, but I feel an unusual pessimism ahead of today’s game and I think that that is directly influenced by the (misplaced) confidence that I had ahead of our wretched showing at Old Trafford a few weeks ago. I’d rather go into this game feeling pessimistic than going in optimistic and seeing the same ineffective rubbish that we have become accustomed to in the big games. Time for The Arsenal to come bearing the gift of three points. Time to deliver. How many times have I said that and we then fail to do so?


One thing we REALLY need today is for the fans in the stadium to give some strong vocal support to the team. The team will need to feel that the fans are behind them. We have heard talk of the team and its fear of losing rather than trying to win. It’s time to get over that mental hurdle and the best way to do that is by beating the Chavs today and the fans in the stadium can at least try and play their part in that.


Apologies for the brevity of today’s post. I got stuck in the tax office for bloody ages filing my tax returns for the past two years, only to discover that I am entitled to a massive ¥80 reimbursement. That’s less than £1. Perhaps that has influenced my negativity ahead of the game!


Anyway, here’s to a rare big performance against one of the big teams. The game kicks off at 05:00 JST and coverage will begin at 04:54 on J-Sports Plus.


Take it easy.

Takeover talk will inevitably start Fiszing again.

December 24, 2010

Greetings from a mild Yokohama. Christmas here really is a bit rubbish when compared to back home in Ireland. The shop decorations usually start coming down on Christmas Day! At least there is the small matter of a big game against Chavski to look forward to.


Before getting to that in a later post, there was the announcement yesterday that Danny Fiszman has transferred 16.1% of his shareholding in the club to a new nominee company called DF Nominees Limited. On the face of it, this seems like a strange move. However, when you take into considerations Fiszman’s long-running health issues, then move would seem to be a way of preserving and maintaining stability at the club should the worst case scenario happen.


The move also seems to be aimed at keeping Fiszman’s holding out of the hands of Usmanov. The question now would seem to be, does Kroenke Tonk Stan (KTS) have the money at his disposal to be able to make a full takeover move for the club. Should he buy Fiszman’s shares, he would be required to make a full takeover bid and should that takeover bid fail he would then be required, under market rules, to sell enough shares to bring him back down to a holding of 29.9%. That could potentially result in those shares falling into the hands of Usmanov. Therefore, the timing of any such move is critical.


It could be that this new nominee company is some kind of holding company that will retain the shares until KTS is in a position to make a full takeover bid. Of course, that is assuming that KTS actually wants to make a full takeover bid. There are some sections of fans that would like to see Usmanov seize control the club as the perception is that he might bring around an era of spending and a winning mentality. However, I am dead against Usmanov gaining control of our club as he would undoubtedly bring around an era of managerial instability and judging by his comments in the media, he seems intent on just earning a quick buck. He generally just comments on how the share price will continue to rise. It is rare to hear him talk about the actual long-term future of the club.


Now, I know that that last point will be countered with people saying that we never hear KTS say anything. This is true. But, if you look at KTS’s history of investment in sports clubs/franchises, he doesn’t sell. He stays in for the long haul. He also doesn’t spunk away his money through heavy investment in playing staff, which may not be to the liking of those that would prefer to see Usmanov gain control. There are three points to think about here; the first being that Arsenal have never been big spenders and have always lived within their means, so KTS is more in line with the traditions of the club; second, we have no real idea of the intentions of Usmanov, apart from the fact that he wants to turn a profit. Just because he is a rich Russian does not mean that he will throw money at the club and, if he does invest in the club it would be through private loans, which the club would need to repay at some future point. Nothing is for free.; three, the silent approach by KTS is more in line with club traditions of keeping everything in-house and maintaining stability at the club. If Usmanov were to seize control, it would seem inevitable that a lot of our business would be done in public with endless stories in papers and a lot of both managerial and player instability at the club.


I don’t know about you, but I know which of the two main protagonists that I would like to seize control of the club, were it to be sold. I also don’t agree with the idea that Usmanov would instill more of a winning mentality at the club more than KTS would. There is simply no evidence to back up that argument.


Anyway, that’s about that for today. I’ll be back at some stage over the weekend with a look towards the Chavski game.


Hope those that have been travelling back to England and Ireland from here in Japan made it home safely and without getting stranded in an airport!


Until then, take it easy and Merry Christmas!

The Camp Nou Redemption.

December 18, 2010

First off, apologies for the lack of posts of late. I am trying to balance work, a MA dissertation and drinking, all of which leaves precious little time for writing a post. Though if you follow me on Twitter, @colm_smyth, you can stay abreast of my thoughts, rants and witticisms. (Disclaimer: witticisms may be sporadic.)


Anyway, late in the day I know, but the only thing that I really have to say about the ManUre game is that we offered absolutely nothing from an attacking point of view and also we really have to get rid of Clichy, he is an accident that just can’t wait to happen. No waiting there, no siree. I’m not suggesting for one minute that Gibbs is ready to step into his shoes. If sold, we would certainly need to buy a left back, or else buy someone like Chiellini that could play centre or out on the left, which Vermaelen could also do.


Yesterday saw the draw for the Champions League group stage take place and the draw was as follows:

AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham
Valencia v Schalke
Inter v Bayern Munich
OL v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Marseille v ManUre
Copenhagen v Chavski

Personally, I can’t wait for the game against Barcelona. It will be the ultimate test of the intelligence and growth of this squad. Have they learned from the games against Barcelona last season? Will they be able to match the work rate and pressing of Barcelona?


I think that drawing Barcelona is better than drawing Real as their style of play will offer us more space and, in theory, they should be easier to open up than the likes of Real who Mourinho would have been set up to be tight and stifle our play.


Playing a team like Barcelona is what the Champions League is all about. Already I have been checking my working schedule for those days and trying to figure out whether or not I will be working, or taking a sicky the next day. Hehe.


Another upside of drawing them in the first knock-out round is that we now have two months to prepare, get our house in order and there is also a transfer window in which investment can be made, should the manager wish to do so, in order to give us the best chance possible to progress to the next round. I don’t know about you, but I am excited already at the prospect of coming up against Barcelona again. Yes, Chavski got the easier tie of the English teams, but they don’t get to look forward to  truly massive game for the next two months. We do. Enjoy it. Don’t fear it.


Looking at today’s game, RvP, Walcott and Cesc are available to start, though there is still a question mark over whether that will happen or not. I have a feeling Cesc may get the nod. Fabianski is still a doubt, though apparently he is 80% ready to play. Bendtner may not be part of the squad as his partner is due to give birth to the couple’s first child. Almunia has a twisted ankle. *cough cough* Diaby will be a bit short for the weekend. Though word on the street is that being a bit short isn’t a problem that Wilshere suffers from…


So, assuming that Fabianski doesn’t pass his fitness test, we will probably line up with Szczesny, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Cesc, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.


At least I hope that Szczesny will start as he seems better on crosses than Fabianski, although his kicking needs a bit of work judging by his performance at Old Trafford. I think that having a keeper that is solid on crosses (and throws) will be important against Stoke. After Arshavin’s performance against ManUre, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ‘rested’ today and Walcott get a start. I’d also like to see Djourou get the nod ahead of Koscielny, but I think that the manager will stick with his summer signings in central defence for this one.


Shawcross returns to the stadium for the first time since trying to rip Ramsey’s leg off, here’s to a very hostile reception for him. However, we should give Whelan a warm welcome for his part in trying to comfort Ramsey as he lay stricken on the pitch. We should not forget what Whelan did, just as we will never forget what Shawcross did. When Whelan’s name is read out, he should get a big cheer, or applause, from our fans.


The game is live on J-Sports 2 and coverage begins at 23:54. The game will be followed by Liverpool vs. Fulham on J-Sports Plus at 02:24, in case you need something to help you sleep.


I the manager’s press conference it was interesting to hear that he will listen to what Almunia wants to do with regard to a transfer. Not exactly a big vote of confidence with regards to keeping the player. I think he is on his way out the door in January.


Finally, cheers to the folk at the Three Up Front podcast for giving me a mention at the start of this weeks podcast, although they mispronounced my surname, I can let them away with that.


Right, I’m off out for a night of beer and karaoke in Shibuya, Tokyo.


Take it easy!

ManUre preview.

December 13, 2010

Today sees the second of our Big Three games in December. The first, of course, was the game against Partizan, where we secured second place in the Champions League group stage and will therefore play one of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Schalke or Bayern Munich. None of those teams will be easy to play against, but if you want to win the cup then you will have to play a hard team at some point, so it may as well be in the first round of the knock-out stage.


On to today’s game and it is a massive one against ManUre at Old Trafford. Team news so far seems to indicate that Cesc will just be fit enough for the bench. It’s a strange situation in one sense, as the club say that they will not rush him back but the fact that they are waiting so late to decide on whether or not he will be in the team seems to indicate that there could be a degree of risk should he be named in the match day squad. I really hope that Wenger resists the urge to risk Fabregas as it is more important that he regains full fitness and is ready for our Christmas schedule game against Chavski.


Who the manager opts to start with will be key to our chances of winning the game. In defence we will probably line up with Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny and Clichy. I’m sure Djourou will be hoping to force his way into the starting line-up ahead of Koscielny who has been suffering from concussion. According to reports circulating, Fabianski has picked up an injury and our younger Pole is set to get the nod in goal. I’m sure that Szczesny would also love to start ahead of Fabianski, especially in a game of such importance, it would be a great chance for him to shine and show what he can do.


In midfield, we will probably go with Song, Denilson, Wilshere, Nasri and Arshavin. Up front should see Chamakh get the nod. Fabregas, Walcott and Van Persie are likely to be used as impact subs.


I think it will be important for Song/Denilson to show some defensive discipline in the centre of midfield in order to protect our defence when not in possession. It will also be important to have a go at them as they are also susceptible to conceding a goal and the presence of Chamakh could make a big difference for us against them this season.


The form of Nasri couldn’t have been better timed as he is the main person that has been driving the team forward in Cesc’s absence, along with the end product of Arshavin and the presence/goals of Chamakh.


The comments by Evra should be reason enough for the team to go out on to the pitch and shove his words back down his throat. Though, if the team need extra incentive to be up for this game, then there is something wrong! Games against ManUre and Chavski are what it is all about as these are the two teams that have be challenging for the league for the past few seasons. It’s time for us to show that the team has grown and the best way to do that is by getting a win at Old Trafford.


Thankfully, I am off work tomorrow. So, I will be able to wake up at 04:55 (JST) and watch the game without worrying about having to go to work. The game is live on J-Sports Plus and coverage will begin at 04:44 for a special pre-match preview, which I am assuming will be in Japanese, so I think I will skip that and roll out of bed in time for the start of coverage of the game itself. The game will kick off at 05:00 JST.


Of course, a trip to Old Trafford wouldn’t be complete without mention of the disgusting chants that their supporters aim at our manager. They really are revolting and are something which should be eradicated from the game. Banter is one thing, these chants are another thing entirely. For a great write-up on it, check out Gunnerblog. Be sure to check through the comments on the article, too, for some absolutely moronic comments from a ManUre fan.


I’m not sure if you managed to see Football Focus on Saturday, but there was a Samir Nasri interview on it and I must admit that I was really surprised by just how good his English was. Of course, it shouldn’t be all that surprising as he has been living in England for a few years now, but I suppose it’s just because he doesn’t give many interviews so I hadn’t heard him talking all that often.


Right, that’s all I have time for today. Here’s to a big performance and an important three points against ManUre!!


Come on you Reds!!!!

Back from an early winter break.

December 6, 2010

Apologies for a lack of posts over the last week or so. Things have been busy at work, but luckily it is easing off a bit on that front as things begin winding down for the Christmas and New Year break.


So, what has happened since my last post? Well, we are now in the Carling Cup semi final with a nice draw against Ipswich. I think that we can be very happy with that as they are arguably the worst team left in the competition, although West Ham give them a good run for their money on that front.


The weekend saw us see off Fulham after a very classy display front Nasri, who now sees his goal tally for the season hit double figures. A very good return for a midfielder before we hit the mid point of the season. Perhaps he is ready to fill the goal scoring void from midfield that was left after the departures of Pires and Ljungberg. It is certain that his finding a rich vein of form couldn’t have been better timed as our captain struggles with both fitness and form. Nasri’s form and goals have been a huge factor in our league position this season. Oh, yeah, did I mention that we are top of the league?


The month of December will tell us a lot about our chances of any major silverware this season. Next up, we have a massive Champions League games against Partizan, a game that we must win in order to ensure qualification to the knock-out stages. I think that it will be vital to progress into the next round in order to maintain a high level of confidence going into the ManUre game at Old Trafford next Monday and the visit of Chavski on the 27th. Both of those league games are ones that we must not lose, the latter being one that we really have to get all three points in.


Bad news is that Vermaelen is now wearing a protective boot in order to help his achilles heal faster. It strikes me as strange that they haven’t tried that already, given that he has been out for ages and that he is the best defender that we have. Fingers crossed that he will return to the side early in the new year. However, Vermaelen’s loss is Djourou’s gain and the Swiss has been getting a lot more playing time than he otherwise would have anticipated before the season kicked-off.


I imagine that Wednesday’s game will see us line up with Fabianski, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, RvP, Arshavin and Chamakh.


I think that there is a big question mark over the involvement of Koscielny after the concussion that he picked up in the game at the weekend after a clash of heads with Squillaci in the build-up to Fulham’s equaliser. Perhaps he will be fit enough for a place on the bench, if not we could see Nordveit there.


There were some worrying comments from Wenger in today’s Mirror with regard to our defence. Now, nobody expects him to hammer the defence, especially in public but, for him to come out and say that the defensive issues aren’t all that important if you still win the game is something that I truly hope that he doesn’t actually believe. If he does believe that, then it just validates my comparison of the team (a week or two ago) to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle or Real Madrid during the Galactico era. It seems that we actually DO now rely on scoring more than the opposition. I know that to win any game you have to outscore the opposition, but our philosophy totally disregards any chance of keeping a clean sheet. I really hope that the manager is just trying to offer support to the team and instill more confidence in them, but there is a growing and very worrying feeling that he actually believes it. This is when he needs a good team of coaches around him and a strong assistant that will take him to one side and have a quiet word in his ear, telling him that our defence has been rubbish for a few years now. Arsene, get it sorted. Comments on our defence like ‘It takes a few heartbeats, but if you get the three points it’s OK’ make me bloody angry. It’s ridiculous that our defensive strength is be put down to consistency rather than the quality and ability of the players filling the defensive positions.


Anyway, our remaining fixtures this calendar year are:

Dec 8th  -  (H) Partizan Belgrade (19:45 GMT / 04:45 JST)

Dec 13th  -  (A) ManUre (20:00 GMT / 05:00 JST)

Dec 18th  -  (H) Stoke (15:00 GMT / 00:00 JST)

Dec 27th  -  (H) Chavski (20:00 GMT / 05:00 JST)

Dec 29th  -  (A) Wigan (19:45 GMT / 04:45 JST)


Looking at those fixtures, we really need to win all of the home games, along with the game away to Wigan. I’d settle for a draw away at ManUre. I think that if we can come through this month unbeaten, then we will be well positioned for a title challenge and a run at the Champions League going into the new year.


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