FA Cup 4th round – Arsenal vs. Huddersfield.

January 30, 2011

Hello again from a busy blogger in Yokohama. It’s been a few weeks since my last post because I have been busy trying to make serious headway on my dissertation whilst also working. Whether or not I have managed to ‘smash’ the back of it remains to be seen. It is due in March, so posts will be intermittent between now and then, as you may have already guessed due to the dearth of posts since early December.


I’d like to say thanks to those who #ff me on Twitter (@colm_smyth) even though I haven’t been able to write as many posts here as I would ideally like to. Thanks for keeping the faith. I guess that that’s the beauty of Twitter, even though I don’t have time to write a blog post, I can still stay involved in bite-sized chunks there.


Anyway, since my last post we have played a plethora of games and are now on our way to Wembley for a Carling Cup final against Alex McLeish’s scumback kickers Birmingham. I will talk more about that closer to the actual final, but suffice to say that it will potentially be the making or breaking of this squad. Winning it could give this team the confidence and belief needed to go on to win more trophies. Losing it would raise questions about the team’s mental strength, desire and ability. Playing Birmingham in the final is certainly not going to be as easy as West Ham, however it is a massive chance to bring home a bit of silverware other than the Emirates Cup!


Looking ahead to today’s game against Huddersfield at the Emirates and the manager is set to make a few changes to the team as he will certainly have his eye on the league game against Everton on Tuesday evening. Also, given that today’s game will be our NINTH game this month I think that there would have been plenty of rotation anyway regardless of whether we were playing Everton on Tuesday evening or not.


I suppose it is only fitting that we get a game against Huddersfield as the club approaches its 125th anniversary, given the Hebert Chapman connection between the two clubs.


Word is that Almunia may start as the manager has confirmed that Szczesny is our new no1 and so he is unlikely to be risked. Given that Fabianski is still out with a dicky shoulder, it seems that, whether he likes it or not, Almunia is going to have to suck it up and do a job for us. It will be interesting to see whether Wenger meant that Szczesny is now our full-time no1, or is he just no1 until Fabianski returns and this is an attempt to put Almunia in his box for being such a reluctant no2. If our younger Pole can sort his distribution out he will be a good keeper for us.


At the back, Sagna misses out due to concussion and so we will probably line up with Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny and Gibbs. Squillaci is available again after recovering from injury.


Midfield is anybody’s guess. However, I think that we may see Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky in the middle with Walcott and Arshavin ahead of them.


Up front, I think that we are likely to see Bendtner get the nod in order to try and get him another goal or two that would further build up his (already massive) confidence as we head into the final few months of the season.


Hopefully we can avoid the dreaded draw today and the troublesome replay that that would bring with it. We have enough games to play between now and the end of the season without adding any needless extra ones.


On the transfer front, well there isn’t really any kind of transfer front for us this month. There is plenty of speculation over whether or not we will sign Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton. It seems that his team are trying to set up a bidding war, so it remains to be seen how that will pan out after this weekend’s FA Cup games. The player would prefer to join Arsenal, so I suppose that it all comes down to how badly the boss wants to sign him. Can’t say that the signing of yet another teenager really excites me anymore.


There were rumours coming out of France during the week that we will try to sign the PSG defender Sakho for around €14m. I don’t know too much about him, to be honest (maybe I could replace Shearer on MotD?) All I know is that I once had him in Football Manager and he was quite good. That last bit of information is about as useless as tits on a bull.


I think that if we don’t sign a central defender during the window it will be a big mistake, especially as the manager revealed yesterday that Vermaelen is at least six weeks away from a return to the team. That means it will be early March at the very earliest before we see him back in the side. Given that he has been out for basically the entire season we can expect him to pick up some small niggling injuries when he does start playing and also that it will take him a good month to get anywhere close to hitting top form even if he doesn’t pick up any niggles. So, to be brutally honest, in terms of seeing the best of Vermaelen (if indeed we see him playing at all), it will be next season.


The other problem with not signing a defender and waiting, in hope, for Vermaelen to play again this season is the fact that Wenger is counting Song as one of the players that can play in central defence in TV’s absence. This just isn’t the way that a top club should be operating. We shouldn’t be having to shoehorn Song into a makeshift centre-half when his best position is as a defensive midfielder and the fact that he is basically our only defensive midfielder makes this more absurd. Signing a quality centre-half can only make the team stronger, not weaker. Squillaci is in his 30s, so the excuse of ‘signing someone now would kill player x’ just doesn’t hold up. Surely the idea is to have players of quality that can spur each other on through a healthy level of competition? Sign a quality defender now and then in the summer show the lesser ones the door.


I also don’t really like the whole ‘most good players are cup-tied for the Champions League’ excuse. The Champions League is just one of four competitions that we are still involved in and the most important one for us should be the Premier League. I know that any team still involved in the Champions League or a title challenge won’t want to sell their best defenders at this stage of the season, but I find it hard to believe that there are no defenders out there that are both available and better than what we already have.


Anyway, regardless of what I think on the matter, I have a feeling that, come February 1st, we will find ourselves in the position of waiting for the return of TV with Song as our makeshift fourth choice centre-half. If the boss does roll the dice, hopefully he will be wearing his lucky suit.


Carlos Vela has gone on loan to West Brom and let’s hope that he can get plenty of playing time under his belt there and that it will help him discover some form and confidence. To be honest, I really don’t see him as being a player that could ever be a regular in our first team. I’m not saying that he is rubbish, I just think that he would be more suited to a team outside of the ‘Big Four.’ Hopefully a decent run of form there would push up his transfer value.


According to @DarrenArsenal1 on Twitter, the club have given a ten day trial to a 16yr old Israeli called Gael Margolis, from Maccabi Tel Aviv. According to Darren, the player has risen quickly from his club’s u16’s to their full youth set-up and arrives in good scoring form.


Right, that’ll have to do for today. Here’s to a win against Huddersfield at lunchtime. Kick-off is at 12pm (9pm JST) and due to the FA Cup not being shown on TV here, I will be chasing the stream.


Take it easy.


Leeds – FA Cup 3rd round preview

January 8, 2011

Once again apologies for a recent lack of posts since the start of December. This is due in part to a wi-fi connection that is on the fritz and also because I have been trying to make some serious headway on my MA dissertation whilst on my winter holidays from work. So, please bear with me for a little while longer as my dissertation is due in March.


Looking at today’s game it is certain that we will see a raft of changes as we see players rested and protected following a tough festive period fixture schedule and also because we have umpteen players that have recently returned from injury. The manager has also said that there will be plenty of changes.


In defence, we should see Szczesny get another chance to impress in goal. Eboue will deputise for the suspended Sagna, Squillaci should step in for Djourou and will likely be partnered by Koscielny with Gibbs starting at left back following his return to fitness.


Midfield is a much harder one to call. I think that both Denilson and Rosicky will start in the middle and perhaps they will be joined by Ramsey who is now back at the club following his loan spell and is in desperate need of some playing time. Ahead of that trio we may see Vela and Arshavin with Bendtner leading the line.


Although the word is that Vela will play, it seems strange to risk his fitness given that the club have openly said that they want him to go out on loan. Vela is a strange one, on the one hand he needs playing time and experience but on the other hand you have to think about how long we can keep sending a player out on loan to get experience before we call a spade a spade and cut our losses on him. He isn’t a kid anymore and either he is good enough to make it with us or he isn’t. You get the feeling that if he was good enough, he’d have played more for us by this stage of his career. Personally, I don’t think he is good enough to ever break into our starting eleven. If the club cuts him loose, it would free up a place in the team for someone like Eden Hazard to be signed in the summer.


According to Young Guns Blog, our young Spanish defender Ignasi Miguel is set to be named on the bench and will wear number 48. Speaking of Young Guns blog, head on over to the App Store and download its brand new and totally FREE app for your iPhone or iPod. It’s the perfect complement to the Arseblog and official Arsenal apps.


This is the first time that I have felt that the Carling Cup is more important than the FA Cup. I know that we have been in the final of the Carling Cup before, but I think that this season more than any other we need to bring home a trophy and the Carling Cup is, by a long way, our best chance of doing that this season. That said, I still hope for a good run in the FA Cup.


Like yourselves, I have been wondering whether or not the club will sign anyone in this transfer window, but I am bracing myself for no players coming in this month. There will probably be a few that go out on loan, Vela and JET spring to mind. The manager himself has said that any signings will depend on the fitness of Vermaelen. I can’t help but feel that the Belgian will be out until March at the earliest and that we should bite the bullet and sign a decent defender sooner rather than later. Even if Vermaelen does recover sooner rather than later, we need to bring in someone that is better than Squillaci and Koscielny. Don’t forget we have already ‘signed’ someone as Ramsey has returned to bolster our midfield options, or at least I am sure that that’s how it will be spun!


Right, that’ll do for today. Here’s to a good performance and a win against Leeds. Fingers crossed it won’t end in a draw.


Take it easy.