Newcastle victory helps to highlight Gunner’s issues

Last game of 2012 is signed off with a win, a bit of a crazy victory but three much-needed points to continue the slow recovery back to the level we know we should be at. 7-3 is a flattering score-line and I suppose did its best to sugar-coat the evident frailties within the team. On three occasions we were pegged back by a Newcastle team low on confidence with the kind of goals that are becoming our trademark. The individual errors and soft goals keep on coming to the point where seven goals may be needed every game to ensure victory. That’s never going to happen so the next best thing is to address the defending and tighten it up at the back.

To be honest I’m not sure how that can be addressed with the current personnel, our defending has been highlighted all season and I am sure the backroom staff are doing something about it; problem is it is not transpiring through to the first team on match days.

I am not trying to put a dampener on a victory where we scored seven goals but the defeats to Bradford and Swansea are still pretty fresh and despite stretching our winning run to four games all it will take is for another defeat for all the gloom and negativity to return amongst Gooners.

This game served as the perfect evidence to present to Arsene Wenger and put forward the case for signings.

Defensively we need third wheel to shake things up.

At the back we are leaking too many goals to mount a serious challenge up the table; without a solid base all the good work upfront is for nothing. When you have a reputation for soft goals then the opposition are always confident they can get something against you. Mertesacker was missing yesterday through illness but on paper Koscielny is able cover at the back.

ba v verm

The problem we have is individually our defence are popular with the fans. When on fire Vermaelen is the darling of the Arsenal fans, Koscielny has proven himself now, Mertesacker has won plaudits this season, Sagna will always be regarded one of the finest right backs in the country and Gibbs has grown to the point where we feel we have replaced Clichy. So why the poor goals conceded every other game? Collectively it doesn’t seem to be working, we never seem solid enough and there are always clear-cut chances against us. We ride our luck a few times but eventually we pay for it.

My suggestion is that the timing is right for a top quality centre half to be purchased in the January window to keep the current personnel on their toes. Johan Djourou is clearly not regarded reliable enough, this is evident from his sparse appearances this season. In the summer I claimed he would be a good quality 4th choice centre back going into the season but in reality we need a player signed not as fourth choice but immediate competition for the starting role.

I can only put down the poor goals to complacency and with no competition for the starting role beyond the three core centre halves there is a little less pressure to maintain the highest standard. I know players don’t make individual errors on purpose but at the same time another (top quality) defender in the mix should let everyone know they need to their job and do it very well.

It may be deemed better to have a good balance of competition in certain positions and three top centre halves should normally be enough but a bit of unhealthy competition may do us some good.

Up front we need recruits

The game threw up many points regarding our options up front. We have Theo Walcott who is doing his best to prove he could fill that central striking role; his three goals yesterday again highlighted his promise and gave Arsene food for thought over his use in that position. The problem with Theo’s goal scoring form is until he signs a contract with the club he cannot be considered as the answer to anything. We are none the wiser if he will be signing a new contract and until he does we have to contend with the possibility of him moving on.

theo newc

That leaves us with Olivier Giroud as the only option as specialist centre forward at the club; indeed he has won over the fans after an initial slow start to his Arsenal career but we need an alternative to just playing to his strengths. Marouane Chamakh is as good as gone in the next transfer window after failing to prove himself at the club and Gervinho has shown no consistency in any position of late that he cannot be considered in any capacity.

Not forgetting the ACN in January when we lose the services of Gervinho; Chamakh was not called up for the Moroccan squad but that is not enough to suggest we have options now.

The player touted as a possible acquisition in January is Demba Ba; he still has that clause in his contract making him available at £7.5m. He has been touted as talking up a move to Arsenal recently and he did his chances of being snapped up no harm by exhibiting his attacking threat with two goals against us right in front of Arsene in the flesh.

Arsene was quite coy on the potential signing of the striker in his pre match press conference but that would be expected given the fact the two teams were meeting.

The question is whether the delay on Theo’s contract is in relation to Arsene signing such a player? Would that end his chances of playing up front or will Demba only be signed as a replacement for Theo if he decides to definitely leave.

It’s a tough one to call, ideally I want Theo to stay and Ba to come in; much like I mentioned with the defence that competition is required to keep players on their toes. Theo would need to be prepared to fight for a chance up front and take his chances when they come in the midst of the competition from players like Ba. It’s all very well playing up front knowing you only have Chamakh and Gervinho to compete with but to improve and be the best you need to take on the best (or at least a better standard of competition).

January will be an interesting month and we will need a lot of open books closed. Players need to be signed, I’m not talking signings for the sake of signings but we need quality to improve the squad and increase competition for places. We have too much dead wood making it easier for the starting players to let their standards slip. I hope yesterdays win despite the high score-line doesn’t help deflect from what is really required.

Enjoy your day people.

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Gunners avoid Barca but meet Bayern.

So the draw for the knockout stages of the Champions League was made yesterday and we managed to avoid a mouth-watering clash with Barcelona instead drawing Bayern Munich. By means a tie that can be equally as hard as facing Barca, Munich are a team in top form in their domestic league, they currently lie top of the Bundesliga not to mention being the winners of their Champion’s League group.

Bayern celebrating

There is an Arsenal link to Bayern as Lukasz Podolski is a former player; he will definitely have a point to prove against the German giants. His spell with Bayern didn’t quite go to plan and many questioned his credentials when playing for a big club; he then returned to previous club Cologne to rebuild his reputation. He had his 2nd chance to prove himself at a big club when he signed for us in the summer and although on reflection he hasn’t set the world alight since at the Emirates he has been far from a flop either. He will be bang up for it and he has already given some of his thoughts on the draw.

poldi bayern days

It will be a true test to the Arsenal and we will need to pull out an almighty performance in the first leg and then finish the job at their ground. If we do manage to win the tie it will no doubt restore confidence back to the players; Bayern are last season’s finalists after all and a win may give the team the belief that they have every chance to win the competition. Football is so much about confidence and once the belief is there in the players then half the manager’s job is already done, he just needs to channel that belief and avoid it turning into arrogance because that is when teams come unstuck.

No team has a divine right to win any game; it takes hunger and wanting it more than the other team. Just turning up expecting to win doesn’t ensure anything as we learnt last week against Bradford. If Arsene helps the team keep up its momentum in the league and channels their focus; then with the home fans behind them we can take the game to Bayern at the Emirates.

There’s a lot of football to be played between now and 19th February when the first leg is scheduled; hopefully boosted by some new signings in January we will progress to the next round.

I do wonder how the postponement of the Boxing Day game against West Ham will affect the team in the long run. The strike scheduled by the London Underground staff had left the authorities with no choice but to cancel the game on that day. On the plus side it gives the players an extra rest over the Christmas period but we will have to shoehorn the game into January which I am sure will be at an unwelcome time. Additionally West Ham are struggling with injuries and it may have been the best time to play them; I have always preferred games on the board rather than games in hand as there is no guarantee you get maximum points from those games.

emirates empty

I suppose with the game off it’s a great opportunity to drive down to the stadium on Boxing day and visit the Armoury store. The roads will be empty and the shop will be less crammed with no game on. I’m sure to pick up a bargain or two in the sales, Arsenal Onesie..? Maybe not.

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal show good and bad in victory

After the debacle last week against Bradford an immediate response was required. The wait until Monday has seemed a long one, the memory of Bradford has lingered and Arsenal fans have been in direct need of something else to talk about.

Last night Arsenal decided to remind the fans that they can play the beautiful stuff, in recent weeks the performances have been flat and uninspiring. They managed to put in a performance of quality passing and almost completely ruthless finishing. In the first half the chances came on a regular basis and if not for the keeper the score line at half time would have been greater than the three we managed.

I’m not going to get this twisted, this was a meeting of two teams in poor form and a win was far from guaranteed for us. It required the Arsenal players to show the gulf in quality available and they clearly showed that. This is only Reading though and there is still a long long way before Arsenal fans will be convinced that we have turned a corner. Inconsistency is rife for Arsenal this season and the important thing is that the same level of focus and performance are there against Wigan.

I still believe signings are required in the January window but for now players are playing for their places and taking the opportunity to give Arsene food for thought. Arsenal fans will not accept any more failings in this team and Arsene’s future is in the hands of his players. They need to play for him and put in more performances like last night.

It really has seemed a long time since we have played like that, even longer since we have played like that consistently in a run of games. I certainly hope this is the turning point, this Reading team at this current point in time were the best possible team to play to build confidence.

Even against a poor Reading team the defensive frailties were still evident, it would have been a good game to keep a clean sheet but that wasn’t to be. Mr individual error showed his ugly head again and it is still something we need to work on. Not trying to put a dampener on our performance but at 4-0 up complacency crept into our game and before you knew it two goals were conceded. It almost sparked memories of our Capital One Cup game against the royals. We wobbled for a while but thanks to a fifth goal from Theo who got his chance to play in his preferred central role; any chances of a complete meltdown were squashed.

santi celebrates

Special mention of course goes to Santi Cazorla who was behind everything good about Arsenal last night. It was great to see him put aside all the negative press he received recently and put on a masterclass. He walked away with the match ball last night after scoring a hat trick in the match and proved how vital he is in our quest to turning around our fortunes.

I’m much happier after yesterday’s game compared to last week and I hope we can carry this on now. It’s just Reading so no running to pop any Champagne but we can only play who is put in front of us. Next up in front of us is Wigan and hopefully we can continue the consistency; the remaining December games are winnable in theory and so ending the year on a high will put us in good stead for 2013. Plenty of focus still required from the players, more of the same please at the weekend.

Enjoy your day people.

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Bradford embarrassment sinks Arsenal to new low

Absolutely shocking performance last night, Arsenal fans across the land must be united in wondering how we can turn this around. The line up last night included no kids, none of the young raw players we have witnessed in previous rounds. This was the first team out there, pitted against a league two side. There is no excuse to struggle against a side from that level; I know the home fans were up for it and that would of course lift their players but this was our first team out there.

Words cannot describe the embarrassment felt witnessing the game yesterday. On Saturday the win against West Brom was seen as the first step on the long road to recovery; a chance to build back some confidence and momentum and prove the club is still a major force. Well yesterday Bradford City pushed Arsenal back about 20 steps; it is going to take a hell of a lot to restore some pride and dignity to Arsenal’s reputation.

arsenal out

Our once great club is now a laughing-stock; it is hard to defend the events of last night. It may only be penalties but it should never have reached the stage of penalties. Despite the one million and one wake up calls we have already had this season we still have not reacted. Will this spark some soul-searching and a new focus to put things right? Hardly, we will be here again in couple weeks time questioning another defeat. It is a vicious cycle and the January transfer window cannot come quick enough; we need wholesale changes, talking up the quality of the players we have means nothing if they cannot produce the results.

We are a club in turmoil; there is no way to sugar coat it, a high number of players in the squad are just not good enough to take us back to the top. Arsene needs to put his ruthless hat on and wield the axe; he needs to fix the team as soon as possible. We cannot afford to wait until the summer and at the moment Wenger cannot afford any more slip ups. The pressure is on like never before, he lost the backing of even more fans last night after that outcome and at this moment in time I cannot see him lasting the season if things don’t change.

wenger ball

In his defence, he put out a strong team against Bradford and those players who were on the pitch should take most of the blame for the performance and result. They let him down big time, they let the fans down and they let their selves down. I’m not even going to single out players; the usual suspects who the fans ridicule did nothing to prove otherwise. I won’t blame the penalty misses because like I said the game should never have even got to the stage of a shootout. The whole team needs to look long and hard at itself, we cannot paper over the cracks anymore because fan power grows stronger with each poor performance.

The only Arsenal positive I can think of right now if the fact that we are not playing until next Monday so my weekend won’t be spoiled in any way. I will get back to being more positive about Arsenal and their chances for the rest of the season but for now I am sure you are in agreement that this sucks right now.

Try your best to survive the banter from rival fans today.

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Wenger patience wearing thin

With the protracted contract negotiations continuing between Arsenal and winger Theo Walcott, manager Arsene Wenger is clearly getting to the end of his tether.

There has been a distinct lack of apparent progress with the completion of a deal with the England international and as the weeks go by a resolution is looking more and more unlikely.

The other major factor is that Walcott will be out of contract at the end of the season and with the January transfer window edging closer, Arsenal are going to have one last chance to cash in on the former Southampton starlet if a deal can’t be agreed.

 arsene theo

With the Gunners in the midst of a poor run of form in the Premier League, the lack of commitment from one of the first-team players will not be helping matters at the Emirates.

Wenger has expressed his desire to keep Walcott at the North London outfit and believes the player would like to stay too but clearly something is holding up the deal.

The Frenchman said:

“With Theo, I have no news. I personally am not involved in that directly, indirectly of course yes, but at the moment we have not made any progress.

“Honestly, I am frustrated. Between the player and me it is all clear, he knows what he wants and he has to make up his mind.”

“We have been in negotiations with Theo for a long, long time, and we have not been late in our re-negotiations with him.”

“We always try to extend the contracts very early.”

With the likes of Liverpool believed to be interested in signing Walcott, we might well see the 23-year-old in the red of Liverpool instead of the Arsenal red in January.

Ahead of Bradford v Arsenal tonight make sure you check out all the Capital One Cup Betting markets with Betfair, as well as all the latest news, advice and newly updated Betfair Football In-play markets.

Guest post brought to you today by Tom Brown.

Enjoy your day people.

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