Arsenal claim 4th place ‘trophy’

So that’s it, fourth place secured with a win at Newcastle. No playoff though I doubt Arsenal fans were too bothered about that, Spurs won but that effort was in vain as Arsenal took hold of their own destiny and achieved the win required.

Any Arsenal fan that tells you they were not nervous before or during the match are cold faced liars, the tension was unbearable at times and the final whistle could not come quick enough towards the end.

AFC FINAL WHISTLE

Laurent Koscielny provided the deciding goal to maintain champion’s league football for the Gunners and was a rock at the back to boot. Man of the match in my eyes and it is hoped his form from the second half of the season is here to stay permanently.

The whole team deserves praise for holding their nerve to carve out the result when the pressure was surely on, Tottenham had the far easier game to play and it was important that Arsenal scored the first goal to alleviate any extra nerves which could disrupt their performance.

The importance of securing fourth place cannot be stressed hard enough, competing in the champions league is the difference between attracting players of the calibre of Jovetic or settling for players of lesser ability. European football is a bargaining chip in negotiations and will ensure top players will consider signing up at the Emirates, it also ensures the current squad won’t get itchy feet for football elsewhere.

giroud celebrates v newc

Many have commented on Arsenal’s celebrations at the final whistle, saying that they celebrated as if they had won a trophy; I can assure you if fortunes were reversed and Tottenham achieved the fourth place they would have celebrated the same way if not harder. Fourth place was at stake but also was the chance to better your bitter rivals, nothing can be sweeter than achieving at the expense of your rivals. A trophy was not won but the tears of the spurs players at the final whistle is worthy of celebrating 20 times over.

worth it

worth it

Arsenal can now build on this, it will take shrewd business from Arsene Wenger to improve the team and create a squad capable of challenging for honours in an Alex Ferguson-less Premier league. The core of the team is there, there shouldn’t be a Robin Van Persie-esque departure from the squad this summer. The additions from last summer should improve on their solid debut seasons and a clear out of the less involved players should come to fruition.

Andre Arshavin took to twitter to bid farewell to Arsenal, he thanked the fans, his colleagues and all the staff at the club as well as wishing the club well in next year’s champion’s league. It’s a nice touch from the diminutive Russian who never said a bad word about the club during his exiled period this season. He left the club with many quality memories most notably the 4 goals at Anfield and that winner against Barcelona. He will be fondly remembered by Arsenal fans and I for one wish him well in the next chapter of his career.

arshavin tweets

Guys, please take advantage of the bragging rights to all the Tottenham fans you know. Do not feel sorry for them because they would not hold back if roles were reversed. Make them feel like rubbish today and for the rest of the week if you can.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy…

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Time to move on from Villa and focus on Everton.

The mood has now hopefully settled amongst Arsenal fans; the result and the substitutions in particular left many fans directing their fury towards Arsene Wenger. A 0-0 draw is one result that is universally unwelcome to football fans; the prospect of no goals has no place in any person’s life and can result in blood boiling frustration to those who witness the event. A score draw is acceptable because at least the ball has hit the back of the net; that is unless the team draws after being 4-0 up a la Newcastle. Anyway, it seems the lack of goals was contagious as the games hosted by Swansea and Chelsea on Sunday followed suit.

The biggest gripe was behind that substitution of Giroud and the resting of Jack Wilshere. The Jack issue I suppose is easier to defend, the substitution not so much. Hopefully we have grunted and snarled all the frustration out of our systems, put Saturday behind us and now focus our attention on the tough game against Everton on Wednesday.

I do have some points concluded from the game on Saturday, they are a more constructive and reflective round-up of factors I have noticed. Don’t get me wrong I swear blue in the face, throw ornaments and kick furniture with the best of fans when a match is on however it can be better to take time to reflect on things rather than vent in the immediate aftermath. Here goes…

Ramsey can do no right.

One thing that is clear is our Welsh midfielder is not the flavour of the month with many Arsenal fans. Forget the mantle of flavour of the month it has stretched closer to the past 12 months and longer for Ramsey. In an earlier post I had highlighted the Arsenal players most likely to be the scapegoat for the season, the player to feel the full brunt of the fans fury when fortunes don’t go our way. I predicted it was a toss-up between Ramsey, Andre Santos and Gervinho and to be honest I feel that title is being shared between the three. Gervinho stemmed the flow slightly with his purple patch of goalscoring form at the earlier part of the season; Andre Santos is out of the firing line lately simply because his appearances in the starting eleven have been heavily reduced more for his own sake than anything else. Ramsey has featured more in the team than the other two players and has come in for criticism for his performances regardless of what he contributes. I am not blind there are times he has struggled in games, more so when he has been deployed in the front three. In my opinion a position not suited for him but as a player you put in a shift wherever the manager chooses to play you. Ramsey’s problem is his performances are more under the microscope from fans than any other Arsenal players, any good he does is instantly forgotten and replaced by any misplaced pass or scuffed shot. On Saturday he was not awful, the team on a whole did not click but he still came out with the most criticism, he can do now right at the moment. I feel we need to ease up on him, he may still be looking for his best form but he won’t achieve that with constant groans and abuse. He is an Arsenal player at the end of the day and we need to support every player on the pitch not alienate individuals. Save the venom for the players that showed no respect for the club and left under acrimonious terms like the Van Persie’s and Nasri’s of the world.

Is Oxlade-Chamberlain suffering 2nd season syndrome?

It hasn’t quite clicked for the Ox this season, after such a prominent first season with the Gunners that elevated him into the England squad for Euro 2012 his development this season has stagnated slightly. Admittedly he has played a lot of football, he didn’t get much of a break due to appearing in the Euros this summer and suffering a few niggling injuries this season. It’s hard to single it down to burnout because he hasn’t had much of a run in the team this season but it was quite noticeable that his performances against Montpellier and Aston Villa were quite below the standard he has set for himself. He is still young and still learning his trade so he can be forgiven for not being at the stage where he wins games single-handed by just being on the pitch. We have though, witnessed him at his devastating best last season so when he is below par it’s quite noticeable. He still has so much to bring to the team and has that bums off the seat aura about him when he is on top form. 2nd season syndrome is more about players struggling to handle the pressure of the their achievements from the season before, I don’t think Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers from that kind of pressure, he is level-headed enough and the form of Theo Walcott on the right side ensures the fans are not overly dependent of Alex to perform. I hope the 2nd season theory turns out to be nonsense from me; the best way to rubbish my idea starts with Everton on Wednesday.

Defence continues to shut them out.

I suppose the one positive you can take from a 0-0 draw is the defence has produced a clean sheet. That’s the second game in a row we have managed a clean sheet and is a sign than we may have overcome the teething problem of soft goals conceded in recent weeks. With Kieran Gibbs returning to fitness skipper Thomas Vermaelen who was deputising the left back role was dropped to the bench for the Englishman to return. Vermaelen’s form had been a bit up and down when playing in the centre of defence in recent weeks but a reshuffle at the centre of defence was probably not required and was behind Wenger’s reasoning for his choice. Whether Arsene keeps the same back line against Everton is debatable, he will have hungry, fresher players to choose from and Vermaelen may have a point to prove if selected. The most important thing is the goals have stopped leaking and we need to continue that habit now.

Arshavin deserves more game time.           

I understand our Russian 23 is out of favour with Arsene this season; he is most likely to move on in the next transfer window however I feel when called upon he hasn’t let the team down. At times when we have had players missing through injury and been forced to play players like Aaron Ramsey out of position in the front three attacking role it does make you wonder why Arshavin hasn’t been considered. I don’t have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes at Arsenal but I believe he could contribute more to the team than the Capital One Cup outings and the closing stages of Premiership games. Even if he is as good as out the door he has from the outside showed professionalism on the pitch, there has been no strops or rants in the press, he has just got on with it. I feel he can be utilized more until he has gone, when he does move then maybe he will let the cat out of the bag and give all the juicy details of what really went on but for now he is an alternative that can be used; we don’t have great depth in our squad but there are still players that maybe aren’t being used as much as they could.

So here they are, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section. They are just points, I can be convinced to change my views if you present a good case. What we can all agree on is three points at Everton on Wednesday would be nice.

Enjoy your day people

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Reading FC next up, Szczesny to start? AFC

Capital one cup tonight, many of the first team will be afforded a rest ahead of the premiership trip to Old Trafford this Saturday. Arsene’s line up is likely to include a number of fringe players in need of vital match practise while a few younger more raw players will be utilized from the bench. We have a high number of fringe players more used to first team action that can provide the necessary experience for a cup game like this. Reading will be no push over and the policy of fielding a team with the majority youngsters has been relaxed over the past couple seasons.

Although the capital one cup is way down the managers list of priorities to achieve each season there is still an element of seriousness in preparation for the competition. Arsene fields the teams he feels can win the games they play by ensuring the right balance between experience and youth is struck. In the home ties there are more opportunities to field more youth as the occasion and buzz from the crowd can have a positive effect on their performance. In away ties the pressure is a lot different and the younger players have to be in Arsene’s eyes up for the challenge.

Reading is far from an easy game, they are a premiership level team now and will be highly motivated to progress in the competition. The relationship between arsenal and reading has been a good one over the years; many young players have experienced loan spells at the club to further their development. Steven Sidwell made a permanent transfer to the club after a good loan deal there and most recently Benik Afobe enjoyed the promotion experience after joining the club on loan towards the tail end of last season.

The game tonight will be a chance for players such as Andrei Arshavin, Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott to stake a claim for inclusion to the squad for Saturday. Theo is likely to receive the opportunity to play in his favoured role to continue his ongoing battle of proving his worth as a central striker. Arshavin has the opportunity to earn a role in the team now that a void has been created by the injury to Gervinho. There has still been no official clarification of the injury to Gervinho. At the game on Saturday he seemed to pull up after planting a cross from the byline. He hobbled off the pitch and as the game carried on the medical team spent quite a bit of time tending to the Ivorian. He was eventually taken from the field of play on a stretcher. Arshavin impressed in parts in the last round against Coventry and a repeat tonight will definitely put him in contention.

Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou are likely to continue their partnership at the back whilst Carl Jenkinson may get a run out after losing his place to Sagna on Saturday. Serge Gnarbry is likely to get more minutes on the pitch to impress the gunners faithful. Wenger clearly likes the boy and the capital one cup is the perfect platform to showcase his talent; he is likely to be joined at some point by his german compatriot Thomas Eisfeld.

Eisfeld is probably one who has yet to be given many chances to play first team football this season, after impressing with some goal scoring displays for the first team in pre-season I half expected more opportunities for the German. Understandably the role he plays is fully stocked in the first team squad so chances like tonight need to be utilised to remind the manager of his potential.

One possible surprise in tonight’s line up is the return of Szczesny. Although Dami Martinez warrants an opportunity to play against Reading the chance to blood our Polish keeper in some first team action may be too tempting to ignore. Sczcesny joined the squad for training yesterday and being a keeper the fitness side of his game is not as essential as say a midfielder. The old Trafford game on Saturday may be in sight for our number one so do not be surprised if he is named in the team tonight. This would be a massive boost for the team, the fans and all concerned with arsenal. No disrespect to Vito Mannone who has had some good games for us but it is quite clear he is not ready to wrestle the number one jersey from our Polish stopper.

Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to start the game to continue his rehabilitation from injury. Our Ghanaian Hardman will relish the opportunity to play in this game and is in no rush to force his way into the first team. The two injuries he suffered over the past two seasons are enough for him to be cautious and not rush back and risk breaking down again. I for one hope that he is over the big injuries and can now kick on to the next stage and fulfil the potential he showed before injuries. It all starts from tonight. Although slightly nervous of the outcome of the tie it is not impossible for us to gain a win. Reading although likely to contain more of their premiership line up can still be beaten. We have enough quality and experience to give as good as we get. Come on you gunners!

Enjoy your day people.

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Arsenal thrash Coventry in style, Reading up next

At the moment the Arsenal are simply riding the crest of a wave. I’m just going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Last night Coventry came to town for the Capital One Cup and Arsene Wenger chose a team with the right mixture of youth and experience. The final result of 6-1 was testament to the hunger of the younger players to impress and the hunger of the more established players to stake a claim for a starting spot on Saturday.

Olivier Giroud started in what can only be seen as a confidence game for the striker. He indeed boosted his confidence with a quality dink over the keeper to open the scoring on the night and settle the nerves of the team in the first half. It was important the striker got his goal yesterday, considering the score line you would expect your forwards to hit the back of the net in the goal rush. I think what was also important was the fact he scored from open play, a set piece goal from a penalty doesn’t quite banish the demons and it was great to see him finish so calmly in open play. His penalty miss in the game is less damaging due to him scoring earlier; he was unfortunate not to score as it was a well taken penalty but when the keeper guesses the right way these things happen. Let’s hope Mr Giroud can now kick on this season.

Theo Walcott was given an opportunity to play up front and back up all the talking he has done this week about his desire to play in that role. Theo has admitted he would like to be a legend like Thierry Henry at Arsenal and believes this can only be achieved as a striker. Wenger duly obliged and called his bluff by selecting him in his preferred role. I have to admit after a mixed first half where everything wasn’t coming off Theo exploded into life in the second half and was rewarded with two quality finishes that were almost trademark Thierry goals. Definitely food for thought for Arsene, Walcott rose to the task and answered his doubters. Great for him but now the next step is to produce similar performances and goals against better opposition. That is probably one of the greatest criticisms of Theo is in the bigger games when you need the big players to stand up and fight he is usually anonymous. He is still young but the consistency is what he really needs to add to his game for people to take notice.

Andrei Arshavin seemed to have a lot of fun on the night, he played in a more central playmaker role without the added burden of protecting the flanks and it was clear he relished the role. It was reminiscent of his performances for Russia in the euros the way he was direct, spraying balls around and being a general nuisance to the Coventry backline. I noted yesterday that he needed to make the most of his opportunities in this game to force his way into Arsene’s plans in the premiership games. He surely did make the most of it and chipped in with a goal and assist in the game. This is the kind of performance the arsenal fans expect from the Russian and we know he can do it against better opposition too. Maybe Wenger will consider him in that role in future, he deserves a chance there as an option to alleviate the burden on Santi Cazorla to produce week in week out. It’s nice to know we have another player who can play in that hole effectively. Arshavin when he’s in the mood is a player to fear, let’s just hope he can maintain the hunger.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain just loves this competition; it was around this time last year that he announced his potential to the arsenal fans with a barn storming performance against Shrewsbury. He was clearly in the mood yesterday and had a great game against Coventry. Always direct, he pulled off a few flicks and tricks and was a constant thorn in the Coventry side. He topped it off with a finish that had the whole stadium jumping. A real quality strike from outside the box, hardly any back lift in the shot it cannoned into the top corner of the net and set the game up nicely for the 6-1 outcome. The timing of the goal was perfect as Giroud had just missed his penalty and it could have had a negative effect on the team and raised Coventry’s hopes. The Ox’s bullet of a goal banished any hopes Coventry had and merely added to the already exponentially rising stock he has. It really is exciting when you look at the abundance of options we have in midfield at the moment.

Of the younger players that were drafted into the team Dami Martinez had a very good debut, despite the lack of pressure from Coventry he did everything that was required of him when called upon. His kicking was good, his claiming of the ball and he pulled of a couple acrobatic saves. He couldn’t be faulted for the goal and yesterdays experience would have done him a world of good. Martin Angha came into the side for his debut at right back and didn’t looked overawed by the occasion, he seemed very comfortable in that role and future is looking good for the young Swiss. His final delivery from the flanks may need a bit of working on but there are enough signs last night he the potential to be a future arsenal first team player. Nico Yennaris came into the side and was drafted into midfield, a position he plays quite a bit in reserves and he certainly had a good game in the middle of the park. Versatility is an attribute Arsene loves and he certainly showed Wenger he can play there if called upon. The only thing against him is his size but he has plenty of time to fill out and muscle up. Ignasi Miguel continued his development with an assured performance alongside skipper for the day Johan Djourou. He even chipped in with a headed goal and put himself in the shop window for a potential loan move to further his development. Serge Gnarby came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the second half and looked an almost carbon copy of our England midfielder. He is certainly another player off the production line that will excite the fans; he had a couple decent runs at the defence and came so close with a rocket of an effort.

It was nice to see Emmanuel Frimpong get on the pitch, he received a very warm reception from the fans when warming up and when he eventually got on the pitch. It has been a long journey back for the midfielder and now I hope the knee injuries can be a thing of the past. It really does seem like there’s no more room left at the inn but with Jack Wilshere and Thomas Rosicky still to return we really are spoilt for choice at the moment. Arsene I really don’t envy you right now as someone has to miss out each week and nobody at the moment is giving you a reason for them to be ignored.

We drew Reading in the next round of the cup, a shame its an away tie but cannot complain as we could have drawn far tougher opposition.

Enjoy your day people

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Arsenal v Coventry: some pre match thoughts

Next up for Arsenal is the visit of Coventry city in the Capital One Cup. Not sure about the name of the tournament, it just doesn’t quite flow off the tongue either way it’s a trophy on offer and so I’d like our boys to have their name etched onto it.

Given the good feeling from the game against Man City it is hoped the momentum can be carried on from our younger more fringe players in the squad.

At the time of writing this post the squad for the game hasn’t been released yet however given the shots on the official website of the team training for the game it is clear there will be a mixture of youthful potential and more experienced professionals.

The likes of Nico Yennaris, Tom Eisfeld, Serge Gnarby and Dami Martinez will be joined in the squad by the likes of Johan Djourou, Andrei Arshavin and possibly Olivier Giroud.

I suppose when you consider how well the first team has been doing Arsene hasn’t been afforded the luxury of changing the team around and this has led to many players not getting a sniff of action so far this season. When you have a winning team you don’t tend to tinker too much and so there have been casualties in the likes of Johan Djourou, Maroune Chamakh and Andrei Arshavin. The game today is a chance for them to put themselves back into Arsene Wenger’s plans and give him a headache ahead of the London derby against Chelsea on Saturday.

At present Andrei Arshavin seems almost frozen out of the picture, surprising given the fact he did not move on in the last transfer window. I still feel he can play a big part in this season, with a new focus and drive it’s possible. The difference this season is there are plenty options ahead of him so any sign of laziness and he’s back in the stands. The competition may ignite him to the level we all know he is capable of, tonight could be the start of showing us that.

Johan Djourou is another player who was heavily linked with a departure from the emirates over the summer. The player went public to deny he was leaving however his national manager made him aware of the fact his lack of playing time will effect his opportunities for Switzerland. At present it’s not looking good for Djourou, always regarded as the 4th choice centre back his opportunities will come when any of the first three start slipping in their standards. Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker are currently playing out of their skin and so Johan will have to make do with today’s game to play first team football and maintain some match sharpness. He will get chances over the coming season I just hope he is patient enough to wait for his chance.

Maroune Chamakh seems to have disappeared off the planet; today could be a chance to him to show his determination to still make it at arsenal. His opportunities have been heavily reduced due to the acquisition of Giroud and Poldolski and Arsene offering the opportunity of central roles to Gervinho and Walcott. Chamakh is not adaptable to play anywhere else in the team apart from central striker and that perhaps hinders his favorability with Wenger. The interchanging between the front players has been one of the strong points of our team this season and restricted chances for the striker and even Giroud to a certain extent. I guess our forward combinations are also dependant on the opposition we face and at present new boy Giroud is the preferred option when an out and out striker is required. Until our French striker finds the net this season Chamkah can take any opportunity that comes his way to push him ahead in the pecking order.

I have a slight inkling that Wenger may pair Chamakh and Giroud up front together in a slightly changed formation. This is just a guess mind you, I have no inside knowledge I just feel the game against Coventry could be a chance for Wenger to look at a plan B.

We may see the return of Emmanuel Frimpong in some capacity today, the league cup games have always been used as an opportunity for Arsene to bed in players returning from injury. He probably won’t be risked from the start but I would not be surprised to see him on the bench. It’s probably a bit too soon for Wilshere despite him returning to full training but Frimpong is ahead of our no.10 in the recovery stakes and hasn’t been out of the game as long as him. It will be a welcome return for the powerful midfielder and another stepping stone for him to work his way back to where he was at last season. A cameo appearance is not out of the question.

One player we may also see tonight is Craig Eastmond, remember him? After bursting onto the scene a few seasons back the midfielder’s development has stalled drastically. A couple of loan moves have failed to push him on in his development. This season is make or break for him and to see the likes of Henri Lansbury move on it is clear that he really needs to work hard and take his chances or he will be out the door.

I understand he has played a few reserve games in defence this season and it is this kind of versatility that may make him useful to Arsene. Although he was converted from right back to central midfielder initially, his potential as a utility player is not a bad thing. I will be interested to see if he is involved and where he plays.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s game; I’ll be down there as I can never turn down the opportunity of £10 tickets. It’s a different atmosphere than league games but it a chance to go to games with family and friends that don’t normally get the chance. I always enjoy seeing the next generation of players and how they get on in these games against better opposition than reserve level teams. I suppose I am getting ahead of myself by expecting us to beat Coventry today, they will be no mugs and we still have to turn up and perform to get the result. Here’s hoping for a good run in this competition starting from today and lots of home ties in future rounds. Good luck Gunners.

Enjoy your day people

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