Wembley Awaits Arsenal, Who Will Join Them?

Wembley here we come! After the dispatching of Everton yesterday in the quarter finals of the FA cup a trip to Wembley for the semi final now looms. Opponents will be decided today after the remaining three quarter final games are played.

One major obstacle in the shape of Manchester City could stand in the Gunner’s way of a second trip to Wembley in the form of the actual final. It is the utmost importance they are avoided in the draw today. That’s not to say Arsenal are not capable of beating Man City, that is every bit possible but to meet them in the final would make for a more fitting centre piece of the competition. I mean no disrespect to the other teams in the competition, they all hold a threat and recent history is likely to inspire any of the other teams that victory is certainly possible in a one-off game. Last season cup exits to Bradford City and Blackburn Rovers, not to mention that Carling Cup shocker against Birmingham City. These are all reminders that the level of the opposition does not equate to a textbook victory for the Gunners, anything can happen on the day.

Yesterday the possibility of winning a trophy became a distinct reality; under current evaluation the FA Cup holds the best chance for a trophy after Tottenham gift wrapped Chelsea three points in the Premier League game yesterday. The Chelsea result strengthened Arsenal’s position in the top four slightly however I would be a lot more content with the club’s focus being on catching the teams in front of them rather than thinking about what is going on over their shoulder from the teams playing catch up. The team owes it to themselves as much as the fans to give it 100% on all fronts until the end of the season. Priority and focus on the FA cup can be assessed a bit more once the club know who they are playing.

The fate of Arsenals destiny ironically lays at the hands of one of their former greats as Ian Wright has been granted the honour of facilitating the semi final draw alongside his son Shaun Wright-Philips. I’m pretty sure if Wrighty pulls Charlton or Sheffield united out of the hat (or bag) he may just get a statue commissioned to keep Dennis, Tony and Thierry company around the Emirates Stadium. If he pulls out Manchester City he may need to consider disabling his twitter account for a few days.

wright

In all seriousness though it is what it is, whoever Arsenal draw in the next round they know what is required of themselves to get to the final and win that trophy. The draw today is at 4pm (GMT).

Possible opponents in the draw:

Hull City  or Sunderland
Sheffield United  or Charlton Athletic
Manchester City or Wigan Athletic

Fingers crossed.

Enjoy your day people.
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Tough Everton game up next for Gunners

Match day today, the Gunners face a tough game away to Everton at Goodison Park. To gain three points tonight would call upon all the players bringing their A game with them. We are boosted by the news that Theo Walcott returns to fitness and should play a part in the game. We badly missed the outlet of Walcott’s pace on Saturday and his return is a timely boost to the team. He has become an important part of our attacking game and maybe finally reaching the level of consistency that has been missing from his game over the years.

The fact that he has reached this not playing in his preferred central role is worrying for all those wanting him to sign a new contract. It has come to the point where his departure would be a massive loss to the team, we need him to sign a new contract and by that we need to keep him happy. Money shouldn’t be an issue, given the multi million pound deal signed with Fly Emirates last week.

We will need to keep a close eye on the developments as time moves ever closer to the midseason transfer window. One thing that can’t be read into too much is the talk of the selections for the 2013 calendar. The fact Theo is not included on the calendar could be down to mere coincidence. Each month contains a single player, that’s 12 players from a squad of 30 strong, some players will miss out, it’s simple maths.

Calendars and club catalogues can draw all sorts of confusion just by who is selected to front the pages, I would not stress myself trying to predict our transfer dealings based on a calendar. Right now in my office at work I have an Arsenal calendar with the November picture of Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie celebrating a goal. Can’t even bear to look at that thing, Calendars are more hassle than they are worth.

Everton will have Fellaini back after serving a one match suspension, it will be important that the defence are fully focused to contain the threat of the Toffee’s in form player. The two recent clean sheets will be a welcome psychological boost to the defence, the threat stems throughout the Everton team from the quality delivery of Baines from the wing to the trickery of the likes of Pienaar and Mirallas. Even though our past few games against Everton have been positive results the performances themselves have required hard ground out ethic. On paper we have every chance in reality it’s 50/50.

In addition to Walcott there’s a chance for fresher legs to return to action against Everton: Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, and Thomas Vermaelen may be utilized. Although we never suffered any injuries from the Villa game Arsene clearly had tonight’s game in mind when he made his team selection on Saturday. It may have slightly backfired given the result at the weekend but there’s a chance to put things right tonight. With players returning from injury Arsene Wenger has more of a luxury of players to select for the game than in past weeks, it may work in our favour, hopefully it will keep the starting eleven on their toes and inspire a great performance from each of them.

In other Arsenal news Emmanuel Frimpong has been given clearance by FIFA to represent Ghana at international level. The Arsenal youngster has made no secret of his desire to represent the country of his heritage. It’s a shame he turned his back on England but you cannot deny anyone the right to represent their country of birth. Some things are bigger than football and his decision is one made from the heart. It may cause problems in future when you consider the African Cup of Nations but for now he is not part of the current first team and so his recuperation from injury is priority, once he gets to the level he has the potential to reach then we can curse his absence from the team.

He seems to be doing ok on his loan at Charlton, he certainly won’t be given any easy treatment by the league one opposition, and he will be a marked man due to where he is on loan from and his status in the public. The experience will only make him stronger and more hungry to make up for lost time.

Another boost to the team is the return of Tomas Rosicky to full training. We have been robbed of the services of Rosicky all season after an injury picked up on international duty with the Czech team during the Euros. His return will be a welcome additional and it is hoped he gets into the groove quickly once he returns to first team duty. Arsene said of Rosicky:

“Rosicky is back in the squad, not quite match fit but in full training. He needs a game or two in the reserve team. He has not played for six months but he is fit.”

It will be great to have him back, we have certainly missed the alternative dynamic to the midfield that Rosicky and Diaby can bring. Between the two we may get the opportunity of one or the other available for future match day squads continuously. Diaby is around 4 weeks away from returning to training so fingers crossed they both return and stay a little longer with us.

Enjoy your day people.

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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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Wilshere performance helps erase bad feeling – AFC

Well we have some positive news to help soften the bad feeling from our inept display against Norwich at the weekend. Fortunes can change so quickly in football, we went into the international break on the back of a good win against London rivals west ham. We returned from the international break with our worst performance of the season. The fallout from that has left arsenal fans dreaming of the return of Jack Wilshere to the team.

A few weeks back we were looking at our squad and assessing that jack can take his time, his place in the team was in good hands as we were grinding results and earning plaudits. A few unfortunate injuries have now hit the squad and now things don’t look so rosy. It’s not quite panic stations yet, this is one result and we are more than capable of bouncing back from the setback.

Yesterday the arsenal reserves played an u-21 fixture against Everton, the line up included all three of our long term absentees in Wilshere, Sagna and Frimpong. All three managed to play the full 90 minutes and further their potential returns to first team action. It definitely is the type of news us fans would like to hear especially given the fact that Jack influenced the game. In the 2-1 win Jack was involved with both of our goals and is on course for a first team berth against Reading next Tuesday.

The news is exciting that he is managing to play games without any setbacks; physically he seems ready to return but football is more than physicality. Jack will need to be ready on a psychological level to make challenges and be on the end of them again. Long term injuries give players time to reflect, time to miss what they were used to and become cautious of how easy they can lose it all again. Jack is a tenacious player and I’m sure it won’t be before too long he is throwing himself into challenges full blooded, the confidence will return with each game.

The news of Jack returning does tend to overshadow the developments of Sagna and Frimpong’s recovery but understandably Carl Jenkinson has filled in the right back role well enough to make Sagna’s return less urgent. Emmanuel Frimpong in all due respect is more of a fringe player than first teamer at the time of his injury, even though he was on loan. he does have a part to play in this team and with the departure of Alex Song he has every opportunity to prove to Wenger that there was a ready made replacement in house rather than the need to acquire Yann M’Villa during the summer.

That’s it from me today

Enjoy your day people.

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