Wilshere shows two sides in West Brom draw

Well it certainly wasn’t pretty, the game ended in a hard thought draw that could have swung either way. Teams will not always allow Arsenal to play their beautiful football such as was exhibited on Tuesday night against Napoli. I am sure West Brom did their homework based on that display and set out to disrupt all the good points of the Gunners game.

You have to say their game plan worked as the fluency we have witnessed recently was substituted for a more laborious ground out performance. Many Arsenal fans will have felt disappointment when the final whistle was blown though when you put things into perspective this is exactly the kind of game the team would have lost in previous season’s after going a goal down.

For all the pretty football played there is still a resilience in the team to not give up, they kept plugging away at the West Brom defence and were eventually rewarded with an equaliser. On paper a draw at the Hawthorns isn’t ideal however the West Brom team are a team with sky high confidence at present. Their victory over Manchester United last weekend was no fluke; it was a fully deserved victory over last season’s champion’s which ultimately made for a difficult afternoon for the Gunners.

The Capital One cup tie two weeks ago held little relevance in predicting the outcome of the yesterdays game, the squads were different but for a few names. Usually when the Arsenal are at the Hawthorns there is usually the added focus of catching and passing Tottenham in the final stages of the season. Not so this time around however the prospect of returning to the top of the table was enough to motivate the players.The game itself centred on the two sides of jack Wilshere; in the first half he just could not get his game together. He seemed to spend more time on the deck than on his feet as the referee Lee Mason decided to leave his whistle in his pocket for the more physical challenges in the game. More often than not Jack was muscled off the ball and at the times when he did have the ball his passes were not finding the man or his studs were letting him down as he slipped several times.

just jack

It would be deemed quite generous to describe his first half performance as well…. rubbish; he even managed to cap it off with a booking. Clearly he is still adjusting to his role attacking on the left hand side despite being lauded for that position earlier in the week by Arsene Wenger. Add to that his reputation for being wound up the West Brom players focused on distracting him enough to put him off his game. The attention on the young England midfielder had already intensified due to the smoking story revealed at the weekend ensuring his name would be part of the headlines in some capacity.

Fortunately for Jack his performance in the second half was drastically improved, drifting into the middle at times he was able to contribute more to his team rather than being the weak link. Although far from perfect his equalising goal helped erase some of the negative demons from the previous sixty or so minutes of the game.

After the game Arsene said of Jack’s goal scoring:

“At least that is done now but he had a difficult first half where he was fouled a lot but he has shown that he has character and kept going until the end. It’s good that he was rewarded.”

A fair enough comment, it seems Wilshere has fallen out of favour slightly with some fans, not to say that they want him out of the club but more in assessment of his right of a place in the starting eleven when all players are fit. Given the acquisition of Mesut Ozil and the goal scoring exploits of Aaron Ramsey the attributes that Wilshere brings to the side have been overshadowed lately. He has the backing and the patience of his manager to get his game back on track and I’m sure it won’t be long before he is firing on all cylinders; the second half yesterday could just be the start of the return to form.

The international break looms and Arsenal sit proudly at the top of the table for the duration of it. If Liverpool fans are unhappy with that then they should consider renaming their club.

Enjoy your day people.

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3 points are all that matters for Arsenal

Sitting in the premier league table above Tottenham Hotspur is a good feeling, one that has been taken for granted over the years by Arsenal fans but the general importance of the feat has never been underestimated. They have slowly chipped away at their north London rivals and with the win over Norwich have now climbed above their rivals.

poldi celebrates

Getting back above Spurs was the easy part; it’s now ensuring they stay there that becomes hard. It’s in their hands so there can be no complaints if at the end of the season fortunes change.

The game yesterday was one of high interest to me; based on my experience last year in the 3-3 draw with the Canaries I was quite desperate to get some sort of redemption with a victory.

Seated close to the Norwich fans it was a chance to go back and forth with the banter; despite a first half of wasted chances and no shots on goal for the visitors they still made a vocal presence in the stadium. The game last season was similar to yesterdays in the sense that top four and champion’s league qualification was very much undecided and Norwich had a chance to throw a spanner in the works.

The Norwich fans were not shy in ribbing the Arsenal faithful with chants of Thursday Night Channel five. Quite outdated considering the Europa football is screened on the ITV channels however it was nice to get the opportunity to throw those chants right back down their throats.

Based on yesterday’s game here are some points of note:

Wilshere was rusty.

The loss of Jack Wilshere was a big blow to the Arsenal team; he returned from his long term injury and eventually found his rhythm to become a key cog of the Arsenal midfield. Despite the team’s good record during his recent absence his return to first team duty can definitely be seen as a psychological boost to the team. Eyebrows may have been raised that he returned straight back into the starting eleven but considering last week’s two goal hero Tomas Rosicky was unavailable Arsene Wenger’s hand had been forced. Wilshere displayed rustiness in his game, although not awful he was way off his influential best, the Arsenal game was becoming stale as Norwich were relishing their backs to the wall defending and so Jack was sacrificed to inject new impetus into the Arsenal play.

Gervinho had one of those days.

It is inevitable that Gervinho will never convince all Arsenal fans of his worth. You never know which performance you will get from the forward and until consistency is added to his game he will split fans opinion. One thing he is even when at his most frustrating worst is he is a threat, his pace stretches teams and especially with the loss of Theo Walcott to injury he has played a part in the recent run of form for the team. We may have a laugh and a joke or moan at the times he messes up but he has pace and a box of tricks (that all be it has a success rate of 1 in 10) that when it comes off is a great tool. Yesterday wasn’t his day but his starting place was earned by his contribution in the previous two games, he may still play a big part in Arsenals quest for fourth place.

Defence was well despite conceding.

Yes a goal was conceded against the run of play but the partnership of Koscielny and the returning Tomas Vermaelen played well. That Norwich’s first shot on goal wasn’t until they actually scored was testament to how the Canaries attack was kept under control. As is the Arsenal default game plan they prefer to concede when under complete control however the goal was from a set play. I’m not sure who exactly was picking up Turner but that set play required a team effort to ensure all men were picked up and unlike the goal conceded against Blackburn in the FA Cup which was a complete cock-up there was fault but not entirely attributed to the centre back pairing.

I believe Vermaelen had a good game, he was determined in the tackle and dealt with the threat of Grant Holt. Although Per Mertesacker is likely to return to the starting line up after serving his suspension it was encouraging that the Arsenal captain had an event free performance. He has set a platform he needs to build on to win back the confidence of the fans and the manager.

It was a penalty.

"it's not fair, they are time-wasting..."

“it’s not fair, they are time-wasting…”

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this non topic, the Norwich fans are bitter as you would expect from any opposition team who concedes a penalty but it was a clear pull on the shirt of Giroud from the Norwich player. Doesn’t matter who saw it a foul is a foul end of.

Enjoy your day people.

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Several points from Gunner’s win over Swansea

We won the game; we are into the next round, that’s all that matters isn’t it? With morale low in the team and frustration high amongst the fans the win over Swansea was the perfect tonic. There were as many plusses as there were negatives from the game but we have finally managed to break the hoodoo which Swansea seemed to have had over us this season.

I won’t give a match report on the game; I am sure the majority of you watched the game and/or know the outcome however I will discuss some points that became apparent to me from viewing the game.

Wilshere is a class above

jack celebrates

In a season of ups and downs so far one of the biggest boosts to the team is return of Jack Wilshere from injury. He has shaken off the rust, integrated himself back into the Arsenal engine room and is now at the point where he can dominate games. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is Arsenal through and through it is a refreshing sight to see him in full swing. Teams now recognize him as the danger man and target him. Manchester city put that into practise at the weekend but it didn’t break him. As much as I love Santi Cazorla, given his early season form he became a target and at times would play within himself when given the extra attention. Jack has now been receiving similar attention but has managed to brush off the extra attention and still graft it out. Some of the challenges he has been on the end of I am surprised he has got up from many of them but that just shows the steel he has acquired to complement his majestic skill and control. Yesterday Jack put in a man of the match performance which was well deserved despite close competition from Michel Vorm. He drove on the team and was an inspiration leading by example, the icing on the cake was his winning goal to take us through to the next round.

Diaby not broken

It was encouraging to see Abou Diaby starting the game yesterday; after his long layoff he returned to the team on Sunday and managed to play the majority of the game against Citeh with an extra man. I honestly thought that would be too much for his body and so to see him start against Swansea was a nice boost. Could he be over the injuries this season? We’ve been there too many times to be optimistic about that but if he can avoid an absence that lasts as long as the last injury then we will be on to a good thing. His presence in the team provides assurance as he patrols the middle like a big brother to look out for the likes of Wilshere and Cazorla. I hope to see a lot more of the leggy Frenchman for the rest of the season.

Coquelin proves worth

Francis Coquelin earned a starting berth against Swansea, less of a surprise due to the injury to Mikel Arteta. Whether his selection was deemed by default or not the young Frenchman provided an encouraging performance to show Arsene he can be trusted to perform in the absence of first choice Arteta. He hasn’t reached the point where he dominates from defensive midfield but that’s hardly expected when he hasn’t had a run of games yet to sharpen up his craft. His mobility is one of his great attributes and he offers more to his game than just breaking up play. Wenger may not have started him in many games but he has been here and thereabout in the first team squad often utilized from the bench. Arteta’s injury is a worry but Coquelin can use this opportunity to his advantage and prove any doubters wrong and most importantly give Arsene a massive nudge.

Welcome clean sheet

It was nice to claim a clean sheet last night, the soft goals have been creeping in of late and so it was encouraging to have a complete shut out. The defence actually put in a good performance, there were the odd scares but in general the team remained focused and kept the Swansea threat to a minimum. The introduction of Michu in the second half which usually equals a goal against us didn’t materialize; this was the perfect outcome leading into the big game at the weekend. We now have a foundation to build on; Chelsea will offer a far different threat but it is still important we remembered how to stop teams scoring.

Too many chances missed

giroud miss

The one nil score line was not a reflection of the amount of chances we had last night. Although Michel Vorm was on a one man mission to thwart anything thrown at the Swansea goal there were a number of chances that you would expect us to score regardless of who was in goal. It was bordering on the point where you felt it was one of those days and Swansea would probably nick a late goal to rub chilli, sand and bleach into your eyes. Thankfully Jack had different plans but the profligacy was worrying and very frustrating on the night. Possibly we were saving up the accurate finishing for Sunday, I sure hope so, Walcott and Giroud I’m talking to you.

Empty stadium seats

Much fuss was being made over the number of empty seats seen last night. I believe it is being slightly blown out of proportion; in my experience cup replays have slightly lower attendances unless it’s a game against one of the big boys. Tickets go on sale for less time than a standard league game due to the unpredictability of having to play a replay. Add to the conundrum it is cold as hell outside at the moment, a freezing Wednesday versus the comfort of the couch and TV I think there is only one winner. I certainly don’t think the empty seats were some sort of protest from the fans and it is just mitigating circumstances that resulted in the gaps. Seats are paid for so I don’t think the Arsenal money men will be worrying too much. I think this topic is a non story; the commentators just needed something to talk about.

Bartley’s comfortable performances

bartley swan

It’s quite frustrating to see Kyle Bartley perform so well against us over the two third round games. You would half expect him to be torn a new one by our forward line but Bartley put in a performance to make a mockery of our decision to let him leave without giving him a chance. A lot of investment was put into the acquisition and development of Bartley and after his loan at Rangers you would think he would be pushing for a first team place. It may have been impatience on his part but I feel he could have offered something to our team if he stayed. His encouraging performance’s against Arsenal makes the fact we still have the likes of Squillaci still on the payroll a bit of a dampener. I am basing this only on two games and former players do tend to raise their performance against their former employee but it will be interesting to see how the career of Kyle Bartley develops here on in.

Enjoy your day people.

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Stuttering win against QPR halts the losing streak – AFC

A win is a win is a win, the boys made hard work of it but we came out from a horrible week with the three points on the board. Even the best win ugly from time to time and given the low confidence throughout the team of late those points gained against queens park rangers will go a long way towards restoring our lost mojo. The weather was cold, the rain was spitting down and such factors were enough to add to the frustrated vibes felt by the fans. We needed something to raise our hopes; I had mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was worried a scapegoat would be picked out from the game if things didn’t go to plan. The names I had mentioned were Gervinho, Andre Santos and Vito Mannone. The current bad feeling had me fearing a repeat of the booing that greeted Emmanuel Eboue a few seasons back.

From my list Gervinho wasn’t selected in the starting line up so that saved him from the venom of the frustrated fans if he misplaced a pass. It seems Santos was the focus of most frustration; at times it was down to some parts of his game but given the negativity he has received over the past week he was blamed when things weren’t his fault. Such is the life of a footballer he is going through a bad period right now so he will need to work that extra bit harder to win back the fans confidence. His partnership with Podolski on the left hand side hasn’t clicked so far and so in comparison to Keiran Gibbs he is in the side by default rather than merit. His confidence does seem low at the moment and that was evident from his body language, fans in the stands are less forgiving and are sure to let you know how they feel about your performance with a few expletives thrown in. If we did not manage to win the game I am sure our cuddly Brazilian would have received the criticism full barrel at full time.

Mannone came though the game with little incident if I recall, when he came out for the balls in the box he made sure he connected. I remember one mis-kick in the second half but the ball still reached an arsenal player. He actually ensured our victory with an excellent block in the last minute of the game.

I guess I have so far ignored one of the most important factors from yesterday’s game, which was the bold decision by Arsene to start Wilshere against QPR. Our midfield gem has not featured for the first team in over 18 months and it was a surprise to many Wenger took the risk. Bacary Sagna was also restored to the line up at the expense of Carl Jenkinson and I can probably see the psychological boost Wenger tried to bring to the team by adding our two long term absentees.

It was especially great to see Jack back in the team and he slotted into the midfield seamlessly. His class was evident for all to see: the trademark gliding past his man, the deft flicks and control were all still there and gave the fans a reminder of what we have missed for the past year and a half. To be honest the performances of Jack and Bacary were the only positive from a very flat performance from the team. We really struggled to take the game to QPR and although the threat of losing a goal was under control many of our attacks just didn’t get going. The times when we did carve out a chance Julio Cesar was on top form to thwart anything that came near his goal.

I feel from our starting 11 we lacked the required pace needed to stretch the QPR back four; we really struggled to get in behind their defence and made it slightly easier for them to defend against. As with all teams Mark Hughes brings to the emirates he ensured his players would frustrate at every opportunity, there was time-wasting even during the first half. This riled the home crowd and was surely part of Hughes plan to turn the fans against their team; the longer the game went on the more likely the fans would turn on the players.

For all the good Podolski and Ramsey can do on the ball they don’t possess the pace to really give the full back something to think about. The arsenal attack was screaming out for something to inject some new impetus. That came when Wenger finally introduced the returning Theo Walcott into action, Gervinho was added soon after and the change brought about instant results. Now the QPR team were forced further back, their fullbacks were kept on their toes and the chances came for the arsenal.

Although we looked more likely to score in the game the real turning point was the sending off of M’bia. The defender was deservedly red carded after stupidly lashing out at Thomas Vermaelen after initially winning a free kick after a tussle. That played right into our hands and the extra man advantage only added to the pressure on the QPR defence. Julio Cesar was on a one man mission to prevent an arsenal victory as he pulled off some excellent reflex saves to keep the score line level. At times it seemed like it just wouldn’t be our day as the ball would bounce and ricochet anywhere but into the back of the net. Finally the goal came courtesy of Mikel Arteta and I don’t think I have witnessed a scruffier goal before. Cesar managed to fling himself to deny a Giroud header as the ball bounced out Ramsey fired in a shot which deflected and looped in the air, Arteta got his head to the ball only for it to bounce of the bar, when the ball dropped the Spaniard was first to it to poke it hope from literally on the line.

There was a massive sigh of relief from the whole of the emirates that we finally took the lead. All we needed to do was retain possession and see out the last 5 or so minutes against the ten men. Easier said than done, as is the arsenal way we still managed to present QPR with two clear cut chances. They really should have taken one of their chances but for arsenals benefit I’m glad they didn’t.

On reflection it was important on so many levels that we got the three points in this game, with a trip to old Trafford next week to continue the bad run of results could have been the worst preparation going into the game. The midweek game against Reading holds no relevance as the squad for that game will probably not include any players that will start against united. I don’t even think Jack who has long been mooted to play in the Capital One game will be involved now after his appearance yesterday. We have a week where I hope we will get some positive news on the returns of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby and Gervinho who was stretchered off yesterday. We have some unfinished business from last season we need to address with the boys from Manchester and Jack just might swing things in our favour.

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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