Gunners keep in the mix with victory over Spurs

Coming into the weekend it looked like a tough one for the Gunners, could they potentially lose ground on the title contenders as they prepared for a North London derby. Man city had pulled off an impressive victory taking into account they were down to ten men after ten minutes of their game v Hull City, Chelsea were likely to follow suit and stretch their lead to a morale sapping ten points. Aston Villa had something to say about that and following a crisp finish from Fabian Delph the ball was firmly planted back into Arsenal’s court.

When opportunities come your way you have to take them, Aston Villa’s win would have all been in vein if the Gunners did not get a result at White Hart Lane. Especially given the fact that Liverpool quite impressively dismissed Manchester United in the earlier Sunday kick off. They avoided their banana skin and so the Arsenal needed to follow suit and get something from the game to shove two fingers up at the doubters that have prematurely written them out of the title race.

Whether you think Arsenal will win the league or not the additional threat from teams below the top four places provided the motivation for the Gunners to do all they can to keep them at bay. It may seem farfetched to believe Tottenham, given their past 7 days were storming towards nicking the Arsenal’s position in the top four but as the saying goes forms goes out the window in derby games. The Bale inspired teams of the past have given Spurs the belief they can get something out of games against Arsenal. Not so much the matches hosted at the Emirates but certainly games at White Hart Lane provide a threat, a defeat would have sparked the ‘squeaky bum time’ comments whilst a victory would ease the pressure somewhat. A draw would have been good for Everton who have been creeping under the radar.

So taking all that into account the silky humdinger blasted in by Tomas Rosicky in the second minute to settle the game provided a welcome result for all connected to Arsenal. Mathematically it is still possible for the current top four teams to be caught but psychologically it’s a massive blow to the chasing pack.

rosicky

The goal itself was something special, the return ball to Rosicky from Oxlade-Chamberlain may have been somewhat fortunate but the finish there was no doubts over any fortune. The connection was so sweet the ball whistled into the back of the net as sharply as a bullet. The kind of finish you would expect from Rosicky. There are certain players that produce special finishes as if it’s programmed into their DNA. It can be 50/50 whether the ball flies into row Z but when they do connect correctly there is nothing more beautiful in the game of football. Andrei Arshavin had a similar knack for the special though it was his work rate that set him apart from Rosicky.

The defence as well deserve plenty praise for their performance yesterday, they stood strong and dealt with everything thrown at them. It wasn’t easy for the back four, the early goal adjusted the game plan slightly as the team were encouraged to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter. Although comfortable in the first half it was a different prospect in the second half as the expected pressure from Spurs intensified. Adebayor was always a threat and 100% concentration was needed for the entire 90 minutes. All the hard work was almost undone by a crazy moment from Szczesny when he dropped a routine catch at the feet of Chadli but a combination of Mertesacker and Koscielny doing their best Gandalf impression ensured the ball did not pass the goal line.

At the end of the day you have to take your chances if you want something in a game. Arsenal took one of their chances while Spurs wasted their gift, the stats showed that the Gunners had one of their lowest possession stats in a Premiership game but it’s what you do with the ball that makes that stat relevant.

The visit of Chelsea is next for the Gunners, never an easy game especially against a Mourinho team but the victory yesterday should give them great confidence leading up to the game. Roll on Saturday!

Enjoy your day people.
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Walcott and Podolski out of game. Can Coquelin help Arteta?

Can a bad week get even worse on Saturday? That is the question we would all like to know, we don’t want it to come to fruition, not at all but these days we don’t know which Arsenal will turn up against West Brom. The loss to Olympiacos was shrugged off by the manager, he played a weakened team against the Greeks and in all reality a defeat was far from a shock. On one side of the coin the first team were afforded a rest and a chance to recharge their batteries ready for the battle at the weekend on the other side of the coin the players that underperformed against Swansea were given a chance to pamper their egos rather than prove themselves at the earliest opportunity in the next game.

The stats men will be rubbing their hands throwing out all sorts of statistics highlighting how long it has been since we last won and how many games in a row we have lost etc. They don’t care about the relevance of the games just what looks good in their tables and pie charts. Now we receive the news that 1st team players Theo Walcott and Lukasz Podolski are out of the game at the weekend. Surely more ammo to back up crisis talk; all they need to do now is claim Aaron Ramsey will take up the role on the right side of the front three and there will be riots in the streets of North London.

The loss of Walcott and Podolski are massive losses to the team, they do bring goals to the team and goals are required until we purchase a striker to share the goal burden with Olivier Giroud. One thing Arsenal has always been good at over the years is pulling off results when we are at our lowest. It doesn’t have to be against a title rival for us to raise our game; we have received the wakeup call last Saturday, the slap in the face to bring us to our senses, refocus and overcome the pain.

I wasn’t happy with Arsene rushing back Rosicky into the team on Saturday after he only just returned to training within the past couple weeks. He will be vital to our fortunes for the rest of the season and his cameo on Tuesday gave a reminder to those who may have forgotten his importance to the Arsenal midfield. It was good that the manager saw sense and only played him for one half of the game. I want him back, badly but I don’t want him broken within 2 weeks like what has happened to Abou Diaby. Just ease him back a bit Arsene, not too much too soon.

coquelin

One thing I would like to see is for Francis Coquelin to step it up to the next level. He has settled in and established himself in the first team squad, he has been called upon when required but to me he needs a breakout performance in his preferred position to show us Arsenal fans we can rely on him as the holding midfielder.

It has been quite evident lately that the strain of keeping the Arsenal midfield ticking over is taking its toll on Mikel Arteta. He has done an admiral job stepping into the void vacated by Alex Song however it seems he is in need of a break, the problem is who comes in to replace him? Coquelin is young and has potential but for a player whose main position is as a defensive midfielder he has only really been played in that role in cup games. His appearances in the league has been more to close out games in the dying minutes, his defensive mentality is called upon to add protection to the defence/midfield. Yet Wenger has never taken the decision to rest Arteta and replace him with the young Frenchman.

arteta

Coquelin did impress last season when played in emergency positions like at fullback when we had terrible luck with injuries in that position. His versatility was essential and a welcome assistance to the team however in his preferred role we are yet to witness that standout performance, the kind of performance that makes you sit back and think he could make that spot his own within time. Even Emmanuel Frimpong last season at that terrible point at the start of last season managed to pull off an encouraging performance against Liverpool which had many neutral observers predicting big things. Yes he got sent off in the game but he did enough while on the pitch against top opposition to show he has a big game performance in him. The injury has set Frimpong back but if he works hard and gets over the injuries he could get back to that level. Coquelin needs to take advantage of any chance he gets and puts in the kind of performance that makes the neutrals take notice. At the moment he is caught in that void where he is just a squad player, he needs to step up to the level where he is talked about as the future successor to the defensive midfield role.

I’m not attacking Coquelin, I believe in him as a player and as a fan I want him to grow and improve to the level that the fans feel the team is weakened when he is not around. He is still young as I said but given the current state of the team patience is in short supply with the fans. We need cover in all positions in the team; like for like cover that leaves each position in good hands.

Arteta needs a break; Coquelin needs to give Arsene a reminder that he has someone to share the load.

Enjoy your day people.

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New week but Swansea woes remain.

It’s Monday; can we put the events of the weekend behind us? Hardly, this is getting all too familiar now, the poor performances and results are becoming too frequent for any Arsenal fans liking. All teams go through bad patches but you would think the 5-2 win over Spurs would have been the launch pad to a positive run of results. Instead the opposite effect has happened, the performances have been way below par and the concurrent results prove that.

jenks

The Swansea result pushed us to a new low on the morale scale; I’ve never witnessed such negativity around the emirates when the game ended. Something has to change because right now we seem to be equivalent to a volcano bubbling up and ready to blow and the potential devastation of that eruption is frightening. I’m not part of the Wenger out brigade but I am unhappy with the where we are at right now.

Still, I’ve managed to compose myself after the initial red mist on Saturday to reflect on some points from the weekend’s events, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

Wenger is under pressure like never before.

I believe this time that Arsene has lost the faith of a high percentage of fans this season. A culmination of several factors has pushed the limits of many arsenal fans, those being the continuing lack of silverware year on year, the selling of marquee players each season, the lack of quality signings to replace the marquee players and perseverance with the poor quality players. Those are just a few factors but seem to be key to the current bad feeling. It’s nothing new hearing the press mention the uncertainty of Wenger’s job but this season it seems slightly more real it could be a possibility. I don’t think the time is right for a parting of ways especially with a transfer window opening in January; there is an opportunity to right the mistakes and spend some of the so-called extra cash at Arsene’s disposal. I feel our next few transfer dealings can make or break our season and Arsene’s fortunes. One disturbing thing I noticed leaving the ground on Saturday was the witnessing of some fans chanting at Wenger: “you’re just a French Jimmy Saville, Paedo Paedo”. Although some frustrations can be justified to start attacking the manager using the kind of nasty, crass material we wouldn’t accept from opposition fans is taking it too far. That’s just a spiteful, personal attack on a human being which is uncalled for, any criticism for the manager should be kept to football reasons alone, they were just a handful of fans but I hope it doesn’t spread to more unhappy fans.

There are problems up front.

One thing that was evident on Saturday was that the alternatives we have to Olivier Giroud simply did not do enough to back up any claims they can provide any genuine cover in that position. On this occasion I witnessed the central striking role being alternated between Gervinho and Podolski but the threat was minimal. I suppose it’s unfair to base this on one game after all I have called for Podolski to be given a run of games in that position. Gervinho earlier in the season managed to score from that position but since he has returned from injury he has looked quite poor up front and on the wing.  Olivier Giroud did make an appearance in the second half but his threat was dealt with quite comfortably by the Swansea defence. Giroud has proved himself of late but we still require a plan B for when he isn’t firing. Right now experimenting is not the answer, we do not have that luxury as we slip down the table. What is the solution? Well I suppose the transfer window since Chamakh is not even considered an option we have no specialist centre forwards.

Why is Rosicky thrown in so soon?

It was only last Wednesday that we got our first glimpse of Tomas Rosicky as he had returned to training. It was good news that he would soon be returning to the team. Arsene in his press conference before the Everton game informed us that Tomas would be a few weeks away from gaining match fitness. He was meant to gain that match fitness with a few appearances for the u-21 team however he was named as a substitute or the Everton game. To be honest I put his inclusion down to the fact that Lukasz Podolski was a late withdrawal and Rosicky was making up the numbers on the bench. On Saturday he was named again and he even came on the pitch replacing Wilshere in the second half. I question why he is being rushed back; especially taking into account how long he was injured for. I’m not linking his appearance on the pitch contributing to the defeat I am just highlighting how his inclusion smacks of desperation. Andre Arshavin was again missing from the bench and I really need to understand how he is behind the pecking order for someone who hasn’t played this season. The last thing we need is for Rosicky to break down so soon after returning, the results aren’t great at the moment but the need to rush back injured players is a bit much. Diaby should be a marker that easing back into the groove is the best policy or face more time on the treatment table.

What style do we play?

Lately I have become slightly disillusioned to the type of football we play, we have always been known to playing beautiful football that would win plaudits from all over. Even when we weren’t winning any trophies we still had a style of play that would destroy teams, our only weakness was the ability to maintain the results throughout the whole season, and we would generally lose form in the final quarter of the season. This season the performances have been flat, even when we have won games it has been more like a chess stalemate between us and teams who in the past were never the same level as us. We don’t dominate teams like we used to and our standard recently has dropped to the point we are battling to get anything out of games, it is not enjoyable to watch from the stands at times. The formation we played seemed more effective when we played our rapid passing game with Fabregas at the centre of everything. Since he left along with some other personnel the question is do we have the players currently who thrive in our 4-3-3 formation? This season it doesn’t seem so, we still have quality players who can grind out results for us but are we now playing a system that gets the best out of who we have? Do we have the kind of system that would scare the hell out of anyone who came to the emirates as we dominate and overpower them? It could just be a confidence thing at the moment but it is a dangerous precedent if teams become comfortable playing against us at home. Once you lose the fear factor you risk a hard battle to regain that back. I just feel apart from some games early in the season we don’t seem to have the balance right in our style of play, the Shalke game was a warning we have not heeded. If we are to continue with the 4-3-3 then we need the right personnel playing in the right positions and have quality back up when injuries occur. Some of the holes that have been filled at times have been with the wrong players and it has affected the shape of the team, again I refer to the transfer window; strengthening is required of the squad and the uncertainty of players’ futures does not help. We need committed players working together and making our game play click once again.

Well those are my thoughts; please feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

I must add that thoughts go out to Peter Hill-Wood and family after the news of his heart attack on Friday. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for him; no matter what your views on how the club has been run he is part of Arsenal and we stand by and support our own. Get well soon PHW.

On the F.A. Cup draw look at it as a chance for revenge. Swansea are not our rivals they are merely a club in our division, the sooner order is resumed the better. Wenger now has a chance to make up for Saturday at least.

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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Some points to address part 2 – AFC

Yesterday I raised some points to you in the aftermath of the Old Trafford game, today I continue them to you:

Is it time to cut our losses on injury prone players?

Going into the united match the squad was weakened by the loss of injured players. Now injuries are not something you can avoid, it happens to all teams, it happens to us a lot but you reach a point where you question whether lady luck is not on your side or whether you do something about it and not have to rely on luck. Abou Diaby is a player I believe in so much, if he was injury free he has the potential to be up there with players such as Yaya Toure. He started the season so well, he produced the performances many fans doubted he had in him and then he got injured. All the momentum and progress lost as he spends another sustained amount of time in the treatment room. We missed his presence on Saturday and there is no real idea of when he will return to the team.

Thomas Rosicky although injured playing for the Czech republic over the summer is another player who last season was rejuvenated in arsenal colours. He proved his worth with some awesome displays as we stormed to 4th place in the table. Despite the heroics we find ourselves in an all too familiar situation where Rosicky is spending more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.

It just seems the longer we persevere with injury prone players the more the team suffers because when those players are injured we have no other options when first choice players become unavailable. A valuable place is taken in the premier league squad by players who cannot be called upon when required. We have done this for years only for the infamous line ‘like a new player’ to be used every time they return for a 2 game run.

Is it time to be ruthless and consider shipping on the more injury prone players? i would find it hard to see us get rid of Diaby but how much longer can we rely on him to play at least 5 games in a row without injury. Before you abuse me this is just a point I am raising, I am not campaigning for us to get rid of any players. For all the improvements made by Kieran Gibbs at left back his injury record leaves us in the situation where we now rely on Andre Santos to fill the gap, this leads onto my next point.

Santos has to play

Yes, I know he was torn a new one by Valencia on Saturday but not many full backs do get an easy game against the united winger. Our Brazilian is currently going through a crisis of confidence as the current negativity surrounding arsenal football club has produced a scapegoat. Will he turn around the perception? It’s a tough one to call, all players go through ups and downs and santos is definitely in the middle of a down period. He is being blamed for things that aren’t his fault at times and currently can do nothing right.

Santos defending has not been an in-house secret the nation is unaware of. We know his attacking can far outweigh his defensive side. More suited to a wing back role rather than an out an out full back role Santos is often found wanting out on the left hand side. Can it all be down to his positional play or could the addition factors of support and team formation contribute?  It is probably a combination of all three but I have to say I don’t agree with the idea of playing Sagna or any other player out of position to fill in at that role.

Santos is the specialist full back and it’s a choice Arsene Wenger will have to live and die by. It’s a player he signed and one he will need to assess on keeping or selling at the next transfer window but I think the option of playing an out of position player ahead of him is premature. He can still contribute at left back and if he was dropped for Sagna or Coquelin then there is no point registering him to play for the club ever again. If there is any chance of him regaining his confidence that would be shot to pieces to drop him for those options. Wenger needs to address how the team can help out Santos during his bad spell rather than leaving him to the lions.

what we as fans can do to help is to get behind him, as frustrating as it can be at times. never in history has a player raised his game after receiving verbal abuse from his own fans from the stands. we have to make do with him for now so the best we can do is unite and support all the team.

OK, moving away from saturday, we have a game today and hopefully an opportunity to bury some demons in the process. a positive result today will go a long way to restoring some pride back. At present it’s not looking good with our squad now weakened by the loss of Aaron Ramsey.

One thing Arsenal are good at is pulling off results at our lowest periods in a season. And that is why despite our threadbare squad travelling to Germany a win is not beyond us. The team need to stick together, fight for each other, fight for every ball and make the chances count. it is not beyond us, we are a better team than Shalke, tonight is the chance to prove it.

Enjoy your day people.Enjoy the game

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