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.


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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Last 16 achieved, top of group still possible – AFC

Mission accomplished, we are through to the last 16 in the champions league. There have been many big name scalps already so far in the competition and so our achievement carries more kudos. It hasn’t been pretty, after a good start to the group stages the games against Shalke did their best to derail our momentum and it was important that the team pulled together and ensured they ground out the results required to qualify from the group.

Although winning the group is out of our hands it is not an impossible feat; we have learnt in the past how important winning the group is when the last 16 draws have been made. Arsene has a tough decision to make in the final game as players in need of a rest could get a well-earned breather but if we were to take the foot off the gas and Shalke did lose their last game it would be a gutting feeling. We will see, plenty football to be played before the next group fixture.

On the game itself the first half seemed very nervy and flat. Although we didn’t seem to be under much threat from the Montpellier attack the impetus from our team with added home advantage was nonexistent. It was an easily forgettable half and one that had me feeling glad I was sat at home cosy watching on TV rather than witnessing it after parting with my hard earned cash and sitting in the cold November air. We went in at half time 0-0, there were a few grumbles from the home crowd however I will give them a benefit of the doubt they were grumpy from the weather.

The second half had a much better outcome and brought the crowd back to life and happier times. It took about 4 minutes into the second half when Jack Wilshere managed to flick the ball past the keeper after a nice knockdown from Olivier Giroud playing against his old club. That was jack’s first goal since returning to first team duty and you could see the joy on his face as he reeled away to celebrate. The goal clearly removed the weight off our shoulders since a win was the minimum requirement from this game.

Although the general team play didn’t improve too much from the first half the goal certainly raised the crowd and the atmosphere, the players started to grow into their play. About 12 or so minutes later we scored our second goal, and what a goal it was. Lukasz Podolski who was clearly up for this game had a couple of chances that didn’t go his way earlier in the game. It was only a matter of time before he made his mark in the game which he sure did. Giroud was again the provider lofting the ball into Podolski’s path just inside the box. Still with plenty to do the German unleashed a powerful volley into the back of the net that the keeper had no chance in saving. The quality and technique of the volley was reminiscent of a Robin Van Persie volley scored against Charlton a few years ago. It was a special goal which ensured applause all around. We had our cushion which made the result pretty much assured on the night.

The goal scored by Podolski is the exact type of goal that reminds us of why he is in the team, problem is when he isn’t scoring his contribution gets questioned. It was nice that he scored his goal, he looked dangerous all night and proved his worth to the team.

The rest of the game was played out with less urgency as we did what was required for the night, as expected Shalke made sure they gained three points from their game against Olympiacos and so our win was vital to ensure qualification from the group.

Some mini points from the game:

Long overdue clean sheet.

It was great for the defence to get a clean sheet last night. After all the plaudits from the early part of the season for our defence we went from shutting teams out to leaking goals at an alarming rate. I hope this is just the start of another prominent defensive run. Although comfortable against Montpellier there were still the odd moments where on another night we could have conceded. The important thing is the shut out will build the defenders confidence; as we all know football is all about confidence.

Giroud is becoming invaluable to our plans.

Olivier Giroud has started growing into the team, he now looks the part after a shaky start to his arsenal career. Even though he did not score yesterday he provided assists to both our goals by using his height and vision to set up his team mates. We now play to his strengths and the team is benefitting from this. Even if Thierry Henry does join us in January he will have a tough job getting in the team ahead of ironically our new number 12. Let’s hope the number 14 shirt isn’t vacant…

Injured players returning.

It was great to see Gervinho and Gibbs returning to the first team squad. Even though Gibbs didn’t get on the pitch his presence on the bench is enough to raise the spirits of the team and the fans. What we need now is strength in depth and options from the bench. The return of those two players will go a long way to boosting our fortunes. I suppose you can add Oxlade chamberlain to the list of returnees. Although he didn’t have the best of games, he is still finding his feet after injury himself.

Next up is Aston Villa on Saturday, the dreaded 17.30 kick off slot. Lets carry on the momentum from the past two games and get a result at Villa park.

Enjoy your day people

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Norwich revenge fails – AFC

Well that was not part of the plan. Operation get revenge on Norwich fell flat on its face. Yesterday I mentioned how we had unfinished business with the canaries and a win was minimum expected from the game. As in true Arsenal fashion the games we expect to win are the ones we save our worst performances for.

Due to traffic problems I was unable to catch any of the first half of the game, maybe that was a blessing in disguise because if the second half is anything g to go by I witnessed a flat, toothless  forgettable performance by our boys.

All the pre match talk was about the inclusion of Jack Wilshere in the first team squad for yesterday’s game. At the time it was exciting to think we will have Jack back but also worrying that a return too early was not needed. Based on our current form we were performing well in midfield and had a number of options to select, we were not desperate for his return. By the end of yesterday’s game our abundant stock of midfielders had shrivelled to emergency levels and the sight of Jack on the field would have been a welcome sight.

With the loss of Theo Walcott from the international break Alex Oxlade –Chamberlain has now decided to keep Theo company in the treatment room after limping off from the game with a knock just 8 minutes after coming onto the field. The once frozen out Arshavin will now find himself vital to the team. It’s amazing how quickly fortunes can change, our injury list is growing at a faster rate than expected and now we find ourselves in a situation where the next team will be picked by default because there are no other options.

I really struggle to find any positives from yesterday’s game, we really were that bad. Norwich really should have scored a couple more goals. The fact that we finished the game at only one nil is flattering to us. Gervinho who was so impressive when Wenger took the chance and played the Ivorian in a central striking role seems to have forgotten what to do when played on the flanks. With Olivier Giroud given the striking role Gervinho’s influence has diminished out wide. Wenger needs to address how to can reignite Gervinho or move him back to the middle.  Giroud didn’t do enough in my opinion but looking at our bench yesterday there was no alternative option for the striker, maybe the sight of Chamakh on the bench (instead of Jack if there was no intention to use him) would have instilled more urgency in the Frenchman’s game. Santi was quiet as the Norwich team focused on nullifying his threat. That won’t be the first and last time he will receive extra attention, but we need more than one man to be on his game to win. The whole team played poorly and have a lot to prove in our next game against Shalke.

After the game when asked about the reasons for the defeat Arsene Wenger said:

“I felt we lacked a bit of sharpness. We tried to get into the game after 20 minutes. But we missed what makes the success at the top level – that is complete focus”

I agree the focus was missing in attack and defence; the international break surely did not help our cause due to fatigue and the injuries to players. I suppose all the other teams in the league experience the same situation, some clubs more than others so maybe I can’t use that as an excuse.

Just like the rest of you I will have to shrug off this defeat and look forward to the next game. Call it a wakeup call, an immediate response is on the agenda and hopefully Shalke will feel the full brunt of a wounded ego.

Try to enjoy your day people.

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A Welcomed International Break For Wenger

It has been a quiet week for Arsene Wenger as most of our players have hooked up with their national teams to go and pick up an injury or two and take the sting out of any momentum we had at this early stage of the season. In actual fact though, rather than in previous seasons where there are more footballers on twitter than on our training ground during the international break, there are a few players coming back from injury and with Arteta struggling to get a look into the Spain squad, there is a little bit more life on the training ground than usual.

Arsene Wenger will love this! He absolutely hates letting his players go away with their national sides as they are then out of his control and more than often come back with little niggles. A lot of football blogs might say that Wenger is a little bit unreasonable in his resistance but when you look at the damage that has been done to RVP over the years while away with Holland and more recently Jack Wilshere with England, you can see where the resentment stems from.

With the likes of Arteta, Wilshere, Frimpong and Sagna all still around, this time will give Wenger a chance to work on things on the training ground while allowing those on the injury comeback some more time to build their fitness. On the back of the farce of Internationals, Wilshere, Sagna, and Frimpong will be closer to a first team return, while Szczesny and Diaby will be making progress on their injuries.

It was good to see Sagna play an hour for the U21s in midweek in the 2-0 win over Reading at Barnet. Although Jenkinson has made great strides and really stepped up to the occasions in the Frenchman’s absence, it is always nice to get a senior player back in the side. Especially one as consistent and accomplished as Sagna.

Then of course we are all looking forward to Wilshere making his return to the first team. The thought of him linking up with Carzola and Arteta in midfield is mouth-watering, and one that every fan should be excited for.

Of course it is great that we have our players representing their countries but it is nice to be a little bit more relaxed throughout the World Cup qualifiers without fearing for any injuries to key players. I know we still have a number of players who could pick up knocks, but it is good to know that we have a lot of things to look forward to on the back of next week. This international break will actually be very much welcomed!

Today’s post was brought to you courtesy of Luke Malcher at ThePlayersNet.Com . A quality football blog worth checking out.

Enjoy your day people.

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