Can Arsenal win a trophy this season?

Many Arsenal fans after the Aston Villa result on the opening game of the season would have bitten your hand off to be sitting in second place with 12
games remaining, especially when taking into consideration the gap at the top is down to a single point.

Despite being overlooked by the bookies at the start of the
season, the Gunners sit in a healthy position at 9/1 to win the title.
Consistency has as much deserted Manchester City and Chelsea as has recently hit Arsenal, the draw with Manchester United may not have been the ideal result but still places Arsenal up there and equally in contention for the Premiership title. Manchester City and Chelsea still have to go and visit
Liverpool at Anfield and it could leave the door open for Arsenal to step up and take the pole position.

Much focus has been made of the Gunners fixture list through February and March but that does not mean their rivals do not face tricky encounters themselves.
Looking further afield you can get some good odds on Arsenal to win any
trophy this season. At 9/2 they look a good shout to win the FA cup, Liverpool pose a big threat to those plans but with a chance for immediate revenge the memories of the 5-1 drubbing should provide enough motivation for the Arsenal players to put in a performance.

wenger trophies
For those who feel the current squad can deliver the title as well then
you can get odds of 28/1 for a premier league and FA cup double. If any
Gunners fans are feeling really confident (and that’s a big rose-tinted if) then you can get 125/1 on an FA cup, premier league and champions league triple! With the Premier League being so tight it may be difficult to call what’s going to happen but for the betting fan it makes for an exciting and hopefully profitable title chase.

If you wish to have some more sporting fun instead then you
can try the Soccer Safari slots game. Soccer Safari at RiverBelle is one of the more serious slots you will find with the chance to bet £120 a spin and
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Placing in order the honors the Gunners could potentially win currently I would place the FA Cup as most achievable followed by the premier league and then the Champions league. Does Arsene Wenger share that logic? Who knows, the first clue will be in the Arsenal line up on Saturday. It could be a massive error if the game with Liverpool is taken lightly, despite the leggy performance on Wednesday against Manchester United it is important that certain key personnel are available to win the tie.

Enjoy your day people.
Post brought to you courtesy of Paul Mcshane

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Arsenal are Still in the Title Hunt Despite Man United Draw

It’s been a tough few days for Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. On Saturday lunchtime, he witnessed his team’s most lacklustre performance since that day at Old Trafford in 2011, and four days later had to suffer the frustration of failing to break down Manchester United at the Emirates.
 
afc mancs
 
We always knew mid-February could define our season and, with a 5-1 defeat and 0-0 all we have to show for it so far, an air of pessimism has percolated into the minds of fans. Indeed, Arsenal’s title odds have soared from 3/1 to 8/1  on some football betting websites.
 
The squad have received most of this ire, with below-par Mesut Ozil a particular target, but Wenger himself has come in for criticism in the live football commentary for his failure to sign players in January  when our squad was burning low on fuel.
 
Sadly, history is history and if we all sit here and moan then we could end up in the situation we were two years ago, when even finishing in the top four was questionable. Let’s appreciate what we’ve got.
 
And let’s face it, Arsenal are still second in the league, just a point behind the leaders who dropped points against a much weaker team than United, West Brom, on Tuesday. Man City may have a game in hand but, as they say, they’ve still got to win it and, with their congested Champions League schedule, fitting in a home tie with Sunderland will be tough.
 
Meanwhile, Liverpool and Tottenham’s resurgences are probably just that and, with our three-point buffer over these two clubs, we should have enough to stave them off. So what’s all the complaining about? We’re in a far healthier position right now than we have been for years and both Chelsea and City have shown they are as prone to burnout as we are.
 
Thankfully, our FA Cup clash with Liverpool on Sunday gives us something different to focus on. It is evident that the stress of the title race gets to teams at some point in the season and we must not forget that we won five league games on the bounce in December/January, a feat that was never realistically going to be kept up.
 
Enjoy your day people.
 
Guest post brought to you courtesy of M. Weaver

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Another year without a trophy for the Gunners

So that’s it then, another season without a trophy for the Arsenal. In a season that is going on record to consolidate our decline we now find ourselves in the position where our only hope of silverware now is to win the Champions League. Every team has ups and downs in a season, only a select few has a rosy ride throughout but the reality is as a football fan you will have your highs and your lows. The problem here is the lows for Arsenal this season have been so low that it can be measurable in comparison to previous years, previous regimes even.

The exit from the capital one cup to Bradford should have been the freak result we look back on with embarrassment and use to realign the reality check of today’s team. That result should have been the motivation to never experience such feeling again. To think back to similar levels of embarrassment you have to recall the defeat to Wrexham many moons ago or that York City result. Freak results in pure isolation, the players at the time felt the shame and made damn sure they would not see something like that happen again on their watch.

We fast forward to this season and it seems the result with Bradford is not even powerful enough to motivate the team to put things right. We manage to let Blackburn Rovers, a team now in the Championship come to our ground and leave with a win. When they were a premiership team a home defeat to them would be deemed unforgivable and yet we managed to outdo ourselves yesterday.

all too common pose

This defeat is bad, real bad; these defeats are now becoming the norm and it seems the rot is well and truly setting in. yes, the team we put out should well and truly be good enough to dispatch the likes of Blackburn at home but like I mentioned in yesterday’s post the mental focus and never say die attitude should be there for these types of games rather than being reserved for when a big club comes to visit.

Ability is not in question, it is that extra determination and ruthlessness that is lacking. That is what separates the top teams from the pretenders. Right now we are losing the right to even use the name ‘Arsenal’ and ‘Big Team’ in the same sentence. We have watched over the last few years how Liverpool have been in decline and had a little chuckle at their misfortunes. Right now it feels like we have slipped to their same level of decline, no longer challenging for league titles and only managing to raise our game for the big teams.

To put all our eggs now in the Champion’s League basket is insane, whilst finishing in the top four does not compare to winning a trophy. Am I being a negative fan when I say I cannot see us winning the Champions League this year or just realistic?  I would love to be wrong in this case but it’s a tough ask for even the most biased Arsenal fan. We seem to be our most vulnerable when we believe our own hype, it has happened countless times this season. We string together a couple good wins then the arrogance rears its ugly head, we don’t try as hard because we believe we have a right to win a game without pure grit and determination and we end up back at square one much like yesterday.

blackburn goal

Even the teams that make the game look easy put in the work, you watch the likes of Barcelona and you see they do not take their foot off the gas. They work for their wins and they show pure ruthlessness. Being 3-0 up they don’t close out the game; they go in search of more goals. They maintain their focus throughout and it’s something we need to learn.

Arsene when he joined the club was big on mental focus of the players and we reaped the benefits from that. What has changed now? Does he use a different approach to what was used during his early years or are the current crop just not getting it? You need a winning mentality with your players and the longer we go without winning trophies the harder it is to attract players who are used to winning and have that hunger to join our club. And when I say attract these players I mean attract the players that are used to winning in top leagues who can bring the level of quality required to improve the team. I say this because when you look at the stats of say someone like Gervinho; on paper he was a monster in France for that Lille team. We signed him for our club and it is quite clear despite some good qualities he is not good enough to really improve our team.

gervinho another miss

When our scouts were running the rule over Gervinho and Hazard I am sure they identified the greater talent would be found in the boots of Hazard; yet we stumped up for the cheaper option. I’m not a scout so I did not watch Gervinho extensively prior to him joining the club but surely all the bad points from his game must have been there when he was playing for Lille? Did the good points outweigh the bad points or was the price compared to Hazard the main motivation.

Anyway I didn’t plan to single out Gervinho from yesterday the whole team is culpable for the result. No player yesterday deserves to slip under the radar. Much like how every player on the pitch last week deserved praise against Sunderland every player yesterday should hang their head in shame. The fans deserve an apology, complacency is never acceptable.

I certainly would not like to cut off my nose to spite my face and by that I mean I want us to fight to our last breath to win the Champions League. Regardless of if I think we can win it or not I would never wish we go out of a competition to prove a point.

I was at the game yesterday and left the stadium so angry; I do not want to feel that way again. The team can start to repay the fans that paid their hard-earned cash to attend by getting a result on Tuesday.

Stay strong people. More for our own sanity than anything else.

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Is it stick or twist with Bayern game around the corner?

F.A cup duty today for the Arsenal as Blackburn takes the trip down to the Emirates. There is a lot of uncertainty in how exactly we will approach this game. We have the massive first leg of the last 16 in the Champions’ League against Bayern midweek and that will surely have a bearing in team selection for today’s game.

For Arsene it must surely be one of his biggest selection problems this season. The defence seems quite threadbare due to some overlying injuries and the luxury of loaning out defenders for the season. Not 100% sure who benefits best out of some of our loans out; the club or the players?

Right now it would slightly more reassuring having Johan Djourou around for today’s game, it avoids the dilemma of rushing back Skipper Thomas Vermaelen or Laurent Koscielny with Tuesday in mind. We have the option of Ignasi Miquel stepping in at the back but a centre back pairing of Miquel and Mertesacker would be seriously exposed to any attack with pace. Sagna is an option but should we really be in the position of calling on our first choice right back to now be our saviour in the middle.

Sagna was immense against Sunderland when called upon in a time of need but that really should have been a one-off. We should not really have to rely on him there again. Arsene has talked up the value of Sagna in that position but I really feel we are playing Russian roulette with that one.

sagna afc

Besides Carl Jenkinson is suspended today so there is a vacancy at right back if Sagna was shifted. Could we become even more makeshift at the back and play Coquelin there or draft in Yennaris?

It seems a few younger players may be given a chance today taking into account injuries, suspensions, pending Champions league tie and level of opposition today. Arsene could be onto a hiding for nothing regardless of who he plays; he could be blamed for resting players for the competition in which we have the best chance for winning silverware or he could be blamed for risking players despite a massive game against Bayern days away.

All I do know is Blackburn cannot be taken lightly with the memories of Bradford still so fresh in the minds of the fans and players. We lost that day with our strongest team at the time, not a young player in sight and so it proves ability is not in question but mental focus to raise your performance for  your Blackburn’s’ and Bradford’s’ the same you would for your Spur’s and United’s’.

ox shoots

Jack won’t be risked and that is understandable, we should have enough quality to not have to rely on Jack’s presence on the field today. I just hope whether it’s a young or experienced player on the pitch before the game the importance of a victory is drilled home. We really cannot afford to lose today, a draw is not ideal either but not the end of the world. Posters of the Bradford game put up around the dressing room could do the job of a thousand words from the manager. Many larger teams have already been knocked out by lower opposition, home advantage is no given right of a win.

Despite some meaty battles with Blackburn over the years helped in part by the ground work set by Mark Hughes and his thug approach; I did not expect the same level of tension from this game today. Hughes is long gone, Savage is no more, and the chicken people don’t quite know what they want in a manager meaning most history between the clubs is nonexistent. So I couldn’t foresee any bad blood or antagonists in the game, that is until the news broke yesterday of David Bentley making a return to his old club.

bentley oh dear

This news changes the dynamics of the game completely as he is eligible to make his debut against Arsenal. The way he left the club, his ownership by Spurs, his personality in general is enough to generate unwanted attention and distraction. He will be up for the game no doubt and the last thing I could bear is a Blackburn victory inspired by his appearance. Old boys returning with opposition has been hit and miss with Arsenal and I pray it is a massive miss today. He is a waste of space who had it all before him but wanted more with half the effort put in. players like him belong on the scrap-heap and I for damn sure don’t want a performance against Arsenal to be part of his recovery.

Please Arsenal if you ever needed any more motivation it has presented itself in the form of Bentley. Take us into the next round please and keep him in your pocket .Perfect opportunity for Gunnersaurus to Harlem Shake in his face…

Enjoy your day people.

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Is Lower League gap closing? F.A. Cup reflection

Well I have to say what a crazy weekend it has been in the FA Cup; shocks a plenty as so-called giants have succumb to the tenacity and spirit of lower league teams. The best thing about the weekend has to be that despite our wobble we managed to dispatch our opponents in Brighton. Arsenal managed to pass their test and avoid being one of the premiership teams to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whistle is blown; game is won and successful passage into the next round achieved; no shameful exit and no unwanted replay on the agenda. It seems a long time since we were able to glide under the radar unnoticed and I quite like it that way.

Now our focus turns to Wednesday against Liverpool, the fans are happy and now it’s down to Arsene Wenger to ensure that the weekend’s events do not spawn any complacency. Liverpool will be down but it can certainly act as a motivation for them to right their wrongs with an instant response against us. Arsenal need to want it more than Liverpool and that means we need to turn that spring in our step into a determined and focused stamp of intent.

It’s a bit too early for a pre-match review of the Liverpool game on Wednesday so I will turn my attentions back to the giant killing of the weekend. It certainly raises the question of whether the gap in quality from the elite in the premiership is becoming shortened against lower placed teams.

In Arsene’s long stint as manager he managed to hold onto a record of never losing to lower league opposition in cup football. That was broken eventually against Burnley a few years ago when he fielded a young team in a quarter-final of the Carling Cup. Even then it was shrugged off because of the team selected; fast forward to this season and the loss on penalties to Bradford in the Capital One Cup. On this occasion we selected the strongest team we possibly could in that tie, no kids were anywhere near the starting eleven or the bench and yet we managed to go out of the competition.

bradford fc Jack Wilshere

Bradford fans celebrate around Jack

 

We may not have been outplayed by Bradford and it did seem it was one of those days where nothing seemed to work for the team but at the end of the day given the standing of both clubs in their respective leagues there should have only been one outcome. We went out and will always look back on that moment with embarrassment and as a permanent reality check in our clubs history.

Now you look at that result and say Bradford played the game of their lives and should enjoy the moment before being brought back down to earth in the Semi’s against Aston Villa. Yes Villa was at the time going through one of their worst runs of form in recent years but they had two legs to get it right. How wrong were we? Bradford took the game to Aston Villa, refused to bow down to Premier league opposition and deservedly earned their place in the League Cup Final against Swansea City.

Now we look at the results pulled off by the likes of Leeds, Oldham and Luton Town. When the fourth round draw was made you would be forgiven for assuming you would see Tottenham, Liverpool and Norwich in the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup. One upset out of the three at a push but for all three to finish in favour of the underdog is quite a feat. Each of those teams deservedly won their games and the fans of those premiership teams cannot begrudge them their moment.

Leeds celebrate

Leeds celebrate against Spurs

 

Is the gap closing on the elite because of a raise in standard of lower league teams or is the so-called quality of the elite teams that are going out to these lower league teams reducing. I will include Arsenal in this question because of the Bradford result; you could probably say it’s a mixture of both factors. We certainly would not expect such results in the days of Vieira and Henry and even the most positive of Arsenal fans would admit our standard has declined over recent years; the lack of silverware is evidence enough.

Lower league teams have stepped up their quality over the years, gone are the days where every league below the premiership resorted to long ball football. As more and more young managers influenced by the workings of their successful managers from their playing days bring to their new jobs all the techniques they learned it becomes a lot evident when you watch lower league games in action. You will still get the odd long ball teams but there is a growing number of more and more passing teams that play good football in the championship and lower divisions.

oldham celebrate

Oldham celebrate Liverpool scalp

 

One other massive factor I would highlight from the recent giant killing is the psychological focus that is maintained by the underdog teams. They fight like it is their life depended on it and when watching the games you can see that they want it that bit more than their more privileged opponents. Complacency is a big failing in the so-called big teams and the managers struggle to motivate their players to give 100% when they know they are playing smaller teams.

It has reached the point where a top-tier team has to psychologically prepare for a game against Luton town the same way they would against Barcelona. It’s easier said than done and that is one of the failings that stun some of these top teams. It isn’t a case of just turning up and expecting the opposition to be star struck by your attendance.

That is exactly why the next round for Arsenal against Blackburn cannot be taken lightly; we know them well from their time in the premiership but given their standing now we will have to expect demand a fully focused performance.

It is our last realistic chance of silverware this season (the Champions League though not impossible will be a tough task) and the Bradford result should be motivation enough to not take this game for granted.

Enjoy your day people.

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