Do or Die week for Arsenal

Well, the weekend threw up some bittersweet results for Arsenal fans, a wide range of emotions will have been experienced by the fans that watched the games of their Champion’s League place rivals. Always starting with highs then come the final whistle that emotional was substituted for lows.

At the end of the day it boils down to the Arsenal having their destiny in their own hands, win their games and they get a top four place anything else and the opportunity arises for Tottenham to steal in.

It’s funny how Arsenal fans that experienced the drive for third place last season with the need for an Arsenal victory away to West Bromwich Albion in their final game were most probably unanimous in agreement that a finish to a season with so much riding on the final day should never be repeated.

afc celebrate

Fast forward twelve months and that is the exact position Arsenal find themselves in, hardly ideal and it’s probably worth getting a check up from the doctor that the heart is in good working condition because next Sunday it will be tested to full capacity.

Now with the weekends round of games complete there’s a clearer picture of what is required and the positive and negative factors that await Arsenal.

Wigan relegation/F.A. Cup

Now I certainly do not know many fans that have a dislike for Wigan Athletic, the relegation survival specialists pulled off an amazing feat on Saturday when they beat Manchester City to lift the F.A. Cup. The underdogs had fans up and down the country if not the world saluting the efforts of a modest well run club on a small budget triumphing over the money bags mercenaries. That victory alone is enough to add to the already massive number of neutral fans that would like Wigan Athletic to survive relegation once more this year.

wigan celebrate

As things have played out both Arsenal and Wigan need a victory to stand a chance of achieving their current goals. A victory for Arsenal will relegate Wigan; a victory for Wigan will almost certainly hand the remaining Champions League place to Tottenham and provide them with a chance of survival on the final day of the season. As an Arsenal fan I would take no pride in relegating Wigan but a win is vital now, and as much as any potential headlines would state Arsenal send Wigan down I would look further back to Wigan’s game with Swansea last week as the straw that broke the camel’s back. They had a real chance to put the pressure on those around them; they were playing a Swansea team with nothing to play for and failed to take advantage. Arsenal if they win will play a part in Wigan’s relegation but cannot be seen as the villains.

Their performance against Manchester City on Saturday I’m sure will have been watched by the Arsenal squad, they will realise how much of a threat they can be as Saturday was no fluke, and it was a deserved victory. Wigan will be fully aware of what they need to do and as much as Arsenal fans would like to think Wigan would be inhibited by their post match celebrations in reality they are professional football players who know what is at stake and will prepare for it as you would expect any professional football team would.

Newcastle safe                 

Newcastle secured safety with their victory over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday and will mean they will approach the game with Arsenal in a slightly different mindset. That does not mean they will roll over and let the Arsenal walk over them. They owe their fans a good performance to make up for the stress they put them through in the last few weeks. It will be their final home game of the season and I expect they will put in the effort to win the game. Depending on the result from Tuesday’s game Arsenal will be taking on the Toon army either desperate or super desperate with added prayers to win the game. One thing Arsene Wenger will not expect is any favours from Alan Pardew, the two managers have a long history of clashes over the years and the chance to put one over his rival is incentive enough for Pardew to take the game seriously with his team selection. Sunday’s game will be massive no matter how you look at it

Sunderland to coast or panic?

Many onlookers see Spurs final game as a home banker; it’s hard not to disagree. The awkward thing to take into consideration is Arsenal winning against Wigan on Tuesday saves Sunderland from relegation; they would turn up at White Hart Lane in party mode. The two clubs have no acrimonious history that I remember and the possibility of an upset there is very slim. Paulo Di Canio as a new manager would send his team out to put in a good performance but without the added incentive of something to play for his players may struggle to rise to the occasion. On the other hand If Arsenal fail to win on Tuesday the pressure will be on and we might have some sort of game on our hands.

di canio and larsson

I suppose there’s no point looking too deep into other team’s results until the midweek game is out of the way. As it stands Arsenal’s destiny is in their own hands, the players know what they need to do, the fans know what they need to do, Arsene knows what they need to do, time for Arsenal to make it happen.

Enjoy your day people.

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Newcastle victory helps to highlight Gunner’s issues

Last game of 2012 is signed off with a win, a bit of a crazy victory but three much-needed points to continue the slow recovery back to the level we know we should be at. 7-3 is a flattering score-line and I suppose did its best to sugar-coat the evident frailties within the team. On three occasions we were pegged back by a Newcastle team low on confidence with the kind of goals that are becoming our trademark. The individual errors and soft goals keep on coming to the point where seven goals may be needed every game to ensure victory. That’s never going to happen so the next best thing is to address the defending and tighten it up at the back.

To be honest I’m not sure how that can be addressed with the current personnel, our defending has been highlighted all season and I am sure the backroom staff are doing something about it; problem is it is not transpiring through to the first team on match days.

I am not trying to put a dampener on a victory where we scored seven goals but the defeats to Bradford and Swansea are still pretty fresh and despite stretching our winning run to four games all it will take is for another defeat for all the gloom and negativity to return amongst Gooners.

This game served as the perfect evidence to present to Arsene Wenger and put forward the case for signings.

Defensively we need third wheel to shake things up.

At the back we are leaking too many goals to mount a serious challenge up the table; without a solid base all the good work upfront is for nothing. When you have a reputation for soft goals then the opposition are always confident they can get something against you. Mertesacker was missing yesterday through illness but on paper Koscielny is able cover at the back.

ba v verm

The problem we have is individually our defence are popular with the fans. When on fire Vermaelen is the darling of the Arsenal fans, Koscielny has proven himself now, Mertesacker has won plaudits this season, Sagna will always be regarded one of the finest right backs in the country and Gibbs has grown to the point where we feel we have replaced Clichy. So why the poor goals conceded every other game? Collectively it doesn’t seem to be working, we never seem solid enough and there are always clear-cut chances against us. We ride our luck a few times but eventually we pay for it.

My suggestion is that the timing is right for a top quality centre half to be purchased in the January window to keep the current personnel on their toes. Johan Djourou is clearly not regarded reliable enough, this is evident from his sparse appearances this season. In the summer I claimed he would be a good quality 4th choice centre back going into the season but in reality we need a player signed not as fourth choice but immediate competition for the starting role.

I can only put down the poor goals to complacency and with no competition for the starting role beyond the three core centre halves there is a little less pressure to maintain the highest standard. I know players don’t make individual errors on purpose but at the same time another (top quality) defender in the mix should let everyone know they need to their job and do it very well.

It may be deemed better to have a good balance of competition in certain positions and three top centre halves should normally be enough but a bit of unhealthy competition may do us some good.

Up front we need recruits

The game threw up many points regarding our options up front. We have Theo Walcott who is doing his best to prove he could fill that central striking role; his three goals yesterday again highlighted his promise and gave Arsene food for thought over his use in that position. The problem with Theo’s goal scoring form is until he signs a contract with the club he cannot be considered as the answer to anything. We are none the wiser if he will be signing a new contract and until he does we have to contend with the possibility of him moving on.

theo newc

That leaves us with Olivier Giroud as the only option as specialist centre forward at the club; indeed he has won over the fans after an initial slow start to his Arsenal career but we need an alternative to just playing to his strengths. Marouane Chamakh is as good as gone in the next transfer window after failing to prove himself at the club and Gervinho has shown no consistency in any position of late that he cannot be considered in any capacity.

Not forgetting the ACN in January when we lose the services of Gervinho; Chamakh was not called up for the Moroccan squad but that is not enough to suggest we have options now.

The player touted as a possible acquisition in January is Demba Ba; he still has that clause in his contract making him available at £7.5m. He has been touted as talking up a move to Arsenal recently and he did his chances of being snapped up no harm by exhibiting his attacking threat with two goals against us right in front of Arsene in the flesh.

Arsene was quite coy on the potential signing of the striker in his pre match press conference but that would be expected given the fact the two teams were meeting.

The question is whether the delay on Theo’s contract is in relation to Arsene signing such a player? Would that end his chances of playing up front or will Demba only be signed as a replacement for Theo if he decides to definitely leave.

It’s a tough one to call, ideally I want Theo to stay and Ba to come in; much like I mentioned with the defence that competition is required to keep players on their toes. Theo would need to be prepared to fight for a chance up front and take his chances when they come in the midst of the competition from players like Ba. It’s all very well playing up front knowing you only have Chamakh and Gervinho to compete with but to improve and be the best you need to take on the best (or at least a better standard of competition).

January will be an interesting month and we will need a lot of open books closed. Players need to be signed, I’m not talking signings for the sake of signings but we need quality to improve the squad and increase competition for places. We have too much dead wood making it easier for the starting players to let their standards slip. I hope yesterdays win despite the high score-line doesn’t help deflect from what is really required.

Enjoy your day people.

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