Fans witness return of ‘The Messiah’

Fans had turned out at Underhill in droves hoping to witness the man who is charged with saving our season.  He’s fought his way back from the brink of retirement and now he is ready to take on the world.  As he took his first steps on to the pitch, the atmosphere was electric.  This is it: a new dawn, a new beginning.

Yes, that’s right.  Amaury Bischoff came on.

Joking aside, last night was all about Eduardo.  The Croatian played 45 minutes in a 2-0 win and looked as good as one could possibly hope.  A few more games under his belt and he’ll be ready for first-team action.  His return is a testament to the hard work that he and the medical staff have put in, and the first time he puts the ball in the net again would take the roof off the Emirates – if it had one.

Eduardo was part of a strong Reserve side captained by young Gavin Hoyte, who has just signed a new long-term deal with the club.  One would expect that to be followed by a loan move to a Championship club in January.

The goals last night came from two other potential loanees: Mark Randall, who tucked home after a delicious through-ball from Fran Merida, and Kieran Gibbs, who smashed in an effort from the edge of the area after a cut-back from the impressive Jack Wilshere.

Arsene Wenger seems to have given an interview to France Football, drips and drabs of which are now appearing in translation in the English press.  Speaking about summer signing Samir Nasri, he has expressed his concern at the number of injuries the midfielder has already suffered:

“Samir is a mix of [Robert] Pires and [Alexander] Hleb. I told myself that signing him could prove a positive gamble. But he picked up many injuries, too many!  You tell yourself that if the guy was always with us, he would bring us a lot, but for the moment he has only been there half of the games, and fits and starts are bad for high level football.

The partnership with Clichy has developed, but we are still far from what can be produced because he is too often absent.”

It is concerning, but it oughtn’t surprise us – Wenger confesses Nasri was a gamble (albeit a £13m one), and he had struggled with health and fitness whilst at Marseille.  If he could only get a decent run of games together, I’m sure he could be a massive player for us.

Le Boss says that “on a human level”, Gallas-gate was the biggest challenge he has faced as Arsenal manager.  Would it be churlish to say that it was a problem of his own making?  Well then call me Mr. C Hurlish of 10 Churlish Street.

Yesterday, Arsene took part in a webchat on ArsenalTVOnline.  Somehow, I conspired to miss it, but unless the questions were as heavily censored as a political debate on Russia TV, it’s logical to assume he was asked about the current state of the squad and his desire to improve it.  If/when a transcript of that ‘chat’ emerges, it could prove to be interesting.  Did anyone catch it?  Drop me a line if so.

Elsewhere, Lassana Diarra is reported to be on the verge of an £18m move to Real Madrid.  Wonder how Arsene might respond to a question about that.

“Whoops”?

He broke his leg, but now he’s back

And Darren Bent is still quite cack;

Eduardo da Silva, Arsenal’s number 9.

Almost ten months after Martin Taylor’s horrific challenge left the Croatia striker with a compound fracture to his left fibula and open dislocation of the ankle, Eduardo will take to the field today for Arsenal Reserves against Porstmouth’s second string.

It’ll be incredibly heart-warming to see him play again, and I hope the fans and the management show the neccessary patience to make sure Eduardo is in the best possible shape when the time finally arrives for what will undoubtedly be the feel-good moment of the season: his return to the first-team.

If you can’t get down to Underhill, the game is on ArsenalTV.  Let’s hope everything goes according to plan.

Welcome back, Eddy.  You’ve been missed.

As You Were

After West Ham held them to a draw at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea joined Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal in failing to pick up a victory this weekend.  Just a few weeks back it was the first time such a phenomenon had occurred in the history of the Premier League.  Now it’s happened again.  This, it seems, is the league no-one wants to win.

The results mean it’s essentially as you were at the top of the table, though Aston Villa have leap-frogged us into fourth place.  I have to say, it just makes the points we have dropped this season all the more frustrating.  It’s a gigantic ‘if’, but a couple of victories here and there would’ve seen us right in the mix.

Speaking of ominously huge ‘ifs’, if we can beat Liverpool next week we’ll be just five points off the current leaders.  Emmanuel Adebayor is under no illusions as to the importance of the game:

“If we think because we have beaten Man United at home, Chelsea away so we are going to win easily against Liverpool then we have got everything wrong.  Every weekend comes a massive game, massive game, massive game for us. [Each is] the game of the season. We all know how important this is for the Club so we will just try to keep our dreams alive.”

It certainly is a big game.  So big that I’m probably going to miss my grandparents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary to be there.

Some things are bigger than family.

Song, Denilson and Diaby aren’t good enough to start

Middlesbrough 1 – 1 Arsenal (Adebayor 17, Aliadiere 29)
Highlights
here; Arsene’s reaction here

In isolation, this isn’t a ‘bad’ result.  In fact, it’s an improvement on the Halcyon days of last season, where we actually contrived to lose at The Riverside.  And when one considers that Liverpool and Manchester United also dropped points yesterday, this 1-1 draw begins to look even more positive.

And yet, the aftermath of yesterday’s match saw fans on internet forums and blogs alike almost as depressed as they were after the 3-0 loss to Man City.  And I don’t really blame them.

Why?  Because taking satisfaction from this result is an admission of mediocrity.  In his post-match interview, Arsene said:

“I believe we are on the way up, comparing how we were at the beginning of the season; then we would have lost a game like this.”

First of all, that statement seemingly confirms that Arsene went into the season with a side he expected to lose at places like Middlesbrough, which is remarkably neglectful if true.  But more than that, it seems to be imploring fans to be pleased with results like this on the back of previously poorer efforts.

So because we had to sit through the dire defeats at places like Fulham, we should be chuffed at arriving at this point of mediocrity, expressed perfectly in this drab draw?  I’m sorry, Arsene: I don’t buy it.

We were painfully average.  Not until the last five minutes of the game were Boro under any notable pressure.  We had a decent spell either side of our goal – a header from a corner by Emmanuel Adebayor – but the midfield (the same who played and lost at Stoke) simply did not have enough about them to dominate the game.

In the second half, Cesc really tried to make things tick, and I felt desperately sorry for him.  Song, Denilson, and Diaby are nowhere near ready to be starting games regularly for a top four side – perhaps they never will be.  Song’s passing was truly atrocious yesterday, and the way he let Tuncay drift goal-side of him for the Aliadiere’s equaliser, even turning his back on the play, was disgracefully lazy.  Would he get into another Premier League side?  I have my doubts.  Denilson is a trier, but no wide-man; it is often said of slow players that they are ‘one-paced’ – Denilson is ‘none-paced’.  Diaby, meanwhile, is perhaps the most infuriating of the trio.  Blessed with all the desirable physical and technical attributes to make a career as a footballer, he seems to suffer chronically from on-field apathy.  His mistakes are more careless than craftless, and that makes him so much harder to forgive.  Come January, these players need to be bumped significantly down the pecking order.

No strike partnership has scored more goals than Adebayor and Van Persie.  Only Man City and Chelsea have scored more goals overall.  But we’ve conceded 20 goals already in the league: double the tally of United and Liverpool; more than three times as many as Chelsea; as many as Spurs.  As many as Spurs.  It’s not good enough.  We can speculate about David Villa till the cows come home, but we’re wasting breath.  This team needs a centre-back and a defensive midfielder.  Those two players would transform our fragile side.

We’ve less than a month to wait.  If they don’t arrive, fingers will be pointed, rightly, at the manager.

“We think, more than ever, that we can come back in the Premier League”

So says Arsene, justifying his decision to field a weakened team at Porto by arguing we still have a chance of mounting a Premier League title challenge.  I’m not sure I share Arsene’s faith, but I would suggest that avoiding defeat today is vital.  Another defeat to a mid-table side could potentially shatter the restored belief that Fabregas’ captaincy and two consecutive league wins have brought.

Five of the players who missed the defeat in Portgual ought to return at the Riverside, but Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri join long-term absentees Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo on the sidelines.  There is, however, good news on the Croatian, who could be back to his best in just six weeks.

The return of Eduardo will make it increasingly vital for Nicklas Bendtner to take the opportunities that come his way with more gusto than he has in the past couple of months.  Arsene says that Bendtner works incredibly hard in training, which seems at odds with his lazy-looking first-team appearances.  The absence of Eduardo and Arsene’s failure to reinforce the squad have afforded the likes of Bendtner, Denilson and Song a unique opportunity.  It’s almost like they’ve been out on loan somewhere – given first-team opportunities that under normal circumstances they simply wouldn’t be afforded.  In my opinion, they haven’t really grasped that chance, and whatever Arsene says I’m sure he’ll be looking to bring in new blood in January.

Whenever Manuel Almunia speaks to the press he always comes across very well.  Dignified throughout various tirades by Jens Lehmann, astutely critical in the wake of the Porto game, and now little short of inspiring ahead of the resumption of all thinks Premier League:

“We have a big, big responsibility.  This is Arsenal.

The Club has thousands of fans and we have to realise that to wear an Arsenal shirt is a big value and you have to be worthy of [it]. We have to remember that we are lucky people.

We are so upset [at the moment]. We are not happy with this season. We’ve had some brilliant moments, against Chelsea and Manchester United, but it’s not enough. We are far from the top of the League. Last season we lost three games and we’ve already had too many defeats.

But I have confidence in us and the way we play [also I feel] we are mature enough to take the responsibility.”

I hope he’s right, and I hope the team take the neccessary responsibility today to see of Middlesbrough.  They’re almost as inconsistent as us, which makes any predictions utterly pointless.  That said, ending the day pointless would make resting players in Porto pointless, and make my existence feel a bit pointless to boot.

Come on Arsenal.