Thoughts from Wembley: Torturous afternoon’s Final flourish


I don’t know about you, but I remembered reaching an FA Cup final as a good deal more fun. Don’t Read more

Everton 3 - 0 Arsenal: Is it over?


Is it over? Not the title race. That’s been over for a while. Not the “race for fourth”, either. That’s Read more

Arsenal must find a way to replace Theo Walcott’s goals


It’s rare that a piece of Arsenal news shocks me. We live, lest we forget, in a world where Read more

Video: Arsene Wenger sings Cee-Lo Green hit to Robin van Persie


Alright gang. I've done another one of my silly songs. This time, my slightly strange brain has got Arsene Read more

Arsenal 4 – 1 Reading: Arsenal win on Gervinho roulette

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Reports, Premier League | 1,263 Guns

Gervinho shows off his Paolo Di Canio impression

Arsenal 4 – 1 Reading
Match Report | Arsene’s reaction | Highlights 

Fair play to Arsene…
I raised my eyebrows when I first saw the line-up he’d selected, but the result redeemed him. The two surprise inclusions were Gervinho and Bacary Sagna at the expense of Carl Jenkinson and Lukas Podolski, but both players demonstrated their worth with impressive displays.

Let’s celebrate Gervinho when he’s good…
…because we’re certainly quick to criticise him when he’s bad. The Ivorian was terrific in the wide attacking role usually occupied by Theo Walcott. Like Walcott, he was clearly encouraged by the manager to dart inside and support Olivier Giroud whenever possible. While the Englishman is undoubtedly a better finisher, Gervinho’s movement and dribbling ability is probably superior, and provided a constant headache for the Reading defence. We’re used to seeing Gervinho cause chaos on the pitch, but rarely for the right reasons.

I don’t expect this performance to mark any kind of pivotal moment in Gervinho’s Arsenal career. I don’t think he’s about to embark on a long run characterised by reliability and consistency. The goals and assists will always be accompanied by glaring moments of miscontrol. The flaws in his technique mean he will always remain unpredictable and erratic. However, every so often it will click and work out for him. When it does, we should be grateful and gracious.

Santi Cazorla was far too good for Reading…
Watching him, I began to worry that if we continue our gradual decline he will soon be too good for Arsenal as well. Since moving to England, he has been selected for the Spanish national team with increasing regularity. Among that group of players he represents something of an anomaly as he does not play for either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Not yet, anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal were eventually tested by a bid from one of the La Liga giants. Cazorla is a rare gem, and the twin powers of Spanish football know it.

Regardless of what happens down the line, I’m determined to enjoy him while I can. If you love football, you love Santi.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s form is on an upwards curvature at last…
Until recently his season had been full of frustration. His potential is undoubted, but we’ve only seen flashes of his ability during this campaign. However, after an ebullient performance for England against San Marino, this cameo was full of the powerful running and energetic effervescence which built Chamberlain’s reputation as one of the brightest young talents in European football.

The table…
…is a little misleading, due to our game in hand. Currently, Chelsea are just two points ahead, with Spurs a further three in-front.  However, our North London rivals have played a game more.

It’s incredibly close, and all we can do is continue to win our games and hope for more slip-ups from Tottenham and Chelsea. Both clubs are competing on more than one front, while Arsenal are have the advantage of a single and solitary focus. We know what we need to do. Yesterday was certainly a step in the right direction.

Reading Preview: Is this thing on?

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews | 196 Guns

One-two… one-two… is anyone out there? Is this thing on?

Football is back. It feels like it’s been away for an eternity. We had that international nonsense, but that’s not ‘football’ as I understand it. It’s essentially an elaborate cover-up for a conspiracy to maim as many members of our squad as possible.

This time round we lost Theo Walcott to an injury picked up while away with England. Fortunately for Theo and Arsenal, it’s not too serious and he should be back in the next couple of weeks.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for Abou Diaby: Arsenal’s worst injury news was reserved for a player who hadn’t actually gone away on international duty.

Diaby has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament while training at London Colney, and will subsequently miss the remainder of 2013. It’s unsurprising, but still terribly sad. There’s no doubting Diaby’s talent, but it seems injury problems will prevent him from ever fulfilling it. I don’t want to write him off prematurely, but even if he recovers from this injury and is fit and healthy for the remainder of his career, the years he has lost mean he will never be the player he threatened to be.

By the time he returns from this injury he will be 27. He should be at his peak, and yet his career has never really started. I would curse his luck, but I’d far rather curse Dan Smith: the man responsible for the horror tackle that precipitated his decline.

Arsene Wenger had previously earmarked Diaby as someone who could player an important part during the run-in. However, the manager will now have to do without his French midfielder, starting today against Reading. Despite an intervening fortnight gap, I expect the line-up to show some continuity from the ones which triumphed over Bayern and Swansea. That means the defensive trio of Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscielny should continue at the expense of messrs Szczesny, Sagna and Vermaelen. In midfield, Arteta and Ramsey will provide a defensive platform for Santi Cazorla to weave his magic. Olivier Giroud should keep his place upfront, and Arsene will then have to choose two wingers from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and the fit again Lukas Podolski. I’d like to see a recall for the German, who was devastatingly efficient in the reverse fixture back in December.

This is a game Arsenal must win. It’s also, with respect to Reading, a game Arsenal should win. Tottenham travel to Swansea who are certainly no pushover. The right results today could see Arsenal within a point of their North London rivals with a game in hand. After the derby defeat, it catching Spurs felt unthinkable.

Now, Arsenal fans everywhere are wondering: is this thing on?

Come on you Gunners. Let’s make it happen.

Bayern 0 – 2 Arsenal: A template for the rest of the season

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Champions League, Match Reports | 493 Guns

Well how wrong was I. After predicting before the game that Arsene Wenger had all but given up the ghost, Arsenal went on to secure a rousing 2-0 victory and almost pull of the comeback of all comebacks.

It’s very reminiscent of last year’s tie with AC Milan. Just like last year, the damage was done in the first leg. And just like last year, Arsenal escape with their pride soothed and their fixture list lightened. There’s no good way to go out of the Champions League, but this is as close as it gets. Arsenal emerge redeemed and reinvigorated to focus on the all-important task at hand: returning to this stage by reaching the top four.

Contained within this performance was the DNA of an Arsenal team capable of hauling its way back in to the Champions League. Arsene Wenger must play John Hammond, extract it and bring it back to life before our very eyes, starting this weekend at Swansea.

The components are clear:

  • Hard work
  • Disciplined defending – not just from the back four, but the entire team
  • Efficiency in attack

This was a display that was hugely unlike Arsenal. It was based on a grim determination to keep a clean sheet, and a ruthlessness when occasionally afforded the chance to attack. The two goals Arsenal scored were impressive, but it’s the nil they conceded that marked out a stark improvement.

Intriguingly, Arsenal put together their most cohesive defensive display of the season without their captain, Thomas Vermaelen. Vermaelen’s recent form has not just been questioned, it’s been water-boarded, and after his disastrous display at White Hart Lane he was taken out of the firing line for this match with Bayern. On the strength of Mertesacker and Koscielny’s display, it’s hard to see how he’ll get back in.

All too often this season we’ve seen Vermaelen retain his place on the strength of his status as captain rather than the strength of his performances. For the good of the team, that can not be allowed to continue.

There will be calls to retain Lukas Fabianski too, after the Pole produced a surprisingly composed display in the Allianz Arena. I’d be less hasty to subscribe to propose that. His positive performance is relatively anomalous in his Arsenal career. Szczesny retains my backing – until the summer at least.

I’m glad for Arsenal fans. Particularly for those that travelled to music, but also those watching from afar. Our team gave us reasons to be proud, and reasons to believe. Like Hammond’s dinosaurs, there is life in us yet.

Arsene has declared this a dead rubber

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Champions League, Match Previews | 193 Guns

If Arsene Wenger thought Arsenal had any realistic chance of progressing against Bayern Munich, Wojciech Szczesny would be playing tomorrow.

If we had designs on producing a remarkable comeback, surely we’d be selecting the man most likely to keep a clean sheet. Conceding would take the chance of victory from implausible to impossible. And yet we’re preparing to select one of Lukasz Fabianski or Vito Mannone: a pair of keepers not entrusted to play against the likes of Bradford and Blackburn in the domestic cups, with Szczesny “rested” at home.

You don’t “rest” players in the biggest games. The decision suggests that Arsene has declared tomorrow a dead rubber and is focusing attention upon an increasingly important domestic campaign. On balance, it’s hard to argue with that point of view. Even the most optimistic Gooner will struggle to make a case for Arsenal being in the hat for the quarter-final draw.

If the tie were a bit closer, I have no doubt that Szczesny would play. I suspect Lukas Podolski, left at home to nurse a niggling ankle problem, would also be in the side. As thing stand, Arsene is being pragmatic. Reaching the Champions League quarter-finals is less important than being in the group stage next year.

Arsenal don’t need to progress tonight, but they do need to restore a modicum of pride. We travel to Swansea on Saturday for a difficult and crucial league game. Restoring some confidence with a creditable result in Germany would be a huge boost, especially for a squad which will be rattled by the loss of the inspirational Jack Wilshere.

We’ve got a huge battle on between now and the end of the season. My delight at Liverpool’s victory over Spurs at the weekend was tempered by the knowledge that Brendan Rogers’ side are now making significant ground on us. Arsenal need to fight for fourth and yet are in real danger of slipping to sixth.

The Bayern game is about finding reasons to believe, for players and fans alike. Let’s hope we get some.

Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal: The Defending is Indefensible

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Reports, Premier League | 849 Guns

Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal 
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction 

Those Arsenal supporters who defend Arsene Wenger most vehemently occasionally insist that he is a victim of circumstance: a selfless man who has martyred himself for an economic cause. He works, we are told, with one hand tied behind his back – and presumably it’s the hand he signs cheques with.

That might well be true. I find it hard to believe that Arsene is somehow prohibited from using the vast reserves of cash at the club’s disposal, but I’m prepared to entertain the idea. It’s a potential explanation of an otherwise baffling transfer policy.

If it’s possible to defend Arsene Wenger’s work in the transfer market, it is far harder to excuse his work on the training ground. Yesterday Arsenal were undone by some truly dire defending. Having dominated the early stages, we conceded two goals in as many minutes to hand the initiative and with it the game to Tottenham.

Arsenal’s defensive line looked like it’d been drawn on a spirograph. Playing a high line against the likes of Bale and Lennon is always a risk, but doing so when your defence is bereft of any kind of organisation borders on masochism.

The mistakes were so basic, so fundamental, and so frustratingly familiar. We’ve been here time and time again, and yet the defence don’t learn their lesson. My conclusion has to be that it’s a lesson they’re simply not being taught.

All of these players have a distinguished defensive record with their former clubs and international sides. Only at Arsenal do they appear so flawed. My impression is that for too long the defensive side of the game has not been a priority for the manager.

For a time, we got away with it. Wenger’s early sides inherited the famous back four from George Graham. The Invincibles could rely upon the protection provided by Vieira and Gilberto and the extraordinary recovery pace of Toure and Campbell. What’s more, both sides were balanced out with an irresistible attacking threat. Even last season, we could rely on Robin van Persie to dig us out of the holes we created for ourselves.

No more. We now have a porous defence, and a plain poor attack. Arsenal dominated the midfield for huge swathes of this derby, but came up short at both business ends: Giroud’s laboured display upfront neatly paralleled the slapstick at the back.

Tottenham weren’t great, but they’re organised and determined. That counts for a lot. This win takes them seven points clear of us and hands them a huge advantage in the race for Champions League qualification.

It’s not quite over. Their fixture list gets a lot trickier over the next six weeks, and we also have the possible boon of a Chelsea implosion to look forward to. Arsenal can still make the top four, but if we do it’ll be in spite of our own self-destructive tendencies.

Arsenal now face ten days of brooding and self-examination before a daunting trip to Bayern Munich. Respite is likely to be in short supply. It’s a gloomy time to follow the club, made gloomier by the stark fact that of 28 league games this season, we have won just 13.
Unless that record improves dramatically, it will be hard to argue we deserve a place at Europe’s top table.

Spurs vs. Arsenal: Fan-to-Fan Preview

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews, Premier League | 237 Guns

Hello one and all.  I’m back from a brief holiday in time for the biggest game of our season.  To help me preview it, I’ve called upon the services of Tottenham fan @adamdnathan.

TEAM NEWS

AN: Aside from the long term injuries to Sandro and Kaboul, both of whom would be massive additions to the side, Spurs should be at full strength. Defoe may return in time for a place on the bench, but in spite of Adebayor’s recent poor form, it seems generally accepted that we play better as a team with the Togolese leading the line.

GS: Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, meaning Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson will continue at full-back.  Abou Diaby is apparently facing a fitness test, although even if he passes I’d consider starting him too great a gamble.

PREDICTED LINE-UP

AN: Most of the team picks itself, with Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Parker, Dembele, Bale, Lennon and Adebayor certain to start. AVB’s only decision will be to play Ekotto or Vertonghen at left back, with Caulker inside if he takes the latter option, and Holtby in the attacking three or perhaps Gylfi Sigurdsson, who finally looked to be an £8 million player on Monday.

GS: Arsenal’s back four picks itself – it’s ahead of that where Arsene Wenger faces some tricky choices.  I’d opt for the work-rate of Aaron Ramsey alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of our midfield, with Jack Wilshere in the number 10 role.  That means shifting Santi Cazorla wide, which unfortunately drops Lukas Podolski to the bench once again.

MATCH-WINNER

AN: Bale is pretty much the only answer to this question of course, but Hugo Lloris could be as much of a match saver as a winner. He has been exceptional since taking the reigns from Friedel in the reverse fixture, and is regularly winning the team points with big moments between the sticks.

GS: Santi Cazorla has scored Arsenal’s last three Premier League goals, and my gut says he could be the man to unlock Spurs once again tomorrow.

DANGER-MAN

AN: In terms of dictating the game, it will be vitally important for us to limit the time we allow Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla on the ball, but the player who will always scare me when in an Arsenal shirt is Theo Walcott. I’m firmly in the camp of him being a top Premier League player, and his goals and assist stats over the last few years certainly suggest that he will be the man to watch tomorrow.

GS: There’s no doubt that Gareth Bale is the man in form.  Few players in Europe are producing those match-winning moments on such a consistent basis.  Arsenal fans are quick to knock Bale down (not the hardest thing to do, after all), but I suspect that any criticism masks their genuine irritation that Tottenham have a player with that kind of ability.  In recent games he’s been deployed in the centre.  I’d be happy to see him there again, as I do worry about what he might do up against Carl Jenkinson, who is currently lacking both experience and match practice.

STAKES

AN: It’s going to be a crucial games for both teams’ aspirations of getting into the Champions League next year, with a win really boosting either sides’ chances going into the last 10 games of the season. Should the game be a draw with 15-20 minutes to go however, it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams were happy to play the rest of the game out and back themselves to finish above the other with a good run of form going into May.

GS: Arsenal simply have to avoid defeat.  A draw keeps things open going in to the final stretch, but a win for Spurs would hand them all the initiative.  As for what a heavy defeat would do to the club… well, I’d rather not think/write about it.  A win would be fantastic, but a draw would be enough to give us a fighting chance of finishing fourth.

PREDICTION

AN: If, as alluded to in his press conference, Arsenal don’t go into the game with a plan for Gareth Bale, there is a strong possibility that the Welshman could run riot again against a shaky defence. I don’t see him being the sole protagonist though, and arsenal clearly have a number of players who could hurt us. In truth, I can see the game being a bit of a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw, which both sides ultimately settle for at the final whistle.

GS: It strikes me that a draw would suit both sides, and on such occasions I’m always inclined to plump for a stale-mate.  I’ll follow Adams lead and plump for an entertaining 2-2.

Fancy a flutter on the big game? Check out my Unibet Betting Preview here.

Arsenal prepare to get back on the horse

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Match Previews | 147 Guns

Realistically speaking, Arsenal have one remaining target this season: to qualify for the Champions League.  That battle recommences this weekend as Arsenal host an ailing Aston Villa side.

It’s ostensibly a good chance to get back on the good foot.  Despite recent positive results against Everton and West Ham, Villa are remain right in the relegation mix.  This is a side that we should be beating, and the odds reflect that: Ladbrokes has Arsenal as 1/3 to win the game.

It’s also a weekend that could see us make ground on our rivals.  Chelsea travel to Manchester City, while Tottenham face a tricky London derby at Upton Park.  If results go our way, we could go in to next week’s crucial North London derby just one point behind Spurs.

The next few games will have a huge say on our ultimate league position.  After Villa, we face Spurs, Everton and Swansea in succession.  We simply cannot afford to allow our downward spiral to continue.

In an effort to bring some spark back to the side, I’d advocate the reintroduction of Tomas Rosicky.  Last season, when things were similarly precarious, his energy and drive was essential in dragging us towards the top four, and his recent cameos suggest he’s capable of making a similar impact in the latter portion of this season.

We are entering that period of the campaign when performances cease to matter: it is all about results.  We need to grab every point we can between now and May, and hope that Spurs combust in their own inimitable style.  An injury to Gareth Bale would probably help, too.

Finally, at a time when the world and his wife seem to writing letters (either open, closed or slightly ajar) to significant figures at Arsenal, it’d be remiss of me not to mention this piece of musical correspondence between Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke.  It’s worrying how much of it is still relevant.

Arsenal 1 – 3 Bayern: Müllered

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, Champions League, Match Reports | 966 Guns

Arsenal 1 – 3 Bayern Munich
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Last night, we dared to expect the unexpected.

Arsenal went in to the game off the back of a dispiriting defeat to Blackburn, but we hoped that against Bayern we might see the Dr. Jekyll to Saturday’s Mr. Hyde.  We needed an Arsenal display better than anything we’ve seen thus far this season, and we needed Bayern to fall well below their usual standard.

Instead, what we got was about par.  We were hoping for a miracle, but got another ordinary day at the office.  Arsenal looked mediocre next to a truly impressive Bayern side.

Arsenal fans had clung to the idea that we tend to turn it on against the big teams.  However, I’m not sure there’s much evidence to support that theory anymore.  This season we’ve faltered in clashes with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea.  When we come up against top class opposition, we struggle to impose ourselves.

Bayern undoubtedly belong in that top class.  They  were compact, organised, and efficient on the attack.  They reminded me of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea sides: a powerful core supplemented by blistering wing play.  In the Brazilian Dante, they have one of the best centre-backs I’ve seen in a while.  Sebastian Schweinsteiger is approaching his peak, and they can even afford to leave the likes of Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez on the bench.  They are, in short, far better than us.  I wouldn’t fancy any Premier League side’s chances against them.

That said, we didn’t help ourselves.  Conceding two goals inside just 21 minutes is typical of this Arsenal team.  In his post match press conference, Arsene Wenger spoke once again of “nerves”.  He claims the team’s desire to do well inhibits their performance.  If that really is the case, I’d suggest a good chunk of the fortune we have in the bank is spent on hiring a few sports psychologists.  Elite sportsmen should embrace the highest level of competition, not fear it.

I’d also question the selection of Theo Walcott at centre-forward.  This was too much too soon for a player who has only played a handful of games as a pure striker.  As supporters we throw our heads back in anguish when we see Thomas Vermaelen at left-back or Aaron Ramsey on the right-wing.  For me, Walcott at centre-forward is not much different.  That position is no less specialised than any other.  It takes time to learn the tricks of the trade.  Expecting Walcott to be able to perform there against one of Europe’s best teams seemed a little naive on Arsene’s part.  I can understand dropping Giroud to add an extra body in to midfield, but perhaps Lukas Podolski would have been a better option to play through the middle: unlike Walcott, he has extensive experience in that position.  To be fair to Theo, he wasn’t helped by his team-mates, who seemed to mistake him for Giroud, launching long ball after long ball at the space above his head.  Dante and Van Buyten gobbled these speculative balls up, and Walcott was rendered anonymous.

At the other end, our defending was poor.  Against Bayern, you simply won’t get away with that.  Our flaws were ruthlessly exposed, and the scoreline is a fair reflection of the gulf between the sides.  The only surprise was that an Arsenal-esque mistake from the Germans allowed Lukas Podolski to nick a consolation against his former club.

The tie is all but over.  Arsenal will go to Munich and play for pride, but the solemn expression of Arsene Wenger at his post-match press conference suggests even he believes the damage done in this first leg is irreparable.

I didn’t join the chorus of boos at full-time: Arsenal lost fair and square to a better side.  I hoped for more, but it would have been madness to expect  it.  However, the result has compounded the pain of the FA Cup defeat.  Within the space of a few days, the focus of our season has narrowed dramatically: it’s suddenly looking like fourth or bust.

Arsenal will return to the Premier League on Saturday to fight for the right to return to this European stage.  Last night, Bayern provided a stark reminder that even if we make it back to the Champions League, vast improvement will be required if we’re to do anything more than simply make up the numbers.

Arsenal 0 – 1 Blackburn: The Middle Of The End

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, FA Cup, Match Reports | 546 Guns

Arsenal 0 – 1 Blackburn
Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction 

In this game, Arsenal played with such soporific slovenliness that it was as if they were trying to lull us in to such a stupour that the inevitable sucker punch wouldn’t sting quite so much.

To be fair, it worked. When Colin Kazim-Richards ran untracked through the midfield to fire home after Wojciech Szczesny’s feeble parry, I wasn’t surprised. There was a grim inevitability about the whole scene.

When Jack Wilshere fell in a crumpled heap at the final whistle, I felt for him. But any angst on my part was tempered by familiarity. His anguish was fresh, but mine has been dulled by duplication: I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen Cesc Fabregas similarly felled, and Robin van Persie too; great players, folding under the strain of swimming against a tide of mediocrity.

After Bradford and Blackburn, Arsenal now face a cup clash with Bayern Munich. One hardly imagines the Germans are quaking in their boots. A bad result at the Emirates on Tuesday night could all but guarantee us an eighth consecutive campaign without a trophy.

Things could be worse, I know. Whenever he comes under scrutiny, Arsene Wenger is quick to point out that Arsenal are not in a relegation battle. However, I’m afraid that just doesn’t cut it.

It’s about expectation. Reading are very much in a relegation battle, but that doesn’t mean Brian McDermott is under-performing. Equally, Arsenal might be well clear of 18th place, but they are falling below the standards expected of the club.

Those who criticise the manager are often characterized as pessimists, but it strikes me that there is an optimistic slant to their discontent. They see the potential of the club to be in a far better position than it currently is.

Replacing the manager doesn’t provide an absolute guarantee of positive change. However, an ever-increasing wealth of evidence suggests that keeping the manager absolutely guarantees more of the same.

I’m often asked when I’ll finally join the “Wenger Out!” brigade. Well, the answer is that I almost certainly never will. I’ve no time for brigades, or any other tactical military formations for that matter. Similarly, bandwagons have always struck me as an outmoded form of transport. I’ll make up my own mind on where I stand. I refuse to buy in to the dichotomy that has been imposed on the Arsenal supporter base, splitting us in to “AKB”s and “Doomers”. The reality, and my own position, is far more complex.

I will never chant for the removal of a man who has given me some of my greatest memories. However, I do believe there are certain fundamental issues with the management of the team that will only be resolved by a change of manager. Whether this summer would be the optimum time to do that, I don’t know: it depends on the availability of alternatives.

It’s moot, anyway. Arsene Wenger is no closer to leaving Arsenal today than he was on Friday. Negative results do not edge him closer to the door; only time and the running down of his contract do that. His current deal runs till 2014, and I find it impossible to foresee him leaving before that date. He may even be handed a renewal.

The extrication of Arsene Wenger from Arsenal will be a long and painful process, for both sides. I’d argue it’s a process that is already underway. It began when Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri abandoned Arsene’s project, and will end the day whatever contract he is bound to is allowed to expire.

Ivan Gazidis will not push him. Arsene will not jump. In the meantime, here we are: stuck in the middle of the end.

Blackburn Preview & Betting odds: Return of The Rat King

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2012-13 Season, FA Cup, Match Previews | 1,132 Guns

Clashes between Arsenal and Blackburn are traditionally tasty affairs.  Well, the taste of this one is a little off this morning.  The secret ingredient is, perhaps surprisingly, not horse, but a touch of rat: David Bentley has made a return to Blackburn just in time to be eligible to play at the Emirates.

It’s the return of the prodigal son.  If the prodigal son’s Dad had hated his son, and greeted his return predominantly with boos.

David Bentley is a funny one.  I was there for his remarkable first goal in professional football: a beautiful, Bergkamp-esque chip from the edge of the box.  However, his attitude never quite matched up to his ability, and aged just 28 his career appears to be petering out.  One wonders if he’d shown more patience and remained at Arsenal how things might have turned out.  Football is a game of sliding doors as well as tackles.

As it is, I think Arsenal fans are pretty much united in their hatred of all things Bentley.  It’s everything from his murine appearance to his affiliation with Spurs and preposterously over-gelled hair.  That said, I think we’re all lying if we say we don’t fancy him to stick one in the net against us today.  Were I more of a betting man, I’d put the lives of my imaginary children on it.  He’s got spectacular previous at the Emirates, too.

Whatever Bentley gets up to, Arsenal should have enough to see off Blackburn today.  I expect rests for the likes of Wilshere, Giroud and perhaps even Walcott, but our side will still be strong.  Thomas Vermaelen is likely to play at centre-back, with Nacho Monreal outside him.  Abou Diaby comes in to contention for a midfield berth, and the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho will be hoping to get some much-needed game-time in attacking areas.  I think Gervinho may well get a start at centre-forward, although whatever the odds (5/1 as it happens) I wouldn’t be queueing up to lay money on him to score.

I’m backing us to win this one.  The bookmakers are too, I see (we’re 1.28 to win with https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football).

Blackburn are not the force they were, and at home we should be far too strong.  However, I’ve said that before and been wrong.

And with The Rat King in their ranks, you just never know.