Archive for December, 2007

A year on: Did we keep our New Year’s Resolutions?

Add comment December 31st, 2007

A year ago I wrote what I believed Arsenal’s New Year’s Resolutions ought to me. Twelve months on, let’s glance over our shoulder and see if we’ve kept them.

1. Stop playing 4-5-1 on a regular basis. In our last five games, we have scored fourteen goals. I’m rubbish at maths, but I know that’s plenty, especially when you consider that one of those games was the anomalous defeat to Sheffield United. The lone striker system has served us well at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, and can be useful away to top sides or in Europe. However, in most Premiership games, the emergence of Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor as potential partners for Thierry Henry means we should not be afraid to go and outscore the opposition. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to watch.

Well, no, we haven’t. After starting the season with something approaching a 4-4-2, injuries to the likes of Robin van Persie have forced us into a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 shape, with mixed results. However, the game with Everton signalled a return to a 4-4-2, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t stay that way for a little while now.

2. Keep scoring goals from set-pieces. Gilberto, for example, has eight goals to his name this season, and a great deal of those have been either penalties or headers from set-pieces. The arrival of William Gallas has also helped us become more dangerous in this department, and yet again we can look to Van Persie and Adebayor: the former for his delivery and the latter for his power. Chelsea have shown that getting regular goals from set-pieces is a simple but effective way of grinding out wins, and we should follow suit.

This is a resolution we’ve certainly kept up. Gallas is a constant threat, whilst Adebayor has improved his capacity for aerial dominance. The emergence of Nicklas Bendtner can only help in this department.

3. Have several players hit 15 goals. A little ambitious maybe, but why not? Whenever we’ve been successful in the past we’ve had three or four players reaching this landmark: Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Freddie Ljungberg, and Robert Pires, for example. Van Persie is well on the way, and you’d expect Thierry Henry to catch him up, fitness permitting. For two of our forwards to get there would be a significant improvement on recent seasons, buit with Adebayor on seven and Gilberto on eight it might not be asking too much for a third wheel on our goalscoring machine.

Well, RVP and Henry (both due to fitness problems) never got there. In fact, I don’t think a single player reached 15 goals last season. This year Adebayor, Eduardo, and possibly even Cesc are on target to reach that milestone.

4. Integrate Theo Walcott. Although he is not eighteen until March, the flying winger has already proved to be an important part of the squad, with the pace to unlock defences and an eye for a good ball. As his strength and stature improves with each passing game, you can’t help but feel that 2007 could be a big year for Theo Walcott. The question for Arsene is: just what is his best position?

Tricky one. After scoring two goals against Prague you felt he was ready to explode into the first-team, but since then he’s once more melted into the background. 2008 could be a big year for Theo. But then, as the above shows, I’ve said something similar before…

5. Re-introduce Abou Diaby. Although he was only fit and available for a few months last season, he was selected more often than not, starting eleven games and coming on in five. In fact, such was his impact that Cesc Fabregas was moved out to the right for a spell in order to accommodate him. The player Arsene Wenger describes as the most similiar to Patrick Vieira he has ever seen is close to returning to fitness, and when he does, he’ll want to make up for missing the Champions League Final and Final Day at Highbury with a storming 2007.

Diaby has impressed in the Carling Cup, including an outstanding performance in the 2007 final, but can sometimes appear lazy and off the pace in the Premier League. Reportedly unhappy at limited opportunities, he has to make the most of those he gets if he wants to be a regular starter.

6. Learn to defend a bit. Boring, I know, but it has to be said. Although we have improved at the back this season, we still struggle occasionally with set-pieces. Maybe get Steve Bould away from his u-18s to spend a bit of time organising the back four?

Maybe it’s giving Lehmann the chop, perhaps it’s the fact that Gallas has had a consistent run in the side, or it could just be that Bacary Sagna is that much better than Emmanuel Eboue – whatever it is, it’s worked, and we’re now much more solid at the back.

7. Sign a goalkeeper. If you want my opinion, a) you’re a fool, but b) Jens Lehmann is off in the summer. After three seasons of good service, he’ll be going home to Germany, and Arsene will be forced to sign a replacement. Obviously we’ll be linked with everyone going, but I imagine that Craig Gordon, Artur Boruc, Yohanne Pele, and Igor Akinfeev will be the names that crop up again and again. And again. Can’t wait to write those blogs…

Well, I was wrong – Jens stayed. Though perhaps both he and Arsene regret it now. We signed Fabianksi, but against the odds Manuel Almunia (who many felt would be third choice) has emerged as number one. Between now and the end of the season he has a great opportunity to stake a claim for the jersey in the long-term.

8. Win a trophy. An obvious one, but after a barren season last year, we should be aiming to bring something home come May, be it the Champions League, FA Cup, or even the League Cup. Of course, the latter two come into focus next week, when we face Liverpool twice in three days. And should we lose, that’ll be the end of our chances of winning anything domestically. For 2007, at least…

It wasn’t to be in 2007, with Chelsea denying us in the League Cup Final and Blackburn and PSV knocking us out of the FA Cup and Champions League respectively. This season, however, we are much better equipped to bring a trophy home. One gets the feeling this one will be high on the list of resolutions for 2008 too…

Everton 1 – 4 Arsenal: Top at Christmas; Top at New Year’s

1 comment December 30th, 2007

Were we ever off the top of the table? It doesn’t really feel like it. After a Manchester United side who our more pessimistic fans had declared invincible succumbed to (of all people) West Ham, a fantastic win at Goodison Park took us back into first place, this time with a two point advantage. It means that from fixtures against Chelsea, Spurs, Portsmouth and Everton, we’ve taken ten points from a possible twelve: an excellent return.

At half-time, it looked as if we’d still be languising in second place come full-time. Everton had taken the lead through either Tim Cahill or Yakubu (I still haven’t quite worked out who connected with an excellent Mikel Arteta corner), and we were deeply uninspiring. Bendtner and Eduardo had started upfront, and the pair were not receiving any service at all from a lacklustre midfield. The below-par form of Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb is providing real cause for concern – Cesc’s goal spree at the beginning of the season certainly feels a long time ago now.

The second half brought a change of tack, and a change of tactics. I’ve often insisted that Gael Clichy can’t really cross, but it seems he plays a handy long ball. His first hefty clearance evaded Nicklas Bendtner but bounced through to Eduardo, who had ghosted into the penalty area. The Croatian doesn’t need a second invitation to score, and calmly lifted the ball past Tim Howard and into the net for an equaliser.

Within 11 minutes he had a second. This time Clichy’s ball did find Bendtner, whose flick was surroptitiously handled by Eduardo. Never mind that (unless you’re an Everton fan) – what followed was Bergkamp-esque: a flick around the defender before regaining balance and calmly slotting into the near post. A stunning finish from a player who has scored nine goals despite barely making an impression on the first-team. In an Arsenal side often guilty of overplaying, Eduardo does the minimum neccessary to score.

Suddenly we were in front, and starting to look comfortable. But then Nicklas Bendtner made me look like a fool after bigging him up yesterday with a stupid sending off. Adebayor had been waiting on the touchline to replace him for some time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Bendtner had a fairly good idea he would be coming off. Already on a booking, he then launched into a horriffic challenge on Tim Cahill, and was lucky to escape with just a second yellow rather than a straight red. The young Dane has much to learn.

Adebayor instead replaced Eduardo, and carried on where the Croatian left off, killing the game with ten minutes to go with yet another route one goal. A punt upfield from Manuel Almunia resulted in confusion between Yobo and Howard, and Adebayor nipped in to reap the benefit.

The game then descended into a violent farce. Arteta was dismissed for an elbow on his friend Cesc Fabregas (who didn’t dive, despite accusations), and Tim Cahill made a pest of himself, infuriating Toure and Flamini (who was booked and will now miss the FA Cup tie at Burnley).

In injury time, we rubbed salt into the wounds with a fourth. Adebayor brought the ball down and played a neat one-two with Diaby, who slid the ball to Rosicky. The Czech midfielder looked up before firing the ball into the near post to put the icing on a particularly delicious cake.

It was a flattering scoreline, but then I don’t mind being flattered. Our second half performance deserved the result, whatever the bitter ramblings of David Moyes might imply. Seeing Eduardo finish like that was a real boost, and now he has his first Premier League goals I’m looking forward to the prospect of him partnering Adebayor against West Ham.

Two players seem to be on their way out of the club. Borussia Dortmund have refused to comment on speculation linking them with Jens Lehmann, whilst Gilberto Silva didn’t make the bench for either the Portsmouth or Everton games. That would leave only Kolo Toure from the famous Invincible XI remaining at the club – quite a remarkable turnaround in personnel.

Milan have declared Yohann Gourcuff surplus to requirements. With Luka Modric yesterday deciding to stay at Dinamo Zagreb until the summer, he could provide a welcome boost in the wide areas.

Still top of the league: Happy New Year!

Bendtner Deserves His Chance To Shine

1 comment December 29th, 2007

Bendtner in his Birmingham days

Kid Rock once said:

“They say I’m cocky, and I say,
‘What? It ain’t bragging if you do it
And you back it up’.”

Just several months into his Arsenal career, Nicklas Bendtner could feel justified in singing from the same songsheet.

I have never counted myself as a Bendtner fan. After watching him several times for Birmingham last season, I was distinctly unimpressed. He looked slow, disinterested, and unforgiveably lazy. Couple that with his comments threatening to leave Arsenal unless he receieved a first-team place and I had the impression of a ‘Big Time Charlie’ with more attitude than ability.

It seems that what Bendtner needed was the motivation of top level football. His talent had never been in question, and on the International stage he impressed with goals and assists for his native Denmark. Now back at Arsenal, I have finally begun to see the player that had Steve Bruce and the rest of the Championship drooling.

He is able in the air, skillfull on the floor, and effective in front of goal. Crucially, unlike Jeremie Aliadiere (and to an extent Theo Walcott), when presented with opportunities to play he rarely fails to make an impact. Great players have a habit of stamping their mark over games – for example, scoring a header within seconds of coming on in a North London Derby.

It’s that knack of writing his own scripts that has forced Bendtner ahead of Walcott, Eduardo and others in the strikers pecking order. Having fought his way to the front of the queue, the Dane surely won’t blow a forthcoming chance to cement a place.

Tomorrow, with Emmanuel Eboue and Walcott being rested, Bendtner could finally get the chance to start a Premier League game. It’s been a slow build of of consistently good cameos, and now the clamour for him to play is almost overwhelming. If he puts in a good performance today, we could be witnessing the start of something very special.


Disclaimer: Of course, he could just a) not be picked, or b) play terribly. Hyperbole comes at a price.

Decision to rest Eboue could mean 4-4-2 is back at Goodison

Add comment December 28th, 2007

Robin van Persie will miss the next two games with his ongoing muscle problem, but the decision to rest Emmanuel Eboue and Theo Walcott suggests that a return to 4-4-2 is very much a possibility.

With both players figuring primarily on the right-wing, their absence suggests Aleksandr Hleb will be shunted into that position, with a second striker (most likely Nicklas Bendtner) coming into the side.  After the 4-4-1-1 system ceased to function as it did in the earlier part of the season, a tactical switch will be a relief to the majority of fans.

In goalkeeper news, Jens Lehmann is close to a move to Borussia Dortmund.  One man who won’t be replacing him is one time target, Rune Jarstein, whose just signed for Rosenborg.  The latest name to be linked is Heinz Muller, who also used to play in Norway.  My Norwegian contacts tell me was never particularly highly regarded there, and was better known for this horriffic challenge than his goalkeeping skills.

Hm.  Reminds me of Jens.

Pompey 0 – 0 Arsenal: Crisis? What crisis?

1 comment December 27th, 2007

A draw at Portsmouth was good enough for Manchester United, and frankly it’s good enough for me too.

The behaviour of the majority of our fans, certainly in the jungle that is the Arsenal internet community, makes me laugh. Despite our incredible season thus far, they have been positively gagging to write us off. Last night, as Manchester United’s win at Blunderland took them top of the table, a large number took the opportunity to declare that the title race is over for us, and that United will now proceed to stroll to the the title whilst we sit in a pool of our own bitter tears.

Not likely. Thankfully, Arsene isn’t as fazed by the tiniest of blips as some.  Being first or second might matter a huge deal in May.  For now?  It’s not particularly significant.  There are 19 games to go.  Man U will drop points, believe it or not.  And so will we.  And so will Chelsea, and so will Liverpool.  We can’t pretend to fully percieve the state of the title race until, in all likelihood, late February.

As Arsene says:

“It is the 26th of December and we lost one game since the beginning of the championship. So we have problems? You convince me we are in crisis – if we do six months again and lose no games we will be champions.”

In other words: chill the fuck out some of you.

That said, we weren’t at our best last night.  Since returning from injury, Fabregas and Hleb have not been firing as they were prior to the game at Aston Villa.  That has resulted in our 4-4-1-1 formation suddenly starting to look a bit crubbish.  Adebayor looks isolated and a little lost, Eboue wasteful and Cesc exhausted.

Even so we could still have won yesterday.  Tomas Rosicky tested David James from range, and in the dying moments Gallas fired over from six yards and Rosicky pulled a shot wide after an excellent cut-back from impact sub Bendtner.

So a draw it was.  It was the first time we’ve failed to score in a game this season, but then we were up against an excellent Portsmouth side, who specialise in clean sheets at home.  With a fit Robin van Persie and an in-form Fabregas, we would’ve overcome them easily, but it wasn’t to be.  You can’t win every game.  Last season, we almost certainly would’ve lost, but another assured performance from Manuel Almunia made certain that wouldn’t happen.

Almunia’s form means that we are in the dying throes of Jens Lehmann’s time at Arsenal.  A move to Wolfsburg grows ever more likely.

I hear that Luka Modric’s representatives have flown into London today to negotiate with Chelsea and Manchester City.  I wonder if Arsene might rekindle his interest in a player who would provide us with another option in a slightly stagnating midfield.

Next up it’s Everton away on Saturday evening.  Winning there would mean ten points from four games against Chelsea, Spurs, Portsmouth and Everton, which would be an excellent return.  We’re perfectly capable of getting the job done, in both the short and long term.  So just calm down.

Previous Posts

Search Gunnerblog

Get your Gunnerblog t-shirts now!

get regular updates from GS with twitter

Top Gunn

Cesc Fabregas
The man in form.

    Retro Arsenal T-Shirts from - Bringing Back The Good Old Days!: Click Here!

Latest Posts

Sponsored Links


December 2007
« Nov   Jan »

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker