Archive for February, 2009

Have Paddy Power paid out on 0-0 yet?

1 comment February 28th, 2009

If today’s match was on Sky, do you think they would open their coverage with a montage, set to some soaring emotive melody, billing this as a clash between two extraoardinary exponents of dull draws?

In thirteen away games this season, Fulham have amassed a quite stunning three goals, with five nil-nils along the way.  We, meanwhile, have not scored in three league games, and have had four nil-nils in our last seven games.  Despite Roy Hodgson insisting that Fulham will play with two strikers and Arsene’s declaration of faith in his forwards, and without wanting to be churlish, it’s hard to see it being a goalfest.

It’s quite a remarkable change of fortunes for an Arsenal side who little over a month ago were regarded as a free-flowing attacking unit with great vulnerability at the back.  Now, all of a sudden, we’ve stopped conceding with such alarming regularity, but can’t buy a goal.

It’s all the more strange when you consider that centre-half was seemingly almost as much of a ‘problem area’ as holding midfield until a few weeks ago.  William Gallas had been stripped of the captaincy and seemed destined to leave the club, whilst Kolo Toure had fallen out of both form and friendship with Gallas, and handed in a transfer request.  Our one shining light was Swiss giant Johan Djourou, who had impressed when picked to provide some aerial power.

However, since picking up an injury in the warm-up a few weeks back, Djourou has been relegated to the subs bench, with Toure and Gallas resuming their once acrimonious partnership.  One suspects that part of the reason Toure is being picked is that in the absence of Cesc, he is the obvious choice as captain.  However, his form is undoubtedly somewhat better, in no doubt helped by the markedly improved performances of William Gallas.  Maybe he’s just playing to get himself into the shop window, but since being deposed as captain, the Frenchman has been almost faultless.

The centre-back pairing have been helped by those around them.  Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy seem to be a little more conservative this season without Mathieu Flamini to fill in for them, whilst Arsene Wenger yesterday moved to praise the form of Manuel Almunia, who has been undoubtedly excellent since the turn of the year.

I suppose you’re unlikely to concede many when you play decent possession football, and that is probably as much the secret of Fulham’s success as the performances of someone like Brede Hangeland.  However, when that possession consists of five yard passes across the pitch, you’re not likely to score many either.

It’s evident that we’re missing a wealth of attacking talent, and it will certainly be a huge bonus when Theo Walcott, Eduardo, and Adebayor return (in that order) over the next two weeks.  But even so, with players like Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin, and Samir Nasri all available, we ought to be able to carve out chances – and maybe Nicklas Bendtner will begin to take them.

Yesterday’s press conference contained two pieces of news from Arsene that were both, in their own way, somewhat surprising.  The first was that he tried to buy Salomon Kalou last Summer – a story that first started after Luis Felipe Scolari let it slip a few months back.  I do find it a little odd seeing as Kalou has harldy set the world alight at Stamford Bridge – but at the same time he is young, quick, versatile and African.  I suppose we oughtn’t be that surprised after all.

The second bit of news is that Abou Diaby has recovered AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.  Remarkable.  When Arsene I heard he might be out for two weeks, I assumed we wouldn’t see him until 2010.  But now he’s available and I’d certainly start him ahead of Song to give us a bit of attacking drive and impetus.

The defeat away to Fulham in just our second league game was one of the most painful this season.  Our performance that day was simply unacceptable.  Whilst that can’t be undone, getting three points today might help to numb that lingering pain.  Don’t forget that ArsenalTV will be offering their matchday coverage for free, and for the chance to win a free six month subscription all you need to do is email some feedback to

Come on you Gunners.

One of you can have a free ArsenalTVOnline subscription, apparently

2 comments February 27th, 2009

As I’m sure you can imagine, I receive quite a lot of emails asking me to promote various bits and bobs on the site. Most of them end up in the Trash folder of my email inbox – most of the messages are so full of marketing-speak as to be almost unintelligible to any mere mortal like myself. However, yesterday one arrived that I did give a second glance. It was from the folks over at ArsenalTVOnline. They’re keen to spread the word that their coverage of Arsenal v Fulham on Saturday (featuring full commentary on the game, the first post-match interviews, live video post-match discussion, and the chance to have your say throughout the show) will be totally free. Entirely open to anyone who wants to use it.

That in itself would, I suppose, be of some interest, but of potentially far greater long-term benefit to you lot is the fact that they’ve offered one Gunnerblog reader a free six month subscription to ArsenalTVOnline. I myself am a subscriber, and find it pretty handy/entertaining, so I’d suggest it’s something worth winning.

All you have to do is email a couple of lines of feedback on Saturday’s show to All those who do will be entered into a draw, and someone will win that prize worth £23.94.


Seriously though, it’s a useful thing to have, if only for the footage of Arsene’s press conferences. Or if you ever want to know with whom Johan Djourou shared his first kiss.

I know I said I’d be talking about the defence today, but considering how pushed for time I am this week, I think I’ll amalgamate that into tomorrow’s Fulham preview.

Finally, congratulations to the Womens team, who won the League Cup Final against Doncaster by five goals to nil. If only the men could keep up with their astonishing success.

Francesco Totti assaulted Denilson on Tuesday night (video)

45 comments February 26th, 2009

No time for a proper blog today, but having had this video brought to my atention by a couple of people yesterday it’s increasingly hard to believe that Totti got away with it:

That can only have been born out of his frustration at just how poor his performance was.

More tomorrow, when I’ll be trying to work out just how or why we’ve managed to stop conceding goals. Presumably, I will either fail, or declare that it’s down to one of coincidence or magic.

Roma’s Ineptitude Helps Restore Confidence

1 comment February 25th, 2009

Arsenal 1 -  0 Roma (Van Persie 37 (pen))
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

You may log on to the blog this morning feeling a little strange. Do not be alarmed: that feeling is satisfaction, and it’s happening to you because Arsenal played well last night.

Don’t be alarmed. Don’t assume the site has been hacked. Don’t rub your eyes in an attempt to assert whether or not you are still dreaming. Arsenal played well, scored, and won. Of course, it’s not a night that was without negative elements. But for a couple of paragraphs or so, let’s indulge ourselves.

Our dominance was down to two things – an intelligent selection and formation on Arsene’s part, and Roma’s brittle confidence. The Italians have lost on every previous visit to this country, and have shown a tendency to collapse under pressure – witness their 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford last year. If our finishing had been a little better, we could have hit something approaching that scoreline last night…

The team were set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Denilson and Diaby holding, Eboue on the right and Nicklas Bendtner in an unfamiliar role on the left, with Samir Nasri floating centrally behind Robin van Persie. It was a creative and effective response to the obvious lack of creativity in the middle of the park we displayed on Saturday. Bendtner and Eboue worked hard, though lacked a little in guile, and Nasri and Van Persie were a constant nuisance to Roma’s backline. Diaby, meanwhile, looked like he was playing a different sport to the one Song usually seems to be playing – he was efficient, powerful, quick, and dangerous. Alongside him, Denilson was free to stick to the basics – get it and give. He got it and he gave it and then he went and got it again. Playing a more creative player like Nasri ahead of him frees Denilson to perform the ‘water-carrier’ role he is patently suited to.

Roma couldn’t cope with our passing and movement, and on top of that their big players really didn’t perform at all. Julio Baptista displayed the cumbersome form he showed for much of his time at Arsenal, whilst Francesco Totti played as he has done every single time I’ve seen him play – terribly. This is apparently one of the world’s great players, but I feel like I have some kind of jinx over him whereby I will only ever see him play poorly. The same could be said of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Inter Milan striker. Maybe it’s something to do with Italian football. Or being massively overrated. It’s one of the two.

I suppose the most disappointing thing about the game is that we failed to score from open play. However, we did at least create chances, with Nicklas Bendtner particularly guilty of spurning them. In the second half, he managed to lift a shot over the crossbar from a maximum of eight yards. Kaba Diawara would have admired the ineptitude.

Emmanuel Eboue was also sent clear on goal, and was offered redemption on a plate. Needless to say, he missed. When we did score, it was a penalty by Robin van Persie that was equally definite in its award and execution.

Other down-sides were needless bookings for Nasri and Toure (the latter for joining Gallas in being late for the start of the second-half), and a customary niggle for Diaby. But it’s really not worth dwelling on those. For me, last night’s result and what it does for our chances or progressing to the next round or otherwise are less important than the quality of performance we produced. The players were “up for it”. I can’t remember the last time I came away from a game with that impression.

What we need to do now is take that into the game against Fulham. Every Premier League game is vital now. Last night’s entertaining spectacle was a microcosm of the glamour and excitement that the Champions League brings. I would be sad to lose that, but far sadder about the other footballing consequences of failing to qualify.

For today, at least, I’m proud of the players. It’s nice to feel that again. Till tomorrow.

Roma Preview: I’m excited. But I’d probably rather beat Fulham.

3 comments February 24th, 2009

I’m finding it hard to get motivated for this game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to it – but not necessarily for the right reasons.

I’m looking forward to it because it represents a distraction from our traumatic league campaign. Perhaps our best chance in the match is if the players feel similarly – one need only look at the liberated nature of our display in the 4-0 thrashing of Cardiff as evidence of the squad’s willingness to escape the difficulty they encounter in the Premier League.

I’m looking at it as a game that will entertain me this evening. But it feels more like a prestigious friendly than a chance to progress in the highest profile club competition in Europe. And I’d guess there are two principle reasons for that.

The first is that I am not confident about our chances. Our failure to break down sides with defences far less sturdy than Roma’s doesn’t bode well, whilst I am particularly wary of their Serbian striker Mirko Vucinic, who is capable of Eduardo-esque efficiency in front of goal. How we will miss the Croatian tonight. The point is, I suppose, that I’m finding it hard to get excited about the Champions League because at this stage we look a million miles off competing for it at the sharp end.

The other fact is that it isn’t our priority at the moment. Granted, we’re two games away from a quarter-final, but the nature of our league position is that each domestic game is taking on the significance of a cup final. Perhaps the reason to take interest in this game is that if our domestic form continues in the shoddy manner it has recently played out, winning this big-eared cup might just be our best(/only) shot of qualifying for it next year. Though at the moment that feels like trying to kill two great eagles with a pebble.

Arsene Wenger’s latest comments about his team’s potential have done little to raise my spirits. It’s all very well talking about how good Nasri, Fabregas, Diaby & Co might be in three of four years time, but failing to qualify for the Champions League would a) make it difficult to keep some of those players, and b) deny them all the exposure to top-level European competition they patently need.

If Arsenal win convincingly tonight, you just know I’ll be the first to claim that “Arsenal are back”, suggest Alex Song is “just misunderstood”, and that the title is not a foregone conclusion.  I’m not expecting that to happen, but I still hope it will.  Come on Gunners.  Cheer me up.

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