Archive for September, 2009

Olympiacos Preview: Denilson to miss two months with a back injury

44 comments September 29th, 2009

It’s a bad break, quite literally, for Denilson, who has a fracture in his back that will keep him out for around two months.

A mixed reaction to Denilson's injury...

I believe it’s similar to the injury which ended Gael Clichy’s season last term.  Whilst it’s a blow to the Brazilian, who had started the season in decent form, it also leaves us looking very light in that familiar position: holding midfield.  If Alex Song were to pick up an injury, who would we entrust with being the base of our midfield three?  Some will suggest the irresponsible and unpredictable Abou Diaby – I will suggest they seek some kind of treatment.

Nicklas Bendtner is lucky he isn’t similarly broken after an ugly looking car crash.  Bendtner, like some sort of poorly-coordinated action hero, walked away from the smash with just cuts and bruises, but will sit out tonight’s game with Olympiacos.  Theo Walcott, too, has been deemed not ready for first-team action.

In Bendtner’s absence, Robin van Persie will continue upfront in the central striking role.  In recent weeks, many have wondered why Arsene persists with RVP when the bigger, stronger Bendtner is available.  A couple of weeks ago I heard an anecdotal encounter of when some established French journalists met Arsene for a drink after one of our early games.  They asked him the same question.  Arsene responded saying being big and strong isn’t half as important as having the touch to control a ball that comes at you at any speed/height/trajectory.  Van Persie’s first touch, Arsene believes, is superior to anything in the division.  Yesterday, Le Boss confirmed as much to the national media:

“He has such a short technique that he can bring other players in.  We play with plenty of offensive players, so it is important you have somebody up front who can make a short control or a short pass.  There is no better player than Robin at that.”

Van Persie’s goal at the weekend was yet another demonstration of how good his touch can be.  Let’s hope he can get another one tonight and start to build some momentum.

With Almunia still out, I expect the only change to the side to be someone coming in for Bendtner, with Eduardo, Eboue and Rosicky the main contenders.  Olympiacos have some decent players (Olof Mellberg, Enzo Maresca, and Brazil international Dudu stand out) and will provide stiffer competition than many anticipate.  That said, winning our home games is essential, so hopefully we’ll get the right result tonight.

Still composing my thoughts on the financial situation.  Can’t find it in myself to talk about it when there’s actually a game on.

Come On You Reds.

Fulham 0 – 1 Arsenal: The One And Mannone

35 comments September 28th, 2009

Vito Mannone Fulham 0 – 1 Arsenal (Van Persie 52)
here; Arsene’s reaction here

Every dog has his day.

I am not a fan of Chesney Hawkes.  And yet the song referenced in today’s appalling headline (“The One And Only”, for those of you with the good sense to have side-stepped my punning antics), is undoubtedly a work of genius.

Anyone who reads this site regularly will know I have often been critical of Vito Mannone.  More frequently, certainly, than I have expressed my distate for the aforementioned Chesney.  And yet, on Saturday, the Italian rookie produced a performance so spectacular that without it we would have been lucky to escape Craven Cottage with a single point, let alone three.

On several occasions, the third-choice goalkeeper showed oustanding reflexes to deny Fulham’s attack, including one astonishing double-stop in the first half and a close-range block to foil a goalbound header from Bobby Zamora.

Remarkable though Mannone’s display was, Fulham will still have trudged off the pitch sensing a missed opportunity to upset one of the Big Four.  After the game Roy Hodgson said Fulham were unfortunate to face a goalkeeper in such good form – I’d also suggest that their strikers were guilty of giving the Mannone the slightest chance of making a save when he ought to have been dead and buried.

Man of the match Mannone, who will be installed as Top Gunn as soon as I can be bothered to crop an image, said of his performance:

“That’s the best game I have ever played. When I have played in the past it wasn’t so important. In the first-team you have to show what you can do and I think I did that. My favourite was the double save in the first half when I went to my right. It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Mannone wasn’t our only hero: Bacary Sagna and William Gallas both produced two fantastic blocks.  And what of our goal?  A beautiful clipped pass by Cesc Fabregas, two exquisite touches by Robin van Persie, and the ball was back in the net – a perfectly placed right-foot shot finding the bottom corner.

The fact that we’ve spent so long talking about Mannone probably tells you that going forward we weren’t up to much.  Despite the return of Andrey Arshavin, we didn’t click into gear and only created a handful of chances, the best of which the Russian shinned over the bar after an awkward bounce.

Still, three points is three points (is three points).  As many others have said, this is the sort of victory that would see United or Chelsea lauded as a team who know how to win ugly.  The latter’s defeat at Wigan shows that there are many twists and turns to come in this season.  We’re right in the mix.

To see Ivan Gazidis talk through the Financial Results, click here.  As far as I can tell, it’s good news, but these things are always somewhat shrouded in spin.

Olympiakos tomorrow.  The games are coming thick and fast at the moment.

Fulham Preview: The team I’d pick today + Vermaelen chant

Add comment September 26th, 2009

My line-up to face FulhamLast year we had two horrible games against Fulham: one a gut-wrenching defeat, the other the dullest of draws.

Today is as much about eradicating those memories as it is about continuing to pick up points against, with respect, the league’s lesser lights.

Manuel Almunia is still out, and I am sure that in his absence Arsene will plump for the marginally more experienced Vito Mannone rather than Woijcech Szczesny (I just typed that without checking the spelling, so apologies if it’s all over the place).

The back four is starting to have a pleasing regularity about it, whilst I think Song and Fabregas are similarly likely to be constants in the midfield three.  As the third man in that central trio, I’ve opted for Tomas Rosicky, whose return to fitness has been one of the early highlights of the season.

Upfront, I’ve picked the three players I believe to be our most technically gifted forwards: Eduardo, Van Persie, and the returning Andrey Arshavin.  Whilst it’s not a set of attackers that possesses blistering pace, the combination of craft and finishing power could be lethal.

Note: this is my team, and I’m not that confident that Arsene will replicate it.  Fulham provide a set-piece threat (as we found out to our cost last season), so the manager will most likely draft in the likes of Abou Diaby and Nicklas Bendtner to combat that.  Whilst that would be a sensible call, I’m not exaggerating when I suggest that the line-up you see above ought to be able to play its way past teams regardless of their height.

Theo Walcott could be in the squad for the first time this season, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the 4-3-3 system: a formation which, on paper, ought to suit his game far better.

Robin van Persie has been writing headlines all over the press this morning after confessing he occasionally exaggerates fouls to make them clear to the referee.  He’ll probably be castigated for his cynicism when perhaps he ought to be rewarded for his honesty.

Now for two men we hopefully won’t see too much of in the headlines in the coming weeks: Emmanuel Adebayor, dismissed superbly by Van Persie here; and Marouane Chamakh, who Arsene insists is no longer a target.

Right, time to settle down into the pre-match routine.  Just before I go, a very happy birthday to Arseblogger, and a merry boilking to him too.

ps. For those going to the game today, this Vermaelen chant (to the tune of ‘Oh my darling Clementine’) is sweeping North London:

“Tom Vermaelen,
Tom Vermaelen,
Tom Vermaelen, number 5
Tom Vermaelen,
Tom Vermaelen,
Tom Vermaelen, number 5”

See if we can get it going today.  He’s a player that deserves recognition from the fans – it’ll be interesting to see how his performance compares with rumoured former transfer target Brede Hangeland…

Shamelessly excited about the return of Andrey Arshavin

Add comment September 25th, 2009

I’m so excited.  And I just can’t hide it.  Tomorrow at Fulham, Andrey Arshavin will once again be available for selection.

It’s not that he’s set the world on fire with his early season form.  At times, he’s looked sluggish and lacking in fitness.  But on occasion, for mere flashes, he has demonstrated his brilliant best.  If we’re to achieve anything this season, we need to harness that raw talent and get as much out of it as possible.

Theo Walcott also has a chance of being involved, though not from the start.  In goal, Manuel Almunia’s chest infection (which has kept him out so long I’m wondering if the infection was from a bullet wound) means he’s still unavailable.  Arsene said yesterday that Vito Mannone would “normally” play, which to me suggests that Szczesny’s outstanding display on Tuesday has thrust him into contention.

I’ve got to dash now, but for some pre-match thoughts, listen to today’s Arsecast.  What with my audioboo yesterday, you’ll soon be sick of the sound of my voice.

Till tomorrow.

Arsenal 2 – 0 West Brom: Belated report + Chamakh saga explained

1 comment September 24th, 2009

Hello folks. On Tuesday night I attended the Carling Cup victory over WBA, and some brief but not neccessarily succinct thoughts are attached here.

Whilst the performance lacked the electrifying vibrancy of some Carling Cup outings, we got the result against an in-form West Brom. Winning whilst not playing particularly well is certainly a worthwhile skill for these kids to learn.

Elsewhere, Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud has uncovered his version of the Marouane Chamakh saga (which, unsurprisingly, Arsene disputes). For those who can’t be bothered to read it (I had to force myself, to be honest), the gist is thus: Bordeaux asked for an absurd sum, we offered a reasonable one, they refused – no deal.

I’m still not convinced Chamakh is either what we want or what we need, but now our interest is so widely known you can expect him to join Sebastien Frey in being doomed to be linked with us until he a) signs or b) dies. And you can wipe that grin off your face, Blaise Matuidi – the same fate awaits you.

And what about Big Sol eh? Bet he’s chuffed he insisted on inserting that break(down) clause in his Notts County deal. Over on twitter, wearing a pair of plastic devil horns, I asked who people would rather see pull on an Arsenal shirt in an injury crisis: Mikael Silvestre or Mad Sol? Opinion appears to be split, but the point was made several times that at least you know you’ll get two halves out of Silvestre.

Right, that’s yer lot. A civilised trip to Fulham awaits on Saturday, where we’ll be looking to write the wrongs of last season. Early team news suggests Andrey Arshavin will return, but Manuel Almunia will not. More tomorrow.

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