Archive for October, 2009

Almunia is no longer Number 1

Add comment October 20th, 2009

Tonight’s teams are in and Vito Mannone has once again been given the nod over Manuel Almunia, who remains on the substitutes bench.

No longer can Arsene claim that this is due to the world’s worst chest infection: Almunia is clearly not regarded as first-choice, and is being deliberately sidelined by the manager.  In the mean-time, Mannone is probably only keeping the gloves warm until the return of Lukasz Fabianski, who will be fit in the next couple of weeks.

It’s a very odd situation.  However much he struggled in the first few games of the season, Almunia is a more reliable, more experienced, and I would suggest ‘better’ goalkeeper than the rookie Mannone.  By not picking the Spaniard, Arsene is clearly hoping to motivate him, but I worry that it might knock his confidence sufficiently to leave him a shadow of the keeper who has kept goal fairly reliably for the last few seasons.

In Almunia, Fabianski, and Mannone Arsenal now have three goalkeepers, none of whom can make an entirely convincing argument to be first choice.

Selecting Mannone tonight is, in my eyes, a significant gamble.  For the team’s sake, I hope it pays off.

Join me for match coverage on twitter.

Team to face Alkmaar:

Mannone, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Diaby, Eboue, Van Persie, Arshavin

Subs: Almunia, Silvestre, Gibbs, Ramsey, Vela, Wilshere, Merida

Arsenal 3 – 1 Birmingham: Familiar traits in less than routine victory

Add comment October 19th, 2009

Arsenal 3 – 1 Birmingham (Van Persie 16, Diaby 18, Arshavin 85, Bowyer 38)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

Thank everything holy that proper football is back. After the drought of International week – a week in which, incidentally, my life careered off the placid rails it normally occupies with such force so as to prevent me blogging to any great degree – Arsenal returned to action on Saturday with a win which featured some increasingly familiar motifs.

Robin van Persie opened the scoring with what is becoming a trademark goal. A slick through-ball from Alexandre Song found the Dutchman in the inside-left channel. Impeccable control, outrageously dextrous rearrangement of his feet, and a pinpoint finish into the corner was a demonstration of the goalscoring ability that’s seen Van Persie net in four consecutive games.

Within seconds it was two. Some neat interchange down the right saw Emmanuel Eboue, starting at right-back instead of the rested Bacary Sagna, burst into the area. His pass found Tomas Rosicky, whose cut-back was met by the onrushing Abou Diaby, who finished with a rising side-foot off his left boot. Diaby’s regular runs into the box and finishing ability are part of what make his potential so exciting. What was encouraging about his performance yesterday was not so much that one explosive moment, but the fact that he was able to perform with determination and discipline for ninety minutes. Diaby, Song and Fabregas are the men in possession of the shirts for the midfield three for the moment, and it’s going to require a real battle from the currently injured pair of Nasri and Denilson to disrupt that.

And then Birmingham scored the sort of goal we concede all often. When Diaby headed a cross up into the air, Vito Mannone failed to deal with the dropping ball and Lee Bowyer was able to volley in. I’m not sure which of Mannone’s crimes was worse: failing to clear the ball or allowing Lee Bowyer even a moment of happiness.

The Italian had started ahead of Manuel Almunia, who is clearly out of favour after a dodgy start to the season. Perhaps unfortunately neither Mannone nor Fabianski represent realistic alternatives. For that reason, I expect a highly-motivated Almunia to return to the side on Tuesday against Alkmaar.

One man who won’t face the Dutch side is Theo Walcott, after the winger was withdrawn from his first start of the season just thirty minutes in. In the light of some stupid behaviour from the Birmingham fans it would be easy to criticise the tackle from Liam Ridgewell, but whilst it was a crunching tackle that felled Walcott it was, crucially, a fair one. Walcott’s habit of picking up injuries is starting to become a concern.

At least he plays in an area of the field where we have plenty of talent – witness the man introduced as Walcott’s replacement on Saturday: Andrey Arshavin. At the end of a second half in which Van Persie struck the bar and Mannone did well to prevent a Birmingham equaliser, Arshavin set the crucial seal on the game with the third. Mannone threw the ball to Cesc, who found the Russian roaming inward for the left. As Cesc distracted the defender by running outside him, Arshavin barely broke his goalward waddle to bend the ball sumptuously into the far corner. Five goals in seven starts this season for the idiosyncratic Russian – amazing to think that he’s probably yet to show his best form.

The most pleasuring sense of déjà vu was derived from the fact that once again we won against a side who will probably finish in the lower half of the table. If we continue to pick up maximum points outside those in the top four, we will almost certainly be in title contention come the turn of the New Year.

Alkmaar away tomorrow – team new for that as and when it arrives.

Still in the thick fog of International week…

Add comment October 13th, 2009

Don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m stumbling through a desolate misty moor, clutching at any news story that feels like it might be of the remotest interest.  Take, for example, Patrick Vieira stating that he won’t be joining Arsenal in January.  This is not, traditionally, a news story.  If anything, it’s a refutation of the potential for a piece of news.  It’s a news contraceptive.  And yet here it is, the first thing I have cause to mention.

Arsene Wenger has also been producing some non-news, stating that he won’t name Arsenal’s new manager:

“If they consult me I will give an opinion but I certainly will not name the next manager because that’s not my job and I wouldn’t like to do anything other than my job.”

The Arsenalisation process continues, with the latest mural to be erected featuring the likes of Charlie George and Dennis Bergkamp.  Whilst I like the idea, I do occasionally wonder if the players’ figures could bear a closer resemblance to their real-life counterparts.  In the first mural, for example, Thierry Henry cut a rather tubby figure.

Right, that’s really it.  If I were you I’d just bury your head in the sand till Friday, but given how inconvenient that could prove to be, I expect I’ll see you tomorrow.

Internationals & Some more important stuff

Add comment October 12th, 2009

Hello.  I don’t have a vast amount to say about the weekend’s internationals, which conspired to be outrageously dull.  Furthermore, FIFA’s decision to seed the European World Cup Qualification Play-offs has disillusioned me immensely.  It seems that Blatter has forseen the possibility of a World Cup without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, and panicked.

There were, however, some Arsenal goalscorers.  Gallas netted for France against the Faroes, Philippe Senderos scored two headers for Switzerland, and Cesc Fabregas grabbed this delightful lobbed effort for Spain against Armenia.  Cesc will now miss their midweek game due to “family reasons” – whilst I hope nothing too bad has befallen Cesc’s family, I’m delighted he’ll get a rest ahead of the weekend.

Eduardo’s Croatia are out of the tournament, and whilst I’m sure the striker will be disappointed, a summer off will be just what he needs after what will have hopefully been a successful comeback season.  The same could be said for Tomas Rosicky, whose Czech Republic side still trail Slovakia and Slovenia.

More important than any of that is the fact that tomorrow night is the gala screening of The Gooner Review 08-09.  Arseblog flagged it up the other day, and I wanted to quickly remind you that the screening is at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, at 9.00pm.  Whilst it’s a cracking film, the really fantastic thing is that 100% of profit will go to Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation, as well as the Phoenix Cinema Centenary Restoration Project. For details of attending, along with Bob Wilson and others, please check the Gooner Review website.  A clip of the film follows.

Till tomorrow.

Thomas Vermaelen could captain Arsenal one day too

1 comment October 9th, 2009

Things are a bit quiet in blogville as far as Arsenal are concerned.  That’s all down to the horrors of yet another International break.  This one is particularly dull for English fans: not only can you only watch the national team through some dodgy (yet still expensive) stream, but Theo Walcott isn’t even in the full squad.

Probably the biggest Arsenal-related news is that flavour of the month Thomas Vermaelen (who pipped ‘Cookies & Cream’ at the post) has been named Belgium’s new captain.  Admittedly, that is a bit like being named King of Luxembourg (ie. not half as impressive as it sounds), but it is yet another indication that the 23-year old has leadership qualities beyond his years.

The appointment means he’s already captained his country and Ajax, one of European football’s most recognised clubs.  Ally that with the fact that he’s vocal, an organiser, a centre-back, and looks well ‘ard, and suddenly the case for him being a future Arsenal skipper becomes rather clear.

Of course, we do have a rather excellent captain in situe at the moment, and I would never suggest that there was a strong possibility of him leaving in the next few years.  To go to Barcelona.  Oh no.

Anyway, the main reason for this post is so that if when it does come to pass, I can claim that I called it.

Fans of Nicklas Bendtner: Watch this video.  Go to 00:28.  Marvel at the skill, the dexterity, the technique.

Gavin Hoyte, whose career has taken something of a backwards step since being unfairly drafted in for that awful game at the City of Manchester Stadium last year, has joined Brighton & Hove Albion on loan.  Hopefully some good performances there will boost his confidence and get him back on track.

That’s about it from me.  It might continue to be a little quiet over the weekend, simply because I’m not interested in the vast majority of games that are happening.  The most intriguing from an Arsenal perspective might be Andrey Arshavin’s Russia taking on Germany, in something of a winner-takes-all affair.

Enjoy your Fridays.

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