Archive for November, 2009

Arsenal 2 – 0 Standard Liege: Good News & Bad News

Add comment November 25th, 2009

Arsenal 2 – 0 Standard Liege (Nasri 35, Denilson 45+2)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

What do you want: the good news or the bad news?

Those who said “good news”, be happy – that’s coming up first.  Those who said “bad news”, you’ll have to skip on then come back.  Awkward but y’know.

The good is that we won.  Not only did we win, but we won comfortably, keeping a clean sheet and never really having to click into top gear.  The three points mean we qualify for the next round as group winners and we can afford to rest players in our final game against Olympiacos.

Alex Song was again outstanding, and Arsene Wenger confirmed post-game that he has extended his contract until 2014.

Carlos Vela got a run-out, and Samir Nasri continued his rehabilitation with a hard-working performance topped off with a neat goal, volleying home after a defensive error.

Denilson played his first game since September and capped it with a cracking goal from thirty-odd yards, thanks to his magic ankles.  Allow Arsene to explain:

“I think he has a typical Brazilian shot. With this floating ball I think they have shorter ankles and it gives a different flight to the ball. It is typical Brazilian technique and I tried to analyse it many times. I could only think maybe they have a bit shorter ankle in front and they can kick the ball high up with the laces.”

What an astute observation.  It must have required hours of research.  Arsene?

“I have never checked it.”

Ah.  Ok then, boss.

The bad news, then – apart from the manager’s sudden senility.  Well, we’ve picked up a few injuries: Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas both suffered blows to the head, but Kieran Gibbs’s bruised metatarsal has now metamorphosed into a broken one, and he’s expected to miss the next three months.  We’re left with a choice between Mikael Silvestre and Armand Traore.  Did someone say “devil”, and then very quickly say “deep blue sea” in a facetious manner?

Our performance was also a little sloppy – Liege struck the woodwork twice and ought to have had a penalty.

Play so casually against Chelsea on Sunday, and we will be punished.

Defeat at Sunderland makes winning tonight essential

1 comment November 24th, 2009

The Sunderland game was a horrible one to watch.  Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Hansen has pointed out that Arsenal’s front six was flawed by having too many similar players in it.  More significant, I suspect, was the fact that in Eduardo, Ramsey, Nasri, and Rosicky we started four players who haven’t played regular league football in some time.  They was a palpable lack of sharpess, and Sunderland capitalised with a goal from a poorly defended set-piece.

Having Darren Bent score against you is a rubbish feeling.  No matter how many goals he scores, a Darren Bent goal still hurts.  At the end of the day, this is a man who wasn’t good enough for Tottenham.  It’s like if Roman Pavlyuchenko left Spurs and later cropped up with a winner against you.  It’s like if Ramon Vega stole your girlfriend, or Christian Gross announced himself as your new stepfather.

We’re up against another man who never cut it at White Hart Lane tonight: Ricardo Rocha.  He says Liege need a miracle to win tonight.  I’d suggest all they need is for Arsenal to play as poorly as they did on Saturday.

A point would qualify us for the next round – a win would make us group winners.  It’s debatable how advantageous that is – we could win the group and still face European Champions Barcelona in the next round – but for the sake of morale and form it’s vital that we pick up three points.  On Sunday there’s a crunch game against Chelsea wherein defeat would see us eleven points behind the league leaders.  It’s vital we go into that match on a high.

To that end, Arsene is urging the whole squad – particularly Theo Walcott, who is likely to make only his second start of the season tonight – to forget about their World Cup qualifying campaign and concentrate entirely on their club now:

“The big season is with Arsenal, not at the World Cup. We do not pay players to go to the World Cup – we pay the players to do well for Arsenal. The first pride of a man is to do well for the guy who pays you in life, not to go to the World Cup.”

It’s easy to understand his frustration at being asked whether or not Walcott will go to the World Cup in June when we’re still in November and he’s yet to make a significant impact this season at club level.  The midweek play-offs also meant that Andrey Arshavin was not fresh enough to start at Sunderland.  With the qualifying campaign now put to bed, it’s only right that players should focus on the hand that ultimately feeds them – their clubs.

A good win tonight is vital.  I don’t know whether or not Arsene will risk fielding Eduardo three times in a week, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start – he needs a goal to give him the confidence he requires to replace the injured Robin van Persie.

Come On You Reds.

I’m still pleased for Thierry

Add comment November 19th, 2009

This morning I woke up to a world where Thierry Henry is not a hero, but a villain; not a sportsman, but a cheat; not an Arsenal legend, but an enemy of the beautiful game.

What bollocks.  Le God’s hand might have intervened to help put Ireland out of the World Cup, but one handball does not a serial cheat make.  The press have spent the morning comparing Henry to Diego Maradona, stating his reputation will be tarnished in a similar way.  I can see what they have in common: a solitary handball, a suspension for cocaine, and testing positive for ephedrine…

Oh no wait, hang on: that’s absolute shit.  Henry did not claim that his handball was the result of any divinity.  Unlike Maradona, he is a gentlemen who was clearly embarrassed by a momentary lapse of judgement.

Frankly, I’m glad he’ll be at what looks likely to be his final World Cup.  The world’s biggest stage and Henry deserve each other.

I feel deeply sorry for Andrey Arshavin, who will not travel to South Africa after Russia went out to Slovenia.  His performances at Euro 2008 lit up the tournament, and it’s a shame he won’t be able to do the same next summer.  From Arsenal’s perspective, however, it’s not so damaging:  1) Arshavin will get some much needed rest, 2) he will be even more determined to make an impact at club level, and 3) he won’t attract as much attention from Europe’s transfer vultures.

There were a couple of international goals from Arsenal players: this neat effort from Cesc Fabregas and a screamer from Emmanuel Eboue.

In other news, Eduardo has signed a new long-term contract – good timing, really, what with his increased importance to us in the light of Robin van Persie’s injury.

Got to run now.  Till the next time.

Ladies and gentlemen: The World’s Smallest Strikeforce

Add comment November 17th, 2009

So it’s confirmed: Robin van Persie will miss the next six weeks with an ankle injury.  The spell on the sidelines will see him miss key games against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, but given Robin’s tendency to suffer massive lay-offs I still think we’ve come off rather lightly.  All we have to hope now is that his treatment progresses well and he is ready to return in the new year.

However, with Nicklas Bendtner (and indeed Theo Walcott) also out it does leave us somewhat light upfront.  Eduardo is the natural replacement for Van Persie, though since returning from ‘that’ ankle injury he has never been asked to play a consistent run of games.  Whether or not he’s up to the challenge remains to be seen.

This Guardian piece speculates that Andrey Arshavin could be the man deployed in the middle in Van Persie’s absence.  It wouldn’t completely surprise me: Arshavin has been used there late on in games to help facilitate counter-attacks.

What is clear is that whoever we play will be part of one of the smallest front threes in footballing history.  Eduardo, Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri and Walcott are all some way off six foot.  Until Bendtner returns we can give up on the possibility of scoring with too many towering headers.

In the meantime, a strikeforce of Arshavin, Eduardo and Walcott doesn’t look too shabby.  The major strength of the team this season has been its ability to get goals from all over the park – despite his good form, Robin isn’t even our top scorer.  As long as the likes of Fabregas, Arshavin, Diaby, and the centre-backs keep chipping in, we should be able to cover the Dutchman’s absence.

Our first test will be this Saturday, at the Stadium of Light.  Let’s hope for no more injuries between now and then…

Robin’s injury could be Eduardo’s cue

Add comment November 15th, 2009

We all know International breaks are boring, but that isn’t enough to make me hate them.

What does make me hate them is the unneccessary injuries our players inevitably pick up.  Last night Robin van Persie suffered what could well turn out to be a serious ankle injury in a friendly against Italy:

It’s a concern, especially with Robin being in such tremendous form this season. That said, it was probably unrealistic to expect him to last the season without sustaining some form on injury. Until we get some further indication on the serious of the injury then it’s impossible to know how significantly it’ll affect our chances of success.

One of the few positives to come out of last night was Eduardo netting twice for Croatia – if Robin is our for any period of time, we’re going to have to rely on his goalscoring instinct to dig us out of that particular hole.

Aaron Ramsey was also in terrific form for Wales, but it was against Scotland, so I’m not sure if that counts.

More on Robin when we get it.

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