Archive for December, 2009

Portsmouth 1 – 4 Arsenal: The right buys could land us the league

42 comments December 31st, 2009

Portsmouth 1 – 4 Arsenal (Eduardo 28, Nasri 42, Ramsey 69, Belhadj 74, Song 81)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

A cracking win over an admittedly poor Portsmouth side means we’re in a great position heading in to the new year.  A win in our game in hand at home to Bolton will take us above Manchester United and just a point behind leaders Chelsea.

Last night’s game oughn’t have been so easy, but Portsmouth looked like a side lacking in confidence and inspiration.  With all that said, it took a hefty slice of luck for us to take the lead – Eduardo’s free-kick coming off Younes Kaboul and leaving Asimir Begovic no chance.  That’s three free kicks scored in our last three games – albeit with a little help.

Our second was a wonderfully worked goal.  Alex Song’s clipped pass found Eduardo to the left of the penalty area.  He bought time in the penalty area with some shimmying before poking the ball to Aaron Ramsey, who in turn laid it off for Samir Nasri.  The number eight’s finish was excellent, nestling neatly in the bottom corner.  Portsmouth had given us time on the ball and been suitably punished.

At that point the game was dead, but there was still time for a second half flourish.  First Aaron Ramsey collected the ball thirty yards out, stepped inside his man, and fired a magnificent left-foot shot in to the near post.  It was a goal that underlined his undoubted potential.

Portsmouth picked up a consolation when Championship Manager hero Anthony Vanden Borre cut the ball back to Nadir Belhadj, whose deflected effort beat Manuel Almunia.  But our three goal advantage was soon restored – Alex Song’s header giving him a much deserved first goal of the season.

Great goals, great win.  Afterwards Arsene talked about the possibility of signing a striker or midfielder, and you’d have to say that with us in a decent position to mount a title challenge it’s probably worth gambling and investing a few quid.  Andrey Arshavin is a willing runner up front, but he’s no number nine, and is more useful to us in other positions.  In midfield we’re going to miss Song enormously, whilst his absence also leaves us even thinner at centre-back.  Oh, and we need a goalie.

Dust off that chequebook, Arsene.  The right buys could win us the title.

Got to dash to Brighton now for some New Years Eve festivities.  I am prepared for the inevitable jokes.  Have a good one, and let’s hope 2010 is a good one for the Arse.

Portsmouth Preview + special Best Of The Decade arsecast

1 comment December 30th, 2009

Hello all.  Let me begin this morning by directing you somewhere else.  For a podcast-shaped treat, head over to to hear me, Goodplaya, the man from East Lower and the venerable arseblogger himself discussing the Arsenal XI of the decade, as well as our favourite games, goals and moments.  Remarkable to think that the decade predates any of our blogs.  I wonder if we’ll still be here in ten years.

In the more immediate future, we have a game tonight against Pompey.  As far as team news goes, it’s all a bit vague I’m afraid.  Nicklas Bendtner will be out for another three weeks, but there’s not yet a prognosis for Cesc‘s hamstring problem or Denilson’s bad back.  Both players will miss out tonight, so it’s fortunate firstly that Alex Song doesn’t join up with Cameroon until the 4th of Jan, but also that Abou Diaby is in such good form.  The third member of the midfield trio will be one of Samir Nasri, Aaron Ramsey, or the returning Tomas Rosicky.

The goalkeeper and defence that faced Villa will all be ready to go again against Portsmouth.  I meant to mention that in the wake of his penalty save against Hull, Manuel Almunia looked a much more confident and thus capable goalkeeper against Villa, producing one particularly excellent claw away to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor.  At left-back, Armand Traore is seizing his prolonged first-team opportunity (neither Clichy nor Gibbs are expected to return for a few weeks) with some increasingly consistent performances.  He is better than either of his rivals in the air, and his ball out to Theo Walcott on Sunday was an absolute peach.  It’s a huge opportunity for Traore and he’ll want to do especially well against the club where he spent so much time on loan.

Upfront Theo Walcott will be pushing for a start back on the South Coast, whilst Arsene will be hoping that Andrey Arshavin can take up the goalscoring mantle again in Cesc’s absence.

Portsmouth have improved under Avram Grant but they are still rooted to the bottom of the Premier League.  As a ‘title contender’ we ought to go there and take three points.  We certainly have the talent to do it, but we’ll need the mental strength to assert ourselves too.

Finally, the transfer window looms ever closer.  Personally speaking, I can’t wait until The Queen cuts the big red ribbon and officially opens it.  I get more excited about transfer rumours than most – but I can’t be the only one pleased to see that we won’t be signing Manchester City’s Craig Bellamy.  Sign Bellamy and you run the risk of opening the portal to hell that the likes of Joey Barton, El Hadji-Diouf and Noel Edmonds are liable to spill through.

Big game tonight.  Come On You Gunners.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Villa: Fabregas cameo wins the day – but at what cost?

Add comment December 28th, 2009

Fabregas celebrates his stunning first

Arsenal 3 – 0 Aston Villa (Fabregas 65, 81, Diaby 90)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

It was a very deliberate move by Arsene Wenger.  By naming Cesc Fabregas on the bench, he gave himself an option few managers are afforded.  If Arsenal were struggling to break a sturdy Aston Villa down, he could turn to a combative, creative, goalscoring (if not entirely fit) leader to try and make the difference.  Yesterday, when just that scenario occurred, the number four trotted out on to the pitch with the hopes of 60,000 fans on his shoulders.  When he limped off just tenty-five minutes the later, the game was won.  It’s fair to say he delivered.

Up until that point, Arsenal had been solid but not spectacular.  Villa clearly came to to try and claim a valuable away point, and their centre-back pairing were doing a good job of stunting the efforts of the trio of Eduardo, Arshavin and Nasri.  Our best chance fell to the Croatian, who sidestepped his marker brilliantly but produced a tame finish straight at Brad Friedel.  Thomas Vermaelen flashed a close-range volley wide (he’s having something of a goalscoring drought, eh?) but other than that there wasn’t much doing.

And then Cesc arrived, and the spectacular with him.  With his talented mate alongside him, Arshavin sprung in to life.  Theo Walcott was soon introduced to add yet more spark to a now fizzing attack.  And the festive sparkle was provided by Fabregas, who just five minutes after coming on curled a stunning free-kick in to the top corner to break the deadlock.

A few weeks ago I saw a remarkable stat saying we hadn’t scored a Premier League goal direct from a set-piece in something like two years.  With Denilson and Fabregas in the past fortnight, we’ve now netted two in two games.

Villa were forced to try and respond with some attacking threat of their own, but that only made us more dangerous on the break.  And so it proved with ten minutes remaining – a sumptuous Armand Traore long-ball reaching Walcott, who slid in Cesc.  Having stormed the length of the field to keep up with play, the Catalan then had the composure to finish well for his twelfth goal of the season.

It was little surprise when Cesc’s celebration amounted to little more than some hops and stretches.  His heroic efforts had tweaked the hamstring that had kept him on the bench in the first place.  He was immediately replaced, with Aaron Ramsey coming on to the field.  The game was won, but there were nervous glances towards a disconsolate Cesc, back on the bench and out of the action.

Abou Diaby, who is finding a good streak of form (and thus certain to be injured some time soon), added a lovely third when Villa failed to close him down and he curled one in to the near post.  3-0 was somewhat flattering, but there is a clear gulf between Villa and the top three.  They offered very little attacking threat, and ultimately do not have a player capable of the match-winning brilliance Fabregas demonstrated yesterday.  There’s only so far solidity and teamwork can take you.

The worst case scenario is that Cesc could miss three weeks.  In the best possible scenario, he’ll miss a couple of games: Portsmouth away on Wednesday and then the FA Cup game with West Ham at the weekend.  Worryingly, Denilson too picked up a knock yesterday – a recurrence of his back injury – and Alex Song will soon depart to the African Cup of Nations with Cameroon.  It’s a situation that had Arsene talking openly yesterday about the possibility of signing a central midfielder.  It could be an interesting January.

In the broader scheme of things, we’re now four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.  It’s a huge turnaround from when they royally thumped us on our own turf – due largely to Chelsea’s own poor form.  United don’t look any great shakes either.  We’re definitely in the race now.  A January signing or two and, more importantly, consistency over the new few months and we could even end up winning it.

Come On You Reds.

Chelsea’s slip presents a huge opportunity

Add comment December 27th, 2009

The press pack could barely stifle their giggles.  As Arsene Wenger sat in front of the assembled hacks in the wake of a thumping 3-0 defeat to Chelsea, he steadfastly refused to concede the title:

“I do not think it’s over. I think we are fighters and we have to show that in the next game.”

Not only that, but he predicted a hiccup for the seemingly invincible Chelsea side:

“I believe at the moment they are in a very strong position, but this team, for me, they can drop points.  I’m convinced of that. That’s an impression I have.”

Since that day, Chelsea have won just one game from seven.  Remarkable though it seems, if we win our two games in hand, starting with today’s clash with Villa, we will be just one point behind a side who at one stage held an eleven point lead.  This is a campaign where none of the top sides look particularly strong.  If our threadbare squad is ever in with a chance at sneaking a Premier League trophy, this is the season.

If we are to do it, or even to come close, we need to win big games.  We did just that up at Anfield a few weeks back, and the coming month or so will test us sorely, with fixtures against all of our major competitors.  Today is an opportunity to set down a marker for the games to follow.

I’m really hoping Cesc Fabregas is fit, but with such a daunting schedule ahead of us I wouldn’t be too surprised if he weren’t risked.  We are blessed with plenty of midfield options at the moment: Denilson, Diaby, Song, Nasri and Ramsey would all have a reasonable argument for starting.  I expect Theo Walcott to begin from the bench, though he could be thrown in for just his fifth start of the season.

Villa will look to build on the defensive solidity of Dunne and Collins with rapier counter-attacks.  They’ll be both hard to break down and difficult to contain.  But win today, and the turnaround in our fortunes will be complete.  What’s more, it will have been proven once again that yes: Arsene really does ‘know’.

Other linky bits

Boxing Day Blog (2D glasses may be required)

Add comment December 26th, 2009

Hello all.  Hope you had a smashing Christmas wherever you are.  My best present was to myself: a shiny new Mac which is bringing you this blog in crisp 2D.  Oh yeah, that’s right: 2D.  Suck it up.  It’s retro.

Arsenal fans might feel a bit left out today, what with us not being involved in the traditional Boxing Day fixtures.  That said, it does mean I don’t have to worry about a game, and can instead concentrate on eating copious amounts of ham.

Tomorrow’s game against Villa is certainly a big one.  Having already beaten Liverpool, United, and Chelsea this season, Martin O’Neill’s side are chasing a ‘Big Four Grand Slam’.  We’re level on points (although we have a game in hand), and certainly owe them one after they won comfortably at the Emirates last season.  The stakes are high for both teams: if they win, they’re in poll position for a Champions League spot.  If we win, we give greater credence to our title credentials.

Everyone’s Christmas wish was for a fit Cesc Fabregas, and at the moment it’s too close to call.  Armand Traore, however, will be available, which will spare us the terror of Mikael Silvestre going up against Ashley Young.

That would have been too terrifying to contemplate.

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