Archive for September, 2010

Arsenal batter bruisers Bolton

19 comments September 12th, 2010

Arsenal 4 -1 Bolton (Koscielny 23, Elmander 44, Chamakh 60, Song 78, Vela 83)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Arsenal continued their impressive start to the season with a resounding victory over Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers – who, it turns out, aren’t all that different from Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers.  Coyle’s ‘Reebok Revolution’ (which sounds like a trainer) is hampered by the continued presence of certain individuals – the likes of Kevin Davies and Paul Robinson – whose first instinct is still to employ physical force rather than technical ability.  In the past an Arsenal team might have been bullied into dropping points, but not so yesterday.  We simply had too much for them.

The contest should have been over by half-time.  Andrey Arshavin spurned a hatrick of presentable opportunities, two of which came from exquisite through-balls from Rosicky and Fabregas.  Cesc in particular was in imperious form yesterday, and exploited Bolton’s bizarre decision to employ a high defensive line with a series of delicious passes in behind the back four.

When the goal eventually came, it was from an unlikely source.  Jack Wilshere’s clipped ball found Fabregas at the far post, and his loose touch fell to home debutant Laurent Koscielny, who bundled in his first Arsenal goal.

Before the half was out, Koscielny would experience a nightmare at the other end.  With Vermaelen injured and Sagna and Clichy both rested, he formed part of an unfamiliar back four with Eboue, Gibbs, and new boy Sebastien Squillaci.  It was a risk on Arsene’s part, and we saw why when some miscommunication led to Koscielny’s attempted header back allowing Lee in to cross for Johan Elmander to score.  An Elmander goal: the ultimate insult.

In the second half, however, normal service was resumed.  Marouane Chamakh made up for a missed one-on-one with a headed goal which came from the resulting corner.  And then came the sending off which killed the game as a contest – Cahill shown the red card for a raking tackle down the back of Chamakh’s legs.  I have to say I thought a straight red was a little harsh, but when you see Paul Robinson getting away with tackles like this it’s hard to have too much sympathy for Bolton.

Once they were down to ten men the game took on the mood of a practise match.  Alex Song had apparently promised team-mates before the game that he would score, and he eventually got his goal, collecting an Arshavin pass, rounding his man, and toe-poking over the keeper.  A lovely finish, and our 1000th goal under Arsene.

If the third goal was the landmark strike, the fourth was a microcosm of Arsene’s football philosophy.  A 24-pass move ended with a perfectly lofted Fabregas through-ball finding substitute Vela, who showed great composure to fire in to the bottom corner.

Another good win, and with United dropping points in a style reminiscent of our efforts last season, we’re just about keeping pace with a rampant Chelsea.

Looking ahead to midweek, Zonal Marking points out that the last three teams we’ve beaten all begin with the same letter: Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton.  Up next: Braga.

Walcott’s injury could open the door for other English youngsters

8 comments September 10th, 2010

So yesterday saw the ludicrous optimism of Theo Walcott’s “two weeks” prediction dashed on the rocks of reality as it was confirmed that he, like Robin van Persie, will miss four to six weeks.

It’s a significant blow, as he’s been our most in form player at the start of the season.  His pace and goals have added much-needed variety to our attack.  Too often last season we lined up with a trio of tiny tots – three clever players like Nasri, Arshavin and Rosicky, whose similarity made them easier for defences to deal with.  Bringing the height of Chamakh and the direct running of Walcott into the equation trebles the problems the opposition have to cope with.

In his absence, the more obvious replacement is Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue, who has made just one appearance this season – an unimpressive outing at Anfield. There are also likely to be opportunities for Carlos Vela and Tomas Rosicky to show what they can do.  It was interesting, however, to see Arsene talking up the ability of a couple of our other English youngsters:

“We are short on the striker front when you have two strikers out but [Carlos] Vela is in good shape and we have Jay Emmanuel Thomas who has made some big improvements, we have Benik Afobe, a young player who can play striker and has shown big quality, so we still have some reserves.”

If anything were to happen to Chamakh, JET must surely be ahead of Arshavin in the queue to play as centre-forward.  He is, after all, more than twice the side of the little Russian.

Interesting too to see Afobe mentioned.  He and Chuks Aneke have been playing with JET as part of an impressive attacking trio in the Reserves, and are probably in line for some Carling Cup action this season.  I’d hope to see at least one of them on the bench this weekend.

As we speak, Arsene is doing his pre-match press conference.  The early news filtering through is that Thomas Vermaelen will miss the Bolton game through injury, so Sebastien Squillaci will make his Arsenal debut up against Kevin Davies.

Welcome to the Premier League, Squelchy.

The only surprise is that RVP’s injury isn’t the fault of International football

10 comments September 8th, 2010

Injuries to key squad members are like London buses: depressing.

Yesterday afternoon we were delivered the news that Robin van Persie would be out until mid-October.  It’s disappointing, but not surprising.  His injuries are something one has to take in to account.  He can never, ever be relied on to be a regular member of the squad.

We’ve been here before, but it remains such a shame for Robin, who is 27 now and must be wondering if his the glory his talent deserves will elude him in a career dogged by injuries.  This is by no means a ‘serious’ injury, but it has interrupted his season before it ever really hit its stride, and is likely to mean that of our first eleven games of the season he’ll have started just one.

Perhaps even more disappointing was the sight of Theo Walcott being stretched off early on in England’s game against Switzerland last night.  Walcott had started the season, and indeed the England game, in good form, and seeing him so clearly in pain was a real worry.  The latest prognosis is better than first feared, but I’m not going to be counting any chickens – Theo’s claim that he’ll be back within two weeks sounds a little optimistic, especially when you look at arseblog’s picture of the nasty twist.

Sandwiched in between all the doom and gloom was the news that Samir Nasri will be back in full training this week.  Even so, I suspect the game with Bolton may come a little too soon for him.

Elsewhere, Cesc Fabregas played 45 minutes in Spain’s 4-1 defeat against Argentina, whilst Andrey Arshavin captained Russia to a demoralising 1-0 loss at home to Slovakia.  Apparently Arshavin was tested for performance-enhancing drugs after the game, which is at once hilarious and pointless.  Wee Jack Wilshere made an impact as a sub for the U-21s, after Stewart Pearce made a point of leaving him out of the side.  The telegrams reporting the likely deaths of the remainder of our squad have, it seems, yet to arrive.

Sebastian Squillaci made an appearance for the Reserves in their 4-3 win over Blackburn last night.  You can check out a few clips of him pointing and shouting in this free video, which looks as if it was lovingly compiled by an obsessive stalker sat behind the goal.

Hopefully by tomorrow the misery of the interlull will have begun to lift, and we can start looking forward to some proper football once again.

Reverend Eboue must exorcise Vermaelen

13 comments September 7th, 2010

By tomorrow, the mist of the interlull will have begun to clear.  The fact that International fixtures have been moved to Tuesday means we’ll get players back sooner than we’re accustomed to.  So far, there’s no news of any squad members having their spine fall out, or some such similar wound.  Keep all digits crossed.  Even the toes.  Which makes walking difficult.

For now, however, we’re still enshrouded with the thick fog of questionable qualifiers and frustrating friendlies.

One of the few players left at Colney, Laurent Koscielny, has been speaking to the official site about all things Arsenal, including the remarkable statistic which suggest he never lost a tackle last season.  It sounds impressive – so much so that I’m immediately skeptical.  What constitutes a “lost” tackle?  How can they be sure? Perhaps every time an attacker swerved past Koscielny he claimed he’d made a strategic decision to slide haplessly across the ground, in order to lull his opponent in to a false sense of security.

Koscielny’s defensive partner Thomas Vermaelen requires an exorcism, having been possessed by the spirit of Xavi Hernandez:

“Cesc carries Barcelona in the heart, in his DNA.  Therefore it is impossible for him to forget about them.

He was determined to go to Barça last summer, he more or less confessed it in the dressing room. But that is passed history.

Now is 100 per cent ready to put his all in to a great season with Arsenal.”

Hopefully Reverend Eboue will be able to banish the evil Catalan spirits of Vermaelen’s mind.

Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross also requires help, though probably from someone more clinically-minded.  Speaking about Arsene Wenger’s recent criticism of Stoke’s hurly-burly play, he said:

“He’s obviously got something against me. It’s just weird.”

Ryan – it might be this:

Just a hunch.

Killing time in the interlull

5 comments September 3rd, 2010

Hello.  I know why you’re here.

You’re here because you don’t care that Steven Gerrard might play in the middle, or that David Beckham could make a come-back from his come-back.  You don’t care that Scotland have allowed over-40s to appear for their national team, or that Giovanni Trapttoni’s dicky tummy is all better.

In short, you’re here because the Interlull is upon us.  A fog of inanity has descended upon the football world, and you’ve gathered, drooling, around this bloggish fire, hoping for some warmth and relief from the club you remember loving.

Come in.  You are welcome.  We’re all just killing time in the interlull.  Mainly to stop us from killing ourselves.

On Wednesday Arsenal named their ’25-man squad’.  I say 25-man – we actually registered 76 available players, taking up the breaking news ticker on Sky Sports News for an entire hour’s cycle.  Arsene was clearly on a mission to point out the holes in the league’s system, as he then named seven ‘homegrown’ players, none of which are British.

Cheeky old Arsene landed himself in trouble with Tony Pulis last week after saying of his Stoke side:

“It is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football.  When you see the way Shawcross kicked Heurelho Gomes, how Robert Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.”

Pulis, incensed, threw his little hat to the floor and complained to the FA, the Premier League, and his mum.  The FA have since announced that they will take no disciplinary action, which isn’t that surprising when you consider that anything else would have contravened Arsene’s right to his opinion and free speech.  Pulis’ mum, however, is unlikely to show such mercy.  This one ain’t over, by any stretch.

Andrey Arshavin, who has won an award for the best Russian player in August, has been talking about his recent Arsenal form:

“The year and a half in England has significantly changed me. I became calmer, more professional and spend more time with my family.

As for football I can say that my style has also altered – it is more effective but less sparkling. I don’t remember when was the last time I score a really beautiful goal.

It’s frustrating. I tried to analyse this, but can find no answers. It is likely that my injuries last year had an affect, because on three occasions I was out for a month, but it is feeble to talk about injuries.”

I do find Arshavin a fascinating player.  He is so unorthodox, so enigmatic, that it’s almost impossible to compare him with any other member of our squad.  Except, perhaps, Eboue.

I think his analysis of his game is spot on.  More and more he reminds me of a latter-day Robert Pires: he can appear lazy or disinterested, but is still the man liable to pop up in the box with a crucial goal.  His output in the final third, in terms of goals and assists, is extremely efficient.  The Arshavin we bought, however, was a playmaker rather than a poacher.  Whether it’s possible for him to play that role from the left, in a team also featuring the likes of Cesc Fabregas, remains to be seen.

Thomas Vermaelen says he prefers clean sheets to goals.  I assume he means goals scored rather than conceded, otherwise he’s simply stating the obvious.  I think the Belgian is going to be key for us this season.  Last year we had Gallas, Campbell, and Silvestre – despite their flaws they had plenty of Premier League experience.  This season, Vermaelen’s potential partners (Squillaci, Koscielny and Djourou) are relative novices of the English game.  Any injury to TV5 and we’re left with relatively unknown quantities.

To hear me talk about Vermaelen, the goalkeeping situation, and our title chances listen to this week’s arsecast.  I join Arseblogger along with East Lower, Goodplaya, and Goonerholic for a chat around a metaphorical round-table.  Have a listen.

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