Posts filed under 'Match Previews'

Reading Preview: Is this thing on?

199 comments March 30th, 2013

One-two… one-two… is anyone out there? Is this thing on?

Football is back. It feels like it’s been away for an eternity. We had that international nonsense, but that’s not ‘football’ as I understand it. It’s essentially an elaborate cover-up for a conspiracy to maim as many members of our squad as possible.

This time round we lost Theo Walcott to an injury picked up while away with England. Fortunately for Theo and Arsenal, it’s not too serious and he should be back in the next couple of weeks.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for Abou Diaby: Arsenal’s worst injury news was reserved for a player who hadn’t actually gone away on international duty.

Diaby has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament while training at London Colney, and will subsequently miss the remainder of 2013. It’s unsurprising, but still terribly sad. There’s no doubting Diaby’s talent, but it seems injury problems will prevent him from ever fulfilling it. I don’t want to write him off prematurely, but even if he recovers from this injury and is fit and healthy for the remainder of his career, the years he has lost mean he will never be the player he threatened to be.

By the time he returns from this injury he will be 27. He should be at his peak, and yet his career has never really started. I would curse his luck, but I’d far rather curse Dan Smith: the man responsible for the horror tackle that precipitated his decline.

Arsene Wenger had previously earmarked Diaby as someone who could player an important part during the run-in. However, the manager will now have to do without his French midfielder, starting today against Reading. Despite an intervening fortnight gap, I expect the line-up to show some continuity from the ones which triumphed over Bayern and Swansea. That means the defensive trio of Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson and Laurent Koscielny should continue at the expense of messrs Szczesny, Sagna and Vermaelen. In midfield, Arteta and Ramsey will provide a defensive platform for Santi Cazorla to weave his magic. Olivier Giroud should keep his place upfront, and Arsene will then have to choose two wingers from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and the fit again Lukas Podolski. I’d like to see a recall for the German, who was devastatingly efficient in the reverse fixture back in December.

This is a game Arsenal must win. It’s also, with respect to Reading, a game Arsenal should win. Tottenham travel to Swansea who are certainly no pushover. The right results today could see Arsenal within a point of their North London rivals with a game in hand. After the derby defeat, it catching Spurs felt unthinkable.

Now, Arsenal fans everywhere are wondering: is this thing on?

Come on you Gunners. Let’s make it happen.

Arsene has declared this a dead rubber

193 comments March 12th, 2013

If Arsene Wenger thought Arsenal had any realistic chance of progressing against Bayern Munich, Wojciech Szczesny would be playing tomorrow.

If we had designs on producing a remarkable comeback, surely we’d be selecting the man most likely to keep a clean sheet. Conceding would take the chance of victory from implausible to impossible. And yet we’re preparing to select one of Lukasz Fabianski or Vito Mannone: a pair of keepers not entrusted to play against the likes of Bradford and Blackburn in the domestic cups, with Szczesny “rested” at home.

You don’t “rest” players in the biggest games. The decision suggests that Arsene has declared tomorrow a dead rubber and is focusing attention upon an increasingly important domestic campaign. On balance, it’s hard to argue with that point of view. Even the most optimistic Gooner will struggle to make a case for Arsenal being in the hat for the quarter-final draw.

If the tie were a bit closer, I have no doubt that Szczesny would play. I suspect Lukas Podolski, left at home to nurse a niggling ankle problem, would also be in the side. As thing stand, Arsene is being pragmatic. Reaching the Champions League quarter-finals is less important than being in the group stage next year.

Arsenal don’t need to progress tonight, but they do need to restore a modicum of pride. We travel to Swansea on Saturday for a difficult and crucial league game. Restoring some confidence with a creditable result in Germany would be a huge boost, especially for a squad which will be rattled by the loss of the inspirational Jack Wilshere.

We’ve got a huge battle on between now and the end of the season. My delight at Liverpool’s victory over Spurs at the weekend was tempered by the knowledge that Brendan Rogers’ side are now making significant ground on us. Arsenal need to fight for fourth and yet are in real danger of slipping to sixth.

The Bayern game is about finding reasons to believe, for players and fans alike. Let’s hope we get some.

Spurs vs. Arsenal: Fan-to-Fan Preview

237 comments March 3rd, 2013

Hello one and all.  I’m back from a brief holiday in time for the biggest game of our season.  To help me preview it, I’ve called upon the services of Tottenham fan @adamdnathan.


AN: Aside from the long term injuries to Sandro and Kaboul, both of whom would be massive additions to the side, Spurs should be at full strength. Defoe may return in time for a place on the bench, but in spite of Adebayor’s recent poor form, it seems generally accepted that we play better as a team with the Togolese leading the line.

GS: Arsenal will be without Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, meaning Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson will continue at full-back.  Abou Diaby is apparently facing a fitness test, although even if he passes I’d consider starting him too great a gamble.


AN: Most of the team picks itself, with Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Parker, Dembele, Bale, Lennon and Adebayor certain to start. AVB’s only decision will be to play Ekotto or Vertonghen at left back, with Caulker inside if he takes the latter option, and Holtby in the attacking three or perhaps Gylfi Sigurdsson, who finally looked to be an £8 million player on Monday.

GS: Arsenal’s back four picks itself – it’s ahead of that where Arsene Wenger faces some tricky choices.  I’d opt for the work-rate of Aaron Ramsey alongside Mikel Arteta at the base of our midfield, with Jack Wilshere in the number 10 role.  That means shifting Santi Cazorla wide, which unfortunately drops Lukas Podolski to the bench once again.


AN: Bale is pretty much the only answer to this question of course, but Hugo Lloris could be as much of a match saver as a winner. He has been exceptional since taking the reigns from Friedel in the reverse fixture, and is regularly winning the team points with big moments between the sticks.

GS: Santi Cazorla has scored Arsenal’s last three Premier League goals, and my gut says he could be the man to unlock Spurs once again tomorrow.


AN: In terms of dictating the game, it will be vitally important for us to limit the time we allow Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla on the ball, but the player who will always scare me when in an Arsenal shirt is Theo Walcott. I’m firmly in the camp of him being a top Premier League player, and his goals and assist stats over the last few years certainly suggest that he will be the man to watch tomorrow.

GS: There’s no doubt that Gareth Bale is the man in form.  Few players in Europe are producing those match-winning moments on such a consistent basis.  Arsenal fans are quick to knock Bale down (not the hardest thing to do, after all), but I suspect that any criticism masks their genuine irritation that Tottenham have a player with that kind of ability.  In recent games he’s been deployed in the centre.  I’d be happy to see him there again, as I do worry about what he might do up against Carl Jenkinson, who is currently lacking both experience and match practice.


AN: It’s going to be a crucial games for both teams’ aspirations of getting into the Champions League next year, with a win really boosting either sides’ chances going into the last 10 games of the season. Should the game be a draw with 15-20 minutes to go however, it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams were happy to play the rest of the game out and back themselves to finish above the other with a good run of form going into May.

GS: Arsenal simply have to avoid defeat.  A draw keeps things open going in to the final stretch, but a win for Spurs would hand them all the initiative.  As for what a heavy defeat would do to the club… well, I’d rather not think/write about it.  A win would be fantastic, but a draw would be enough to give us a fighting chance of finishing fourth.


AN: If, as alluded to in his press conference, Arsenal don’t go into the game with a plan for Gareth Bale, there is a strong possibility that the Welshman could run riot again against a shaky defence. I don’t see him being the sole protagonist though, and arsenal clearly have a number of players who could hurt us. In truth, I can see the game being a bit of a topsy-turvy 2-2 draw, which both sides ultimately settle for at the final whistle.

GS: It strikes me that a draw would suit both sides, and on such occasions I’m always inclined to plump for a stale-mate.  I’ll follow Adams lead and plump for an entertaining 2-2.

Fancy a flutter on the big game? Check out my Unibet Betting Preview here.

Arsenal prepare to get back on the horse

147 comments February 21st, 2013

Realistically speaking, Arsenal have one remaining target this season: to qualify for the Champions League.  That battle recommences this weekend as Arsenal host an ailing Aston Villa side.

It’s ostensibly a good chance to get back on the good foot.  Despite recent positive results against Everton and West Ham, Villa are remain right in the relegation mix.  This is a side that we should be beating, and the odds reflect that: Ladbrokes has Arsenal as 1/3 to win the game.

It’s also a weekend that could see us make ground on our rivals.  Chelsea travel to Manchester City, while Tottenham face a tricky London derby at Upton Park.  If results go our way, we could go in to next week’s crucial North London derby just one point behind Spurs.

The next few games will have a huge say on our ultimate league position.  After Villa, we face Spurs, Everton and Swansea in succession.  We simply cannot afford to allow our downward spiral to continue.

In an effort to bring some spark back to the side, I’d advocate the reintroduction of Tomas Rosicky.  Last season, when things were similarly precarious, his energy and drive was essential in dragging us towards the top four, and his recent cameos suggest he’s capable of making a similar impact in the latter portion of this season.

We are entering that period of the campaign when performances cease to matter: it is all about results.  We need to grab every point we can between now and May, and hope that Spurs combust in their own inimitable style.  An injury to Gareth Bale would probably help, too.

Finally, at a time when the world and his wife seem to writing letters (either open, closed or slightly ajar) to significant figures at Arsenal, it’d be remiss of me not to mention this piece of musical correspondence between Arsene Wenger and Stan Kroenke.  It’s worrying how much of it is still relevant.

Blackburn Preview & Betting odds: Return of The Rat King

1,132 comments February 16th, 2013

Clashes between Arsenal and Blackburn are traditionally tasty affairs.  Well, the taste of this one is a little off this morning.  The secret ingredient is, perhaps surprisingly, not horse, but a touch of rat: David Bentley has made a return to Blackburn just in time to be eligible to play at the Emirates.

It’s the return of the prodigal son.  If the prodigal son’s Dad had hated his son, and greeted his return predominantly with boos.

David Bentley is a funny one.  I was there for his remarkable first goal in professional football: a beautiful, Bergkamp-esque chip from the edge of the box.  However, his attitude never quite matched up to his ability, and aged just 28 his career appears to be petering out.  One wonders if he’d shown more patience and remained at Arsenal how things might have turned out.  Football is a game of sliding doors as well as tackles.

As it is, I think Arsenal fans are pretty much united in their hatred of all things Bentley.  It’s everything from his murine appearance to his affiliation with Spurs and preposterously over-gelled hair.  That said, I think we’re all lying if we say we don’t fancy him to stick one in the net against us today.  Were I more of a betting man, I’d put the lives of my imaginary children on it.  He’s got spectacular previous at the Emirates, too.

Whatever Bentley gets up to, Arsenal should have enough to see off Blackburn today.  I expect rests for the likes of Wilshere, Giroud and perhaps even Walcott, but our side will still be strong.  Thomas Vermaelen is likely to play at centre-back, with Nacho Monreal outside him.  Abou Diaby comes in to contention for a midfield berth, and the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho will be hoping to get some much-needed game-time in attacking areas.  I think Gervinho may well get a start at centre-forward, although whatever the odds (5/1 as it happens) I wouldn’t be queueing up to lay money on him to score.

I’m backing us to win this one.  The bookmakers are too, I see (we’re 1.28 to win with

Blackburn are not the force they were, and at home we should be far too strong.  However, I’ve said that before and been wrong.

And with The Rat King in their ranks, you just never know.

Next Posts Previous Posts

Search Gunnerblog

Get your Gunnerblog t-shirts now!

get regular updates from GS with twitter

Top Gunn

Cesc Fabregas
The man in form.

    Retro Arsenal T-Shirts from - Bringing Back The Good Old Days!: Click Here!

Latest Posts

Sponsored Links


March 2023
« Apr    

Posts by Month

Most Recent Posts

Posts by Category


Powered By

eXTReMe Tracker