It’s Official: We’re Good.

August 23, 2009

There is always something special about the first home game of the season: making your way along a familiar route to the stadium, meeting up with friends, drinking cold beer, getting excited about forthcoming fixtures, shaking hands with acquaintances, all of which you may only ever see at football.

As I took my seat at the sun baked Emirates, everything was following the usual pattern; that is, except for one noticeable difference: I felt no tension at all. We were playing Portsmouth, a team who after only two games were everybody’s favourites to be relegated and even more so after three — this team are poor.

I can only assume that they arrived at the Emirates from the South Coast by train because there certainly did not have what it takes to park a bus in front of the goal.

Wenger made sensible changes bringing in some of the Carling Cup team probably with one eye on the midweek game against Celtic, although, certainly with both eyes on the United game next Saturday. Gibbs and Eboue were drafted in to give Sagna and Clichy a breather. Song was also rested in favour of Diaby and Bendtner was moved to the bench to make way for Eduardo.

With 60,000 red and white scarves being waved in the air, the team took to the field brimming with confidence and proceeded to give a master class in control and accuracy; they stroked the ball around the pitch with Bergkampesque precision. It wasn’t high speed Wengerball but the more controlled training ground version.

Everybody had read the script, nobody doubted the out come and we all knew that goals would come — and so they did: after 18 minutes Eduardo performed a trick I didn’t know he possessed on the left wing to, not only, go passed the right back but to make a complete fool of him, before cutting the ball back for the on rushing Diaby to power it home for our first.

Diaby was our ideal goal scorer, no other player on that pitch needed his confidence lifting, in the way that a goal would do, more than him; in fact, it was lifted so much he repeated the feat, four minutes later when he scored another equally good goal.

This was my favourite of the day: it has been a while since we scored on the break, this kind of goal used to be a regular part of our repertoire but has become more and more of a rarity in recent times: Fabregas played a pass of such accuracy, that, well only Fabregas can do, to Eboue, moving at speed down the wing who slid a perfectly weighted pass to Diaby who, bursting forward, slotted it past David James.

The game was over as a competition, players like Arshavin were having trouble keeping interest and concentration; it was show boat football with more back heels and flicks than an exhibition game. If this game were a heart machine it would have been flat lining; Portsmouth scoring was the necessary shock that the game needed to bring Arsenal came back to life.

Unable to kick on, Portsmouth offered no real threat in the second half, Ramsey, replaced Fabregas, which is our only cause for concern; we can afford to do without him against Celtic but we will obviously want to be at full strength against the mancs. Gallas got a tap in which makes him our leading goal scorer and Van Persie played a deftly weighted pass to split the Portsmouth defence for Ramsey to very coolly slot the ball past James.

So, that’s ten goals in two games, I can’t wait until our attack starts gelling.

………….

Player ratings

Almunia: 6 only seriously called upon once this afternoon when a high ball was lofted in to the far post but instead of punching it clear, to prevent Kabul from scoring, our Spanish waiter dropped the plates.

Eboue: 7 playing in his preferred position he put in a very competent performance.

Gallas: 7 our top scorer with three goals to his name, although, from where I sitting it looked as though he was lucky to still be on the pitch. I was imagining the team of tossers on MOTD rubbing their hands in glee at how they were going to be able to lay into Arsenal and Gallas for not being sent off and also how gutted they must have been after studying the incident from every angle and realising  that he didn’t actually trip the Portsmouth player.

Vermaelen: 8 yet again, another commanding performance.

Gibbs: 7 did everything right including making a goal saving challenge mid way through the second half.

Diaby: 8 so the answer seems to be to spend the summer in the gym, I wish he had popped down there a bit earlier.

Fabregas: 8 the orchestra leader is starting to get his band to hum in unison. Please let him be fit for the mancs.

Denilson: 9 statman is my Man of the Match today, he patrolled the area just in front of the back four with authority; his tackling was crisp, his passing precise, this man arrived today. I don’t care what it looked like on telly, this was a very, very commanding performance.

Arshavin: 8 another classy performance from our Russian gun.

RVP: 7 ten goals and our main striker hasn’t even scored…..but he will. The Boy Wonder is getting better and better as he becomes more familiar with his new role.

Eduardo: 8 I don’t remember him being so good on the left, I always got the impression that he was frustrated that he wasn’t playing centre forward, perhaps his injury has taught him patience, today he showed us all what we had been missing.

Subs

Ramsey: 8 yet another first team appearance that will do his confidence the world of good and a goal to boot.

Merida: 7 well done Fran, more of the same please.

Bendtner: 6 we were the ones in red, Nikki.

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Portsmouth Will Come Onto Us. Lol. There Is More Chance of Scarlett Johansson Coming Onto Me.

August 21, 2009

I think it is safe to say that Wenger chose the team he did to play Everton because he expected them to come onto us; and, for the first twenty minutes, this is exactly what they did, until, as we all know, not only did their effort stall — it crashed and burnt.

Anticipating a typical high energy charge from the Scots; Wenger, logically stuck with the same team selection, this is also exactly what happened, although, in the case of Celtic they did manage to hold out for forty minutes before they too succumbed to the realisation that they were playing a far superior side.

But Portsmouth will be different, if ever there was going to be a game in which our opponents attempt to “Park the Bus” this will be it. I can only assume the rationale for employing this system is that they believe it gives them a remote chance of getting a draw; whereas, if they attempt to play football the score line could end up making Everton away look like a close run thing.

“Parking the Bus” is, of course, typically what all the lesser teams try to do when they come to the Emirates. This happened so often last season and we, equally typically, struggled to find a way through. The congestion that this strategy causes renders Walcott’s speed useless. Robbed of his principal asset and lacking in the close control needed to operate in tight areas Theo’s only attempt at a solution was to send in high balls for Adebayor and Bendtner. The problem with this is that the lesser teams usually have strong tall defenders whose speciality, if they have one, is dealing with an aerial threat. The result being that all too often we failed to break the opponents down. We were, of course, desperately missing one man:

Eduardo Alves da Silva

Well now he is back, our fox in the box has returned, raring to go and already with one goal under his belt. But, ironically I don’t expect him to start; in fact I don’t expect him to start most games. Eduardo is the man to bring on when the play gets congested; he isn’t fast but he has an eye for goal the likes of which we haven’t seen for years.

My guess is that Wenger will go with the following:

———–Almuina

Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy

–Fabregas, Song, Diaby

—Bendtner, RVP, Arshavin

And I will go for a 4-0 with Eduardo on the score sheet.


The Tie Might Not Have Been Put To Bed But It Certainly Has Got Its Pyjamas On.

August 19, 2009

Arsenal got a deserved victory against what was quite simply an inferior team. Celtic played the best they possibly could and only mustered one shot in ninety minutes, whereas we played well below the level that we all know we are capable of and scored twice.

Wenger opted for the same team that annihilated Everton on Saturday almost certainly in the hope that they would start with the same swagger as they left off at the weekend. But this was not to be, Arsenal started nervously; Celtic, as expected, chased everything down and made it difficult for us to get into our stride but it didn’t take too long before the gulf in class began to show.

The player I was most worried about at the start of the game was Vermaelen; I wanted him to do so well that I was biting my nails every time the ball went near him for fear that he might make a mistake. I know he had played extremely well on Saturday but I needed more proof. I worried that an error would send his confidence plummeting exposing a weakness for opponents to exploit. Well, I think we can safely dispel any of those kinds of concerns from our minds, by the end of the game I was as comfortable, when the ball was in his vicinity, as I was when Tony Adams was at his peak. This guy is the nuts as Jonjon would say.

Although, in fairness, every member of the defensive unit put in a very reassuring performance and that certainly includes Alexandre Song; he, along with Vermaelen, was my man of the match. I have long since stopped biting my nails when Song has the ball; I worked out ages ago what this player was about and always knew that it was far too early to write him off and so it has proved: his passing was excellent, his positioning superb and his tackling crisp and effective; he is well on course, even at this early stage, to be the player of the season.

As happy as I was with how well the defensive unit operated I was as equally as worried that offensive unit has still not gelled. There was not much Wengerball on display, perhaps I am being greedy, it’s not as though they played badly it’s just that we know that they are capable of so much more. Only once in the first half did the attack go through the gears and look like a real threat, all too often passes were being over hit.

The big plus about the attack was the defensive role that it was playing: closing down high up the pitch, never letting Celtic settle but with so many passes not finding their man I thought that we would go into the break on even terms. The dead lock was broken by a set play that Wenger had insisted that the team practice on the training ground all week.

Two minutes before half time we were awarded a free kick about thirty yards out. The angle made it impossible for Van Persie to blast, so he rolled the ball to Fabregas who drove it purposely against Gallas’ back , like a skilfully played snooker shot, making it cannon off into the corner of the goal. Luck, pah, people just don’t realise the accuracy of our captain.

With our tails up we started the second half with renewed hope, creating three really good chances that if they had arrived on Saturday we would have scored each one of them and this game would have been well and truly over but alas they went astray. This wastefulness lifted Celtic as they realised that they were still in the game and ran at us with renewed belief. The defence held firm, the only real scare coming from a fiercely hit, low cross that Gallas had to clear to the side of the post, the fear was that it could have easily have been an own goal.

With the game still not secure and the attack playing like strangers in the dark, Wenger took off the unusually less than perfect Arshavin and replaced him with Diaby. Within two minutes Diaby had performed a piece of quick footed skill and sent Clichy charging down the left wing before cutting in. Anticipating the soon to be out stretched leg of Caldwell, Clichy drilled the ball across the box hitting the Celtic captain and forcing the ball into the net for our second goal. Clichy doesn’t score many goals but he can be proud of this one.

A couple of observations: as much as it is rumoured that we will only reinforce the squad if we qualify for the CL, the same must be true of Fiorentina who I guess will renew their interest in Eboue if they also qualify, this I assume was the reason for his absence last night.

I thought Eboue was missed on the right hand side. As much as Bendtner has improved his defensive duties Eboue is better and what’s more Eboue can accelerate away which we were lacking last night. This theory works until he gets in front of goal but then we all know who we would prefer.

The other thing that I am still confused about was why we felt the need to wear Scotland’s national kit, was it a sign of some kind of bizarre respect?

“Come On You Blues” Naah, sorry, I am never going to get used to that.

……..

Player Ratings

Almunia: 7, he was his usual comfortable self, gathered well when called upon and cleared well when needed, with only one shot to save all game he had a very cushy night.

Sagna: 7, usual commanding performance down the right hand side

Gallas: 8, looking more and more solid, clearly very comfortable playing alongside his Belgian partner

Vermaelen: 9, joint MOM, if Vidic raises his game the mancs might just find themselves with their own Vermanator. TV was class; he looked like he had been playing in our back line for years.

Clichy: 8, one of his usual high octane games down the left hand side and a goal to boot

Denilson: 6, not bad but not good; although, he was not alone in not performing to his highest level.

Fabregas: 7, looked a bit leggy, possibly had other things on his mind.

Song: 9, the other MOM, this man was our colossus tonight; he stopped every thing coming through the middle and his range of passing is going from strength to strength

Arshavin: 6, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is on the bench on Saturday, Wenger will try and instil a bit more want and desire in him. I only say this because his talent is so high he mustn’t be allowed to rest on his laurels.

RVP: 6, it just wasn’t clicking tonight, it’s not that he had a bad game it’s just that we know he is capable of so much more.

Bendtner: 6, yet again not a bad performance but he set the bar very high for himself after Saturday. The big plus tonight was his defensive work,


Wenger’s Masterplan.

August 18, 2009

Gazidis told us last season that we were financially secure enough to survive the possibility of  failing to qualify for the Champions League. This is probably true, although I feel there is something he wasn’t telling us. It was a half truth. The statement he made should of gone something like; we are financially secure enough not to worry about the 35mil  the competition gives us – as long as we make it up elsewhere. Like in the transfer market.

This is where I feel that Wenger has pulled a master stroke.

Finishing fourth doesn’t automatically guarantee you a place in the Champions League, it only gives you the opportunity to qualify for it. We are not there yet and Wenger probably anticipated the chance of not qualifying and put certain measures in place to ensure it doesn’t affect us. Especially with the need to pay off a stadium.

In selling Kolo and Ade, Wenger achieved three things.

1. He got rid of the bad influences in the dressing room. Cesc has already come out and said that they are better off without them. They wanted to leave. We don’t need players like that at Arsenal and the manager said the Everton game was a perfect example of how cohesive the team were now.

2. It covers the revenue the Champions League will provide us. If we don’t qualify for any reason, we have the money to survive financially.  Although it will be a devastating blow football wise.

3. When we do qualify. Wenger automatically has a little bit of money at his disposal. Once the Champions League revenue is ensured, Wenger’s little safety net turns into extra cash for him to do with as he chooses. Wenger probably thought he had enough in the squad to get results against Everton and Pompey at the start of the season, and with the Champions League qualifier out of the way on the 26th, Wenger has enough time to pull a couple of rabbits out of the hat and strengthen the squad before the transfer window closes on the 1st.

He wont spend all of it, he may not spend any depending on the Celtic results, but i believe we’ll beat Celtic comfortably and see a couple of signings in the days leading up to the transfer deadline. Its a strong possibility that the majority of the money will be invested into paying off the stadium, so I don’t expect to see any David Villa’s either.

In fact, I’m that confident that we are too strong for Celtic, that I predict that we’ll put the tie to bed tonight.

Have a good day guys. Tonight we take the momentum from the Everton game to Scotland and stuff them on their own turf.

Come on the Arsenal.


Arsene’s Email

August 18, 2009

Wenger: I am very happy with the team’s attitude

Dear Supporter,

We were applauded off the pitch by Everton’s fans on Saturday. Firstly, that shows great sportsmanship from Everton Football Club, but it also shows that we put in a very good team performance.

Although the result was a very good one and gave us a great start to the Premier League season, I feel overall there is still room for improvement, not on the scoreline but in what we did in the game. But I am very happy with the team attitude, and we look like we have matured. And it’s a good basis to continue to improve and to work on what we want to do.

I felt that we took every chance we created in the first half and Everton were maybe a bit disturbed by the international week – you can be flat physically after that. Usually the energy level at Goodison Park is very, very high. Did that not happen because we had domination in the game or because they were flat physically? That is difficult for me to answer.

I was pleased with Thomas Vermaelen’s contribution because he has shown that in the air and on the ground he has what you need to play in the Premier League. But you cannot single out just one player on Saturday for an average performance.

What is very interesting for me was the cohesion of the team, the fact that we played for each other. If we can keep that in the team we have a chance to do well.

We have gone from being ruled out by everybody, to now becoming a super favourite! It was an interesting first game and we want to show that we have the depth in our squad. If you see that Nasri, Rosicky, Diaby, Walcott and Senderos, for example, stayed at home, you can see that we do have quite a big squad.

It was important to get a good result before the Celtic tie. It lifted our confidence and that is good. But we are on alert as well. We know that every game is different. That is the way we can show we have matured.

People are surprised that we won so convincingly, but you know that last year we were the team that scored more goals than anyone away from home. And we had a long unbeaten run in the Premier League away from home. Of course, it’s a good surprise to win with such a big score, but we know we can do it away from home.

Thanks for your support.

Arsène Wenger


Boring, Boring Arsenal

August 16, 2009

Before I start I’d like to send out a message to Alan’s Hansen and Shearer, Phil Thompson and any Spuds out there. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

What a start to the season. The victory was not unexpected but the scoreline was. We all know that with the way we play we are bound to thump teams from time to time, but what surprised me was that it was Everton at Goodison. OK, Everton were poor,but we made them look poor. Not only did we get our passing play right, but we also got the basics right. We out fought Everton, out battled them, we worked hard for each other in our defensive and attacking play and we wore Everton down. We earned the right to play Wengerball first and although it wasn’t your typical Arsenal performance, we mixed it up well and we deserved that victory.

What amazed me was our fitness levels, Everton looked tired compared to us and our boys kept their shape, defended as a unit and attacked as a unit and it was impressive.This game sent out a message to the other clubs that they are writing us off at their own peril.

As Cesc said, lets not get carried away. Lets keep our feet firmly on the ground, we’ve got 37 games left to go but it was a fantastic start and that game has set the standard. If we play like that all season we’ll win the league.

Last season we were getting upset by the fact that when we got to the final third and the play was compressed we struggled to break teams down, we ran out of ideas and made it easy for teams to park the bus. I was delighted when  we scored our first three goals from a long shot and two set pieces. It shows we can mix it up. We are dangerous not only when we play with flair, but when that doesn’t work we showed we can go back to basics and do the job with the same amount of destruction.

For a long time we have been talking about getting the right balance in the team and yesterday we had that balance.  it was a pleasure to watch that game.

The first goal came after some good work from Nikki on the right. He jinked past his man like he was a natural wideman and slipped a pass into the oncoming Cesc. The Everton defence were aware of the danger and Cesc was quickly closed down and surrounded, but he picked a pass to the unmarked Denilson who smashed it into the back of the net from 25yards. Good goal, and it relaxed our boys. Everton now had to come at us and the compact midfield started to show gaps.

Our 2nd and 3rd were glorious goals. So untypically Arsenal but thats what made them all the more sweeter. Robins freekicks at goal leave alot to be desired, but his ability to cross from deadball situations is different. They are destructive and unstoppable and with Cesc able to hit the same pinpoint cross from the other side of the pitch we have an awesome weapon in our armoury. Two freekicks, two perfect headers, from two defenders who lack height and we were 3-0 up in a destructive first half.

Cesc made it 4 shortly after the break in a typical Arsenal move. We broke Everton down and countered like only Arsenal can counter. Denilson slipped a pass to Robin who took the defender away to the left leaving a gaping hole through the middle. Cesc provided support, Robin found him in the space and our captain finished the move with a low left foot shot that squirmed under the unprotected Howard.

The 5th suprised me. Cesc looked like Steven Gerrard as he took the ball inside our half and drove towards goal with only one thing on his mind, smashing another low drive from 25yards to once again beat Howard. Get in.

We rounded the game of with the joy of six when Ak47 showed quick feet inside the area and cheekily and cleverly hit a swerving left footed shot with no backlift which hit the post. Any world class fox in the box would have been following up that shot anticipating the rebound to tap it in to an open net. Good job we have Dudu then isn’t it??

Everton got one. So what. If we conceed one every game we will end up with 38 goals conceded, which will be worse than last year. Then again if we score 6 every game it wont matter will it??

Ratings

Almunia..7..Didn’t have much to do. His kicking was poor at times but his distribution was generally good and he made a couple of catches from the highballs from corners. Stopped a few long shots and made a good reaction save towards the end. It was a shame the rebound resulted in a goal.

Sagna..8..The Sagna of old. Solid in defence and turning into a winger when we attacked. Solid display

Gallas..8..Strong at the back and took his goal well.

Vera Lynne..10..The nutts. Hes a rock, a leader, an organiser. He lead the Arsenal back line like he’d been with us 10 years. Constantly marshaling the others, and making some good tackles. He reads the game well and we have a defender who just wants to defend. Nothing spectacular, no flair. He just gets the basics right. It made a pleasant change to watch a defender who looks composed instead of one who runs around like a headless chicken and relies on pace to get him out of trouble. Good goal too.

Clichy..8..Same as Sagna. Looked like he’d been working on his tackling and crossing too.

Denilson..7..The silent partner in the midfield. Did nothing wrong but didn’t stand out. Scored a good goal and made some good passes.

Song..10,,Awesome. What a changed player. Along with Vera he is my joint man of the match. Cahill is dangerous and Felliani is a monster and Song stopped them both. I don’t remember Cahill touching the ball. This was is best game for us and he showed a few skills too. Good display son.

Cesc..8..In and out of the game but when he was in he was dynamite. Pulling the strings and scoring two goals. What more can you ask of your captain.

AK47..7..Quiet game by his standards but he has that ability to change the game within seconds. Tricky and explosive.

Nikki..8..Excellent game. Worked the fullback well, went on dazzling runs and came inside and won the knock down balls when needed. Ade who??

Robin..8..looked like he played with freedom. Linking up play well.

subs

Eboue..6..did ok

Ramsey..6..did ok

Dudu..7..got a poachers goal and its good to have him back.

Have a good day guys. I will.

Bring on Celtic..


Toffee’s Away.. A Sticky Situation??

August 15, 2009

By Jonjon..

Over the last few weeks we’ve heard the players and the manager talk the talk, but now its time to walk the walk. We’ve been told that we are ready and the squad is strong enough. Certain players have told us were we go wrong sometimes and what we need to do to put that right. Well talk is cheap and today all talk goes out of the window. Its what happens on the pitch that counts and today the players and the manager have 90mins to show the faithful that they are not all mouth.

Starting our campaign away at Everton is no easy task, we could have done with an easier start to the season although in all fairness, to state the obvious, we have to play every team at some point anyway and I prefer a hard start and an easy run in. Last year we had an easy start and a hard run in and in the so called easy start we lost 5 games so it doesn’t matter. To win the league you have to beat whats in front of you every week, whether it be at home to Hull or Birmingham, or away to Everton. it makes not a jot of  difference.

Under Davey Moyes, Everton have become a good football side. They’ve held down a top 6 spot in the last few years now and like Wenger, Moyes has build a good team on a shoe string. He’s worked within his means to get Everton to the status they are, and in a league dominated by money, artificial wages and sugar daddies, a lot of respect has to be given to Moyes for what hes done. That’s where the respect ends though because today is about the three points, Everton are the enemy and soft spots must be put to one side, we have to beat them.

In playing a team like Everton we also have a chance to show what we are made of. Everton are the perfect example of how a team can beat us. They defend as a unit, they compress the play and soak up the pressure and they are dangerous on the break, in the air, and from set pieces. if there was ever a test to see if we’ve put our weaknesses from last season to one side, its today. It could be said that Everton are our kryptonite. The critics will be looking for the littlest thing to attack us with.  So three points today, a clean sheet and a couple of goals will keep everyone of our back for the next few days and give us a boost ahead of the Champions League Qualifier against Celtic on Tuesday. Although in all honesty, to me three points is three points, so I don’t care whether we win 1-0 or 10-9.

We have a few injury worries but i feel we have enough to cope. Its not like Cesc, Gallas, AK47 or Dudu are injured. Everton will cause us problems but we have enough quality in our squad to cause them more, so I’m confident we’ll put on a good show and look forward to watching MOTD tonight, or Football First.. I’m not going to predict the lineup because I’m not sure what it will be. When we have so many injuries im not sure even Wenger knows his best eleven and will he be having one eye on Celtic?? I don’t know.

Personally I’d go for

……………Almunia

Sagna.. Gallas…Vera Lynn.. Clichy….

Jack…Cesc… Song.. Arshavin..

…….Bendtner.. Dudu….

Score: Everton 0-2 Arsenal Scorers: Arshavin, Dudu Enjoy the game guys, today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for. The proper football starts and we get to see our boys in our beloved Red and White. Stuff the media, stuff the critics, stuff the sugar daddies, stuff Everton.

COME ON YOU REDS!!!