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Arsenal vs Swansea: Pre-View, Press Conference, Table Predictor, Fans Support

In Arsenal, Premier League 2011/12, Wenger on September 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Pre-Season Is Over:

 

As I have been discussing in recent posts the facts tell the truth and Arsenal currently have only 1 point out of a possible 9 due to the slow movement within the transfer market over the summer.  Yes, we’ve seen recent activity and vital strengthening in the final 48 hours of the transfer window but was this at the expense of not getting at least a win against a somewhat inept Newcastle team.  Conceivably, there could have been a chance to have pushed for a point or 3 against Liverpool who really overcome an embattled Arsenal defence who had been reduced to 10 men and lacked the experience and resilience to close out the match to the 90th minute.

So we have to deal with the situation as it stand and whilst we turn our noses up at the old clichés churned out by member of the club taking each game as it come and the next game is the most important one there is certainly a sense that the situation Arsenal find themselves in is somewhat self-manifested.

What impact doe this potentially have on the final league standing come May?  Who knows but looking at the Castrol Premier League Predictor tool, based upon home and away scoring coefficients (hmmm nearly got a bit too technical there), the best we could expect in 3rd.  Better than some pundits would anticipate Arsenal on achieving and it would certainly be an improvement upon last year but we’re too early into the season to be grateful for 3rd in the final league standing and we’ll continue to review this prediction through the season.

As nice as this looks it would be really nice if the folk at Castrol could crunch a few more numbers to calculate when we can celebrate St. Totteringhams day!

Press Conference

 

Arsene’s first main press conference since the transfer deadline passed took place earlier today and included a mixed smattering of questions on missed transfer targets, squad updates for tomorrows game as well as how well equipped Arsene feels the squad is to compete in all four competitions on offer this season.

With regards to injuries, both Thomas’s (Vermaelen and Rosicky) have been added to the injury list sponsored by Diabyshere as well as Ryo (and he hasn’t played yet!).  Vermaelen is expected to be out for 2 months following his “secret” operation and Thomas Rosicky is recovering from a knock whilst on international duty and is expected to returned for the first Champions League fixture away against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.  Something tells me he might try to ensure he’s fit for that game……

The team is still also impacted by suspensions with three players out following recent red cards activities.  Gervinmho, Alex Song and Carl Jenkinson will all be suspended for tomorrows game but Frimpong will return to Premier League action.  Whether this will be in the starting line-up we’re yet to see.  Other potential absentees could include both Park and Santos who are both in the squad but face minor challenges to make it onto the pitch.  Park is currently stuck is Paris with visa issues to get into the UK whilst Santos is said to be a little short of match fitness.

This makes predicting a starting IX somewhat difficult but I would expect something along the lines of the following:

Szczesny

Sagna  –  Koscielny  –  Mertesacker  –  Gibbs

Benayoun  –  Frimpong  –  Arteta – Ramsey

Walcott  –  RvP

There is certainly a lot of anticipation as to how much of an impact both Benayoun and Arteta will make on their starts.  Arsene was open in that he recognises both players can complement that style that Arsenal likes to play

“I expect him (Arteta) to make an immediate impact  and even as well, Benayoun as they are technically tidy”

The question was asked of Arsene as to whether the unusually flurry of last minute signings was as a consequence of the game at Old Trafford.  To which his response was:

“Not really and some of the transfers were linked to players going out. Like Santos and Park because I knew Bendtner would go out and Traore would go out.”

He also went to add:

“The squad is stronger if you look at the squad we have now and you imagine a midfield with Wilshere and Diaby coming back plus the players like Vermaelen will come back soon I think we have a more mature squad and that is as well important as we will have players with of experience and a good attitude.” 

In this response he did not really recognise the void that Nasri and Fabregas left following their departures as this was still an area that was recognised as a need for strengthening whilst they were still present so the two new midfielders will offer something different but whether this is still progression in that department is still yet to be seen.

The addition of Mertesacker in the short term only covers over the cracks in Vermaelen’s tendons but they will hopefully develop a formidable partnership when playing together.  Santos is certainly an improvement over Traore and will leapfrog Gibbs and if Park can control a first time ball then he has an advantage of Bendtner already.  So I have to agree with Wenger slightly when he says the squad has become more mature and experienced following recent acquisitions but there is still depth that needs to be added to ensure that this squad has the durability to last the whole season.

This was also something picked by John Cross in the Mirror when trying to validate the so-called Arsenal Injury Jinx.  The fact is that other teams have consistently had enough depth in the squad to carry injurys to the first XI.  What was interesting today was Arsene’s comments about Jack Wilshere injury.  The aforementioned article looks to allay concerns that players are being over-trained and over-played (the so called ProZone Red Area) but whilst Jack’s ankle injury was put down to bad luck he did seem to suggest that he had overused Jack towards the end of the season.  So Arsene is still yet to address this lack of squad depth and we’re still in a scenario where we’re fielding players in the very infancy of the first team careers – we can only hope that this will change furthermore in January.

Expectations from Swansea

 

In yesterday’s post I raised the point that it is usually for a home game against a newly promoted team of Swansea calibre to generate such pre-match interest and this is predominately due to off pitch activities around Arsenal.  However, Swansea have earnt the right to be in the premier League and Arsene is certainly treating them with respect in terms of how he will approach the game.  They’ve not had a bad start to their season considering their aspirations and after the 4-0 defeat on the opening day they’ve started out early in becoming misers for conceding goals with two 0-0 draws in their last games. 

“What they have achieved is absolutely magic, at this moment last season, no-one would have given them a chance, so what they have done is absolutely fantastic.
 


“Swansea are a team who look at the numbers who are one of the four or five best teams in terms of passing ability.”

We will see whether or not Swansea suffer from stage fright and they were certainly very active during the recent transfer window and we shall also get to see if their team will gel quickly. 

However, it’s odds on that Arsenal will win tomorrows game with a greatest likelihood of a 2-0 home win.

  

Fan’s Support

 

Earlier this week there was talk on unrest and splits within the fanbase and protest were being planned against the board outside the ground.  These have been subsequently cancelled now (but I think the billboard poster will still be there) as there has been a realisation over recent days that everyone needs to get behind the team and especially the new additions to the squad.  Football is a results based industry and yes, there have been frustrations that the team have been under-equipped for the task in hand but the only real role that the fans can play at the Emirates tomorrow is to make the atmosphere as raucous as they can and help unnerve the Swansea players so that Arsenal gets the result that it needs.

Bring on Saturday and another afternoon at the Emirates – I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to be and am looking forward to toasting a victory during post-match drinks.

Come on you gunners!!!

GG

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Arsenal: Squad Fitness, International Fallout, Frimpong Allegiance, Arsenal Take Over England

In Arsenal, Frimpong, International Tedium on September 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Squad Fitness:

Two things seemingly occupying the minds of Arsenal fans at the moment – How many of the squad are fit and what was the impact of the recent round of international games? The two are intertwined but we wait to hear how the latter has impacted the former.

However, the injury topic seems to have hit the headlines again following announcements this week that both Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen are both out for a number of months due to dodgy ankles.

For some reason Vermaelen’s injury announcement came after he’d had a secret operation in Sweden. I’m not so sure why this was a secret? Has the Verminator been to Cyberdyne Systems to be upgrade from a T-101 to a T-1000?  Who knows but it’s certainly a knockback for the new Vermersacker model that Cyberdyne were looking to release.

If the reports are to be believed, we can expect to see Vermaelen back for Sunderland in the middle of October whereas Jack Wilshere will not be likely to return until mid-November for the game against Norwich.

Who out of the squad is fit? Well, if you look at who is available for selection then things aren’t so bad:

GK: Szczesny, Fabianski 

DEF: Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Santos, Djourou, Gibbs

MID: Arteta, Ramsey, Frimpong, Benayoun, Arshavin, Rosicky

FWD: Park, RvP, Walcott, AOC, Gervinho, Chamakh

 

International Fallout:

We wait to see how the bumps and bruises of the international break have impacted the players so we’ll look at a potential starting XI for the Swansea game closer to the time.

Talking of which, we had quite a number of players on duty. Whilst the results are inconsequential to Arsenal you have to have a look to see how many minutes were played by each player and how the travel may potentially contribute to player fatigue at the weekend:

 

There were some highlights for some even though the quality of the competition is debatable but the potential front line for Saturday’s game will be high on confidence after hitting the back of the net 9 times in 5 games.

In terms of other players, there was the obvious match-up of Theo Walcott vs. Aaron Ramsey in the England/Wales games. This never came to fruition as Theo was withdrawn from the game with a suspected tight hamstring but Aaron put in a sterling Man of the Match Performance.

I’ll admit it, the England games passed me by due mainly to my apathy for the English FA in their treatment of young players being picked for too many teams (e.g. both Theo and Jack being impacted in recent time by playing for both the U21 and Senior squads during the summer breaks), lack of Arsenal involvement as well as their inability to show any kind of consistency in overseeing the game.

 

Frimpong Allegiance

So why choose England when you can choose Ghana? Emmanuel Frimpong has confirmed today that his international allegiance will lie with the his country of birth rather than the country he has represented as a youth and will be joining the contingent of Arsenal players who we will lose each time the African Cup of Nations comes around.

Whilst Frimpong has made an impact in his initial displays this season it was the future that could have made watching England more exciting again. Could you imagine an England line-up that included Gibbs, Wilshere, Walcott, Frimpong and Lansbury? Assuming that Lansbury doesn’t return from his loan to West Ham, it looks like England fans will have to make do with first three only.

Arsenal Take Over England

However, it would have been interesting to have seen a line-up that boasted similar Arsenal numbers that were last seen back in 1999. This was when England played the then world champions, France where starting line-up comprised of Seaman, Dixon, Adams and Keown.  The only blemish on the landscape was Le Saux starting instead of Winterburn. The result was 2-0 but you can hardly apportion blame when the French team where on a high and compromised of Nickolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and pre-Arsenal Wiltord, Pires.

 Thankfully the tedium of international football is over and the anticipation of the PL can continue. Arsenal haven’t had the greatest of start but now that this silly pre-season is over and the squad has been finalised let’s hope we get an appropriate response with 3 points against Swansea on Saturday.

Only 4 more sleeps to the next game!!

GG

Arsenal: Deadline Day Roller Coaster!! How Did It Feel?!

In Transfers, Wenger on September 1, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Do you remember the day’s when you were young when your parents tell you that you’re being taken to your first theme park where they have proper rollercoasters.  Not your poxy little ones at Southend Pier that just go round in a circle and dip up and little and bounce down a bit. 

Oh no, the one’s where if you try eating an ice cream whilst on the ride you just end up wearing most of it all over your face and the odd one will going flying into the passenger behind.

And just when you think that it’s all over, you do the whole thing again but backwards leaving you in a complete mess and the end, stomach turned upside and with jelly legs.

That’s how I feel after last night’s transfer deadline orgy via our friends Sky Sports News last night. 

After the rumours from Tuesday about the shoring up of defence with a 6’6” German and a Brazilian left back with wizards feet Wednesday was being embraced with great anticipation. 

Yet things started slowly and it wasn’t until late afternoon that we started to hear that we were in for two midfielders – Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta.  Great, we all thought.  Arsene’s listened to the pleas of the masses and he’s trying to fill the void left by the absences of Nasri and Fabregas.  Two players of Premiership experiences and both creative in their style of play.

That was until midway through the evening we heard that the Arteta move was off.  Mixed reports as to whether or not the clubs couldn’t agree a fee or whether it was in fact personal terms that had led to a breakdown in negotiations.  Therefore, the conclusion was the Arsenal were playing with their usual pokerface and withdrew from negotiations.

There was discontent across the Arsenal twitter world.  Suddenly Benayoun wasn’t enough and certainly not just on a 1 year loan deal.  There was contempt in the air and the summer transfer window was nearly confined to the world of “could have beens” and the usual anti-climax of signing yet another out of favour Chelsea playing prior to the deadline (re. Diarra and Gallas).

But like the momentary eye in the rollercoaster storm, we’d only reached the end of the first leg and with an hour left in the window the train starting rolling backwards again and the Arteta move was back on!  Hoorah, we all cried!  Come on Arsene, sort if out before the Premier League fax machine runs out of paper, we can save our season if we can just get this one player from Everton who had had mixed fortunes recently on the injury front.

And so Big Ben chimed, Jim White’s excitement reached explosive proportions and…….and…..did it go through?……..it did?………yes!  Everything is alright in the world, forget the 8-2 drubbing at the weekend, forget that we are 8 points behind the leaders with only 3 games played already.  We have some players and they’re not still studying their A-levels.

To be true though, the shopping list requirements have been clear for the past 2 years – 1 goalkeeper, 2 centre backs, 2 midfielders and another striker with at least 20 goals in his bag.

Szczesny can fill the GK role if he can add maturity to his already maturing years. 

We could potentially have a 1st choice back four of Santos – Mertesacker – Vermaelan – Sagna.  These line-up can stand up on it own to some of the best. 

If we needed 2 midfielders before the summer then we needed another 4 prior the season start.  However, with the emergence of Frimpong, less petulance from Song and Gervinho, Wilshere remaining fit and Diaby and Arshavin potentially finding fitness and from the addition of Arteta and Benayoun are good solid additions.

Up front, Young is untested really.  He’s led the line at Monaco in the past season but they were recently relegated.  He’s the captain of his national squad but how competitive that team really is would need to be questioned.

So what does this crop of players provide the current squad.?

They certainly bring experience and maturity with the ages covering  the range of 26 – 29 years old.  Mertesacker is a great signing in terms of his international experience (75 caps for Germany at the tender age of 26 – eat that Gary Cahill).

Apparently we now have an inventor and genius in Yossi Benayoun whose other talents involve the creative design for the Israeli Coca Cola bottle.  Well, that was what Wikipedia was stating last night but funny that id doesn’t anymore.

And Mikel Arteta?  He grew up in the Barcelona youth academy before plying his trade elsewhere?  Was his signing truly the lure of Champions League football or could it be that he wants to be next summers perennial Catalan target?  Oh, the cynicism!

We now enter the mundane period of International football and to hope and pray that all the players return fit and well.  Some come down from last nights excitement and with a balance still of £50M+, roll on the january transfer window.  See Arsene, you can have a bit of excitement in your life!  There are reasons to be confident again but maybe not too optimistic. 

GG

Manchester United Vs Arsenal: 4 Reasons Why Today Was Inevitable

In Preimeri League 2011/12, Wenger on August 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm

What the hell was that!

Here’s my disclosure for today’s post:  I didn’t go to the game today, I do not subscribe to a TVsports channel owned by Rupert Murdoch, I only listened to the game on the radio and followed certain twitter feeds, I shall not be matching MOTD2 tonight.  I am still proud to be an Arsenal fan no matter how much it hurts…………..but today it bloody hurts!!!

Rather than go into the in’s and outs of a game that I thankfully did not have to view I put forward some reasons as to why the result today was inevitable and, in a painful way, might be the kick up the arse this club has gotten away with in recent time.

1.  Arsene Wenger

Turn on the radio and listen to any post-match phone-in and you’ll hear both sides of the Arsene Wenger.  No matter which side of the fence you sit there are some big areas of concern where Arsene seems to be shooting himself in the foot in his current approach to managing Arsenal.

Unwilling to recognize the teams weaknesses:  Time and time again we hear about this team’s massive potential and mental strengthness, however, this has never actually turned into results.  How many times in recent seasons have Arsenal struggled against the title challenging teams as well as against teams that should have been beaten easily.  Yes, there may have been the odd victory against ManUre and Chelsea but for every one of those there has been a Wigan or a West Brom or a Newcastle or a Bolton.  Teams that should have easily been beaten and would have been beaten by Premiership winning teams that have produced that mental strengthness every week to win games against the run of play.

Unwilling to recognise the failings himself:  There was a story of the news the other day about a man who had been sentenced the other day for faking his army career having never served in the army at all.  He had built up such a strong story to convince others that over the course of time he had convinced himself that the lie was in fact truth.  I’m not suggesting that there’s anything untoward in Arsene Wenger’s head but the analogy does hit home and a small dose of humility in that a new course of action may be required with the current squad.  If not delusional, then it would be more concerning that his approaching is complete arrogance and the current situation is entirely deliberate.

Poor morale within the squad:  We’ve heard some concerning stories this week including one in which the club captain sat down with the manager to discuss areas in which the team need immediate improvement.  No progress was be made and RvP was left completely perplexed in the ambitions that his manager has for the current season.  A season it should be noted in which Robin’s contract should be renewed in order to avoid another Nasri situation.  Furthermore, how much should we look into the non-signings of Phil Jones and Juan Mata. After lengthy discussions with both players we now found them playing for two of Arsenal’s main competitors but if money was not the issue then why would they have turned down the chance to play for Arsenal?  See also the “reason” why Nasri and Cesc left, the latter moreso when he in fact took a paycut to join a Barcelona team that still have Xavi and Inesta in their pomp.  It’s not  money but winning ambition.

2.  The Board

Why has the buying power of Arsenal dropped so dramatically?  This has been touched earlier but how much does the current insecurity of the board impact deals?  In the past year we have seen a boardroom tussle between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov with silent Stan apparently winning the battle.  Yet, what difference have we seen from an outsiders perspective?  By what measures is he deeming successful performance, and by this I mean in terms of investment purposes, because is the slide continues then unrest amongst the fanbase will ultimately result in left money in the coffers on a weekly basis.  Surely success on the pitch equates to success on the balance sheet?  At what point does Stan and the board intervene in either supporting the manager or not?

What role does Ivan Gazidis serve as Chief Executive?  Whilst he was not a direct replacement for David Dein the comparisons in Arsenals emptiness of the trophy cabinet are reasonably tangible and when, in November 2008, Ivan Gazids was bought in to take on a similar role it looked like the rocking ship was being stabilized. In fact, for the MSL power-broker whose crown jewel was brokering the transfer of David Beckham to LA Galaxy.  However, let us look at the signings made at Arsenal since the summer of 2008:

Season 2008/09:  Andrei Arshavin, Mikel Sylvestre, Amaury Bischoff

Season 2009/10:  Thomas Vermaelen, Samuel Galdino, Sol Campbell (2nd time)

Season 2010/11: Sebastien Squillaci, Lauren Koscielny, Ryo Miyachi, Kyle Ebecillo, Maurouane Chamakh

Season 2011/12:  Carl Jenkinson, Gervinho, Joel Campbell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Of those, only 2 (3 if you include Sol Campbell) would automatically slot into your first team now – Gervinho and Thomas Vermaelen.  Not much return for 4 years work is it.

3.  The Players

The gaps between the players and the fans is becoming really evident now.  It was only 2 years ago when the Arsenal team would join up in the centre circle straight after the final whilstle for a final team talk.  OK, it all feel appart after that fateful game against Birmingham which Eduardo’s horrific injury and Gallas’ final minute tantrum.  However, there was comararde within the team and with the fans.  Nowadays, as soon as the whilstle is blown the players are straight down the tunnel without much recognition for the fans who pay the tickets that fund the wages.  For a club of great history and demand for respect towards the paying crowd this needs reinstilling amongst the current crop of players.  Fine, there are a minority that are still aware of need for a good rapport but the majoirty of players would be found guilty of not giving something back to the fans on matchdays.

Player Indiscipline:  Three premier leagues games into the new season and we have had 3 red cards and 1 retrospective suspension.  I haven’t seen the two yellow cards that Jenkinson received today so cannot comment (and never will) but for the other three suspensions that the team are having to suffer, they could have been avoid.  Song was petulant, Gervinho needed self-constraint and Frimpong’s first yellow could easily have been avoided.  The current Arsenal team need to be more savvy in the way they conduct themselves on the pitch to avoided such penalties because all they do is end up causing harm to the team by making themselves unavailable to play.

Inexeperienced Players:  I said this previously in the Liverpool aftermath, you cannot expect players with little premier league experience to be able to complete with other teams that have built up collective experience of number of seasons.  Add to that the mix of youth and it’s turned into a receipe for disaster.  I have no doubt that given the right football schooling, some of these new recruits will go onto shine for seasons to come but right now it’s like lambs to the slaughter and is coming across as naive management.   Whilst the youngsters should take a lot from the current experience, and (hopefully!!) be safe in the knowledge that it couldn’t get much worse, a club like Arsenal should not be in this position.

4.  Other Teams

Other teams have strengthened and have strengthened early.  ManUre made the majority of their signings at the beginning of the summer and entered their pre-season in the knowledge that their squad was pretty much complete.  Liverpool started in January and have continued throughout the summer.  Chelsea have been slow but this can be put down to Andre Villas-Boas coming in himself part way through the summer.  However, year-on-year Arsenal either leave it very late to make a signing or do nothing at all.  In fact, like the British railway system, Arsenal are now suffering from years of under investment whereas our competitiors having just gotten stronger.  Have a look at the table of net spenders in the past decade.  Arsenal are only trumped by Blackburn in the profit making stakes but the bigger area of concern is the net investment vs winning intent/desire of the club to be able to compete for the best players.  Can you imagine what Arsene might have acheived if he’s kept hold of his most valubale assests and then spent some more money on imporving that squad!!!

Time and again we hear commentators saying that Arsene should be recongised for what he has acheived with the players that he has had.  Fine, but there will not be a asterix next to Arsenal’s permier league standing in the footballing almanacs of 2068 stating *but fair play to Arsenal, they finished fourth but they had to deal with Chamakh up front and Eboue in midfield.

It’s results that count I’m afraid……..

So tonight’s post has been a little bit doom and gloom but reality hurts I’m afraid.  Today has been a time for a little bit of humility and soul searching to find the truth of the matter.  And if the truth hurts then so be it – anything that can make Arsenal stronger should be encouraged.

What reasons are there to be optimistic?  There is a core of players in the squad that are willing to stand up and be counted.  With the current club captain (Lord, let him stay fit) we have the right person to pick up the team and take them on to the next battle.  If Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong could be nominated for World Footballers of the Year on the merit of their twitter accounts then they would be battling amongst themselves to be on the podium:

There is a core of players that do share a desire and have true heart for this club that need to rub off on the others in order to this team to evolve and become stronger.  If not, then I’m afraid they need to be shipped out.

Finally, and saving the best to the last, the best performance of the day would go to the away fans.  It’s not the first time that Arsenal fans have done their best to urge on the team midst the face of adversity and woeful defending  but the audible performance would have been heard around the world as 3,000 away fans out sang 73,000 ManUre supporters whilst they were 7-2 up.  To hear “I’m Arsenal ’till I die” was heart warming on a cold day for all Gooners and the club should recongise this.  And this is the point, this club is more than the players on the pitch, the state of the art stadium and the fancy merchandising and branding.  It’s about the soul of what it means to be an Arsenal fan to enjoy the good times and regroup and be strong during the bad and kudos to those who made every Gooner proud to know what it takes to be a fan.  The players who wanted to go off straight at the final whistle should take note.

Jack and Frimpong send their best!

*Jack seems to have deleted his posted so I’ve only got his retweet

So as this post comes to end we shall shortly see the transfer window close too.  Will these 3 days define Arsene Wenger’s career?  There’s only one person that can answer that, isn’t there Arsene…………

Keep the faith Gooners,

GG

Arsenal could be short on players at the weekend

In Arsenal, Liverpool, Nasri, Wenger on August 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice for just one day to feel confident that your team is going into the big game this weekend with a strong squad following a busy summer of transfer activities.  As we know, the Chief Executive Officer had promised:

“It is very clear we had some shortcomings and in this close season we are going to see some turnover of players. Some new signings will be coming in and some of our existing squad will be going out. As Arsène has said, it will be a busy close season for the club.”

It’s certainly been busy but not in the way you would like to see.  So far we have seen the exits of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Eboue, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and by tomorrow the likely departure of Samir Nasri.  In addition to this, some first teamers from last year have gone out on season long loan with Carlos Vela and Denilson taking time out in warmer climates. 

On top of this, the hard long season is already starting to take its toll on the playing staff with Wilshire, Rosicky, Djoruou, Gibbs, Traore, Diaby all carrying knocks and are unlikely to start on Saturday against Liverpool.  Off these, maybe Rosicky could recover in time.  This is now making both Gervinhos and Songs 3 game suspension even more critical that it may have appeared at the time.

So where does this leave the first team selection?  Tricky!  It could look something like this:

Defence:

Szczseny

Sagna  – Koscienly   –  Vermaelen  – Jenkinson

This was the back four that finished the game at Udinese on Tuesday and maybe Jenkinson is yet not adaptable enough to take the unfamiliar berth on the left.  The only other formation I can see at the back is that Squillaci goes into the centre of defence which TV taking the left back position

Midfield:

Arshavin  –  Frimpong/Rosicky  –  Ramsey – ?Walcott

This does very much depend on whether Rosicky can shake off the knock that he received on Tuesday night.  If not, then I can only see that Frimpong will start and play in Songs holding role but for someone who only made his Premiership debut as a replacement on Saturday against Newcastle this is asking a bit much.  Another consideration would be for Walcott to drop deeper into a 4-4-2 formation leaving our options for……….

Attack:

?Walcott  –  RvP  –  Chamakh

On paper it looks like a weak First XI can be put together but things start to get shaky when you consider who might be on the bench:

Substitutes:

Fabianski  –  Squillaci/Jenkinson  –  Lansbury –  Miyaichi  –  Oxlade-Chamberlain  –  Bendtner – A.N. OTHER

We actually only have 6 substitutes and with greatest respect to the youn lads in the team is a big-spending Liverpool and Manchester United the types of teams that you want to start cutting your cloth against?  It’s also highly unlikely that 2 substitute goalkeepers will be named on the bench.  This is highly embarrassing for a club that claims that it wants to challenge for the title this season.  To have a squad that it so threadbare is really difficult to comprehend and needs to be addressed immediately following another season of hot air and postulating about potential targets that disappointingly never seem come to fruition.

We’re still awaiting for the super quality signing Arsene and on this form maybe two or three before the weekend would be helpful.

———————————————————————————————-

In other news we heard on Friday that Arsenal have agreed terms with Deportivo Saprissa for the signing of Costa Rican striker Joel Campbell we still awaiting final confirmation of signature with the player.  Earlier today, Joel was listed on the Arsenal.com First Team drop down list but this seems to have disappeared.  Apparently, he has desires on the number 12 shirt which is certainly free at the moment and it will certainly be good to see Campbell on the back of an Arsenal shirt once more.  However, fans should still be cautious about Campbell’s ability to adapt to the Premiership considering he age and experience.  Even the boss went as far to say in last nights programme notes:

“Joel is a young prospect, he has talent and he can play right, left or centrally,”

“We took a gamble on him but, from what we have seen, it is worth taking.”

Interesting note for fact facts:  There has now been a Campbell in an Arsenal shirt in the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and now the 10’s.

With tomorrow being another day of not escaping the Arsenal merry-go-round that will included more transfer confirmation, speculations and likely frustrations it’s all becoming a little bit tedious.  It’s just the beginning and is unlikely to slow down until the close of the transfer window at the end of the month.  Maybe then, we can really have a look at the squad Arsene will have in order to mount a challenge for the league title. 

Let’s just hope we’re still in the running!

GG

 

 

 

Arsenal vs Newcastle: The Pantomime Villan Strikes Again

In Arsenal, Barton, Uncategorized, Wenger on August 14, 2011 at 12:17 am

Here we go again, another August, another new season complete with new levels of expectations.  Unfortunately for Arsenal fans the expectations aren’t as high as they should be and when you talk to fellow Gooners there certainly a great deal of apprehension in the air as to how high the team will finish come May next year.

The new opening fixture of the 2011/12 season was a tricky trip up to St. James park where the demons of one of the Premierships greatest ever giveaways need to be put to rest from last year.  Last years capitulation could be put down to the team being reduced down to 10 men following a petulant reaction by Abu Diaby to Joey Barton and you would like to think that it was impossible for lightening to strike twice(!).

The build up to today’s game had not been ideal, the pre-season outings had mixed fortunes with reasonably uninspiring performance against mediocre opposition, turbulent transfer speculation regarding the teams two most talented players as well as injuries to key players.  For a team of Arsenal’s calibre it can be perceived as being negligent to not be able to field a midfield with Nasri, Fabragas and Wilshire when only one of the three was legitimately injured.

In his pre-match interview with the ESPN dolly he admitted that he was nervy for the start of the season.  So are most of the fans!

The starting line up was as follows:

Szczesny,

 Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs,

Ramsey, Song, Rosicky,

Arshavin, Gervinho, Van Persie

In fact, ESPN had the line-up as 4-3-3 but it most probably due to their technical inefficiency for displaying anything other than 4-3-3 or 4-4-2.  The line-up was more 4-5-1 with Arshavin and Gervinho acting as rotating wide men attacking from the midfield areas.

Whilst the starting line-up looked reasonable given the current situation, what will have concerned many fans was the lack of depth from the bench.   

Fabianski, Chamakh, Djourou, Frimpong, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott

 There is very little strength across all the potential replacements who sat on the bench with 3 players potentially making their Premiership debuts if chosen.  If this truly the sign of a squad that has the intent of winning the Premiership and if not, who else other than Nasri and Fabreagas is willing to forego their season career for the development of younger team members to try to demonstrate their potential and “mental strength”?

And so onto the game……….oh yes, that!  All the build and my word neither of these teams were willing to take a strangle on the game.  In fact, the first half was a game of stereotypes with Arsenal having the lions share of the procession and Newcastle happy just to play a chasing game, sit back and absorb the pressure.  In fact, isn’t that the tactics most teams employ against us and hope to frustrate for 60 minutes and then hit on the break, score and then tried an defend for the remaining half hour?  Arsenal pretty much dominated most of the intial play and after 35 minutes that stats were showing that Arsenal has completed 201 passes versus just 69 for Newcastle.

In order to summarise the first half then half chances would be the best phrase.  Gervinho started comparatively brighter than anyone else on the pitch with some neat footwork and mazy runs but no end product.  On at least 3 occasions Gervinho managed to get past his nearest defender, attack the goal line but was unable to provide the final ball for that much-needed goal.  Whilst we may have a player who may actually be able to beyond the defensive line of the opposition the next killer ball/pass needs to be there in order to deliver the results that the teams play deserves.

So the first half passed with minor incidents with a lot of niggly play of which Song was booked for an alleged series of fouls culminating in Demba Ba diving and twisting like Tom Daley when hardly touched. 

Just prior to half-time, Arshavin could have done better with a poor pass to Gervinho that was intercepted by Colocinni when we had a 2 on 1 situation.  Just before half-time the little Russian maestro was nearly rewarded for a little bit a magic when he scooped the ball over the Newcastle defence into the path of RvP who was hustled off the ball by Stephen Taylor.

And it was in the second half that the game got a little more tasty. 

Despite a slow start that was similar to the first half things picked up following the first of two incident involving the pantomime villan, Joey Barton.  This time he played the part of the innocent victim of a rather cynical stamp from Alex Song.  In fact, Song does have a tendency for doing some silly things and he was extremely fortunate to remain on the pitch after stamping on Bartons achilles after play had stopped.  Song should be thankful that Theo was preparing to come on as a substitute as replays indicate that the stamp could not be seen directly by the referee and the fourth official was otherwise occupied by the number board in preparation for the imminent substitution. 

What was of interest was Barton’s response.  A precursor for things to come perhaps, where he initially went to the referee to try to force a decision that wasn’t seen by the official and then to the touch line to complain to someone who was playing away with buttons and numbers.  If it had been seen then Song would have been off and if there is nothing in the referees report then the incident is likely to be subject to review by the F.A. on Monday and in a likely act of having to look forceful at the beginning of the season a ban should be expected by Song.  Stupid considering our current plight.

However, it was the second incident involving Barton that will hit the headlines in the morning.  Gervinho attacked the Newcastle penalty box from the far left touchline and was clipped on the foot by one of their defenders.  As any experienced striker would do, Gervinho went down.  The referee didn’t take the bait and the game went on.  However, in his own intelligent way, Barton felt the need to haul Gervinho off the ground via the neck of his shirt and snarl his opinion of Gervinho’s actions.  Obviously, the expectations of the masses are that any grown man should just stand there and be shouted at and shaken by a small-minded fool and Gervinho, who most probably hadn’t been briefed on J. Barton upon arrival to the UK, reacted.

What has been interesting to see is that both Sir Alan of Shearer and Robbie Savage (who both love to play devils advocate against Arsenal) thought that the challenge on Gervinho was worthy of a penalty.  I do wonder what Kevin Keegan was watching at the time as he always seemed to site on the fence on ESPN and could not commit beyond “probably” to hint that Gervinho put his leg in the way to earn the foul.  How ridiculous as the foot that was caught was his standing foot!

However, the problem is that the reaction was actually quite trivial, handbags at five paces, a little argy bargie between players and a mild slap to the side of the head for Barton.  What was hysterical was the reaction.  The reaction was exaggerated beyond belief and if you watch the replay of the incident and keep an eye on the clock in the corner you’ll see that nearly as much as a full second passes between impact and reaction.  In the technical world this is known as Temporal Contiguity which was followed up by Ballistic Continuity (see link for more definition on how to spot a dive).

In terms of the referees action, for the first time in a while I have to agree with Arsene:

If he’s seen the incident, then why were there not two red cards?

As I’ve already alluded to, the referee was actually happy to let the initial incident pass but due to Barton’s intervention and Stephen Taylors blatant exaggeration of the truth the result was a red card for Gervinho.  There is slight confusion as to whether this was a straight red or two yellows (one for the dive, which would be odd, and the other for the altercation) but a ban is to be expected and if it’s for three full games then that covers Liverpool, Man Utd and Swansea. 

As I was mentioning the other day, Arsenal actually have a very important start to this season and to potentially lose Gervinho and Song along with Nasri, Cesc and Wilshire the heart of the squad has been completely ripped out.  It’s no wonder that the Arsenal fans told Arsene what they thought of the current situation.  To be honest this hasn’t changed since the final game of last season but we’re now 3 months on and nothing has changed.

After this, the game pretty much fizzled out to a stalemate conclusion with a final chance toward the end falling to RvP but he was too far out and too hasty with his shot for it to be meaningful.

So…………what can we tell from our first game of the season?  One things for sure, without any new signing or adequate replacement for obvious absentees it would seem that Arsene thinks that we are still in pre-season mode and we can coast to some early victories with the current squad.  Yes, the transfer window closes at the end of the month but before we reach that milestone we will have played two of our Premiership contenders having only bagged 1 point out of 3 to date.  Something need to happen desperately, some injection of enthusiasm and encouragement need to occur not within the fan base but also across the team and the club.  It was starkly evident that the current first XI were not quite ready yet and need something to help them click, it was as if the trauma of this week had rubbed off on their playing style and this need early correction.

What was confusing at the end was how the Arsenal players seemed to thing that it was appropriate for laughing and hug with Barton after the final whistle.  If I was Gervinho how would that make me feel?  Yes, these are all professional individuals playing a game week in and week out plying their trade.  But what has happened to team solidarity and fighting for the cause regardless of who the perpetrator might be.  That was disappointing to see.

Welcome back the first day of the Premier League.  It’s contentious, passionate and even entertaining despite a dull game.  This is why we love it, this is why we support our teams.  There’s a long way to go and stay tuned throughout!

GG