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Arsenal vs Bolton: Match Report, #RVP100

In Arsenal, Premier League 2011/12, RvP on September 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

That’s better!


 

Prelude

 

The backdrop to today’s game had been challenging this week – for fans, players and the manager.  Despite all the confidence that was coming from the club that things could be turned, the reality of the situation was that if Bolton won and the game between Fulham and West Brom was a draw the Arsenal would be bottom of the league.  Unfathomable considering the next league fixture would be away to the Spuds.

This meant that the first XI and Arsene needed to walking the walk rather than talking the talk in order to resurrect an appalling start to this season.  A start to the season that was compounded even further by the news prior to kick-off that Jack Wilshere was going to need surgery on his ankle and would be out until Christmas!  For all you good boys and girls out there, if you’re writing a Christmas list make sure that the big man at the North Pole hears our cries loud and clear from North London that we need Jack back and quickly.

The starting line-up pretty much picked itself considered the players available to the manager.  I had Santos in instead of Gibbs but other than that the team was as I’d thought:

Szczesny

Sagna  –  Mertesacker  –  Koscielny  –  Gibbs

Ramsey  –  Song  –  Arteta

Gervinho  – RvP  –  Walcott


 

1st half

 

It was going to be interesting to see how the defence would handle the burly exploits of a Bolton team that stills retains a reputation of being slightly more physical than the aspirational football that some people give Owen Coyle credit for.

To be honest the first half was not the finest game of football we shall see at the Emirates and Bolton were keen emulate that last game against the Gunners and try and nick a win.  The Arsenal back four looked nervy and unsure of what to with the ball and this gave Bolton the impetus.

Within a couple of minutes from the kick-off the first chance of the game presented itself to Darren Pratley who managed to get ahead of Kieran Gibbs from a crossed header and prodded the ball towards goal.  A chance very similar to one made by Swansea in the last league game at the Emirates and once again Szczesny was on par to the effort and he made another magnificent save to prevent any early embarrassments.

After this Bolton had a couple more chances from wide and each time the Bolton attack seemed to be better positioned that the zonal marking system adopted by Arsenal.

At this time, everyone’s favourite Bolton player, Kevin Davis, was warming up on the touchline.  A surprising move but it wasn’t long before he replaced N’Gog following a head injury and the Arsenal crowd gave him a “warm welcome” that a player of his tackling capabilities deserved.

The rest of the first half was quite a dull affair with the only chance of note was a retaken free-kick where Arteta played the ball short to RvP who had enough space to curl the ball just wide of Jaaskelainen’s far post.  A yard further back and that would have been 1-0 to Arsenal.

The main concern going into the half-time break was how were the Arsenal defence going to be able to shore things up at the back.  They had been carved open too frequently for comfort and whilst no clear cut opportunities were created by Bolton you still did not want to give them the chance to be more dangerous.

Just before the break the game livened up during 2 minutes of injury time both of which were created by Walcott.  The second of which was better which a shot from the edge of the box going over the far corner of the goal.  I’m not sure if this final couple of minutes gave the team a little more self-belief or that Arsene’s half-time talk changed the approach of some players but something changed over that 15 minute break and we saw a different Arsenal side in the second half.

 

2nd half

 

Who was it that said that a football is a game of two halves?  Today we saw two different sides between the first and second half and not a substitution in sight to claim the glory.  Rather than the first half when the defence appeared to be devoid of ideas and were unable to get the ball through midfield with much penetration, the start second half saw both Mertesacker and Koscielny taking the ball and moving towards the Bolton midfield.  A nice change from the sideways passing we’d seen so far.  What this did was to draw the Bolton midfield towards the ball and open up space between them and their defence and the dynamic changed in an instant.  Arsenal could attack the defence without having a to go through their midfield at the same time.

And within a couple of minutes, bang!  1-0 to the Arsenal.  For once, Mark Clattenberg made a good decision in allowing play to go on after Gervinho was clearly fouled and RvP scored a goal reminiscent of the one at home against Barcelona last season by beating Jaaskelainen at his near post.  The space was small and the keeper could be blamed for bad positioning but these are split second decisions and our captain took his chance to score his 99th goal for Arsenal.

For 5 minutes after the restart Arsenal suddenly woke up and the interplay between Gervinho and RvP was delightful and further chances were created with the Bolton goal starting to take a peppering of shots.

After 55 minutes it was time to say cheerio to David Wheater who was sent off for a professional foul on Walcott.  RvP play a through ball to Theo who was starting to find his gear when he was pulled back by the Bolton defender.  It looked somewhat harsh from where we were sat but the rules are the rules and he committed a foul as the last defender – even though the goal scoring opportunity may not have quite presented itself at the time.  Nethertheless, for the second year running, Bolton lost one of their central defenders to a sending off and it was only proper for the fans to wish David their best as he went for an early bath.  Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio! Cheerio, cheerio, cheeriooooo!

Whilst it was unlikely that the sending off would have had a great impact on the new found enthusiasm for Arsenal to attack the Bolton goal there were plenty of chance created.  Arteta had  a couple of opportunity, RvP had a header wide and even Koscielny had a chance from outside the box.

Bolton did create one chance of their own following another one of those controversial play-ons whilst a player was down injured.  With a Bolton defender down in their own box, Arsenal continued to play on and try to create a chance.  Jaaskaelainen was obviously try to get people to put the ball out of play when all of a sudden Bolton had a break and Chris Eagles was one on one with Szczesny.  Eagles could have done much better given the opportunity but the young Pole made the save and ultimately the ball went out of play.  Words were exchanged between the Bolton goalie and RvP to the point when Robin appeared to want to take on the entire Bolton defence in order to tell Jaaskelainen to shut up.

Would Jaaskelainen have been moaning if Bolton had gone onto score – of course not but those are the rules and both teams have to play to them so not sure what the problem was really.  If a players seriously injured then the referee would have stopped play but that is why the rule came into force to avoid people going down too easily and stopping play.

Anyway, not allowing this to effect his day in any way, the second goal and headlines for the game went to the club captain, Robin Van Persie.  Good work from Theo in the far corner allowed him to cross the ball across the face of the goal and RvP to flick the ball into the back of the next.  2-0 to the Arsenal and 100 goals in an Arsenal shirt for Robin. #RVP100

A great milestone for him to achieve joining the 100 goal club which has a membership of only 17 players.  Having become captain, RvP seem to have taken the responsibility in his stride and whilst he can be an inspiration of the pitch to his fellow players the class of the individual shone through when he paid his respects to the fans whilst the announcement from the tannoy was about him reaching his own personal achievement.

With 4 minutes left Robin came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Chamakh yet there was still time for another goal.

In the final minute of normal time a pull-back from Sagna back to the edge of the penalty box found Alex Song in a clear shooting position.  However, he still had a little bit of work to do and  took the ball from his left foot just wide of the advancing defender to crack a right-footed drive into the top corner.  3-0 to the Arsenal and that felt much better.

The game finished and the slight dampener on events was that Theo Walcott came over in injury time (Theo, injury time is not supposed to be the time you get injured it’s just a little bit extra that the referee adds on, normally for no good reason) and we are yet to hear what the injury actually is.  At the moment there are mixed reports as to whether it’s good or bad and we can only wait and find out in the next day or two after the obligatory scans has been performed.

 

Summary

 

It’s certainly great to have another home win under the belts and this one being a little more convincing.  Made all the more important when you glance at the other results of the afternoon and all of the other top 4 hopefuls were in winning positions two.  Arsenal now find themselves at the heady heights of 12th in the league and Bolton drop down to bottom of the table.

As I alluded to earlier, this really was a game of two halves and there was no obvious reason as to why the Arsenal team came out for the second half so much more energised.  Maybe the power of a good team talk made the difference…..?

If you look at the shooting stats you can see that the possession that Arsenal had today was being created into chances and even though the goal/chance ratio is still quite low at least all of the goals were registered on the Arsenal side of the scoreboard.

Next up is the Champions’ League group game against Olympiacos and as Wenger has admitted after the Dortmund games, mistakes may have been made in the past by not seeing the group stages through to topping the groups so I would anticipate that he will be pushing hard for a win of Wednesday.

 

After this is off to Sh*te Hart Lane next Sunday (obviously due to Thursday Spursday) and the next real test to this team to put in a good performance and show the league that the Arsenal are back and mean business.  And if there’s anywhere you want to have mean business then it’s against the Spuds that you want to be meanest.

On a final note, I’ve had great feedback on new items and features for the blog and will be considering all suggestions here that you have regarding what you would like to see from this blog.

Until Wednesday, come on you Gunners!!!!!

GloryGunner

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Arsenal vs Swansea: Match Report and Summary

In Arsenal, Premier League 2011/12 on September 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

Match Prelude:

There was a lot of anticipation prior to yesterday’s match as this was going to be the first time that the new look Arsenal side were taking to the pitch.  Very much a new start and whilst the past cannot be changed the reality was that Arsenal’s new season was commencing with an 8 point handicap to the early Premier League pacesetters.  In fact, I’d overheard the in-house commentator (it sounded like Tony Gubba) say that this was Arsenal’s worst start to a season in 20 years.

Comparisons to the starting line-up for this match against the last show start differences with 5 changes being made mainly in defence and midfield:

Manchester United:

Szczesny

Jenkinson – Koscielny – Djourou – Traore

Coquelin – Ramsey – Rosicky

Walcott – RvP – Arshavin

Swansea:

Szczesny

Sagna – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Gibbs

Ramsey – Frimpong – Arteta

Walcott – RvP – Arshavin

Subs: Park, Santos, Djourou, Fabianski, Chamakh, Benayoun, Coquelin

First Half:

Arsenal started the game in good intent and took control of play by holding onto the ball much more than in previous matches.  The first chance was created by Mikel Arteta who played a perfectly weight ball through to an attacking Aaron Ramsey who most probably had more time and space than he realised and lashed a right footed shot high and wide of the Swansea goal.

Swansea then responded with a chance of their own with a cross ball from the far touch line made it’s way into the six yard box and Williams did well to get his leg in front of Mertesacker and Szczesny made a fantastic reaction save low down to his left to prevent the Swans from taking an unexpected early lead.  The reason why I say Williams did well was because from the angle that we were sat at it looked like Mertesacker was looking to follow the recent trend of self-destructive debuts and scoring an own goal.  That’s the beauty of replays.

After this Arteta continued to demonstrate his prowess with the ball and played another lovely ball to Theo who broke through the Swansea defence for a 1-on-1 with the goalie.  At first, it look like Arsenal were going to get that important first notch on the score sheet but there was an important deflection on the goalkeeper underside from Theo’s shoot and that reduced the weight of the shot enough for Caulker to clear the ball off the goal line.

After a another period of exchange between the two teams where the Swansea players were seemingly going down with numerous head injuries, Arsenal got they break they were looking for and as a surrogate of recent time the goal was mainly due to fortuitous luck than creative opportunity.

It all started with a wild shot from Theo which was actually fortunate to stay in play having been deflected off a Swansea defender.  Swansea keeper, Vorm, was obviously keen to avoid conceding a corner and rushed to save the ball from going over the goal line.  What happened next was bizarre.  In an effort to start play from out the back Vorm contrived to roll the ball out against his own defenders heels leaving both players confused and Arshavin quick enough to pounce on the chance.  To be fair to Andery he took his chance really well and place the ball into the back of the net from the acute angle.  One-Nil To The Arsenal.

There wasn’t much else to write about in the first half other than the most unexpected Cyruff turn you’re likely to see.  Actually, it reminiscent of Lehman’s final error in an Arsenal shirt at the beginning at the opening home game of the 07/08 season against Fulham.  This time though Szczesny turned the Swansea striker with aplomb and maybe this is a differentiator for the current number 1 against the recent incumbents – both skill and luck combined can go a long way.

Second half:

In the second half Arsenal seemed to lose their way somewhat and failed to keep control of the game and started to chase the ball more.  However, there were more chances to be had.

Swansea had a free kick at the edge of the box after Koscielny conceded a foul and earn himself a yellow card in return.  The subsequent free kick was well taken by Scott Sinclair and shaved the upper side of the cross bar.  Buoyed by this Swansea continue to be industrious and to their credit they held onto the ball well and in Nathan Dyer they have a very lively player who the ability to keep hold of the ball under pressure and creative chances.

Other chances includes an RvP run across the face of the 18 yard box culminating in a right foot chance (chocolate foot isn’t Robin?) to the left of Vorm but deflecting off the outside of the right upright  Robin also had another chance when receiving the ball from Ramsey.  Frimpong who had won the ball back for Arsenal after Theo had lost control.  Who cut the ball to Ramsey who in turn pulled the ball back for RvP to hit high and handsome

Then the change came.  Benayoun come on with 28 minutes left to replace Arshavin and Coquelin came on with 15 minutes left in replace of Frimpong.

The last Arsenal change of the day was odd in a couple of ways.  RvP was replaced with 9 minutes of the game to go and one can only assume that this was with Tuesday’s away game in Dortmund in mind.  However, to replace the captain was questionable at the time and the rest of the team was prepared for this either.  In the past week much has been heard about the new injection of experience in the Arsenal squad and that we now have a team of leaders with 6 international captains within the ranks.  However, it is clear to see that Chamakh is not one of these six and nor does he aspire to be one – be it from club or country!

There we a couple of chance left in the game – a nice break down the left by Sagna end with a great ball into the six yard box finding Chamakh’ s head .  Unfortunately he couldn’t put the ball either side of the goalkeeper and I would put that down as an opportunity lost rather than made.

Finally, deep into the 4 minutes of extra time Swansea had one final chance to draw level with a late corner not being cleared properly and smashed over the bar from close range by Danny Graham.  Arsenal also had a late chance with 4 on 1 but Gibbs final shot was saved by Vorm.

The highlight for the final 10 minutes of the game was the North Bank end of the Emirate.  Starting off with the Red Action section and spreading across to the opposite corner there was a fantastic rendition of “We love you Arsenal we do, We love you Arsenal we do, We love you Arsenal we Do, Oooooooh Arsenal we love you!”.  A real treat and a sign to the rest of the fans and players that the club needs to put previous frustrations for now behind us and put full support behind the team and push on up the league table after such a slow start.

Summary:

There were some definite highlights for some of the players with obvious focus on the new players. 

Arteta slotted in very well and started the game lively.  His quality on the ball was obvious and was willing to get stuck in and win the ball back when necessary.  The early chances that were created come about through central midfield ball winning and passing by the Spaniard.

Mertesacker also did well in his first appearance.  I’ve just seen Alan Hansen critiquing the established Germany international who has 76 caps to his name and finished third in the world cup, twice.  But that’s what these pundits are paid for and maybe they need to appreciate that Mertesacker brings a different style of player to the team.  He isn’t the quickest and his aerial ability is obvious.  What will be his key to success will be how he positions himself when teams attack and today you could see that he looks to snuff out the oppositions attack early rather than allowing them to come on which maybe more of the style for Koscielny and Vermaelen.  This mixture of defence could work well and I’m looking forward to seeing this pan out.

Benayoun was the only other signing who came on today and whilst he is also comfortable on the ball he didn’t have enough time to make an impact.

With regards to Aaron Ramsey I thought he had a really big game today.  I was concerned that he had lost his way slight in recent games especially when having to chase the ball like he did against both Liverpool and Manchester United.  However, as he showed on Tuesday against England and yesterday against Swansea, he is pure class with the ball and his movement both on and off the ball was beautiful.  It’s been said before, but Ramsey really is looking to be some player and if only the games could come on a daily basis so we can see more and more.

In terms of the result, it wasn’t the cricket score that everyone had hoped for and despite being on the back end of one last week you cannot expect to see too many of these in the premier league (just ignore the 5-0 fluke yesterday as well!).  The score predictor had a 2-0 home win yesterday so that wasn’t too far off the mark.  We’ve got 3 points in the bag and it’s a platform to move on from.  This team needs time to gel and having been away on international duty the time spent on the training pitch to learn each other’s different playing styles and nuances have been limited.  The next match is away on Tuesday against Borrusia Dortmund and with a good morale boosting performance away from home then confidence will grow.

It’s exciting once again and as the phrase goes, let’s hope the season goes Forward!

GG

 

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

Arsenal vs Swansea: It’s back and it’s going to be spicy!

In Arsenal, Premier League 2011/12 on September 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Thank god that’s over – another round of international games have passed and we can move onto the more important aspect of the Premier League matches this weekend.

Swansea Prelude

This weekend is once again an important one in the recent history of Arsenal FC and will likely shape the rest of the season for the current squad, manager and their relationship with the fans.  Normally, you would relish the opportunity to welcome a newly promoted team who are still looking to establish themselves against top level clubs.  You only have to look back to last August when Blackpool came to the Emirates having just thumped Wigan 4-0 to get a pasting themselves and return home on the wrong end of a 6-0 drubbing.

Yet Swansea offers a different prospect and this isn’t down to the visiting team themselves even though the facts state that they are higher than us in the league and have not conceded in their last two outings (even though this was only against Wigan and Sunderland!).

No, the point here is how the boys in red and white react in light of recent headline grabbing activities that spices things up for Saturdays match:

1. Summer of transfer inactivity vs. late night deadline rollercoaster

There was much frustration over the lack of new players coming in over the summer period and for those signings that did take place the concern was that these were not sufficient to replace potential losses that were anticipated.  In fact, this concern was realised very early into the new season with the losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.  This was then coupled by Arsene Wenger playing a Champions League style Red or Black game with qualification against Udinese.  If we hadn’t witnessed that £25 million save by Szczesny then would we have been able to have  been so active towards the end of the transfer window?  Yes, Arsene may have made enquiries of Arteta earlier in the window but would he have been able to convince him to move from Everton with a paycut and Europa League football?  It was a risk and there was a certain element of luck involved too.

2.  Extended Pre-season

As alluded to above, the approach to the start of this season has not exactly been stuff of potential champions.  At this time Arsenal stand just above the dropzone (surprised Sky Sports haven’t picked up on this) with just 1 point out of 9.  Now that Champions League qualification has been confirmed we’ve seen investment in the squad but will we rue dropping 8 points so early in the season.  In fact, if you look at Arsenal’s performance in the league since March the record is very concerning:

DDDWDDLWLLDDLL which equals 13 points out of 42

At this time there can be no excuses, the season starts for real now and unless there is a significant purchase in the January transfer window who can make an immediate impact on the first team then the current crop of players needs to see us through to next May.

3.  Fans Reaction

After the dismal performance at Old Trafford you could sense that there was blood in the air amongst the fan base.  Something needed to change and change quick.  People were looking for scapegoats regarding the lack of investment in the first team, the asset stripping of out best players.  Protests were being arranged for Saturday’s game and the signing of established and experienced international players in Park Chu-Young (26), Per Mertesacker (26), Yossi Benayoun (31), Andre Santos (28), Mikel Arteta (29) may have allayed these slightly.  However, if this going to be sufficiently for all, unlikely and whilst there will still be some disquiet in some corners it will be interesting to see how vocal this will be.

Throwing all of this into the mix and there is certainly a feeling that you can define your own destiny when managing a football club and this is achieved by make sound investments at the right time to strengthen certain squad in inadequacies.  This has been a constant complaint over the past few seasons and there is certainly more visible after recent events but with new additions and the desire to succeed there should be a spicy atmosphere at the Emirates on Saturday even though it’s not Swansea that people will be going to see.  The vast majority of fans will be there to get behind the team and this is all the team need and should expect from those entering through the turnstiles.

There’s not be much else in the news today as everyone is returning from their international duty and tomorrow’s pre-match press conference will give us a greater sense of who received bumps and knock that may impact their ability to play at the weekend.  We’ll also take a close look at the potential new starting line-up and some of the key player profiles as well as looking at some predictions as to where Arsenal could end up in the Premier League table come May next year.

If you want to stay informed of all the latest posts from GloryGunner then you can either sign-up at the bottom of this screen to receive a healthy dose of Arse news directly via email or you can follow my latest comments on Twitter by following @Glory_Gunner.

If you wish you share your thoughts and comments on the current situation then feel free to use the comments sections below.

Speak soon Arsenal chums!

GG

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 Transfer Targets Spotted at Airport

In Arsenal, Transfers on August 31, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Totally reliable, honestly!!!  It looks like Arsene is trying to sign a brand new team and they’re flying in as I type……..

Oh the joys of transfer deadline day titter tattle!!

GG

Arsenal: The Transfer Saga Continues

In Arsenal, Transfers on August 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Pre-amble:

For the past two seasons there has been one consistent topic of discussion in the footballing fraternity:

“What is Arsene Wenger thinking?”

“Why doesn’t he recognise that he needs a goalkeeper, centre back, additional creative midfield outlets, and a striking foil for RvP?”

It was plain and obvious for many outsiders to see and painful for each Arsenal fan to ensure as Arsenal XI’s continued to fail when needed to push on and win some silverware.

And the most recent response? During the summer we have seen Arsene ship out Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Jay Emmanuel Thomas and long-term loan deals for Denilson and Carlos Vela.

The replacements? Gervinho, Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all of whom bought the number of Premiership games experience……0 (zero).

Sunday:

Arsenal were given a few home truths regarding the strength and depth of the squad and endure a humiliating defeat at Old Trafford.

Monday:

The morning after the night before. All that could be heard was what changes need to happen and will they happen and if they do, is there enough time.

Monday evening/Tuesday:

It all kicks off and that £100M kitty started to burn a hole in Arsene’s pocket:

Chu Young Park – Monaco striker and South Korean captain was halfway through a medical process at Lille when all of a sudden it was rumoured to be travelling to London to finalise a deal to Arsenal. What this will do for any hope of a future deal with Lille for Eden Hazard is yet to be seen but Park is now an Arsenal player. Chu is 26 years old and has won 53 caps for the South Korean national side (17 goals).

Andre Santos – up to a week ago the Brazilian left back was looking forward to a season of Champions League football until Fenerbache were turfed out of the Champions League for match fixing and now facing potential self-relegation. Arsene has jumped on this opportunity to sure up the left side of his defence having cut loose the eternally under-performing Armand Traore. Santos is 28 and has won 22 caps for the Brazilian national side.

Per Mertesacker – Mertesacker had been linked with Arsenal previously in the summary and it had looked like that was another opportunity lost. That was until Joachim Low confirmed that Per had departed the Germany squad preparation to fly to London to tie up a transfer to the city. Personal terms are said to have been agreed as well as having passed a medical so all that is left is confirmation of a £10M move from Werder Bremen. That and the chance to get away from having to pick up the slack from Mikael Silvestre

If there was one signing that was needed this summer it was a new centre back to compliment Thomas Vermaelen and after all the talk of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka this signing is a real coup given the price, players age and national and international experience. Per is 26 and has won 75 (that’s seventy-five) caps for the German national side.

And who else?

It’s difficult to speculate 24 hours before a transfer window closes because there is going to be so much guff flying about that will never happen.

Will we make another supposed bid to Rennes for Yann M’Vila? Have Bolton now burnt their bridges over the Cahill transfer?

Will Yossi Benayoun or Mario Gotze (don’t google it!) being wearing red and white this season? If not, we’ll certainly get a first-hand look of the latter during the Champions League games against B. Dortmund.

There’s also the potential for a few more exits. The futures of Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia were supposed to be resolved this summer. There’s been more talk recently regarding Bendtners departure but very little for Alumnia. It will be interesting in a curious way to see what happens but if Bendtner does stay he could still have a role to play this season.

Also of late, if rumours can be beleived,u there has been some interest from Europe with Chamakh going to PSG on loan and Johan Djourou to Lazio. I’m not convinced that we can actually lose Djourou given the track record of injuries to Arsenal centre backs but a loan move for Chamakh could be a no-brainer. He’s not performing at the moment and if he can develop a bit more somewhere else then great. If not, going on loan puts him in the shop window for a potential transfer in the future.

Wednesday?

This is all very promising and there is still another 24 hours for Arsene to continue his spending frenzy before the window shuts. There’s still some work to be done as the weekend result clearly demonstrated that the current squad was severely lacking but there is now hope that there will be some more surprises to come. You can only hope that the relative lull in rumours in the past few hours is down to the Arsenal negotiation team are getting an early night tonight before a big day tomorrow. Let’s hope they’ve got plenty batteries in the phone, paper for the fax machine, ink in the pens to complete all the registration form and the premier league office on speed dial for final minute registrations.

Roll on transfer day, it’s nice when you’re involved but if it turns out to be any anti-climax there’s always other channels.

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