Saturday, 31 March 2012

QPR vs Arsenal Preview: Team News, Injury News and the return of Wilshere nearing

Morning all,

Working in West London as I do, has both it’s positives and it’s negatives. Unfortunately one of the downsides of working in this locality is that many of my colleagues are of the disgusting persuasion of being either Chelsea or QPR fans (of course not forgetting the vast majority who support a certain Manchester club). This has surprisingly meant I have had an annoying week of people being shockingly confident. They clearly know something I don’t as all I have seen is supreme mediocrity from a team littered with above average players playing well below average football.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is going to be a walk in the park. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I am actually quite worried as it comes at a time when we are at our best. Strange though it sounds, all good runs come to an end, especially when teams and fans start expecting victories. Let’s hope our new found confidence does not manifest itself into complacency as that will surely spell the end of our magnificent run.

I think we are more than capable of winning especially if we maintain the levels of pressing and work rate we have demonstrated in this run. That needs to continue perhaps even more so today given the way QPR managed to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the last 20 minutes against Liverpool. That was a great result from them and may have given them a renewed sense of belief and hope. Let’s not forget, that they are managed by Mark Hughes, who sets his teams up to be difficult to beat and has had some success against Arsenal sides in the past with these annoying tactics.

I believe that in addition to the high pressing demonstrated these past few weeks we also need to attack their full backs as that is their weak link in defence. For this reason I hope we play Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gervinho but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ramsey plays.

Ramsey has come in for a lot of criticism this season from factions of the fans. Let me just make this clear, I think he is a fantastic player and an effective distributer of the ball. My only criticism is that he occasionally is slow on the turn but he seems to have a decent football brain and exceptional work rate. He is going to be an important player for Arsenal over the next few years.

On the injury front there is the news that Koscienly returns which is as welcome as an addition as any. Also despite Diaby being fit, he will not be risked as he felt a little bit of pain in yesterday’s training session according to Arsene Wenger. Therefore the only injuries remain to be (according to that of Coquelin (hamstring), Mertesacker (ankle), Wilshere (ankle), Frimpong (knee).

On the Wilshere front, it seems as though he is nearing a return and is in fact training. Wenger said:

 "The latest on Jack Wilshere is positive, but cautious. That means he is doing well in training and is getting stronger every week"

He is still some weeks off a return to first team action and I’d imagine that has as much to do with match fitness as it does with ensuring there is no risk of aggravating the ankle. I sincerely hope there are no further set backs as he has a job on his hands to get back into the Arsenal starting XI at the moment.

I expect the line up to be along the lines of:


Sagna                          Vermaelan                               Koscienly                    Gibbs

                                    Arteta                                      Song


    Walcott                                                                                                 Gervinho

The only area of contention is the position of our attacking left sided player. There could potentially be any one of Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Ramsey. I would be happy with any one of those and would expect with that line up, that we win. If we continue in our current form there can only be one winner. However we all know that football is not as simple as that.

With that I shall leave you.

Enjoy your day and here is hoping to an eighth straight victory for the one, the only; The Arsenal.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Updated - Are Arsenal really on the verge of signing world class talent?

Afternoon all,

As we approach the tail end of the season with the mood in much higher spirits than many could have thought possible just four weeks ago we find ourselves in a curious place. In fact many fans have prematurely decided that we are going to finish in the top four and in some cases the top three. So with this new found confidence, the world of twitter as well the blogosphere have started their routine of playing fantasy football signings. If that wasn’t enough it seems that the tabloids have joined in as we are being linked to major signings daily in the national newspapers.

In fact The Sun is reporting that Wenger is in a hurry to spend this summer to avoid a repeat of last summer. Whilst this may be true reports do seem fanciful that:
“Wenger is intending to snap up Cologne striker Lukas Podolski for £11million in the next 48 hours. And he could also splash £10m on Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen, £6m on Montpellier forward Olivier Giroud and up to £17m on Rennes playmaker Yann M'Vila just weeks after the end of the season.”
Aside from the fact that it would require a lot of work between now and the end of the season to secure even one of these players let alone a number of them, there are many other barriers in completing deals swiftly this season which need to be addressed before we can go into the market. I aim to highlight some of the barriers that Arsenal face this season before we can secure “top quality” signings.

Squad Size

Our current 25 man squad as registered to the Premier League is as follows:

1.Manuel Almunia 2. Vassiriki Diaby 3. Bacary Sagna 4. Per Mertesacker 5. Thomas Vermaelen 6. Laurent Koscielny 7. Tomas Rosicky 8. Mikel Arteta 9. Chu-Young Park 10. Robin van Persie 11. Clarindo Andre Santos 14. Theo Walcott 17. Alex Song 18. Sebastien Squillaci 20. Johan Djourou 21. Lukasz Fabianski 27. Yao Gervinho 28. Kieran Gibbs 29. Marouane Chamakh 30. Yossi Benayoun 34. Chucks Aneke 37. Daniel Boateng 48. Jernade Meade 55. James Shea 59. Damian Martinez

We currently have a full 25 man squad registered, granted 5 of them are under 21 so just make up the numbers. In adition we also have 6 players out on loan who we were not able to sell or were unable to get match time at Arsenal. Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela, Lansbury and Mannone. (There are many more players out on loan but were principally loaned out to get first team experience.) If we are unable to sell them then we will have a squad that is full assuming Chucks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Jernade Meade, James Shea, Damian Martinez are replaced by the returning loanees.

It must also be noted that with Szczesny already 21 before January 1st 2012 it means he will need to be included in the 25 man season squad as opposed to be eligible through the under 21 rule. (Thanks to - both worth a follow.) Whist this is not an immediate concern, it is something to think about given the relative young players in the squad such as Aaron Ramsey. 

All of this represent a squad too big, whilst this is not the biggest barrier, as it is widely expected that Denilson, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela, Squillaci, Chamakh and Park Chu-Young are all expected to be sold or loaned out in the transfer window. In addition we are sure to release Manuel Almunia as he is coming to the end of his contract as well as Yossi Benayoun is unlikely to extend his stay. That would mean that additional signings can be made at the expense of, Chucks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Jernade Meade, James Shea, Damian Martinez who aren’t quite ready for first team football as long as we can sell/loan out these players. It can also be argued that there are a number of other players that should be sold but I cannot see it happening.
So whilst not a huge barrier in making signings it is something the Arsenal management is sure to be considering. It is important to note that selling these players, even at reduced prices will be no easy feat. These players are on very high wages that other clubs will not be willing to match. There will be many players who will be unwilling to leave at cut price contracts so expect a number of loans again. 

Wage Bill

According to blogger The Swiss Ramble our current wage bill is around £124 million a year. 124 million a year is a huge sum of money for a club to pay for a team considered frugal with wages. This is due to a policy where there is limited disparity between squad players and top players at the club causing the problem mentioned above whereby players surplus to requirements are unable to find a new club. We have a number of players who have contributed very little on vast wages.

Andrey Arshavin is predicted to be on a contract worth £75,000 a week, Marouane Chamakh and Manuel Almunia on around £60,000 and Sebastien Squillaci, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Carlos Vela all on £50,000 according to ESPN. This equates to around 345,000 a week or over 19 million a year in wages.

Phenomenal sums of money which could be used to extend the deals of players nearing the end of their contracts with some left over. Even if all the players wages double there would still be money left over for a world class player if not more. It is absolutely essential to get rid of these players and any other squad players who are surplus to requirements.

We will not make signings that will exponentially increase our wage bill so there will only be incoming movement if we can reduce the wage bill by moving on deadwood. It is certain that this will be welcomed by the fans. One can only hope that it provides (an expensive) lesson in wage structure for the future.


A lot of names have been mentioned with the most popular being Podolski, Goetze, M’Villa, Hazard, Giroud, Ayew, Vertonghen and many, many more. Of those players how many are actually needed. I know in the past it was difficult to hear excuses to not buy quality because we had players like Denilson whose development would be hampered. However there is now a genuine case to not buy some of these players. How many of you would like to buy Vertonghen at the expense of Koscienly at the moment? Not many I would predict but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a good signing, I just think any potential purchases have to be thought out carefully.

Despite Rosicky’s upturn in form, one thing is clear, he is reaching the twilight of his career and although I think he can still be an important and valuable squad player, it is hard to see him play entire seasons as our advanced playmaker. This is an area that I would like to see strengthened. We also will have four ultra quick and direct wingers next year with the return of Ryo Miyachi who has impressed on his loan spell so far. So whilst Hazard would be great, is he really a player we need as he is clearly not a player that will stay in the long term.

I strongly believe we have a strong basis to build on and whilst everyone, myself included, loves a bit of fantasy football, let’s be a little realistic and realise we will never be that kind of club. Let’s just hope that Wenger adds a minimum of three top quality players this summer in addition to keeping this strong core of players, most importantly Robin Van Persie. If he can do that then surely things can only get better. 

Finally, remember you can follow me on twitter @goonerverse.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

Arsenal vs Aston Villa Post Match Thoughts, Player Ratings and Injury Update

Arsenal 3 – 0 Aston Villa

Evening all,

Post Match Thoughts

What a fantastic weekend it has been. The weather has been nice, the beer has been flowing freely and most importantly the football has been superb. Arsenal won and extended their winning run to 7 consecutive matches, the first time we have done that since the 2007/08 season. Not only did they extend their winning run but they also strengthened their hold on 3rd place by moving 3 points clear.

It was a splendid afternoon which was celebrated in style by some majestic, free flowing football. It was a day in which The Arsenal were rarely threatened but always looked menacing. A great performance essentially consisting of three goals, three different scorers all of which fantastic in their own right and a clean sheet.

Kieran Gibbs got the show on the road after some neat work between him, Rosicky and a Gervinho. They passed in neat triangles and worked the ball into the area for Gibbs to drive home from a tight angle. In fairness the keeper could have done better but it was a decent effort and no less than he deserves for his positive performances since his return from injury.

Walcott doubled our advantage after controlling and finishing superbly from a sumptuous ball from our very own playmaker; Alex Song. It is incredible the number of important assists that have come from our “defensive midfielder”. It is an important weapon in his armoury now and as long as he can maintain his discipline in ensuring he never neglects his defensive responsibilities, he can become one of the best midfielders in the world. As good as the ball was though, there was still plenty to do and none of it easy despite what Walcott made it look like. Controlling that ball and perfectly taking it in his stride followed by a tidy finish. Amazing.

If the fans didn’t think it could get any better than I think they would have been pleasantly surprised, in the latter stages of the game Mikel Arteta scored what can only be described as a thunderous strike, right into the top corner.

So three fantastic goals, none scored by Robin Van Persie, hell must have surely frozen over?! In fact this fabulous display highlights that we are not a one man team and despite Van Persie clearly being very important, the way we play is equally important. We have got a number of players willing to play in that style, for the shirt and most importantly for each other. It is working and I wouldn’t bet against this fantastic run continuing.

I for one was certainly expecting a close encounter yesterday but to be honest this was as easy a game as we are likely to have in the run in so let’s enjoy it and get right back and focus on the next game against a team fighting for their lives.

One negative point from yesterday though happened before the match even started. Koscienly was inexplicably not in the match day squad despite being announced to be starting just an hour before kick off. It seems that he has a bit of a niggle but one that I hope will not keep him out for too long. Wenger had this to say after the match:

“Koscielny had tendinitis in his knee when he woke up this morning. I don’t know what position he slept in but he could not walk properly. He tried in the warm-up but could not play.”

Here’s to hoping he will be available sooner rather than later.

Player Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny - 6.5
Had a quiet afternoon and had nothing to do. Only downside was his kicking left a lot to be desired at times. Just needs to keep things simpler at times.

Thomas Vermaelen - 7
Played well and was solid throughout. Rarely troubled and was constantly surging forward to continue a fantastic run of scoring.

Johan Djourou - 6.5
the surprise inclusion would probably have spent tremors down the spines of many a Arsenal fan but was largely untroubled and pretty good save for some shaky moments in the opening ten minutes.

Kieran Gibbs  - 7
A great string of performances capped off with a well taken goal. Provided great attacking threat and pace on the left and was defensively solid.

Bacary Sagna - 7
Once again outlined that he is the best right back in the league. He has bags of energy and defensively consistent. He was absolutely superb again. No coincidence our form has coincided with his return.

Mikel Arteta - 7
Some neat passing in the middle and completed a fine performance by scoring a rocket of a free kick. Was a good performance.

Alex Song - 7
Another great assist from an increasingly confident player. Can be the foundation on which Arsenal build on if he can cut out some of the lapses in concentration and is more consistent with his positioning. 

Gervinho - 6
Got an assist to his name despite not having the best offensive game. Strangely his value came from his discipline defensively ensuring Aston Villa’s counter attacks were quelled by him outpacing their attacks.

Theo Walcott - 8
Not only was his goal fantastic but so was his all round play. He was menacing and caused Warnock all sorts of problems all afternoon. Played in some dangerous balls and is certainly starting to show the world what he is capable of. 

Tomas Rosicky - 7
Comfortable on the ball and some great turns all helped Rosicky complete the most number of passes in the attacking third according to

Robin Van Persie - 6.5
Could have scored a number of goals but surprisingly didn’t have his goal scoring boots on yesterday. He had a quieter game than usual especially by his normal standards.

Time to go off and have a roast and some more beers. Enjoy the rest of the evening.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Arsenal vs Aston Villa Preview: Team News and Injury Updates and more

Guess who’s back?

Back again, ‘Verse is back, Tell a friend, Guess who’s back? guess who’s back? Danuna nu nu nu nu,

Or something like that. Despite my wishes for some elaborate entrance music to mark my return to the world of the blogosphere, I am afraid there will be no slim shady entrance music no matter how much I wish.

It has certainly been a while and whilst I wish there was an exciting reason I am afraid it is just a case of work getting in the way of things I love doing.

Since my hiatus the footballing world has literally been rocked by the shocking news of Fabrice Muamba’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest in the FA cup tie against Tottenham. I am truly shocked and saddened by this news and wish him and his family all the best in this difficult period. I sincerely hope he makes a full recovery.

So on to things Arsenal. So much has happened since I last spoke to the masses and despite my best intentions I have been unable to write anything. I tried a couple of nights ago and quite literally couldn’t get anything down. I feared the worst; I feared I had lost my mojo. Fear not though, as the nonsense spouting blogger is back and this time I am going nowhere. *Cough cough*

Arsenal will be raring this afternoon in the hope of extending their winning run of 6 league games in a row. How fortunes have turned in the past few weeks. Following disappointing defeats to AC Milan and Sunderland in the Champions League and FA cup respectively, it seemed as though Arsenal’s season was over. No hope of winning silverware yet again and doubts over Arsenals chances of qualifying for Europe’s premier competition next year seemed to suggest that we were heading towards some really dark places.

Amazing what one month can do to one’s fortunes. The league table looks markedly different to the one we saw in February and morale has changed to point beyond recognition. There was a sense of doom and gloom among Arsenal fans and despite my best attempts to be optimistic even I feared for the first time that we may not actually get top four.

If you have read my blog over the past 6 months or so you would have noticed, contrary to the masses, I have generally praised the team we have. Whilst I always think any team could be improved, even Barcelona, I do think that we have the foundations of a really strong team at the moment. I have spoken about team work and how application is important and to be fair to this set of players aside from a really poor spell in January they have generally done well. That does not mean to say I would not love to see someone of the quality of say a Mario Götze at Arsenal, as I feel that we can always improve. I have long been of the opinion that we are only two world class players away from challenging.

Regardless we have a number of exciting prospects as well as a number of more vintage players who are at the moment demonstrating extreme importance to the club at a crucial stage in the season. The number of players that are playing well at the moment is incredible and I would say it is a testament not only to the manager but to the players who have really played for the shirt. In fact, I recently read an excellent piece that whilst I don’t fully agree with raises some excellent points about being careful what you wish for. Do we really want to bring in players at the expense of players we are indebted to at the moment? Of course it is important to strengthen but by buying vast numbers of world class players we are in actuality preventing future world class players such as the Ox. On that note I would like to do something I don’t usually do and give the writer a shout out. Make sure you check out his blog. Definitely worth a follow on twitter; @goonerdave66.

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa Preview

Anyway, on to more pressing concerns which for today is overcoming an Alex McLeish side. Aston Villa have been pretty poor this season and whilst we have already beaten them twice this season, this game is no given. I would love for us to have a comfortable day today but feel it could be a struggle given the way he sets his teams up against us. Unless we can get an early goal or maybe even two, I expect Villa to have ten men behind the ball and really try and disrupt our game. They have some injury problems and have struggled to score without Bent.

Team News

On the injury front are doing much better though. With the news that Wilshere is back in light training with the team, involving ball work he is essentially three weeks away from returning to the full squad. Wenger said:
"Wilshere is back with the ball and for us that is a huge step, the work we do with the ball is always quite demanding. Today we can say if all goes well now in three weeks he will be back with the squad. Then another two weeks to get fit. I don’t have to hold him back yet because at the moment he suffers a lot for fitness. But after three weeks we’ll have to.”

Certainly positive, especially combined with the fact there were no fresh casualties following the Everton match so we have a relatively full team to pick from. Funny how the end of an injury crisis coincided with the end of “a club in crisis”?

Our only injuries at this moment in time are Coquelin (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Frimpong (knee), Mertesacker (ankle). The latter two not expected to be back this season but the former two are.

The team I expect to line up is:


Sagna                          Koscienly                                Vermaelen                   Gibbs

                                    Song                                        Arteta

            Walcott                                   Rosicky                           Chamberlain


I wouldn’t be surprised though if there were more changes given the relative short period since we last played.

Here is hoping that we can extend our current run and go on to 7 premier league wins in a row. For random thoughts and arsenal RTs, be sure to follow me on @goonerverse.

Come on you Gunners!!!


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Arsenal vs Milan Post Match Thoughts and Ratings

Evening all,

Arsenal vs Milan Post Match Thoughts

Arsenal 3 – 0 AC Milan

Another scintillating night to be an Arsenal fan and despite ultimately falling short of our goal for the night, we can all be proud at what The Arsenal achieved last night. Arsenal 3 – 0 Milan.

It was an admiral performance full of hard work, determination and more importantly; effectiveness. We were quick and hungry and it was a real pleasure to see. At the half way point I was genuinely convinced we were going to do it but it just wasn’t meant to be. Fatigue kicked in and we were no longer the same team after the hour mark.

As bad as we were in the first leg, and we were woeful, we were that good in the second leg, particularly in the first hour of the game. I think the main objective for last night was to restore some pride and by the same token provide a platform to build on by continuing our positive momentum. In that regard; job done.

The game panned out like a dream in the first half; an early goal set the tone and it is fair to say Arsenal were very much on top. It seemed like we might score at any moment and Koscienly, Rosicky and Van Persie all made no mistake when the opportunity presented itself. There were other near misses at both ends but I think to go into it and worry about what may have been had Van Persie scored in the second half detracts from the positives of which there were many. None more so than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who in my opinion was an absolute phenomenon.

From the word go he controlled the midfield with a performance beyond his tender years. He was disciplined yet creative with a range of passing that may put other leading Premiership stars to shame. He has been a revelation this season and his performance is sure to further enhance his rapidly growing reputation.

Following the match, whilst Wenger was certainly happy and proud, he was also a little incensed by the referee and his general performance. I would agree in that it was a truly awful performance from a chap who clearly hadn’t a clue on how to approach a game of such intensity. To be fair to the referee though, I don’t think he was particularly biased, I just think he was genuinely awful and perhaps the Milan players dealt with the referee better than we did.

Well either way, Wenger has found himself in hot waters with the powers-that-be in UEFA and has been charged with Improper Conduct. Judging from experience I would say it is inevitable that he will be found guilty.

Player Ratings

(Be warned I am quite harsh usually)

Szczesny 7.0 – What can you say about this young man? He has a range of stops in him and he with regularity uses all of them to keep Arsenal in games. His kicking was suspect at times and I felt he was riskier than usual and could have been punished, but thankfully was not.

Sagna 7.0 – Perhaps the biggest compliment you can give to Sagna was that he was largely unnoticeable last night. This may sound like a bad thing but Sagna was solid, defended well, was not caught out of position and did all the basics right. A solid, if not spectacular display.

Koscienly 7.5 – Started the ball rolling in every sense of the word. His early goal set the tone for a fantastic performance. He was dominating at the back and rarely ever seemed in trouble. Another good performance and a well taken goal.

Vermaelen 8.0 – If there was a performance that was an analogy of the two legs then this would certainly be it. As woeful as he was in the first leg he was that majestic, kept one of the “best” strikers in the world quiet with apparent ease and was keen to push forward and help out in any way he could. Dominated aerially as well and was back to the Vermaelen that we all know.

Gibbs 6.5 – Had another decent game and provided our best attacking outlet on the left. Was left exposed by Gervinho a little bit but managed to cope well generally. Did get caught out of position on a few occasions but never was punished. Certainly some learning points but a largely positive display.

Song 6.0 – Went from the sublime to the ridiculous over the course of the match. He was solid enough but I felt that he was a bit naïve at times with his positioning and strangely an attacking wide player had more positional discipline than him. He did make some good tackles and kept the ball ticking but was equally culpable of needlessly giving the ball away summed up by our last attack where he overlooked two simple passes only to lose the ball. I would say it was not his best game, especially by the recent high standards he has set himself.

Chamberlain 9.0 – Words are difficult to come by to describe quite how good he was. This reminded me of the game where Wilshere, against odds outplayed the best midfield trio in world football against Barcelona. It feels like this was similarly a watershed performance from the young gunner. It is no surprise that following his withdrawal, Arsenal’s performance began to drop. Let’s hope the injury is not too bad.

Rosicky 8.0 – So his resurgence continues. Another fine performance from a very fine player. He has had his doubters and no doubt still has them but he is proving them wrong. The more cynical amongst us might think that with his contract coming up for renewal he has responded with his performances. I think that a prolonged run in the team without injury has been far more important in his form. A well taken goal capped off a wonderful performance.

Walcott 7.0 – I personally thought he had a decent game and whilst not spectacular was a constant threat. His decision making was interesting to say the least but it was not a bad performance. I am not his biggest fan but I will not complain especially with the amount of effort he put in. Had a big part in destabilising the opposition defence.

Gervinho 4.0 – I don’t know if he is still feeling the effects of the African Cup of Nations but he certainly did not look like the lively player that joined us. He was largely anonymous throughout and did very little to help the cause.

RVP 7.5 – Perfect penalty to give Arsenal a real chance to win the tie. Was a constant threat throughout and inexplicably missed from 3 yards out to complete the come back. Despite this, he worked his socks off for the team and had a decent game.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the week.


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Arsenal vs Milan Preview: Maybe, just maybe

Evening all,

Today’s post is a bit of an amalgamation of both post-match thoughts following the snatch and grab job against Liverpool, as well as pre match thoughts on tonight’s “Mission Impossible” against Milan.

Immediately following the Liverpool game, fans and pundits alike were in disbelief at the nature in which Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-1, to extend an impressive run of 5 games unbeaten at Anfield stretching back to 2007. Despite conceding the vast majority of possession for the entire match, in a game where we were constantly under cosh, we managed to sneak an injury time winner through the most prolific striker in the league; Robin Van Persie. Some may call him awesome, I only think of him as god. Blasphemous I am sure but can’t say I really care.

Despite the constant pressure we were under, Liverpool were essentially denied by a combination of a fine individual performance from Szczesny, poor finishing and the majestic Robin Van Persie. For all the pressure they put us under, it was only an unfortunate own goal that got them any sort of end product. Perhaps indicative of Liverpool’s problems this season.

Robin Van Persie extended his goal scoring to 25 league goals for the season also taking him up the Arsenal all time scorer list to 8th place with 126 goals moving ahead of David Jack and Joe Hulme. It is not inconceivable that he could go further up the list this season needing 11 goals to catch Doug Lishman, who the mathematicians amongst you would have worked out, sits pretty on 137 goals.

This result as well as the results of our rivals at the weekend mean we are 3 points clear of Chelsea in fourth place and only four points behind our bitter north London rivals. What a turn in fortunes from a side that were seen to be in crisis a little over a month ago. It seems that despite what is in all likelihood another trophyless season, Arsene Wenger has managed to turn our league form around to ensure we are in control of our own destiny with regards to Champions League qualification. I would not discount the possibility of Arsenal finishing above Tottenham come the seasons close.

Despite the many positives that come from the outcome of the Liverpool game there were in many ways just as many negatives. We have lost Arteta, Benayoun, Diaby and potentially Gibbs and Rosicky to injury. Many have argued the merit of playing a full strength team against Milan given the relative invalidity of the match. I think to gain a measure of credibility out of the tie we need to play everyone available as long as they are not risked.

If we have any chance of winning tonight then Van Persie will need to add to the aforementioned tally and in a big way. It is strange how the mood around Arsenal has turned out. Following the catastrophic defeat there was a real sense of impending doom, a deeply permeated feeling of melancholy from everyone involved in the club. The mood following two dramatic comebacks has changed considerably and after glancing at some peoples views on twitter many fans inexplicably have the hope of another comeback. I have to be honest, whilst I in no logical way expect Arsenal to win the tie, I do have a strange feeling that all is not as clear cut as it may be. Two early goals would potentially cause a little uncertainty in the Milan side and then I suppose anything is possible.

Realistically though, overturning a 4 goal deficit is nigh impossible against any side but against the Italian Champions when they are in the form of their lives is literally Mission Impossible. What is more important than attempting to do the unexpected is doing the basics. They must ensure that they play and work as hard as they did against Tottenham, as if they do that and keep a clean sheet then we will have every reason to be proud of a team who have shown some real character in recent weeks.

As mentioned earlier, there were a number of casualties from the Liverpool game to add to a fairly extensive list that already existed prior to the game. According to we have Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Sebastien Squillaci, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, Thomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun are injury doubts for tonight’s game. That makes 11 players that could potentially miss the game today. Sounds great for us doesn’t it?!

I expect that Rosicky’s fitness will determine the formation as without him we will have little choice but to go with a 4-4-2 or even a 4-2-4. Will certainly be interesting to see and whilst scoring is obviously essential, the tactics we employ tonight may just leave us susceptible to conceding a lot of goals. That is the danger but unfortunately we have little choice. We could potentially face a similar score line but one thing is clear, it should be some exciting stuff.

I expect the team to be:


Sagna                          Koscienly                                Vermaelen                   Gibbs

                                    Song                                        Rosicky

            Walcott                                   Chamberlain                            Gervinho


Enjoy the game and let’s not get too disappointed if we don’t win 5-0 but… Maybe, just maybe.


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Arsenal vs Liverpool Preview: Team and Injury News

Morning all,

After a somewhat euphoric week despite the pointless international mess to contend with, I find myself still in quite the giddy mood. Today though, that may change as we have yet another challenging-season-defining-must-win-game-that-we-cannot-afford-to-lose. How many times does it feel like we have said that this season? Ah well, either way we do face a sturdy challenge today given the resilient nature of the opponents we face. Yes, Liverpool FC are, in my opinion unequivocally the most team boring to watch in the league but are still going to be a tough nut to crack.

It only takes one look at the table to see that they will be hard to score against and definitely to beat. They are unbeaten at home and despite struggling to win in front of their own fans they have been difficult to break down. They only concede an average of 0.67 goals at home (courtesy of so that highlights the challenge in front of us. I would certainly expect us to cause them all sorts of problems though and would expect us to build on the momentum gained from Sunday.

In terms of team news we look to be relatively unscathed from the international break aside from the rather perplexing decision to play Thomas Vermaelen by the Belgian coach, Georges Leekens. He picked up a knock from the disgusting foul from Scott Parker and was made to play the full 90 minutes. Strange to say the least but is still something we need to contend with.

Regardless, he seems to be the only fresh doubt but given the number of defenders currently sidelined, this could potentially prove crucial. Djourou, Mertesacker and Squillaci are all incapable of playing so this leaves either Song or Miquel to fill in at the back. This leaves us considerably weakened regardless of which choice we go with, as if Song fills in, we have no other holding midfielder as Coquelin and Frimpong are both injured. If Miquel plays then he will only be starting his second game for Arsenal in the league, and at Anfield that is some ask.

The full injury list looks like this according to Ramsey (ankle), Santos (ankle). Mertesacker (ankle), Coquelin (hamstring), Djourou (thigh), Squillaci (groin), Wilshere (ankle). All of Vermaelen (ankle), Van Persie (groin), and Rosicky (back) are doubts but ones I would expect to play. On a more positive note we have news that Diaby is back in contention and jokes aside I honestly wish him a clean bill of health. As frustrating as it is for the fans one can only imagine the frustration that he must be feeling.

Despite doubts over Vermaelen, Rosicky and Van Persie it seems that all are likely to start and have all but been declared fit by the boss at yesterday’s press conference. I would expect a team consisting of:


Sagna                          Koscienly                                Vermaelen                   Gibbs

                                    Song                                        Arteta


            Walcott                                                                                   Chamberlain


I suppose the notable change from last weekend’s magnificent result is Yossi Benayoun. Whilst it can be argued that he deserves to continue in the team given his performance, I think having Chamberlain back in the team will be a huge boost for the team. He has been a real revelation since making his breakthrough and despite having some quiet games I feel he is someone that can really make the difference in the final third.

Anyway, as game time approaches, the nerves are increasing and as such I must shoot off to have a cold shower and pray for more of the same attitude, resilience and dare I say the character we showed in the North London Derby.

Come on you Gunners!