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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nasri, Djourou and Vela mess up Arsene’s transfer strategy


By 1970’s Gooner

Will Wenger buy anyone of note? Will he decide at last to bring in more experienced players to compliment the exciting young talent that there is already there?

As we are about to enter the transfer window these are the questions on every Arsenal fan’s lips. And the tabloids as well as those papers that would like to call themselves broadsheets (which they are not when it comes to transfer speculation) have began to splutter out self made headlines.

It is obvious to a lot of Arsenal fans that buy buy should be Arsene’s motto for this transfer window. We would all like to see significant additions and some fans would like to see them almost everywhere in the team (they are so desperate).

The areas most expected to be strengthened are in central defense, a creative and a “destructive” midfielder and in wide midfield.

A centre back, a replacement for Fabregas, a defensive midfielder and another winger please Mr Wenger..

But I am not so sure if Wenger will go into the transfer market in any big way. Why?

Take the need to replace Fabregas and add a creative player in the middle.

This is indeed needed at the moment but Nasri’s performance against Portsmouth was so good I am sure Wenger would begin to seriously consider giving Nasri that midfield slot.


This would create the need for another wide midfielder but knowing how stingy Wenger is he would probably prefer to wait for Walcott and Eduardo to come back as well as Rosicky rather than splash the cash for a player that would take some time to fit in with the rest of the team let alone English football if he is from abroad.

And this is where Vela comes in. Do you expect that Wenger will go out and buy another winger when Vela’s obvious ability and readiness for the first team is waiting to be unleashed?

Judging by Wenger’s transfer behaviour so far he will make do with Vela, Eboue, Denilson and Diaby on the wings until the injured trio returns.

Central defender?

The emergence of Djourou who has been really impressive lately with his tackling, aerial ability and good distribution, has alleviated the need to buy.

There is now a nice blend of youth and experience in the central defensive positions that would be silly to disturb (unless someone wants out).

Defensive midfielder?

The emergence of Song has alleviated the need to splash the cash in the transfer market. He has been performing very well in this position and will grow further into it with more games.

And there is Diaby who has the potential to be the number one for this position. He can fill in for now until he grows up, learns to win the ball and lay it off to a team mate rather than trying to do everything himself. And there are others that can play in that position like Toure and Djourou.


So Nasri, Djourou and Vela are indeed influencing (some fans may call it messing up) Arsene’s transfer activity this transfer window.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Vela makes the difference


By 1970’s Gooner

Arsenal were weak in three important areas against Portsmouth at the Emirates and their inability to break down a well organised defense got the crowd frustrated and sometimes angry.

Tony Adams chose to rest Defoe so that he could play a more defensive formation but Arsenal were so tentative and at times vulnerable that I think that if he had been more adventurous he may have had more joy.

The first of Arsenal’s weaknesses was the lack of creativity in the midfield positions; the second was the lack of co operation between the two forwards and the third concerned the obvious lack of width in the team.

The lack of creativity in midfield was very apparent until Wenger took steps to rectify the problem.

Denilson was his usual self, all running and passing but no real inventiveness. Diaby was once again proving Wenger right in not yet trusting him in the central midfield areas. He was frivolous in possession, kept loosing the ball and turning into blind alleys.

It wasn’t until Nasri was moved into the central areas of midfield that we saw some real creative play with someone trying to organise Arsenal’s game a la Fabregas.


At last we seem to have found a real alternative to Fabregas and I think with more exposure to this position Nasri can play that role really well.

But Nasri’s introduction into the midfield wasn’t enough by itself as the Adebayor Bendtner pairing failed to work once again. It has never worked between those two and I wasn’t surprised it failed on this occasion too.

On the one hand Adebayor looked lethargic all afternoon missing two glorious chances to score. His mind appeared to be elsewhere. Where I wouldn’t like to guess…

On the other hand Bendtner was a nonentity in again another match. Until he was moved to the wing he looked without purpose and I don’t recollect one successful pass he made to Adebayor.

Both of them seemed to be playing individually and did not make any combination play between them nor did they attempt to.

But the real weakness that really proved to be the most important of them all was the lack of width. And as soon that was corrected the whole team picked up and looked purposeful and threatening again.

Bendtner’s move to the wing partially corrected this imbalance and he did provide much needed thrust at first from the left and then from the right.

But when the team was given its other wing, by the introduction of Vela, it began to fly again and then we caught a glimpse of the “old” Arsenal we know.

The one that stretches teams in the wide areas of the pitch, getting by the by line, cutting balls in to oncoming midfielders and creating havoc in the opponent defenders.

It also gave to Arsenal’s central midfielders, as to all teams who have a viable outlet on the wings, the additional option of passing the ball away from the heavily congested midfield.

And Arsenal’s opponents usually do try and put men behind the ball and congest the central areas of the pitch, don’t they?

Vela had a very good game when he came on. He run at the defenders, put the crosses in and generally wakened up a slumbering and almost stuttering team that didn’t look like scoring.

He deserves to keep his place in the team and so does Nasri, in the creative role.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Arsenal fans vote for Sagna. Players’ ratings Vs Villa

By 1970’s Gooner

We run, as we always do after a match, a poll as to who was Arsenal’s Man of the Match against Aston Villa. On this occasion the vote is almost overwhelmingly for one player.

Bacary Sagna is receiving the bulk of the votes with about 70% of those Arsenal Analysis readers taking part on the poll.

And he deserves it hands down.

His performance is probably the best ever in an Arsenal shirt with fantastic interventions culminating in that phenomenal clearance off the line of what looked a certain goal.

Arsene Wenger has unearthed some gems in the transfer market over the years and Bacary is certainly there at the top of the list.

Here are our player ratings for the game at Villa.

Almunia: Some exceptional saves keeping us in the game but with a few mistimed runs out of his area. 7

Sagna: Phenomenal performance. Man of the match. 9

Silvestre: Looked jaded with positional errors. 4

Gallas: Good in the first half, poor in the second culminating in that penalty. 5

Toure: Clearly not ready, physically nor mentally, to participate in this game at such a short notice. Full of mistakes and bad clearances. 4

Song: Average performance till he had to go off. 5

Ramsey: Poor, kept loosing the ball in dangerous areas. 4

Denilson: Full of energy and his persistence resulted in that first goal. 7

Eboue: Good performance, kept to his defensive duties well and made the beautiful assist for Diaby’s goal. 6

Nasri: Did not contribute much. Kept loosing the ball and was only a peripheral figure. 4

Diaby: Awful in the first half much improved in the second culminating in that fantastic goal. 6

Van Persie: Kept the ball well up front and combined well with team mates. Missed that chance to score the killer third goal (we need 3 goals to win a game now not 2). 6


Why don’t you see what we see Mr Wenger?

By 1970’s Gooner

We see a team that is stuffed with young kids, who have tremendous potential and who on their day can outplay anyone including the eventual Premiership champions.

We see a squad that has been shorn of its experienced players in the last four years which have not been replaced by anyone near their quality level.

We see a squad that when a few injuries fall upon first team players young kids are asked to do a man’s job.

We see the young kids surrender leads in the last few minutes of injury time because they do not possess the cunningness to run the clock down.

Yet we see phenomenal football, football the way it should be played, football that even Brazil would be proud of.

And we wonder in amazement that a team, our team, can pass the ball so well, weave so many pretty patterns and score so many beautiful goals that each and every one of them is a candidate for Goal of the Month or even of the year.

And we try and overcome our instinctive reactions to one defeat after another, to another victory snatched in the dying embers of an epic match, to another draw that should have been an easy win.

To another year of what should have been, if only…

If only we had a few more experienced players who don’t have to do the pretty football and yes who are over the age of 22.

If only we could buy ready made footballers in positions we are really weak rather than trying to blood in the promising youngsters and wait for them to reach adulthood.

If only we had the time and luxury to risk losing our world class players again as they grow impatient and disillusioned when they see their exceptional talents and aspirations disappearing down the sands of time with nothing to show for it at the end of their short professional football lives.

If only we had the time to wait for all of those talented youngsters that proliferate the whole squad, from the first teamers, those hugging the bench to those getting ready to come out of puberty and join the first team squad, to grow up together so that at least one day we really could say that

WE WON THE LEAGUE….


Friday, December 26, 2008

Arsene’s Xmas wish list

By 1970’s Gooner

If I was Pat Rice or Boro Primorac come to that and had to make an assessment as to where Arsenal’s squad needs strengthening this is what I would have come up with.

Each position is analysed as to its first team player and available replacements. For those positions that a no buy is recommended I have included a “greedy wish”, a player that would be fantastic to have. Its Christmas after all!

Goalkeepers

Almunia has improved a great deal since taking over from Lehman. I think he is now accepted as a safe first team goalkeeper.

Replacements in case of injury:

Fabiansky is good quality and played well when came on against Manchester United but made an error in judgment against Burnley when he came out for a ball his defender had covered anyway. He has the potential and will certainly improve with more games.

Vito Mannone has impressed every time I have watched him for the reserves. He has the courage and the determination to succeed.

Recommendation: No need to buy.

Greedy wish: Wayne Hennessey (21), Wolves. Fantastic presence, very good on one on ones and excellent shot stopper. Would be ready to step into the first team. Price: Around £7m


Right backs

Sagna has been excellent and there is not a lot more that can be said about him.

Replacements in case of injury: Eboue as well as Gallas, Toure and Djourou.

Recommendation: No need to buy.

Greedy wish: Miguel (28),Valencia. An attacking full back in the Wenger mould. Price: Around £7m


Left backs

Clichy is probably the best in the Premiership. If he could improve his concentration levels he would rise to be one of the world’s best.

Replacements in case of injury:

Silvestre and any other first team defender. Traore should be recalled from his loan at Portsmouth next season as he has shown that he has the ingredients to be the next Clichy/Cole.

Recommendation: No need to buy

Greedy wish: Philipp Lahm (25), Bayern Munich. Runs all day and is a reliable source of goal-saving tackles and pinpoint crosses. Price: around £10m


Centre Backs

With Silvestre’s addition to the squad we have now found a good blend of youth and experience in this very crucial area of defence.

Toure and especially Djourou who has improved a great deal look like a pairing that will be Arsenal’s defensive heart for years to come.

Replacements in case of injury:

Gallas (if he stays) and Silvestre will provide the experience for Toure and especially Djourou to flourish. Take the money, if offered, on Senderos.

Recommendation: No need to buy

Greedy wish: Micah Richards (20). Will bring height and strength and could play at right back too. Price: Around £15m


Wide midfielders

One striking weakness in the team at the moment is the so obvious lack of width. This may be corrected when Walcott comes back and Nasri keeps fit. But beyond this there is a big void.

Replacements in case of injury:

There is therefore a real gap in available personnel whose natural position is wide midfielder.

There is young Vela and Eboue who has been moved to this position. Rosicky has been out injured for the last 12 months and it is doubtful if he will come back as good or at all.

Players whose normal position is not as a wide midfielder like Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey have been filling in but to no surprise without much success.

Recommendation: Buy

Transfer targets: Arshavin, Zenit.

Very much an Arsenal type of player and is at the right age of 27 where he will bring experience, skill and technique.

Price: Around £17m

David Villa (27), Valencia. Quick, tricky and with an eye for goal, he will punish any opponent's error. Price: Around £15m despite the huge buy out clause on his contract.


Central creative midfielders

As with wide midfielders there is not enough depth in the squad to deal with injuries such as Cesc’s.

Replacements in case of injury:

Denilson is still too young to take up Cesc’s role and so are Ramsey and Wilshere. The other midfielders are of the defensive type like Song and Diaby.

Recommendation: Buy

Transfer target: Diego, Werder Bremen.

At 23 he is probably more attractive to the Arsenal model.

I have seen him live and was very impressed. Possesses beautiful skills and creative ability.

Price: Around £17m


Central defensive midfielders

The emergence of Song has alleviated the need to splash the cash in the transfer market. He has been performing very well in this position and will grow further into it with more games.

Replacements in case of injury:

There is Diaby who has the potential to be the number one for this position but can fill in for now until he grows up, learns to win the ball and lay it off to a team mate rather than trying to do everything himself. Others that can fill in include Eboue, Toure and Djourou.

Recommendation: No need to buy as the time needs to be given to the promising Song and Diaby to grow into this position.

Greedy wish: Yaya Toure(25),Barcelona. The one that got away, but he can certainly bring ball winning skills and more importantly experience which is very important for this position. Price: Around £12m

Alonso (27), Liverpool. Is at the right age and experienced enough to take up this significant role. Price: Around £15m


Forwards

The Adebayor and Van Persie pairing is as good as anybody’s.

Replacements in case of injury:

With Eduardo due to make his long awaited come back there appears to be enough quality forwards around.

There is also Bendtner who has shown in glimpses this season especially against Manchester United that he will be a good understudy for any of the above.

Recommendation: No need to buy

Greedy Wish: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (27), Inter. Creativity and vision like his rarely come in 6ft 5in packages, which makes him one of the most difficult players to defend against in the game. Price: Around £25m


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Cesc’s absence may bring festive cheer

By 1970’s Gooner

You can’t deny that Cesc will be missed. Especialy now we are entering the business side of the Premier league season.

But where last season he was putting in wonderful match winning performances this season he has not been able to attain that level.

The reason is not easy to pinpoint but it is of course not only him that has been off form. The whole team has been performing inconsistently and the loss of Hleb and Flamini have not really been dealt with adequately yet.

So yes Cesc’s absence for up to four months will be missed but not by so much really. It can in fact bring with it some positives (in adversity if you like).

Just like when we were left with 10 players against Liverpool and he also had to go off injured the whole team pulled together and outplayed even outclassed a team supposedly gunning for the title.

The whole team will concentrate that much more now and play with the spirit of ten men.

I would expect that Wenger will keep Denilson in the central midfield creative role and play Song alongside him in the defensive role.

In my opinion this, strangely enough, will be a more balanced midfield than when Denilson had to carry out the defensive part of his duties alongside Cesc. A role he is not cut out to do and as such the balance of the whole team has been suffering.

Song I rate highly and he is getting better and better with each game. He will improve so much so that he will become irreplaceable in that position. I don’t think that Wenger will go into the transfer market for such a type of player now.

So Denilson will be able to concentrate on what he does best and Song will mop up alongside him.

Nicklas Bendtner has been awful recently but he will come into the team to lead the line against Villa just as he did against Manchester United. He was very good that day and I expect he can repeat that performance.

So the message is to stop worrying and get behind the team. We have the players to carry on without Cesc and win games against anyone.

There are positives out of almost all adversities. Don’t be surprised if we go on a long winning run from now..

And with this cheerful and hopeful message from everyone at Arsenal Analysis we wish you all a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Player analysis and ratings Vs Liverpool


By 1970’s Gooner

The referee made a mess of his decisions and by sending Adebayor off destroyed the game as a spectacle.

None of Adebayor’s two challenges merited a yellow card especially the second one where he was first to the ball and therefore had every right to shield it.

Arbeloa’s acting fooled the referee which goes to show how na├»ve he was.

How Adebayor gets a yellow card in the first (debatable in my opinion) foul he commits and Lucas gets his first booking after five fouls of which anyone of them could have been a yellow is beyond me.

Nevertheless I have to say that I doubt it if the result would have been any different if Adebayor had stayed on. Arsenal were not playing their beautiful football, started nervously and Fabregas was once again way below his best.

Still a wonderful individual goal by van Persie gave us the lead and probably would have won us the game but a positioning error by Djourou and Gallas’s inability to guide him resulted in a typical goal conceded.

It reminds me of when Toure was learning his trade. This was a common mistake he would make. If the ball was on the other side of the pitch he would switch off and the long ball would catch him out of position. It was then a race to get to the ball first.

The positive to come out of the game is the spirit shown by the players after the unfair dismissal of Adebayor.

They really fought for each other and Liverpool looked more vulnerable during the last 35 minutes than before. I hope the Arsenal players can maintain that for the games that are coming up in the festive period.

Almunia

I feel safer now with Almunia than ever before. He is not really disputed by anyone now is he? He didn’t have much to do (as expected Liverpool did not create much anyway) but when he had to make the odd save he was right there. 7

Sagna

Was the more attacking of the two full backs and put some decent crosses in. He also was resolute in his defending. 7

Clichy

I was surprised that we did not see more of him in the opponents half. He was more concerned in keeping Kuyt quiet rather than going forward. 6

Gallas

Did not do much wrong. But I would have expected him to guide the more inexperienced Djourou to take more prudent positions, behind and close to the forwards when the ball is far away. It was the third occasion that the two of them got caught out…6

Djourou

I like Djourou. I think he will be Arsenal’s centre half for a long time. He has the height, heading ability and is a very good distributor of the ball. Pity he made the one mistake that cost us. 5

Fabregas

I am very disappointed with Fabregas. He is no way near his last season’s best.

One reason may be that he drops back a little bit more this season to cover for Denilson who is not a defensive midfielder.

Another reason maybe that Arsenal’s lack of width and with van Persie sometimes dropping back into the midfield the middle gets more congested thus not allowing him the room to play.

Or his head may be otherwise occupied with Barcelona circling around. Who knows? 5

Song

He had a good game. He came more into the fore and took more responsibility when Fabregas had to go off. I think he has a great future in midfield. 7

Denilson

He is not a right winger is he? He tries his best and defensively he is much more effective. But going forward? No not for me Mr Wenger. 5

Nasri

Played well especially when you take into account that he has been out of action recently. He kept the ball well and tried to be creative which was important when you consider that Fabregas was not creative enough. 7

Van Persie

What a wonderful goal. This boy is dangerous in that he creates his own space with his trickery and his goal scoring ability is phenomenal. He did not however connect much with Adebayor. They need to keep close to each other and feed balls between them more. 8

Adebayor

He has been looking sharper recently after his recent absence and led the line well. However he perhaps should not have repeated the same “foul” after getting booked for a similar block. If it's one thing that referees like to brag about it is consistency. 6

Diaby

It’s obvious why Wenger does not play him in the centre of midfield. He looses possession easily, is frivolous with the ball and thinks that he can beat all comers with his build.

However when he learns to be more conservative, win the ball and then lay it off to one of his own players he will be a great central midfielder. Will he learn though? 5


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arsenal’s two key players against Liverpool

By 1970’s Gooner

In games like these all players obviously have to play to the maximum and beyond of their abilities. But there are two players from the Arsenal side that by performing their duties properly can swing the game for Arsenal.

Nasri I mention first because he is very important in that he gives Arsenal some kind of width.

Not the width that a real winger like Walcott or say Reyes did actually provide.

But nevertheless when compared to the alternatives available for tomorrow’s game in the likes of Diaby, Denilson or Eboue it will be a great improvement on that front (Wenger doesn't seem to trust Vela yet).

In one of my recent posts I lamented the lack of wingers in this Arsenal side (especially after Walcott’s injury).

I believe that this is one important area that when corrected will allow Arsenal to be up there closer to the leaders of the Premiership.

This looks like happening when Walcott and Eduardo finally become available for first team selection. The latter probably in two to four weeks time and the former a little later than that.

In other words I expect Arsenal to be far stronger in the run in for the title than presently. We just have to hang in there for the moment, by beating Liverpool on Sunday…

Width against Liverpool will also be created as always by the full backs as with all of Wenger’s teams.

Sagna and Clichy will attack Liverpool at every reasonable opportunity and the combination of Clichy and Nasri on the left wing will really test Liverpool’s right back and right midfield player (which could be Kuyt).

One other important benefit that Nasri gives to this Arsenal team is goals. He has the knack of getting into goal scoring situations and once given the opportunity will hurt the opponents.

He has done it so often this season especially those two marvelous goals against Manchester United at the Emirates.

The other player that I think will prove to be a very important for Arsenal is Alexander Song.

He would be the one to play the defensive midfielder role just behind Fabregas and in front of Arsenal’s defense.

I would expect that Denilson will be shifted to the right sided midfield role and Diaby will be on the bench.

I expect Song’s performance to prove pivotal because in the absence of Torres, Liverpool’s most effective player is likely to be Gerrard. Subdue him and I doubt if Liverpool can get a result against us.

If Song can stick close to Gerrard, limit his movement and track his runs into the box then Gerrard’s threat will be kept at bay.

And so will Liverpool.



Probable line ups

Arsenal

Almunia

Sagna Djourou Gallas Clichy

Denilson Fabregas Song Nasri

Van Persie Adebayor


Liverpool

Reina

Dossena Carragher Hyppia Arbeloa

Riera Alonso Mascherano Kuyt

Gerrard

Keane


Prediction: Home win



Arsene, give the team its wings back

Arsenal’s lack of width Vs Boro’s makeshift defence


Monday, December 15, 2008

Do what I say! Be a Gooner be a giver


By Aries

On Sunday 21st December, Arsenal Football Club is dedicating its Premier League match against Liverpool to its Charity of the Season, Teenage Cancer Trust.

Arsenal players and directors will be donating a day’s wages to the charity dedicated to helping improve the lives of young people with cancer and are encouraging supporters to give what they can through the ‘Be a Gooner. Be a Giver’ campaign.

There will be a number of fundraising activities taking place at Emirates Stadium at the matchday and to mark the special nature of the match, Arsenal players have participated in a short promotional film alongside teenagers with cancer.

The light hearted advert, entitled ‘Do What I Say’, reflects the players’ support for young people with cancer. The Gunners stars appear in funny scenarios doing whatever the teenagers want them to do.


Arsenal Captain, Cesc Fabregas said: “I visited the Teenage Cancer Trust unit back in August so I know what this means to the charity and the teenagers it helps. I encourage all supporters to follow our lead and give what they can..”

Arsenal is the first to commit to funding part of Teenage Cancer Trust’s unit in the Day Care Centre which will be the first of its kind in Europe and is due to open in 2012.

For more information on the campaign and to donate please visit www.beagoonerbeagiver.org

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Arsene gets the tactics wrong again


By 1970’s Gooner

First mistake: No width

This issue was covered in my match preview and the inability of Diaby and Denilson to provide it at the Riverside made Arsenal too narrow and congested the midfield too much.

Also in the second half when we needed to stretch the play and get beyond Boro’s defense we couldn’t do it with a large percentage of Arsenal’s attacks going through the middle.

This weakness on the wings was further aggravated by Wenger’s decision to play Robin van Persie way too behind Adebayor almost as a fifth midfielder. This congested the middle even further and on many occasions left Adebayor without support.

A five man midfield is a tactic that is normally utilised in very difficult top four Premier and Champion’s League away games. Does Arsene fear the opposition too much these days or does he not trust his midfielders any more?

Second mistake: Fabregas played too far back

I believe it is the latter. For in the process of playing a five man midfield by van Persie dropping back it meant that Fabregas was pushed back into Arsenal’s half of the pitch even further.

This inevitably resulted in two things.

First Fabregas was mostly involved in areas where he couldn’t weave his magic and when this happens we all know the whole team just doesn’t function really.

Second it meant that the player that by default was left to make the play and distribute the ball was Song; and that is unacceptable to me.

This was corrected in the middle of the second half when we had to go for the winner but it didn’t work out.

The formation should have been 4 4 2 from the beginning with van Persie playing further up alongside Adebayor and with at least one genuine winger, as for example Vela who was on the bench, in order to give width to the team.

Still only Aston Villa won during this weekend which makes this point look not as bad. I don’t think that Villa can sustain a viable challenge for fourth place.

I also think that Arsenal will become a lot more efficient in the second half of the season when Eduardo and Walcott will provide genuine quality options.

And width.


P.S Johan Djourou will be Arsenal’s centre half for a long long time



Arsenal’s lack of width Vs Boro’s makeshift defence


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Arsenal’s lack of width Vs Boro’s makeshift defence

By 1970’s Gooner

When Walcott was fit Arsenal had at least one out and out traditional winger as opposed to what today is termed a wide midfielder.

This is very important as any team that wants to play expansive rather than defensive football needs at least an outlet on the wide areas of the pitch so as to stretch play and draw defensive formations out.

It is also very important for quick counterattacks.

For as the opponents commit players forward especially on those occasions they believe they have a chance of scoring (eg from set pieces) it is imperative that Arsenal have the outlet to counter attack at speed before the defenders get back.

The other side of the pitch this season has been patrolled by Nasri who is not a winger in the Walcott mould but tends to come infield and join in playmaking like Hleb used to.

The width on this side of the pitch is provided more by the left back Clichy rather than Diaby or Denilson or whoever has been chosen to play there when Nasri has not been fit.

The problem with today’s game is that with Nasri unavailable it leaves Arsene Wenger with a decision to make.

Does he go for the more seasoned players for these two positions, like Denilson and Diaby (I hope he does not start with Eboue- he still looked unfit at Porto) or does he go for players that can provide real width like Vela and Van Persie.

In the first case Diaby and Denilson are more likely to help out in the midfield areas and defensive situations something which Van Persie and Vela may not be that prone or used to do.

Added to this is the fact that Middlesborough have their absentees in defense.

David Wheater is suspended and this would force Huth back into action. It is how he deals with the threat of Adebayor that will go a long way in determining how well Arsenal will do in attack, especially as there is not a big chance that Wenger will go for real wingers on the wide areas for Arsenal.

News coming from The Riverside also suggests that Taylor and old boy Justin Hoyte will miss the game. This may force Southgate into pitching three fresh faces into the backline.

Pogatetz will probably move to left back and Riggott will form the central pairing with Huth. Tony McMahon will likely get the nod at right-back.

Southgate will also be missing Mido and O’Neil and the likely starters up font will be the dangerous Tuncay and Alves with old boy Jeremie Aliadiere (who scored at the Emirates last season) and Downing on the wings.

It is vital that the Arsenal players play this game with the right frame of mind unlike their counterparts at Porto.

The win at Chelsea and the three points against Wigan must be followed by another victory to settle the players in a winning frame of mind and create an environment of consistency.

The key ingredient that is obviously missing.



Likely Formations

Arsenal

Almunia
Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy
Diaby, Fabregas, Song, Denilson
Adebayor, Robin Van Persie

Boro

Turnbull
McMahon, Pogatetz, Huth, Riggott
Aliadiere, Digard, Arca, Downing
Tuncay, Alves

Prediction: Away win


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bendtner and Diaby were useless but there was a bright light


By 1970’s Gooner

What a pathetic display by nearly all the players bar Almunia, Djourou and Denilson.

Almunia made some very good saves and Djourou maintained his confident displays as of late. Denilson was everywhere hardly putting a foot wrong.

But the rest of the players selected to wear the Arsenal shirt at Porto were a disgrace.

Top of the list is that arrogant self proclaimed striker of all strikers Nicklas Bendtner.

Never once did the ball stuck to his feet. Never once did he make a meaningful pass to another teammate. Never once did he show any real interest in making a positive contribution. The only thing he got right was the headers, which usually found no one in particular.

He has really regressed as of late repeating that awful performance of his at Burnley. Who does he think he is?

I know he can play better. He has put in a very good performance against Manchester United where he ran the line alone up front. Bar that and I do not recollect any other meaningful performance he has put in for Arsenal.

I have similar feelings for Abu Diaby. He was equally bad as Bendtner and for the same reasons.

He took it upon himself to hold the ball in midfield and try and dictate play much in the same way that Patrick Vieira used to do. He, unlike Vieira, avoided passing to a team mate if he could, usually swiveled around the ball and headed into the horizon, which more often than not was a bunch of Porto players waiting for him.

He also decided that defending was not really for him so his concentration wavered during the corner kick and instead of just sticking to his man managed to lose him and thus offer a free header on a plate.

Well I have news for you Mr Diaby: You have a long way to go before you can reach those heights set by Vieira...

The others were not far away either.

Vela couldn’t hold the ball to save his life, Song deteriorated in the second half and kept passing the ball to the opponents.

Ramsey kept coming infield rather than go forward, Gallas decided to give up in the second half and kept making elementary mistakes and his mate Silvestre got caught out of position to gift them their second goal.

At least Eboue put in an indifferent performance rather than an awful one…

The only positive aspect to come out of all this is Johan Djourou’s obvious improvement.

His positioning was spot on, his heading was excellent and above all his distribution was sensible and accurate. He is fast becoming a real and viable option for one of the central defensive positions.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Eduardo penciled in for Liverpool?


By 1970’s Gooner

As first revealed on this site Eduardo had joined the first team squad for training as long ago as the beginning of November.

This has given him ample time to get his fitness back and be ready to take part in competitive games.

Boro Primorac speaking to the Croatian press has said that Eduardo has been training at “full intensity” levels:

“Physically dudu looks very, very good. We are absolutely satisfied with this part. The most important thing is to begin playing in competitive games” he said to Sport Index.

This is obviously considered necessary for him to get back to match fitness but more importantly overcoming the fear of repeating the injury.

According to the Croatian press siting information obtained in England, Eduardo could be set to play for the reserves next Wednesday against Aston Villa (10.12.2008) and not wait for the Portsmouth reserve fixture six days later (Friday 16.12.2008).

If this is so it would give him an extra game under his belt.

It would also fit in with the Croatian press’s speculation that if all goes well Eduardo could be ready to be part of the squad for the big game against Liverpool at the Emirates on the 21st December.

The next available games would be five days later against Aston Villa away on Boxing Day and Portsmouth at the Emirates on the 28th of December.

Whichever game in December is finally chosen would mean that the initial forecasts for a possible return to action around Christmas would prove accurate.



Eduardo close to return as he joins first team squad for training


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Arsene, give the team its wings back

By 1970’s Gooner

Arsenal’s main weakness is not the midfield enforcer nor a new goalkeeper or a tall and strong centre half. It’s not even poor Eboue.

Denilson as a midfield enforcer has in my opinion been a major weakness which has now been corrected; but for the wrong reason.

Arsene Wenger’s insistence on carrying on with Denilson in the central midfield position until a few games ago has indeed resulted in a soft middle without the obvious ball winner that the team is crying out for.

I have written about this before, sighting the other three top teams ball winners in midfield as prime examples of the type of player that Arsenal need and I believe have now found in Alex Song.

Chelsea has Jon Obi Mikel, Liverpool Mascherano and Manchester United can use Anderson or even Carrick. Denilson is not a midfield enforcer and I am glad that Song is now being used in that position.

In fact if he had been employed there since the start of the season, as Denilson has been, then I am sure that Song would have improved no end and certainly by a far faster rate than Denilson has.

Song’s performance at Chelsea is testimony to that.

Ever since Walcott and sometimes Nasri have been out of action Wenger has been using Song in the middle and pushing Denilson on the wide midfield areas.

So in a way Wenger’s insistence on always picking Denilson in the team has meant that Arsenal’s main weakness has shifted from the central midfield area to the wing.

When Nasri and Denilson play on the wings the team lacks real width. This was very evident in the game against Wigan at the Emirates and became even more apparent when Nasri had to go off in the first half.

Both players are natural playmakers not wingers. They can’t get past their player with any ease and they invariably come infield thus congesting the middle of the park even more.

This plays into the hands of the opponents who put 10 men behind the ball and congest the middle (unlike the big three who let you play).

Arsene Wenger has two options to give the team its wings back.

He can promote Carlos Vela on the left wing and play Nasri on the other thus continuing with the 4 4 2 formation. Denilson should be rested with Song continuing in the central midfield position.

Vela has had a sensational season last year in Osauna’s first team contributing greatly to their survival in Spain’s top division. They are now real relegation candidates. He has shown during the Carling Cup games that with a good run in the team he can hurt opposing defences with his pace.

The other option for Wenger would be to switch to 4 3 3 and play Robin Van Persie on the left wing, Nasri on the right and Adebayor up front. The three in the middle would be Fabregas, Song and one of Denilson or Diaby.

No one can fly without wings and if this is not corrected we will come up a cropper again, pretty soon.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Fabregas oil on canvas hits e bay


By 1970’s Gooner

Fabregas and a lot of other Arsenal players play football for a living but judging by their efforts at painting they better make other plans for their retirement activities.

They and a lot of other Arsenal players have responded to Bob Wilson’s charity “The Willow Foundation” to draw on canvas and put the result on auction at e bay.

The receipts will go towards the charity and judging by the bids offered so far they are likely to collect a sizeable amount.

The Willow Foundation is a national charity that provides special days for seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds throughout the UK.

Eduardo’s attempt shown below is proving one of the most popular with the highest bid so far reaching £195.


Robin Van Persie’s which is not too dissimilar is currently fetching £255


Nicklas Bendtner’s attempt which is slightly more imaginative is currently bidding at £113.00.


But Arsene Wenger shows his funny side mocking himself in his own painting which shows him with a large moustache and funny glasses! £216.50


Walcott is more artistic…£135.00


But one of the most popular is Cesc’s canvas shown at the top of the page. Cesc has drawn a bright yellow smiling sun thus depicting the concept of hope. It is now bidding at £330.00

The artwork is part of the Stars on Canvas project - a public exhibition of more than 200 canvases, each created by a different artist or celebrity in aid of the Willow Foundation (registered charity no: 1106746).

You can view the entire range of canvases, created by a host of actors, artists, cartoonists, chefs, children's illustrators, politicians and radio and television personalities online at www.willowfoundation.org.uk/starsoncanvas.

You can also join the bidding.

Willow will provide almost 1,500 special day experiences in 2008.

The auction will end tomorrow 6th December 2008.