Previous names: Dial Square, Royal Arsenal, Woolwich Arsenal

Friday, December 31, 2010

Can Arsenal’s defence survive the last 10 minutes at Birmingham?

By 1970’s Gooner

We have seen it often enough especially at away games. We dominate the game, miss a lot of chances, score and then we think that it will be enough to win the game. This gets dangerous when we score the goal(s) in the first half as we tend to slack off and just try to play a neutral game.

A recent example of course was at Wigan where we came out in the second half thinking that the game was won. It also happened against Tottenham and at Sunderland if you remember.

And I believe the probability of it happening again against Birmingham tomorrow is high. I can see us playing our usual game and scoring. But Birmingham have a good record when coming from behind as they showed against Manchester United and Tottenham.

They have two ingredients that allow them to be successful at this.

The first is that they have players who are gritty and determined, fighting till the last whistle. The second is that they have Zigic who, as he did against Man Utd, can come on the later stages of the game and use his aerial power to good effect.

And we have seen how awful we are defensively in the high ball game.

That is why I am posing the question in the title above. Can we hold out in the last 10 minutes?

We can improve our chances of succeeding in two ways. One is to be ahead by two more goals than the opposition.

The other is to play Djourou.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wenger priming his stars for a sprint run in

By 1970’s Gooner

All is not lost yet. We were very close to the three points which would have been achieved with our second 11 and then everybody would have been praising our “strength in depth”.

But we were done by a combination of bad refereeing, too many changes and defensive lapses.

The referee gave Wigan a non existent penalty as there was no contact on the player who in any case was clearly outside the area! And to top it all a clear handball from Nasri’s free kick inside the area was completely ignored. Sickening really when you consider that Fabregas’s similar handball was punished.

But I feel the real reason for dropping the two points were the many changes made by Wenger. Most of the players looked rusty and could not play together as a unit. Just like the away games at Shacktar Donetsk and Braga.

Wenger should have made changes to rest players but not as many. In my opinion Djourou should be starting every game even if there are two days between games. I don’t think he would have scored that own goal….You don’t see Ferguson resting Vidic and Ferdinand too often do you?

Arshavin had a big impact on the game but he is useless defending and tracking back. Eboue needed that support but he often was no where to be seen.

Diaby, Denilson and Rosicky found it difficult to jell.

Wenger should have kept the spine of the team intact. Fabianski, yes. Djourou in the centre of the defense. Song in the middle of the park to provide strength and penetration and van Persie in attack.

Wigan would have had no chance with these players starting.

Still Wenger knows that we are only half way through yet. There is a long way to go and his aim is to prime his key players so that they are fresh enough to be able to put in a sprint on the run in.

Manchester United are not really playing that well this season. They are certainly not playing better than us.

Chelsea are struggling to find form and I don’t see them putting in a run to catch up the lost ground. They will drop more points as they find that their narrow home win against Bolton proves to be a false dawn.

Manchester City are blowing hot and cold and they don’t look capable to put in a consistent run.

And don’t forget we have home games to come against the Manchester teams.

Arsenal though can do it. We have most of our key players back (van Persie, Fabregas and Walcott) and when Vermaelen returns (to play alongside Djourou) no one will be able to catch us.

And this draw at Wigan would be long forgotten….

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three reasons why Arsenal’s title chances are still alive and kicking

By 1970’s Gooner

Yes it was a dreadful performance. A performance that was littered with mistakes, inaccurate passing but above all not enough mental strength to counteract a difficult opponent on his own ground.

Chamach looked tired, Arshavin only lasted a half and Nasri was lost on the wing. Rosicky had his most ineffectual game and Wilshere kept making mistakes. The defence especially our full backs did well and on the whole Squillacy and Konscienly played much better than I thought they would.

But as is often the case we need to score at least two goals to win a game and sadly we were awful in that respect.

We lacked a leader in midfield to take the initiative and when Nasri drifted in the middle in the second half we looked more in control. But our “impact substitutes” of Fabregas, van Persie and Walcott added nothing in attack and so the game drifted to a sad end.

Let’s not duel too much on this defeat. We can and I predict we will put in a new run of wins together like we did after the Chelsea defeat to be genuine challengers. Some of you may be having severe doubts about our title potential but please consider the following:

1. Our current table position has been achieved without three very significant first team players

Fabregas (from the beginning of the season and also recently), van Persie (from the beginning of the season) and Vermaelen (for about the last three months).

I think that if all three were fit enough to start the game against Man Utd we would not have lost the game and judging by Utd’s average display we most probably have won it.

As these players are coming back to fitness I expect that we will soon be a team full of quality, creativeness and defensive stability.

2. We have played the other three major title contenders away already

Please take note of this. We will be facing Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City at home (I don’t consider Spurs as having the stamina and consistency to last the course).

And I believe we can beat them all. None of them are playing particularly well but more importantly we will be playing them with our full compliment of players. And when we do that we have every chance of winning those games .

3. We have found a pair of safe hands!

Bye bye Almunia thank you for your services. In young Szczesny and Fabianski we now have a pair of sound goalkeepers who we feel we can trust to keep us in games by making vital saves, like Szczesny did last night.

So stop the gloom and doom please. This team ain’t finished yet…..

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Arsenal can win at Old Trafford if two weaknesses are corrected

By 1970’s Gooner

Arsenal’s performance against Partisan Belgrade was so typical of late. Play was dominated, possession was around 60% throughout and the opponent was down and almost beaten when the first goal went in.

But yet again we manage to gift them a goal.

Do you remember Aston Villa’s first goal at Villa Park? Clichy decided to switch attention away from the opponent who was ready to shoot and backtracked to cover someone else.

Sqillaci who is a far more experienced defender did exactly the same last night. Instead of marking the goal scorer he backtracked to mark someone else. The first rule in defending is surely to stop the opponent from scoring isn’t it?

I was worried throughout last night’s game. Our defending was far below of what can be characterised as average. The two new defenders brought in this year appear not to have jelled together, don’t cover each other well and lack communication.

I think that unless they play a blinder against Manchester United we will be leaking goals right left and centre. I really do and if you think I am being overly pessimistic then you are letting your heart rule your head.

This weakness in my opinion can only be mitigated by selecting Djourou in the starting 11.

Not that he is not prone to errors but he is obviously much more battle prone and hardened in the rigours of the Premier League.

And he has been very impressive this season showing positional awareness and strength, both in the air and on the ground.

Unlike our French pairing in central defence, Fabianski has not been giving me the jitters. He has impressed with his very competent all round display and has been keeping us in games recently.

The save from Fulham’s Kamara at 1-1 was as crucial in my opinion as Nasri’s winning goal. And I have a suspicion that Almunia would have been found wanting last night when that shot from outside the box, when the score was 2-1, looked goal bound.

The other weakness that was very obvious last night was the absence of a playmaker.

Song and Denilson are defensive midfielders of course and we shouldn’t expect that they will take up playmaking responsibilities. The decision to play van Persie in the hole behind Chamakh did not work in my opinion.

He was much more up field than dropping back to pick the ball and direct play. This meant that Denilson and Song had more responsibility placed on them to do the playmaking.

When Fabregas returns then indeed van Persie and Chamkh could be paired up front with Cesc dropping back to his original role of dictating play from a deeper position.

Rosicky would have been ideal last night. And I insist that he should start at Old Trafford on Monday with van Persie dropping back to the bench. He is not yet 100% fit and it’s better to bring him on late in the game as an impact substitute rather than having to sub him.

In this way we gain a playmaker and a stronger bench.

And we maximise our chances of victory against Manchester United and the title…

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Vela set to join ex manager in Spain

By 1970’s Gooner

Media reports in Mexico have shed more light in the mooted move of Carlos Vela away from Arsenal in the January transfer window.

He is set to join Real Saragoza in Spain who are currently managed by ex Mexico national side manager Javier Aguirre.

Aguirre knows Vela’s abilities very well selecting him in Mexico’s World Cup squad.

Real Saragoza are currently embroiled in a relegation fight and Aguirre has only been appointed their manager two weeks ago.

Apparently he has requested Zaragoza to enquire about the status of Vela at Arsenal.

It is reported that Vela has already told Arsene Wenger of his desire to leave the team in order to have more activity. It is expected that at first he would go out on loan with an option for Saragoza to buy.

Vela, 21, has a valid contract for three more seasons with Arsenal.