Archive for December, 2008

31
Dec
08

Best/Worst of 2008 #3; Euro 2008. Plus, £12m for Arteta?

I WON SOMETHING!!!

I make no secret that I’m not a fan of international football. At best I tend to look at internationals as “the time that Arsenal players go away and get injured” rather than “a glorious moment for Spain!” And at worst they are an exercise in antiquated nationalism.

Whether I like them or not, Arsenal’s players love internationals. It’s a huge deal to them to just be selected to represent their national team and if they win something well, that’s the biggest thrill. So, kudos to Fabregas for his part in Spain’s triumph at Euro 2008. It’s his first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup and even though I’m no fan of internationals it’s always good to see an Arsenal player lift a trophy.

The only down side to the Euros was that Cesc had put in some 50 matches for club and country that year, then went off and played 6 more matches in 20 days. Wenger rightly gave him some time off instead of getting him back into the squad during pre-season. But to me, he hasn’t looked like his old self quite yet. He looked tired at the start of the season, and for the first time in his career has come up with a major injury. What part his 54 matches in 2008 played in that injury we’ll never know.

Regardless of the grueling schedule, Euro 2008 gave Cesc the chance to win a trophy alongside some of the best talent in the world and I think we’ll be feeling the effects of that for years to come.

Transfer Rumors

Today’s transfer speculation is brought to you by Arteta! The Telegraph is reporting that The Sun has it on good authority that Arsenal have bid £12m for Mikel Arteta. Arsenal can bid all they want but unless Arteta throws a wobbler and demands a transfer I would be surprised to see Everton let him go. Though I guess Arsenal are offering a nice salary increase, international exposure (hey Euros can work for Arsenal), Champions League football (well, 2 more games — I keed, I keed), and a classy club, given all that maybe Arteta could agitate for a move.

Meanwhile Arsenal’s £8m bid for Shay Given seems to have been rejected, with Kinnear reportedly saying, “Arsene? Where is he? [points at Arsene] Listen here you f*cking c*nt… Shay Given is the best f*cking keeper in the f*cking world. All of f*cking Newcastle loves him. I’m not letting some sh*tty f*cking bid from some c*nt like you prise him away. Now f*ck off.”

I think I read that quote in The Sun.

The Arshavin saga drags on and I’m almost 100% convinced that he is not coming to Arsenal. Here’s my evidence:

  1. £20m? HA HA HA From Arsenal???  HA AHA HAHAHAHA HA Come on, Arsenal sold Thierry Henry for £16m, are we really going to bid £20m for Arshavin?
  2. Zenit and Arshavin’s agent are driving all the talk. You will find no quotes that show Arsene Wenger with any interest in this guy.
  3. In fact, they seem increasingly despirate to move Arshavin. Going so far today to say that Arshavin is lowering his salary demands.

This whole thing stinks. From the overt racism of the club, to the despirate flailing of Arshavin (his dream is to move to Barcelona, no wait, Man U, no wait, Tottenham, no he meant Arsenal — where do they play again?) and now the obvious dangling of this guy in front of the Arsenal supporters trying to whip up some support for their stupid transfer demands.

Don’t do it, Arsene, this stinks of “massive flop.” We’re talking flop of Tottenham porportions: Darren Bent, Pavlyuchenko, Rebrov, and Juande Ramos all rolled into one. None of those guys had beg people to take them and offer half off their salary demands — it’s a clue.

Finally, Toure is supposedly agitating for a move and Man City are supposedly going to offer £10m — according to the Daily Tits. Oh wait, I mean Tits Star. Damnit, it’s the Daily Star (with tits). I think of this as good news and bad news. The good news is that if Kolo leaves, I won’t have to hear people say “Arsenal should get Yaya Toure” ad nauseum for the next 2 years. The bad news is that if Kolo leaves, Arsenal will be without Kolo Toure.

Have no fear Kickers, Arsene Wenger has said that no one is coming in and no one is going out. Not even Bendtner.

Ok, that’s enough, I’ve got the Best/Worst of 2008 #2 article already written and I’ll probably publish it tomorrow morning, so check back… hangover and all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Let’s hope this one is better than last.

30
Dec
08

Best/Worst of 2008 #4; Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham

pardon me for being frank, but this picture makes me want to puke my guts up

When Arsenal hosted Tottenham on the 29th of October it was a tale of two seasons. For Spurs, theirs was a season of high expectations, quickly followed by failure and derision that had culminated in the firing of Juande Ramos and appointment of Harry Redknapp. For Arsenal, despite a couple of blips against Fulham and Hull, hopes were still very high for the senior team and the world was delighting over the exploits of Wenger’s youth team. It took just 90 minutes for Tottenham to expose Arsenal’s frailties in the game that shook Arsenal’s 2008/2009 season.

It started about as bad as a game could. David Bentley, a failure of Arsenal’s academy and constant press loudmouth scored the goal of his lifetime. I mean that in the most derisive sense possible because it wasn’t as much a great goal as it was an utter failure on the part of Arsenal’s defense. From the failed clearance to the fact that Almunia was caught out in no-man’s land Arsenal failed completely. To his rat-faced credit, Bentley did strike the ball well but had any component of the Arsenal team had their head in the game it would have been a wasted shot. Unfortunately Arsenal losing their heads has since become a familiar theme.

But the worst part, the part that stings the most is the knowledge that no lead is safe in the hands of this Arsenal team and Spurs amazing comeback proved that to the world. Up 4-2 and seemingly cruising, Arsene hauled off Walcott, van Persie, and Nasri and put on Eboue, Diaby, and Song — you know, to shore up the defense.

Within one minute of the final sub Tottenham scored twice and shredded the once great Arsenal defense. Of course, the final scoreline is not all the fault of the three subs but it’s no coincidence that those three players are singled out for the most fan derision. It seems like those three are most likely to be on the pitch when some once in a lifetime defensive frailty is exposed.

Letting Tottenham back from a 4-2 lead and exposing our supposed defensive players for the quality they truly are would be a huge enough pivot point of the season yet this game had one more surprise in store for us. Several weeks later, in what is easily the biggest fallout from this game, William ‘Cappy’ Gallas decided to let the whole world know, via the French press, that there was a huge dressing room bust up at half time of that game. Gallas threw in some stuff about disrespectful players and people who think they’ve already arrived when they haven’t done as much as his Greatness, and how when he was a kid he had to kick the ball up hill, in the snow, both ways. Oh yeah, and they should all GET OFF HIS LAWN!

Wenger was left with no choice but to strip Gallas of his captaincy. Cesc was the obvious choice and was quickly appointed. Yet, the problem is that despite a brief upturn there still seems to be some unrest at the club over who leads the team and how they do it. Now with Cesc out for four months with an injury the leadership gap at the club is more glaring than ever.

Defensive woes, a leadership gap, and Diaby, Eboue, and Song exposed for their lack of polish. It didn’t all happen at once, but I can think of no better game that highlights those three stories of 2008 than the 4-4 draw against Tottenham.

Transfer News

Reports have hotted up around supposed Arsenal transfer targets Shay Given and Andrei Arshavin. This morning the Telegraph (who are fairly reliable — for an English newspaper) is reporting that Arsenal have offered £8m for the Newcastle #1. He supposedly wants £60,000 a week in salary but I don’t think that would be too much given Arsenal’s bizarre salary structure. Rumor has it that Spuds and Citeh are also interested in Given, Spuds because their world class keeper is on his way back to PSV and Citeh because everyone on the planet is linked to Citeh.

Meanwhile, multiple sources are reporting that Wenger is “mulling over” a bid for Arshavin. I’d rather he mulled a bid for someone like reported Real Madrid target Antonio Valencia from Wigan. The price tag has to be better and we don’t have to do business with those unseemly racists at Gazprom.

Bad news for the people who wanted Arsene to call up Arteta from Everton, it seems like they are reluctant to let their best players leave for some reason. We all knew that was going to happen, really. Everton would be fools to let Arteta go and unless Arsenal did something like unsettle the player and force their hand (which supposedly we don’t do) I can’t see Arteta joining us for less than something like £20m. More?

Worse though is that that article indicates Mark Hughes is in the market for pretty much the exact same players that Arsenal are in the market for: Premiership tested players. This means that Arsenal are likely to end up in a  bidding war with Citeh over at least one if not more than one player.

This is strongly reminiscent of when Abramovich stormed in to the league and basically just waited for Arsenal to make a bid and doubled it. Remember that year? I do, it was a nightmare.

Part 3 of the year in review tomorrow and I’m sure there will be more transfer rumors. See you then.

29
Dec
08

Best/Worst of 2008 #5; Hleb out, Nasri in

The transfer window opens on Thursday and we all know what this week holds; a week of speculation about Arsenal’s transfer targets. I’ll put that information at the end of the post for those of you who are interested but really it’s just speculation and please take it with a huge grain of salt.

Instead of just talking about transfer targets or how Steven Gerrard should be banned for life for his part in a bar fight (that’s a joke, kids) for the rest of this week I want to do a top five best/worst Arsenal year in review. One a day, like vitamins for your football mind, starting with the #5 best/worst story of 2008 and culminating in the #1 best/worst story. One more thing, the reason that the stories are both best and worst is because as I was thinking through each of these, with only one exception, even the best stories had a negative component. So, they are best/worst — you’ll see what I mean.

#5 Hleb out, Nasri in

I don’t know about you, but by the time that Alex Hleb raised a hand to Graeme Murty and got sent off — the last act of futility in a career at Arsenal that defined the word — I was well and truly done with Alex Hleb.

Now, before you get all nostalgic and claim that Arsenal could use Hleb this year, “Arsenal need some width!” you might claim. Let me remind you just how bad Hleb was: this was a guy who had 25 shots, SHOTS not shots on goal but SHOTS, in all competitions in his last year at Arsenal. Of course it’s nice to have a guy on the team who passes the ball but Hleb took passing the ball to a whole different level: he routinely passed up wide open shots in order to pass the ball to a teammate.

To his credit Hleb did have a career high 11 assists last year, but it took him two years of utter futility to reach that apex.

Arsene sold him, to his dream team (where he rots on the bench), and used the money to bring in a guy who has almost all of the same qualities that Hleb had. Arsene bought Samir Nasri.

The difference between Hleb and Nasri is glaring: Nasri already has 32 shots, 4 goals, and 2 assists in just 17 games, Nasri took all the corner kicks and set plays on Sunday (and he was able to clear the first defender which we haven’t seen in a long time), and Nasri’s most important quality is that he plays on the left and actually provides width to this Arsenal team. If you remember, Hleb always, always, always dribbled the ball into the middle of the park — I can only guess he did that because he’s was not capable of playing in a cross.

But the best part about Samir Nasri? He scores game winning goals in big matches. I mean, his second goal against Man U was, well… Hleb could never do that.

So, in his first year Samir Nasri has already shown himself to be a better player than Alex Hleb, a great addition to this team, another coup by the Professor, and the #5 best/worst Arsenal story of 2008.

Transfer Targets

HA HA

I saw a story that said Arsenal are going to buy three Newcastle players: Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia, and Steven Taylor. I’ll admit that I’m no fan of Almunia but Shay Given? Hmmm… I’m not a very good judge of keepers so I’m inviting you all to comment on this rumor. Given or Almunia, who would you pick and why?

N’Zogbia has been linked to the club before and nothing has ever come from it. He’s a pacy little winger and I think he would be a good addition to the squad even if he is really struggling this year. After all, a guy can’t get any assists if he doesn’t have any targets! Of course, this could also be the press doing the age old “link every French player to Arsenal” trick, so grain, salt, etc.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about Steven Taylor except that he’s tall, he’s a defender, and he plays for a team that has allowed 32 goals.

Does this make any sense to anyone? That Arsenal are struggling defensively and they are going to bring in the keeper and defender from one of the worst defensive teams in the EPL?

The other target that I hear is the every day transfer speculation that Arsenal are going to sign Andrei Arshavin from his racist ass club. Zenit wants at least £20m for Arshavin which is an insane fee for any player, much less a player who’s only acheivement this year is one good game in Euro 2008. One little problem with this rumor is that Arsene told Canal + that thinks Arsenal don’t have the money.  Make what you will of that, I haven’t had enough coffee to figure out how a team that made £20m or so in profits last year, keeps saying that the club and the Highbury redevelopment are separated, and who’s board members insist that the boss has all the money he could ever need, suddenly doesn’t have any money.

Right, that’s it for today, tune in for the #4 top story of 2008!

28
Dec
08

Arsenal 1-0 Pompey; the Good, Bad, and the ‘holy crap a 1-0 win!’

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: When Gallas planted his header past James, who flapped in the breeze for a swirling free-kick, the Gunners fans were singing a familiar refrain.

‘One-nil to the Arsenal.’

It was, but it was anything but convincing.

Setanta.com: the former club captain, who pulled on the red and white shirt 669 times to cement himself as an all-time great in this particular corner of the capital, saw his dreams of outwitting his former mentor Arsene Wenger denied on 81 minutes when James missed a Denilson free-kick and allowed Gallas to head into an empty net.

Quote of the Day

“It would be a long way but now we just have to reduce the gap before we speak about the championship. In the last six games we have won three and draw three and out of the three draws we were leading in every single game, against Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Villa, and the teams won’t always come back to us. It is important that we keep going as we go. The team is maturing quickly and has shown great mental strength in the last six weeks” — Arsene Wenger, who always sees an empty glass as half full.

The Good

Arsenal put in a decent defensive performance to sour the return of  defensive legend and current Pompey coach Tony Adams.

A dour first half in which Arsenal had the best of chances squandered by profligacy poster child and fan whipping boy Emanuel Adebayor was followed by an equally poor second half. Yet, Arsenal found a way to win; the head of our #10, former ‘Cappy,’ and transfer target William Gallas.

More importantly, Arsenal held on to a lead which is a feat that we haven’t seen much of over the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the most convincing defensive display, in fact they were a bit lucky, and really if Arsenal fans were going to be honest they would have to admit that it was Pompey’s utter uselessness with the ball that made the defense look good. That said, it’s always good to celebrate a 1-0 win, innit?

Credit also to Arsene Wenger. This is a man who is as pig-headed as any person on the planet and yet, there he was, switching up tactics by playing the 4-2-3-1 that I’ve been hoping they would play. It didn’t work, but god damn it was good to see them try!

The Bad

Both teams looked jaded, which is to be expected when you play two games in three days so it was a bit of a boring encounter. The only moments of excitement came when Arsenal failed to deal with a ball or Diaby made an errant pass — which he did a lot of.

As much as I liked the experimental formation, I have to say that Diaby needs a lot of work before he can fit the bill in the center of the park. In fact, for the first 20 minutes, I couldn’t tell where he was supposed to be playing on the pitch, because I’m not sure HE knew where he was supposed to be on the pitch. Once Wenger moved Bendtner to the wing, Diaby settled in a bit but still, I thought he was too eager to go forward to be a holding midfielder and not creative enough to be an attacking mid. It’s funny, he’s about as much of a midfielder as Bendtner. Hell, I’d go so far as to say that Diaby is a better striker and Bendtner a better midfielder.

The Ugly

After watching David James I can confidently say that Almunia is not the worst keeper in the league. I mean, wow. I feel for Pompey fans because their team put in a valiant effort only to be undone by the insanity of England’s current number one. That was the kind of performance that must have England fans hoping that Almunia can get his passport in order, and quick.

Oh yeah, please be sure to rip Adebayor for his two glaring misses.

Final Thoughts

I have to think that we just saw a preview of the rest of the season. Reluctant to use Vela and Ramsey up until this point, he’s now looking at a very depleted and tired squad so he had to play them. Of course they weren’t perfect but they are very, very good. Vela in particular provided tremendous width, good fight, and the ability to put in some decent crosses. Ramsey came on for Diaby and put on a bit of a clinic for the Frenchman. Well, maybe that’s a bit rose-tinted but you can understand why; he came on for Diaby who looked mediocre at best so, in comparison Rambo looked like a genius.

Using these two could be a sign of introspection on the part of the boss and thus could signal his intent to bolster the squad here next week. Or… it could mean that he’s going to “promote from within” and not buy shiat. With Wenger, you never know.

Oh well, hey Arsenal break back into the top four with this three points and that’s got to be a boost, at least until Tuesday when Villa travel to Hull. More importantly, Chelsea managed just a draw against a very determined Fulham and Wenger’s prediction that the other top teams are going to drop more points seems to be coming true; Arsenal are still 10 points off Liverpool, Chelsea managed just a draw against Fulham, and are tied with Manchester United who are seemingly saving half a dozen games in hand for a huge push at the end of the season.

None of which matters next Saturday when Arsenal host Plymouth in the FA Cup.

A week without football? What will I do?

28
Dec
08

Arsenal v. Pompey Preview

me

ZOMG!!!

I got up late, so this is really just a reminder for you to check back here around 10am for The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the match today.

Ok, I have to get out and de-ice the truck and head down to Doyle’s.

Prediction for today? Tony Adams, up 3-0 at half time comes in to the locker room and gives Arsene some tips on defense, they work, Arsenal win 4-3.

Right, see you at 10am.

27
Dec
08

Villa 2-2 Arsenal: The Good, Bad, and this is Getting Frustrating.

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: A Knight’s Tale

The Guardian: It almost never snows at Christmas but sometimes you still get a proper Boxing Day match with all the trimmings: the woodwork shuddering, the managers squaring up to each other, a couple of pickpocket goals for a side that had looked as though it was heading for humiliation, equality re-established in injury-time from the most unlikely of sources and every member of a crowd of 42,585 going home both entertained and consoled.

Quote of the Day

“I think we have to keep the belief we have in the squad, because we have played Villa, Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool and lost just once. We have improved in the last two months tremendously, and we look more solid. We are young and I think the same team today with one year more, would not let Villa come back.” — Arsene Wenger on next year’s title race conveniently forgets that Arsenal have also lost to Hull, Citeh, Fulham, Stoke, and Villa.

The Good

In the first half, the woodwork put in a massive effort and was by far Arsenal’s best defender.

Ok, that’s not fair. Gallas put in some really good blocks, Silvestre’s massive noggin saved a goal, and if you didn’t see Sagna’s incredible save watch it here courtesy of the Arsenalist.

Then Arsenal went up 2-0, totally against the run of play. I was just sitting there thinking, “oh god Denilson and Song are having a nightmare” when Denilson puts in a good tackle, in an important part of the pitch, latches on to the ball and scores a good individual goal. Who knew?

And then, right after the restart Diaby scores a second goal. After about 20 minutes in to the match, I ordered a beer and had it there in front of me so that I could take a drink every time Diaby tried some cute little pass/dummy that resulted in a turn over.  Drink, drink, drink, JESUS, drink, drink, holy crap, what the hell is he doing? Wait???!!?!?! Diaby scores! Yes, it was like that.

Then for the next 12 minutes Arsenal looked like they were going to score a third. No more so than in the 61st minute when the ball bounced around inside the box and Villa enjoyed some of the same luck that Arsenal had in the first half.

And then…

The Bad

Arsenal went from 2-0 to a 2-2 draw and had to watch Aston Villa’s players celebrate like they has just won the Champions League. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, when Tottenham came back and pinned 4 goals on Arsenal.

The Ugly

Arsene Wenger is a poor loser. Of course, every other manager in the league is as well (look no further than Fergie) and honestly I expect no less from the manager of a big club. It’s his job to ask questions of the officials and stand up for his players on the sidelines. So, I really can’t stand listening to other team’s fans talk about what a poor loser Arsene is. So what? I’d rather have a poor loser than someone who gleefully accepts losses.

That said, some of Arsene’s antics are getting a bit old. The dust up between Wenger and O’Neill is one example, though that seems to have been settled when the two were asked to shake hands like two little kids fighting over who gets to play with the bucket in the sandbox. But Wenger just had to go a step further after the match and criticize all the officials in all of England.

What doesn’t make any sense is that there are officials, Howard Webb, who consistently call matches against Arsenal, that’s a fact, but unfortunately this is not one of those officials and this match was not poorly officiated. So why Arsene felt the need to say

I know how it works here, at half-time the referee gets stick and in the second half every little 50-50 decision goes the other way. That’s what happens. I waited at half-time to see what happened and I was not disappointed. There is nothing to explain more than that.

Dude… DOOD… I can’t think of a really bad call that any of the refs made. Not a single one. That tackle that Gallas put in on Agbonlahor? That was a foul. That was a clear penalty. I’ve seen it dozens of times and there is no fault there on the part of the ref. Gallas was just poor in the tackle. And moreover, Gallas didn’t need to make the tackle, he had two defenders helping in the middle. That was vintage Arsenal “defense” and no amount of biased reffing was going to save us from ourselves.

But worse, I can’t figure out what was he trying to accomplish with those remarks. If his goals was to get a touchline ban, a fine, and worse, every official in England is making calls against Arsenal, then mission accomplished. You don’t get on the officials’ good side by calling them all cheaters.

Final Thoughts

I joked about the woodwork being Arsenal’s best defender in the first section there, but let’s face it; Arsenal’s defense is dreadful. Up 2-0 with 5 outright defenders and 2 defensive midfielders on the pitch they still played the same ball-holdery, high line, “attacking” football that has been the hallmark of this failed first half of the season. Up 2-0 in the 65th minute Arsenal should have just held on. Any team that considers themselves champion quality needs to be able to hold on to a lead and this team just cannot do it.

The first goal was a horrible, horrible tackle by the guy who is supposed to be Arsenal’s best defender. Now, before I light into Gallas let me just say that in the first half, he WAS Arsenal’s best defender and showed why people think of him as world class. The problem is that as good as he was in the first, he was equally bad in the second. In fact, the only reason people are holding on to the notion that Gallas is a good defender is because the rest of the team (barring Sagna) are so defensively dreadful, they make Gallas look like a good player.

Don’t just take my word for it, this Arsenal team is worse, defensively, than Fulham and equal to the laughable defense that is Tottenham. Tottenham, the defensive joke of the EPL.

Defense wins championships. Defense was the key to every trophy that Arsenal has ever won. Somehow, Arsene has lost sight of this fact and now thinks he can turn this club into the Dallas Mavericks of the EPL. The Mavericks were famous for putting on offensive displays unparalleld in the NBA. People called their basketball “beautiful,” “flowing,” “magnificent,” and all the other adjectives you’ve heard to describe Arsenal, and you know how many NBA titles they won with that? Zero. Because when push came to shove, more balanced teams could hold on to a lead and the Dallas Mavericks could not. Just like this Arsenal team can not.

Similarly, the fans of both teams feel a tremendous injustice is done to them whenever one of their players are out-muscled for the ball. Both teams complained that the referee’s were against them (which has the kernel of truth) and neither team will win a championship as long as they have a defense that cannot hold on to a lead.

Can Wenger explain how Arsenal are going to beat Roma with a defense that leaks goals? They have to see that display and be licking their chops ready to come to the Emirates and get that crucial away goal… or two.

No, Arsene, this is not a championship quality team. When you have 6 outright defenders on the pitch and two defensive midfielders (neither of who could be arsed to track back and cover Zat Knight) and you can’t hold on to a 2-0 lead there are serious problems.

Given his post match comments about how this team is “so close” to being Champs, you have to wonder if Arsene just doesn’t get it.

Well, the boys head home for a matchup with Arsenal on the Coast on Sunday. Kickoff is 6am local time and Doyle’s is playing the match live. I expect to see all you locals there on Sunday. Yesterday I was surrounded with 20 hostile anti-supporters and was all alone supporting Arsenal. Get out and support the team no matter where you live.

26
Dec
08

Villa v. Arsenal: the battle for 4th

Good morning and I hope that you got everything you needed yesterday. I made biscuits and gravy and then we sat around the house all day and watched daytime television. Then we cracked open som Guinesses and ate some leftovers from the 24th; standing rib roast, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts cooked in bacon. Not a bad night!

Today we have all 20 EPL teams playing each other and, judging by the Chelsea v. West Brom match that I’m watching as I write this, there will almost certainly be some movement in the table today. In fact, looking at the match ups the traditionalist would have to see that this is a real chance for the top four to put some space between themselves and the also-rans. Unfortunately, Arsenal could end the day there in that “also-ran” category.

Just look at the matchups: Stoke host Man U, Liverpool have Bolton, and Chelsea have WBA at home. Come on, those should all be wins, right? Even in this wild season, where we’ve seen some unpredictable results, there’s no way that Chelsea, Man U, and Liverpool are going to drop points against those teams. That leaves just the Arsenal/Villa game as the decider.

Every Arsenal supporter the world over knows how important this game is, if everyone else wins (which they are at the moment) and Arsenal loses, they will be 11 points off first place and 6 points off 4th place. Not an insurmountable lead, sure, but certainly puts any talk about winning the title to bed and puts Arsenal 6 points from keeping the Champions League spot. With all the injuries and growing pains of this team, you’d have to think that 6 points is a lot harder to come back from for this team than it is for a big, experienced squad like Man U.

Worryingly, Wenger is warning Arsenal supporters that Champions League football is not our birthright. I’ve been saying that same thing for a while but the difference is that I’m not Arsene Wenger. When I say it, I’m just some American with an opinion, when Wenger says it, it makes me think that he has a plan. It seems kind of crazy to say it but it seems like Wenger has accepted the reality that Arsenal, as they are constructed right now, are not legitimate title contenders and are instead looking squarely at 5th place. His plan then is what? Another year of rebuilding? Given his activity in the transfer market over the last few years that seems the most likely explanation. If you have another I’d love to hear it.

Whatever the plan, or lack of plan, I do think this squad has the talent, even missing Ade and Cesc, to beat Villa. We’ve seen what they can do in the second half of the Liverpool game, we’ve seen what young talent like Wilshere and King Ramsey I can do when unleashed by Wenger. We’ve seen it before and I think we’ll see it again. Let’s hope it starts today.

As for who Wenger will play today… HA! I’ll have a guess, I… erm… guess… but even God doesn’t know who Wenger will play today. I’ll say that Wenger plays a 4-2-3-1 with Denilson and Song in front of the back 4, Nasri left, Diaby right, Chocolate Lightning in the hole and Bendtner up front. If we’re down, Ramsey and Vela will come on in the 70th minute. If we’re getting blown out, Wilshere will come on.

Right, I’ll leave you on the blow out note and just say that despite the fact that the game is on FSC, a lot of us are going to Doyle’s today for the festivities, so come on down and join us.

Oh and for the record, I’ve changed my mind on Arteta. He reminds me of a more polished version of Denilson and he’s having a very good season. Go get him Arsene, he would be a great addition to the team.

Cheers and see you tomorrow.




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