Archive for December 26th, 2008


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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December 2008