I’m not convinced by Fabianski | The best Arsenal weekend of the season | Ratings + match review

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The story on everyone’s lips before kick-off was about the absence of Nik Bendtner. The coach said he’d picked up a Man-United pre-international groin strain, so he wasn’t dropped.

We lined up as I correctly predicted yesterday. The team took a bit of time to find our stride. The first real chance came after a stretched pass by Alex Song which put Nasri through on goal only for the Frenchman to be thwarted by a Distin block.

The ball went down the other end where Coleman roasted Fabregas, floated a back post pass in for Cahill who uncharacteristically headed over and wide.

Arshavin and Jack both went close within a short space of each other, the game failed to find a flow. Heitinga and Cesc were both guilty of rash challenges. It was nice to see that Everton had come out to rough us up and they were getting no joy! Alex Song dropped a needless body check in the middle of the park and his passing was well off.

Our opener came after a Nasri 25 yard ripper was tipped wide by Howard, Arshavin picked up the loose ball, cut it back to the free Sagna who had a think, moved a few yards forward and ripped it inside Howard’s near post! A screamer of a goal from an impossibly tight angle!

Everton went close late on in the half when Fabianski came for a corner, flapped… luckily the headed rebound hit him on the back. A timely reminder that a bit of David James lurks beneath.

Half time arrived and it was clear that we were losing the midfield battle and we had to perk up in the second half. Unusually for Wenger he decided to change the team straight away bringing on Denilson for Wilshere. Was this the move of a madman or was this inspired?

Incredibly it was inspired. Within minutes Denilson was giving us more steel in the middle, his passing was far crisper than Jack’s and perhaps the competition for places had given him the boot up the Arsenal he needed. He started the move for the goal with a well timed interception, passing to Cesc, who played a one two with Chamakh and buried it low and hard past Tim Howard. A great start to the half!

Squillaci was lucky not to see red after taking Saha down when he was the last man. Luckily for us Webb was in tip-top inconsistent form and only reached for the yellow card.

Pienaar cut an inviting ball back to Rodwell who fired over from 8 yards, that was a warning shot.

Samir Nasri went on a surging run down the other end speeding past the whole Everton team only to have his shot smartly saved by Howard.

Cesc managed to land himself in the book after having his ankle stamped on by Sylvain Distin. Clearly Howard Webb booked him for last week’s challenge at Wolves.

Nasri and Cesc joined forces to play slip Chamakh in, the Moroccan fired over from 3 yards. One he’ll hope to forget you’d imagine!

Song decided to help out down the other end when he perfectly positioned himself in front of a Saha shot to block acrobatically with his shoulder. Geoff and I both agreed that was an exquisite moment of defensive genius.

Beckford joined the field of play and was immediately played in with a long ball over the top, he cut it back, threw in a pirouette and struck it at the far post where Fabianski was on hand to tip it wide at a stretch. A superb save!

The Polish international went on to deny Pienaar then moments later he flew across his goal to keep out Saha’s curling shot… he was certainly earning his zloty’s today!

His good form couldn’t keep out Everton. A corner was looped to the back post, Saha cut back a header and Cahill was on hand to bury it. We don’t do things the easy way do we?

The game fizzled out and Arsenal took the three points.

Did we play well?

Not particularly. Cesc again seemed well off the pace and his new found love for a rash challenge appears to be catching the eye of referees up and down the country. I thought as a team we became really sloppy towards to end of the half, more down to nerves than anything.

We gave the ball away far too much in the middle of the park, Alex Song being a particular culprit of this. Many people disagreed with me on this front… well, even the beloved Guardian Chalkboards weren’t kind to him today… he made 6 passes unsuccessful passes our of 32, he only won 50% of his tackles, only one of his 4 clearances was successful and sadly there wasn’t a stat for losing the ball when in control. He did make one or two superb interception and his incredible agility and quick thinking was there for all to see with his late block.

We’re winning ugly and I love it.

How did we handle the rough stuff?

Once again we didn’t allow a team from the North West to put it up us. That’s not to say they didn’t try. Watching Cesc stroke the back man mountain Distin after their altercation was quite funny. The equivalent of Manny Pacquiao consoling David Haye after hitting him too hard in a sparring match.

We’ve injected a bit more grit into the team with players like Squillaci and some of the kids are stepping up to the challenge of ‘manning up’. Perhaps Wenger has been putting Yorkie bars in their packed lunches?

How did we defend?

In the main, we defended really well until 70 minutes passed. Then it all became a bit hectic but it was more of a team issue than a back 4 problem. I thought JD was excellent again. I can’t recall anyone getting inside him and thought Squillaci wasn’t at the races today, his experience certainly helps reassure whoever he is playing next to.

How was the keeper?

In the end, he was our star performer. He pulled of 3 or 4 crucial saves and he ultimately saved those three points for us. The main difference between him and Almunia is that when he’s on form, he’s up there with the best in the world. He actually wins you games. Something you could rarely say of the Spaniard.

However, for all the good in his game, I still fear the bad. Alex Manninger was a super shot stopper, however, he was hugely erratic dealing with those aerial balls into the box. Crosses are a weak point of the team in general, the last thing you need is a keeper who is poor at collecting them as well.

It’s like jumping into an dodgy old taxi after a night out, then hearing the driver say he only has sight in one eye… not exactly reassuring!

There’s a bit of David James in his game, is that good enough for Arsenal long-term? We’ll wait and see…  United and Barcelona will exploit glaring weaknesses.

Any other thoughts?

Though not vintage Arshavin, I thought he found his game a little today. He was a bit more adventurous in front of goal and he only made one bad pass. I think he’s going to feel right at home when the winter kicks in and hopefully we’ll see that player of two seasons ago! Another assist might I add?

I also thought Denilson’s introduction was a interesting as he was a bit of a star in the second half. He brought composure and added a bit of calmness to the middle of the park. Jack had one of those game young players do. He’s not going to find consistency for at least another couple of season so we just have to support him. Nasri was also very impressive yesterday, I thought his pace and power really shone through, the hard work he puts into training is clearly paying off.

Finally, you have to love how the weekend panned out. We played the best team out of anyone in the top 4 and won away.

  1. United drew and should have lost after a dismal performance.
  2. Manchester City drew again… it’s all imploding over there!
  3. Liverpool lost and failed to continue their blip of wins…
  4. Chelsea lost 3-0 at home to Sunderland and Cashley set up Wellbeck for the winner!

A great weekend for the Arse, next up, Harry Redknapp brings God and the rest of the Spurs team to the Emirates.

It’s going to be a continuation of our great form and a slap down to our pikey next door neighbours!

Ratings

Fabianski – 9

Clichy – 7

Sagna – 7

Squillaci – 7

JD – 7.5

Song – 6.5

Cesc – 6

Wilshere – 5.5

Arshavin – 6.5

Nasri – 7.5

Chamakh – 6

Subs

Denilson – 8

Rosicky – 7

Eboue – 10

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Arsenal taking over England | The truth about Cesc | Don’t listen JACK!

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I’ve gotta say that I’m not a massive fan of our lack of 3 o’clock kick offs during the season. I appreciate Sky and the other digital channels like to see us on the box, but it’s half a ball ache to get to game that has an odd kick off time. What happened to a good old-fashioned 1500 kick off?

Fabio Capello announced a very strange England squad yesterday. It was the first name call in a while that actually included more Arsenal players than our West London rivals. That was a big plus point! It also contained ex-Arsenal brat, Jay Bothroyd and West Ham super keeper Rob Green.

I listened to Fabio Capello talk about the poor off field behaviour of Andy Carroll. His suggestion? That the young player comes into the England fold and learns off the senior players! Yep, back of a cab Crouch, anyone’s wife Terry, hairdresser shagger Cole, group sex video supremo Rio Ferdinand… all superb role models for the players of tomorrow!

My advice Jack? Don’t pay any attention to their advice, do your own thing!

I saw half a Ballague story on his site that linked into a pay wall with the times. He’s claiming to have the inside line on the Cesc story and what was said didn’t really add up with what I heard and hopefully you now know we hear some good stuff.

  1. Barca launched a campaign to unsettle Cesc
  2. Cesc spoke to Wenger in that meeting and said he’d like to go.
  3. Barca came in with a pathetic offer.
  4. Wenger told Barca they wouldn’t get him under any circumstances, he wouldn’t even come to the table to negotiate.
  5. Cesc came back and Wenger told him that Barca had made a mockery of him by signing a 29 year old striker ahead of him and completely undervaluing him.
  6. End of story, Cesc is still here and we all know the truth… Barca completely disrespected Cesc by undervaluing his talent and Arsenal’s resolve to keep him.
  7. Oh, did I mention they are 470million euro’s in debt? Doubtful they’ll be able to afford him this summer as well.

Yesterdays games threw up a great result in the United-Villa game. Somehow United managed to escape with a draw despite Villa hammering them for large parts of the game. Liverpool’s resurgence ended with a diabolical 2-0 loss against Stoke!

Oh, I forgot to mention that Manchester City could only manage a draw again! Ooops!

That means 2nd place is up for grabs again, which is pretty exciting!

Fabianski

Sagna Squillaci JD Clichy

Wilshere Song Cesc

Nasri Chamakh Arshavin

That’s how I see the team lining up today. Hopefully we can control the game possession wise and avoid any shaky backline shenanigans. We’ve got to impose out game on Everton and take control earlier. We’ve got to be ruthless in front of goal and head into the international mini break on a high note. I don’t think Everton have enough to trouble us, but they’ll no doubt be hustling the keeper all day and with our defensive record, it wouldn’t surprise me if we conceded!

Not long to go now, come on you GOONERS!

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The Premiership is like the Championship | Oh do shut up Nik… | Arsenal preview

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This post was written yesterday when life was far less hungover, so apologies if something has happened in the mean time that I’m unaware of!

First off, Nikki Big Bo*locks has well and truly landed again. He’s piped up in the media about his lack of playing time and how he might leave if his chances don’t improve. Now Nik, I’m pleased you think you’re good enough to merit a start, but lets get a bit of perspective here, you haven’t exactly set the world alight with the limited time you’ve had so far this season. If you’re going to whine and moan everytime you’re benched, maybe you shouldn’t get injured so much and maybe you should concentrated a little more when you’re on the pitch?

You’ve got no more or no less right to the first team than anyone else. Wind your neck in and concentrate on improving because you’re a long way off where you think you are as a footballer.

Everton is the game tomorrow, all the way up in the North West at a cold, wet and very scouse Goodison Park. The game is going to be a tough one. I watched Everton play against the Spuds and they’ve definitely got a solid team and a few players in there who can damage us. The main one to watch out for is going to be Tim Cahill, he’s incredible in the air for one so small and he’s got a good finish. Felliani isn’t playing, great news indeed!

There is no new injury news. Gibbs returns to the squad, hopefully to put a bit of pressure on Clichy. We let you know first via @Arsenal_Legrove that there was still no movement on the Vermaelen mystery. I think it’s a real shame he’s picked up this problem, he clearly loves being on the pitch more than most and now he’s stuck with a problem that has ruled him out indefinitely.

I’d imagine the team will line up in the same way it did against Wolves. Now, I didn’t catch the whole of that game, but here are a few observations…

1) Our defence looked incredibly weak considering the relatively meek attacking prowess Wolves have. We need to do better against Everton becuase they are far more likely to punish us especially if Saha lands a start.

2) Arshavin looked as though he found a bit of spark again. We need him making a nuisance of himself and we need him having a pop every now and then. He’s lethal when he has his head on the game and it’s about time he delivered a blistering 90minute performance. Football can be a bit like golf. Sometimes you’re out on the course and you forget how to play, but a couple of good shots later, you remember what a good swing feels like. I’m hoping that can happen to Arshavin can pump some feel back into his game.

3) Chamakh needs to get the right type of service… in the air. There’s no point signing a heading maestro and feeding him duff crosses. The Song ball against Wolves was early and pinpoint the other night and Chamakh nodded home. Our Morrocan is a top player in my opininon and he’s only going to improve. I’d like to see him show a bit more ambition with his goals tally… we’ve got too many selfless players in the team at the moment and that can sometimes lead to us firing blanks. It’s like being at the Christmas table when there’s one roast potato left and no one wants to take it… someone just needs to introduce some greed and wolf that bad boy down!

I’m confident that we can kick on from our disappointments so far this season. I’m confident because that’s what we do right? Sure Fabianski could cock up again, Clichy could slip over and JD could lose his man inside… but I’m not going to think about that. The Premier League has become like the Championship, no one it seems can guarantee a result against anyone and everyone seems to be dropping points. Did anyone notice relegation fodder Liverpool are now on the same points as Spurs in 6th?

As quick as you’re down, you’re straight back up in this league which is why beating the top 4 teams this year will probably have a massive impact in the final resting place for the 2010-11 Premiership trophy.

Let’s have a big game tomorrow boys, I’m predicting a 2-0 victory to the boys in red and white, with red socks of course.

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