Arsenal take on Chelsea at the Bridge… who’s dreaming of a win?

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Chelsea host Arsenal today in a not so top of the table crunch tie. That said, a win today could put us within 3 points of the West Londoners, which you’d have to say, would be rather grand!

I’m not sure what has me dreaming of a win, but something does! I really fancy at least a point from Chelsea. They’ve blown hot and cold this season and apparently, they were totally riled by the reception they received from the QPR fans the week before, John Terry giving some back to the crowd at one point. The fact that they lost against such a weak team gives me hope and we know from seasons past that Chelsea have gone through some pretty serious dips after losing a game. Last years poor run was awful. Forget they recovered well in the end, they were out the running by Christmas.

Wenger has been talking about racism and abuse, saying both are the same. He’s kind of right there. If we’ve got a problem in the Premier League, it’s knowing where the line is. Trouble is, how do you manage abuse? Is singing about a players wife too far? Is singing about John Terry’s mum stealing dog food too far? Is singing about John Terry being a racist too far? Is singing about John Terry’s Dad being a convicted coke dealer taking things too far? Who dictates what is and what isn’t acceptable? A question to big for me and maybe the universe.

Back to the game…

Do Arsenal have it in them to grind out a win? We certainly have the fire power in Robin Van Persie to score. Do we have the spark in midfield to create the chances for him? Do we have the concentration at the back to mark the runs of Torres? Have we learned the lessons of the Old Trafford spanking? Big questions will be answered today.

Vermaelen has worked his way back into to contention, but for me, he has to start on the bench.We have something that resembles a unit in the centre of our defence at the moment, I don’t think breaking it up for a massive game is a good idea, regardless of how sharp Thomas thinks he is. Still, it’s nice to have a player keen on returning. I doubt Diaby would be declaring himself that fit.

I think the midfield will line up with Arteta, Ramsey and Song. Pretty much standard these days. Song has to do the basics today and make sure he tracks runs into the box from midfield. I don’t want to see Songinho out there today. Arteta and Ramsey just need to keep the ball moving and take a chance. Be direct and make sure Robin isn’t left isolated up top.

I’m not sure which wideman he’ll go for out of Theo and Arshavin. I guess he’ll probably go for Theo because of his burning pace. I’m not sure how many problems he’ll cause Ashley Cole, he used to deal with Ronaldo expertly, Theo is a far more basic player even if he is getting on a bit. Gervinho will take to the other wing and we’ll have to hope he has one of his more inspired days.

Personally I’d prefer to see a ground out 0-0 than see us go gung-ho and leave ourselves exposed. A point is good enough today, a win, well, that would be dream stuff!

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How do you see the game panning? Let us know in the comments!

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PHW puts in a poor AGM performance, Wenger puts in a solid one + some exclusive tidbits!

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As the years pass, the Arsenal corporatism increases and you do sense that AGM’s become more of a chore than the civic ritual it deserves to be.

100 Fanshare slots were allotted to the people who had invested in buying up a tiny fraction of the club, the remaining 600 shareholders (down from 2000 in the summer) mostly took up their seats in a packed hall. Arsenal fans care about the way their club is run, it’s almost a uniquely Gooner thing, partly to do, I imagine with the manager and the club obsessing over finances over the past 10 years.

Before the white wash began, Myles Palmer sat next to me, one of my favourite Gooner sites over the years so it was good to have a chat with him.

The event kicked off with an embarrassingly under par Hill-wood bumbling his way into the introduction. I don’t mean to pick holes in a supporter of 70 plus years, but my gosh, has his involvement as the lead speaker has gone beyond a joke now.

He said Stan was due to speak, the crowd laughed/grumbled.

Ivan stepped up and gave his usual slick impassioned speech about the class of the club, how amazing the finances were (all we have is the ‘affordable‘ stadium debt now).

He said big investment had been made in the Arsenal website to help push the brand globally, apparently 110 million people across 80 countries now access Arsenal Player, couple that with 10 million highly engaged Facebook fans and you can see that the platform is there to kick on commercially.

They announced the much-needed medical centre (we’ve been invited to take a look around by the way) and how world-class it is and he also spoke about raising £600k for Centre point which helped them rebuild a property in Soho.

He also gave a massive shout out the Friar and Fiszman and said he was in awe of their achievements. He finished by saying a football club is about more than football. He’s right, it’s about community and giving something back as well.

He speaks! Via LG Instagram

Stan took to the mic… He’d flown in that morning and opened up by saying…

‘Hi there, it’s great to be here!’

He said they looked at clubs Europe wide but we interested him because we had a tremendous management team, a great manager and tremendous support.

He said he was in it for the long-term and that his family liked London. For me the speech was poorly put together and smacked of, ‘oh sh*t, you want me to say a few words’.

He kind of irked the room when he said, ‘I don’t know why people are so interested in what I have to say.’

Well Stan, we’ve seen plenty of clubs crumble under a sea of failed promises from failed investors. What you have to say is of utmost importance for fans keen to see us progress from the last 6 years of austerity. Last thing we want is a leveraged debt situation which would effectively put us back to square one.

The submitted questions were a bit of a laugh. Things started to get heated at this point. Well thought out questions were given short, non-committal answers read out from a script by a man the fans really have lost patience with.

The jist of the questions in a few lines is the club will stick to self-sustaining, they won’t take an equity injection, Ivan met all his targets which is why he was bonused, Tom Fox and his bonus scheme are private, no answer on price reductions if we miss out on champions league this year.

Someone actually called for PHW to stand down, then someone said we should bring back Dein! A touch clichéd by now, but it was clear, people weren’t happy looking at a board of old boys only interested in keeping the status quo. PHW wasn’t voted in unanimously, nor was Ken Friar. The Chairman actually forgot to vote in Stan Kroenke which was typical.

Red & White were also kept out of the loop, Hill-wood citing the vast banking experience on the board, just the sort of background you want to be bragging about now! There was plenty of heckling from the audience and plenty of jeering, which was very unusual for an AGM. Before Wenger took over, Peter unveiled a bust of Ken Friar which looked great and it was well deserved. I thought you usually had to be dead before you got one of those? Regardless, most of us were still in shock it wasn’t Eboue under the cover, maybe next year?

Wenger took to the mic to a standing ovation. He looked humbled by why he’d heard and like all good orators, he reacted accordingly. He took a moment to dig the media for twisting his words before beginning his impassioned plea for fan backing.

He went on to say he knows he is privileged, he hoped the club was on the right track and he defended the values of the club and praised our class ambition and bravery.

I do think Arsenal use this whole class thing to cover up failings.

‘Oh we ballsed up, but jeez, give me a break, it was self sustaining’

Imagine doing that at your work place?

‘Boss, that mistake was mine, but I did make it wearing a bow tie, a classy mistake eh?’

You can do self-sustaining and spend money. No one is asking for the club to plunder the overdraft. We’re asking for the cash to be spent where it’s desperately needed.

Anyway, he continued.

He urged the fans to be united as this was key to us competing. He said we’d been magnificent recently something I’ve reported on. The stadium may be 5000 short a game, but if those are the jolly come lately brigade (the fans given a ticket after the development bypassing the queue), we’re now left with the true supporters, which is making for a much livelier atmosphere.

He said last year was his toughest, he said he felt to blame for asking to players to win it all. Not sure why you should feel guilty about that.

Barcelona is the clubs greatest victory, I’m not sure about that. There are plenty of games I’ve preferred, like Old Trafford away when we won the League.

He said we lacked petrol to get over the line and having Cesc and Robin out for so many games was detrimental. Yes it was, but not having sufficient quality in reserve was the bigger issue.

He also took time out to praise himself on the keeper front, forgetting it took 2 years, him telling us Almunia was world-class and the fact Chezzer was 3rd choice. It’s all by the by, but that was a ridiculous ordeal.

He said he was involved in the decision to put up ticket prices, which was very odd.

Still, the overriding theme of togetherness shone through. I agree, say what you want outside the pitch, but 12th man in the ground has to be all of us if we’re to take a 4th position trophy this year. I do wish we were celebrating a great year from Arsene rather than a great speech… we need action on the pitch, not in the AGM hall.

I had a chat with the some of the commercial team after. That tour of Asia combined with Park Chu-young has reaped rewards already. Asian memberships of Arsenal player stand at 350,000 and apparently a recent Asian web chat with Arteta, Mertesacker and Yossi brought in a staggering 2.5mill viewers. Tourist packages to the ground are also selling much faster as well, like it or loathe it, if the home support won’t by them, the foreign apparently will.

We’ve also got a new state of the art interactive stadium your which has been designed by the guys who did Alcatraz and the Taj Mahal. Apparently we used to have a 100k limit on capacity. Barcelona tour 1.2mill a year. Now capacity has been lifted so the world is our lobster.

Overall a bit of a disappointing afternoon, but I guess it was to be expected. No open floor questions and no chance for the fans to get some real answers. I’d be very surprised if PHW is brought back to fulfill that role again next year, he’s so far past his sell by date he’s almost damaging our reputation.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, it’s Chelsea tomorrow and that my friends, is a massive, massive game! I’ll give you the preview tomorrow morning and a bit of insight that might float yer boat.

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Have a great day and let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

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Arsenal AGM – What would you ask? | Vermaelen fit, but would you play him?

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Good morning Grover’s, the hot news this morning is that Thomas Vermaelen is not injured and is available for the match on Saturday against our blind-ist friends down the road.

It’s always super having a player like that available… If they’re match sharp. I’m not too sure how comfortable I’d feel having a player who should be eased into action, being thrown into the deep end 4 days after his first full 90. He’s never played with Mertesacker or Santos before and I fear this might be a little early for him. Thomas disagrees.

“Personally I don’t believe in that [needing games to regain sharpness].

“If I come back from injury after a long time I don’t believe in coming back and getting rhythm.

“I think it is just in your head and a mental thing – if you are a football player you have to be there straight away.

“That’s why I wanted to play today and I think it’s good.

“It was a good game for us, we fought hard and it was a deserved win for us I think.”

“It was great to be back and to get time on the pitch.

“I felt fresh, I’m okay and am available for Saturday.”

Interesting Vermaelen doesn’t need games to be sharp, Wenger said you need 3 months or something along those lines last year. It’s somewhere in the middle if you ask me. Still, you have to say, a selection headache I’m sure the boss will relish… and the best news? He’s on for his 50 straight games. Number 2, here we come!

Colin Lewin reckons the stats say our injuries aren’t that bad.

‘There is a perception that we suffer a lot of injuries and it takes our players a long time to come back’

‘The evidence is different. We don’t suffer from more injuries, on average, than any other team. Of course it varies year on year. We are very open with our reporting of injuries and the last couple of years have been good with regard to numbers of injuries.’

Well Colin, it depends how you spin the stats. I did a piece a month (injuries) or so ago that conclusively proved that last season United kept their key players for 25% longer than ours. You could say our injury record was good if you weighted the fitness scores across all 920 professionals we have at the club but I’m not sure you’ll get much agreement suggesting we’re no worse off.

However, what has to be said is that last year, we did see a marked improvement on the year before. Is that down to GPS? Maybe…

Fabianski has said he’s willing to stay and fight it out with Chezzer. I think his chances are slim but one thing is for sure, he’s a helluva lot better than Almunia! Though I must note, the Spaniard pulled off some blinding saves against Brighton the other night!

Today is the AGM, it starts at 11, I’ll be twittering away so if you like the channel, may I suggest you get following?

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Stan is apparently due to mumble some words. It’d be nice to know what direction the club is taking. It would also be nice to know if he’s going to bin the same old tired sustainable business model rhetoric. There’s nothing sustainable about fleecing the fans every season. It’s outrageous when you consider the club spent £3mill on lawyers fees ratifying Stans offer to buy the whole club. Not good use of ticket increase money of you ask me.

I’ll also be interested to see of PHW gets some stick. He’s had another year of boozy PR quotes that don’t sit too well with me or the other cretinous fans who help fund his massive pension pot.

Wenger will probably take to the mic and answer some questions like he normally does. I hope people don’t forget where we are as a club right now. A few wins don’t disguise the total lowering of expectation we’ve faced inside a summer.

Anyway, should be exciting regardless of how sanitised I fear it’ll be… Push comes to shove, I’m sure I’ll drink my weight in tea and I’ll defiantly bag myself a Arsenal bottle of mineral water which i’ll auction off tomorrow.

Right, see you in the comments, throw me some questions and I’ll see if I can get them answered!

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P.S. Theo to Barcelona! Haha! Funniest rumour since the same paper linked Eboue there last year!