Champion league preview, the tea lady + knowing where your bread is buttered!

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How are we this morning fellow Grovers? Me? Oh I’m fine, and looking forward to the first away match of the Champions league. I would have liked to have gone; I hear Romania has all the culture a young man with dreams could wish for, maybe next year?

Before I get started on tonight’s game, I just want to mention something that really grates me and it’s nothing to do with Arsenal. I will never have an ounce of sympathy for the BFW (Big Fat Walrus), but I feel a little bit for the Newcastle fans in general. They have to put up with a having a shite team a majority all of the time and the only joy they get is the fact that they always seem to have a great striker on their books.

Michael Owen signed for £10 million; not because he wanted to live in the Tyneside sun, but because Newcastle were the only team dumb enough to put a player who plays 10 games a year on an astronomical contract, give him a low buy out clause, oh, and no one else wanted the crock.

What grates me is that he gets injured playing for England and spends the whole season out injured. Then he finally comes back for two games; then plays for England and gets injured one game later. You would think he would concentrate on getting back to fitness and repaying his employees faith and patience in him. Not the case apparently, I have just read he will be back in time to play for England… before he plays for Newcastle.

If I was a Newcastle fan I would be pretty pissed off because as an Arsenal fan I know how it feels having been on the receiving end of French and Brazilian coaches logic. I appreciate he loves playing for his country, but as a Geordie, I would be pretty miffed that my season ticket was paying his wages and the only time I get to see him playing is when it’s for England.

Anyway onto things glorious and Arsenal like.

I would like to give you a breakdown of the players to watch out for, but I’m sure some of the other sites will do a better job than me.

I can however give you an update of the injuries list, which appears to have grown from an insignificant black head, to a full blown acne spot. Sorry for the crude analogy, but its how I feel…

Le List:

Adebayor (Thigh)
The Flamster (Groin)
Diaby (Groin)
Lehmann (Dropped Elbow)
Rosicky (Hamstring)
Eduardo (Groin)
Song (Calf)
Hleb (Late fitness test)

I’d put Gallas on there, but that man is President of the list and demands a separate mention. He is out indefinitely; just picking up his £90k a week and playing fruit machines apparently.

I don’t know too much about Romania or Steaua Bucharest. What I do know is that the lady who makes my sausage sandwich in the morning is Romanian and she’s been giving me shit all week about putting one right up us.

“Your team are pussies and don’t like it up them”,

She said to me in broken English this morning.

“I beg to differ”,

I retorted in a stern but controlled manner.

She also told me Steauea Bucharest have been having something of a crisis lately, but they did win their last two games after Hagi left the managerial post. She said he was a good player, but as a manager he lacked tactical noose.

Obviously we can’t afford to be complacent; we all know the perils of assuming a victory in Europe’s premier competition but you would think this team has enough experience and form to win this one. If we do win, it will set us up nicely for Qualification having already defeated the group’s strongest team. Oh, and in case you were wondering; Mirel Radio and Sorin Ghionea are still out with knee ligament issues, you may as well not tune in eh?

Yesterday’s blog sites all seemed to centre on the Senderos theme and what to do about his form. Most of the blogs were well balanced with their views; it does seem that everyone is of a similar opinion.

We want him to do well, but how long do we have to wait?

Hopefully he’ll lay his mental demons to rest tonight with a hat trick and a clean sheet! Come on big Phil, show us what you’re made of!

In other news, Manc supporting Jabba Kenyon has been telling everyone that he wants to invest in the best club in the world to improve the popularity of the game in Russia. However this article indicates we weren’t his first choice. This guy just can’t make up his mind who he likes best. I bet he is one of those chaps you get talking to down the pub who claims he doesn’t support a team, he supports football, I hate those fence sitting wankers.

Anyway, not being one to fence sit, I’m going to put my balls on the line and predict comfortable victory.

I know this for sure though ; if we win Mrs tea lady, I’m keeping my eye on you when you make my sausage sandwich!

No sneezers for me thank you very much!

Have a Grovetastic evening! Come on you Gooners!

First class Flamini, thoughts on Senderos + news round up

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When is it time to say a player is not good enough to wear the red and white of Arsenal?

Plenty of Arsenal players over the years have caused divided opinion over their suitability. The Grimster, Gilberto, Flamini, Baptista, Hleb, Cygan, Stepanovs, Boa Morte, Manninger, Reyes and Lehmann to name but few.

As fans, we can be a fickle bunch. I remember constantly defending Flamini for the first few season’s of his career as I believed his tenacity and work rate to be his over riding quality. Others felt he was no better than a Bentlely or a Muamba. Every team needs a Ray Parlour type, no matter what country they come from.

Last season I took an immediate disliking to the Beast; I felt his touch was sub standard and his play cumbersome. A lot of Arsenal fans were still calling for him to be given more of a chance, even past February. Perhaps the Beast was given more of a chance with the fans because how can a player called the Beast not be a success? How disappointed we all were! Mind you, he is banging them in for Madrid this year!

There are many players who have come along and surprised us. Who would have thought Robert Pires, a lightweight, off passing midfielder with questionable hunger would turn out to be probably the greatest winger ever to wear an Arsenal shirt after the first few months of his career?

Who would have guessed a misfiring Freddie Ljungberg could become one of the most prolific players in the Premiership and skin John Terry in an F.A Cup final to score a wonder goal?

Not many of us I bet!

This is where the difficulty comes when making a fans judgement on Senderos. I wouldn’t ever go against Wengers judgement, because 90% of the time he knows best (For £4.5 million a year you would hope so!). It doesn’t mean I can’t question it though?

If there is a player that Arsenal fans want to see come good more than Senderos, I don’t know about him (Maybe Theo? I don’t think panic has set in with him yet.). He reminds us of a young Tony Adams. He has a big heart, he will put his body on the line and he is normally great in the air.

What infuriates us about big Phil is that his lack of form is not down to ability. We all know he can keep clean sheets against the best. It takes two centre backs to keep 8 clean sheets on the way to a Champions League final, and from what I can remember he had some immense games. He was many fans first choice that season to partner Kolo at the back after Campbells meltdown. So what went wrong?

Well it might be way to simple to pinpoint the Chelsea games, but it seems everything went down hill from there. He was taken apart twice in a season by the best striker in the world at the time, no shame in that you would think? Well it seems it has taken its toll psychologically with the lad.

This season he has looked shaky, nervous and extremely low in confidence. I can’t help but worry something bad is going to happen that could potentially destroy him.

Cast your mind back a few years, does anyone remember Igor Stepanovs? A similar type player who had potential and was looking good until he was destroyed by Manchester united in a 6-1 hammering at Old Trafford. He was never seen again after that performance. Or last season, an underperforming Sol Campbell against West ham? He made two uncharacteristic errors in the first half and fled to the coast!

Do we have to destroy him as a player before we realise he is not good enough? Do we have to lose 3 points before we realise he is not good enough? It is only good goal keeping and some great cover play from the rest of the defence which has kept us from suffering from the form of Senderos.

I am not questioning the wisdom Arsene Wenger, he knows what he is doing but from a fans perspective I think he made an odd decision in loaning out Djourou, arguably our third choice centre back last year after some assured performances. I understand the logic as perhaps Wenger forgot Gallas is more injury prone than Kieron Dyer, but my view, along with many others was that Senderos should have gone out on loan until Christmas.

In a less pressurised environment, Big Phil could have rebuilt his confidence and been fresh coming back after Christmas. I understand that loaning him out could have been quite insulting, but he is a professional football, he would have gotten over it.

I still have no idea what Wenger is going to do with Senderos, I just hope the end result isn’t a destroyed Senderos who ends up never recovering his confidence. Without doubt though, the Arsenal fans will all get behind him all the way for the next couple of weeks, and I hope he comes good and we start to see a return to form of a young player we are all desperate to come good.

In other news, Wenger had some words of praise for the in form Flamster as does Sun reporter, Steven Howard. Its great that a player I consider a real gooner getting the praise he fully deserves after a fantastic start to the season.

Edelman speaks out on the subject of ex Manc fan Usmanov, telling the fans that he wont be taking over anytime soon and doubts he is even interested in running the club. He also gets in a cheeky dig about Chelsea; kick a club when there down why don’t you!

In other non-Arsenal related news. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has thrown his weight behind Avram Grant, telling Chelsea players he is the long term future. The only thing that could make my day better is Martin Jol getting a new 10 year sack proof contract.

Steaua Bucharest match preview tomorrow. Till tomorrow Grovers!

Arsenal banish West Ham demons

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Our excellent start to the season continued with a one nil victory over West Ham. Not an entirely convincing performance but you have to say, if this was last year that would have been a draw or possibly even a loss.

I managed to catch the game down the pub which was heavily weighted in favour of West Ham fans. In fact, I think I was the only gooner, well the only gooner willing to get involved in a bit of banter!

The game had some nervy moments but overall a pretty dominant Arsenal performance. I would write a match report, but I know my literary limitations. Find the reports here, here and here.

Instead of a match report I’ll just give you a quick summary of the performances.

Freddie watch:

He caught the Flamster napping after 4 minutes and nipped through one on one against big Al at which point I had a “red head Freddie” flash back and saw him bury, but lucky for us big Al was quickest off the line. In the second half there was a comical moment when Freddie was played through on goal, he buried his shot and it looked like the equaliser. Queue pandemonium in the pub, twenty west ham fans slapping me on the head, shouting abuse at me, chanting obsceneitys at me… then, as my head briefly rose to look at the screen – my savioiur had arrived in the shap of a orange and yellow chequered flag!

Queue my leap into the air, much fist punching plus some hysterical madman laughter. It felt good to get that off my chest at the time, but it did leave me feeling pretty insecure for the rest of the game.

The rest of the match Freddie did what Freddie has done best since 2002, he picked up the ball, ran 50 yards and hit the nearest defender hoping for a free kick.

Keeper Watch:

Big Al was at his best today, making two tremendous early saves from Freddie and Ashton. His kicking was good all game and he claimed some important crosses. He is did a good job and showed no signs of his erratic decision making. Has he made his claim on the number one permanently?

Have your vote in the graham*.


Senderos Confidence watch:

He was shaky to say the least. I don’t know what’s happened to the beast of a defender we had 2 seasons ago? He hasn’t been the same since the Drogba games? If that is still the issue he needs to get over it fast. He was poor in the air today and his passing was off. I lost count of the amount of needless free kicks he gave away. We need a confident Sederos back or we will have to look at Gilberto.

I just hope Wenger doesn’t play him long enough for him costs us a game, like he did with Jens earlier in the year. It is becoming more and more apparent that we sent the wrong Swiss defender out on loan.

Moan of the Match:

Well the decision was unanimous, Mark Noble your wreckless challenge takes the award.

Your tackle on Hleb was calculated, dangerous and it showed you up for what you are, a poor mans Flamini. I read a crazy article the other week on one of those 400 articles a day sites; sportingo I think it was? The article suggested Mark Noble was the best young player in the Prem; yes better than Cesc…

Do me a favour.

Striker Watch:

Adebayor had a strong game causing problems with his pace and power; he also had a hand in the set-up for Van Persie header. RVP had an improved game; getting up well for another very un-Arsenal goal and hitting the post with a Bergkamp-esque curler.

Injury Watch:

Wenger is optimistic on Hlebs return and said nothing on Ade. Speedy returns for both please!

And in other news:

Drogba was sent off, Terry broke his cheekbone and Chelsea; under the leadership of managerial legend Avram Grant, drew 0-0. Oh and the Chelsea fans booed them off the pitch.

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Finally, Thierry Henry banged in a superb hat trick for Barca in their 4-1 victory over Levante. Well played Thierry!

So another tough game, another good win – the Arsenal Premiership title train roles on, next stop, the Champions league!