And Then There Were Three (And Derby Preview)

This weekend we play Derby. Pervious to Monday night’s game I said that Derby were the worst side I had ever seen in the Premiership. I didn’t see the game against Newcastle but by all accounts they played well and fully deserved the 3 points. I may have to change my view of them but seeing the way that Spurs literally walked right through their defence does not bold well for the season. I still think that they will finish bottom of the league and will give Sunderland’s record for the lowest ever point tally a good run.
From their point of view it’s a mixed time to be playing us. On the negative side (for Derby) we are playing with a lot of confidence and belief at the moment. We are improving game per game and goals are coming in from all over the pitch. This new found shoot on sight policy means that teams coming to the Grove and parking a line of men on the six yard box is no longer as safe an option as it was last year. Back off us now and we’ll have a crack. I don’t know how many goals we scored from distance last year but we must already have equalled it this season. To top if off we’ve picked up a few knock ins and seem to have cracked crossing the ball from free kicks. This all means that only the best teams will have a chance of keeping us scoreless during a match and with all respect to Derby they do not belong in this bracket.
But on the other side we’ve just come from a big European night and Derby at home may be a match they some players will struggle to get motivated for. Maybe in the past but this team seems hungry and players like Flamina, Clichy, Ade and Sagna aqre not capable of playing at a slower pace.
We have however picked up a few knocks. Rosicky is out and will stay that way for the next two weeks which is a real pain in the arse as he was starting to look really good. I just hope that this two week layoff does not turn into a 5-6 week rest as his injuries have in the past. Big Phil also picked up a knock but I think he is in with a fair chance of making it. Hleb is looking very dodgy which will mean that there is no way Wenger will rest Cesc. In an ideal world games like Derby at home are the type of games that you give your big players a rest, but with 50% of the midfield already out I cannot see it happening. The excellent Flamini should keep his starting place and it’s good in game like this to have him on form. He never gives less than 100% and if the game does not turn into the rout that many fans are expecting then his drive and determination will be required.
Looking at the defence provided Phil makes a recovery the back line and keeper picks itself. Clichy and Sagna have been arguably or two most impressive and consistent performers this season and their energy levels really give us an extra attacking option particularly late in the game.
Up front I’d expect VanP and Ade to start. Eduardo will most definitely feature at some stage and to be honest I’d like him to start but Wenger seems to have Robin and Ade down as first choice. We have a cup game during the week and Wenger may have this in mind so if Eduardo doesn’t start expect to see him and Bentneder for the full ninety on Tuesday.
Our confidence is high and we are playing some great football but I think that there is still a lot of room for something more from the team. If we score early against Derby then we can seriously expect a hammering but if we don’t destroy them in the first few minutes it could get frustrating for a bit. Maybe last season this would have been the type of game that I would have been nervous about, the type of game where he batter their goal without scoring and they nick one on the break or from a deflected shot or something. Then we spend the next sixty minutes passing the ball sideways.
But I think that we can all see that there is something different this year. I took a bit of a risk last week by saying that we would win by two and left myself open to a lot of slagging had the game gone differently but I don’t think that there is any risk this week. We need to get back into the habit of simply dismissing teams the way that we used to and I think this weekend will be a good measurement of how far we’ve come.
We’ll win, win comfortably and may win by some margin but I’ll take a 3:0 score line.
Prediction: Arsenal win.
The result and performance of the Arsenal team against heavily fancied Spanish opposition in mid-week should have been the main story of the week. Liverpool, Chelsea and too a lesser extent United all put in below par performances in the opening week of serious European football. But when I woke on Thursday there was really only one story doing the rounds and that was a shock (at least in timing) departure of the self-proclaimed Special One from the English game.
When Jose first came along a part of me actually sorta liked him. He was young compared to the managers he was up against, had a certain style and swagger and his results certainly backed up his air of confidence. But the style of football his team played and his constant attention grabbing antics wore thin fairly quickly and he soon became a right pain in the arse.
However like him or hate him you have to admit that his record is very impressive. He may have spent his way to two league titles with the Blues, spent somewhat poorly in many peoples eyes, but he had shown at Porto that there was a football brain working behind the scenes. At best you could say that his teams were effective, defensively sound, played a long ball counter-attacking style and were overall pretty successful. A bit like our own George Graham, but with an unlimited transfer budget. I often wondered how George would have done if he had been given some serious money from the board, would he have bought flair and changed his approach to the game or would he have bought just better versions of the players that he had? My own feeling is that he would have just upgraded the players to similar but better versions of the players he already had.
And the same was true of Jose who despite having countless millions to spend I don’t think that Chelsea ever really excited me the way that the Man United team of the 90s did (just threw up a little bit in my mouth after saying that). He did have creative players but he didn’t use them as they were made to be used. Robben, Duff and even Cole and Wright-Phillips were never allowed to show how good they were.
Now playing ugly and winning is fine as long as you are winning (did we care how ugly our football was under Graham as long at there was silverware at the end of the season?) but once he stopped winning the writing was on the way. If you spent £500million on a toy wouldn’t you expect it to entertain you? Well apparently so does Roman so that is the end of that. There is a lesson in all this for any Arsenal fans who still think that a sugar-daddy is the must have football accessory this season.
So farewell Jose, I will not miss you all that much, I do suspect that the Chelsea team will however. Take the Blues off the list of potential title challengers.
And then there were three……
Enjoy the weeked.

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