PGL: Where do I start this week? That awesome final 30 minutes against Wigan? The most
comfortable European night we’ve had in a long time? Theo looking dangerous every time he
gets on the ball? Our defenders dropping like flies? Eboue looking again like the right back that played two seasons ago in Madrid? AW starting a new dance craze, the ‘Funky Frenchmen’? It’s been a pretty awesome week so lets get stuck in!
PGL: The big issue for me this week is the return of Ade, Cesc and Theo to our team. In that wonderful 30 minutes against Wigan, Ade, Cesc and Theo along side the wonderful Russian made football look easy. As soon as Cesc was moved back into the heart of midfield (hopefully that advanced role experiment is consigned to the dustbin!) he bossed the game, with Song doing his leg work, he gave our game some much needed direction. That second goal showed how Fab 4 and Arshavin are already on the same wavelength and long may it continue.
On Wednesday, we seemed in control all the way through the game, aside from that 10 minute spell after the break, it looked like we could create at anytime, dangerous from all areas. The game also proved, to me at least, that when Cesc plays with a holding player, in a 4-4-2, our team looks far more balanced. There was much talk of Wenger being vindicated and I guess in many ways he was, but nothing was won on Wednesday… maybe that’s a touch negative but I believe this side needs a trophy to truly prove that Le Boss was right.
The two games also showed us that Theo is beginning to find that calmness in front of goal that has been elusive for him at times. Both of his goals did the number 14 shirt proud. TW14 is coming of age.
FTK: Yes PGL, Theo “Thierry” Walcott was everything that I had hoped for on Wednesday, Ade’s goal against VillarReal was amazing and Cesc’s passes through midfield are of the highest quality. It makes me proud of the remaining players like Denilson, Samir Nasri, van Persie and Gallas who kept the team going forward when we lacked these players. Losing Gael Clichy now is not good, but hope fully he will be back just in time for the Champions League. However Keiran Gibbs has shown himself to be a worthy stand in and I like his attitude. He reminds me of Nigel Winterburn. He is not immensely skilful, but what he lacks in fancy tricks, he more than makes up for in raw effort and running until he drops. He is a real Gunner in the making. Formation wise, the best attacking football from our side always comes from the 4-4-2 formation. But with Theo’s afterburners, the pace of our counter attacks have restored Arsenal attacking potency. His crosses into the danger area were always dangerous and it only needed a wide Arsenal player to profit upon his efforts. I only hope that Adebayor could learn to stay on side. He seems to be copying Thierry Henry who always stood offside, but kept aware of the game and stepped up to an onside position in good time before or as the ball was kicked forward. Ade’s problem is farcical. Being paid a lot of money, some of the offsides he conceded were a disgrace on Wednesday. Anyway, back to the positives, Theo win shortly sign his new contract to end press speculation and stay at Arsenal for the next four seasons.
PGL: The Gaffer (FTK not AW!) wrote a great piece yesterday on the Man U fear factor. It seems to me there are about 7 or 8 teams in the Prem who actually have a go against United. The rest roll over and die before the ref puts the whistle to his lips, well you can guarantee our boys won’t be doing that.
Looking at last season’s collapse, many of us point at the day in the second city when Gallas went ‘Dallas’ and through a strop worthy of any of Oil Barons trophy wife. But looking back on it now I think the real confidence blow came at United in the FA cup when we took a heavy beating an went home with our asses in a sling. We didn’t play some key players and those that did start, were full of fear and paid for it.
Lessons like that stay with players and I think whatever 11 face United will stand up and be counted. Famous Man U Fan Ian Brown has a song called FEAR and one of the lines says fear means “Face Everything And Recover” maybe that’s what are side are in the process of doing. Our fixture list is packed with top four ties in the Cups and the League, PGL says ‘bring it on!’.
FTK: Well it seems that Man United will try and win the war of words, but Theo came out fighting on Arsecom yesterday by saying
“Everyone is buzzing and that’s the feeling we want to get on the pitch,” he said. “As soon as we walk on the pitch we want teams to be scared of us. That’s what we’re getting at the moment. We’ve got a great chance [of going through to the Final] and the result tonight showed that. Hopefully other clubs will be scared of us.
“It will be very difficult against Man United. We play them in the Premier League quite regularly and we do well against them but they are probably the best team in the world. We will find it tough but if we dig in and play like we did tonight I’m sure we will be fine.”
By the time of the first semi-final on Wednesday the 29th April kicks off we should have some of injured players back. Currently Sagna, Clichy Gallas and Djourou and Almunia are apparently out for the weekend. But remember that with a big game against Liverpool after the weekend, they may not be risked if close, and we could see one them appear on the bench. Fabianski has shown that he is a worthy understudy to Almunia, and at least he comes out positively for crosses. Man United will have to deal with Everton on Sunday and the Referee Steve Bennett is ill and this has led to the appointment of Mike Riley. The press and david Moyes of Everton are spreading concerns that Riley is an unapologetic fan of Man U, but the FA are trying to calm the row by suggesting that he is absolutely impartial. Well I have enough memories of Mike Riley favouring van Horseface Nistelroy . Having Arsene Wenger to face our old enemy is a prospect that Sir Alex Fungusface must be dreading. Arsenal have a good record against the big teams in general and Man United in particular. We shall have a large say in the destination of the Premier League Trophy this season! In terms of the Champions League, I fancy us over the two legs, especially with the second leg at the Emirates.
“ I did make a mistake in perhaps underestimating the harmful effects of last season, especially the loss of the title. I asked myself a lot of questions during the close season about the influence losing the title in the last two months might cause. And then we lost Hleb, Flamini and Rosicky. There was a midfield to rebuild. The Adebayor business: ‘I’m going, I’m staying, I’m going, I’m staying’ was also an important factor. One thing followed another. Earlier this season, our game wasn’t there. Even the people who love Arsenal were saying, ‘this is a disaster.”
PGL: I think we all underestimated the ‘harmful effects of last season’. We expected the team to be added to and improved, we expected them to roar out of the starting blocks at the start of the season, we expected…
Expectation is a dangerous thing, when its not met, we fall into the trap called doubt. We doubted the players, doubted the manager, doubted each other… I can’t remember a time when our fans were as divided as we were at times this season but right now the ‘disaster’ has been diverted, we are on the up. Flamini is forgotten (even by me!), Gallasgate feels like a lifetime ago, Hleb a comedian trying to make it on the tough Spainish circuit and failing!
For us, the manager and the players this season, no matter how it ends, will be a lesson for us all.
FTK: Well this is the closest to an apology that can be expected from Arsene Wenger, and I am so pleased that he has felt the need to unite all of the fans by pointing out that he is human and made a mistake in perhaps being too reassuring at the start of the season. ALL Anti-WENGER fans please note! So now, lets all forget the early part of the season and join together and support our great manager and the team. We need to be the twelfth man as recent displays have shown that they do respond to the fans. Arsene Wenger is here to stay, and he has proved time and time again that he can produce results that will lift the spirits and hopes of Gooners. You may get sick of me saying this, but ARSENE WENGER IS THE ONLY MANAGER THAT WILL BRING FURTHER SUCCESS TO THIS CLUB! So onward we go for hopeful glory.
PGL: My performance of the week goes to Alex Song. He was powerful and energetic in midfield on Wednesday. Admittedly, with Senna unavailable he job was a little easier but that takes nothing away from the fact that he gave us a great platform to build our attacks on. ‘We’ve only got one Song’
FTK: Did you guys see the shoulder check he played in the final third of our pitch in the second half that poleaxed a Villareal midfielder? That alongside his desire to try and wrestle the ball of players was exactly what we needed. He then runs into position that support Fabregas, in very much the same way that Flamini used to. Denilson advances too far up the pitch, and with the importance of the tie, I think that Arsene Wenger has perhaps signalled that Song is his preferred player for the defensive holding player of the two. Denilson need not worry though, as with the need for squad rotation, he will have ample opportunities to play again.
PGL: On my left hand I’m giving the finger to the selection panel for player of the year. That annoyed me, in our invincible season I don’t think we had that many on the list! On my right hand I’m sticking my finger up at those who are saying that if Milan offer big money for Ade we should take it. I know he can be annoying and frustrating and arrogant but come on, is there another striker that offers the variety of threat the Ade processes?
FTK: If we are allowed two fingers PGL, then undoubtedly I am with you on the PFA selections, I have already had a go against that in yesterday’s blog. My other finger goes to the ridiculous FIFA rule of cumulative yellow cards disqualifying players from the next game in major Blue Riband competitions like the World Cup and The Champions League Final! What is the point of banning a player for a yellow card offence from appearing in such a prestigious final. It attacks the players and diminishes the quality of the final, as often these are key players. I am calling for this rule to be changed, mainly because the issuing of a yellow card seems so arbitary, and it depends upon the mindset and quality of the referee. Could you imagine losing Fabregas for the final if we were to make it to Rome for two yellow cards? This is quite wrong and it punishes the fans and the general public at large. Red cards should be the only reason for exempting a player from the Final!
PGL: There is so much to be thankful for but more than any other I’m thankful that Alan Wiley bottled the Gibbs decision on Saturday. If we’d gone down to 10 men we may not have got that huge boost of confidence before Wednesday’s game. I’m also thankful that Arshavin is back for the FA cup game. I bloody love the lad already. No disrespect to Thomas Rosicky but IMO Arshavin should get the number 7 shirt next season and follow on the proud tradition of gifted players who graced that number.
FTK: I am really disappointed about Rosicky’s absence, and I have already called for his contract not to be renewed much earlier in the season. I cannot see him returning to play for ten hard games in a row, so yes I agree, reassign his shirt number, Arshavin would be a worthy holder of the number 7.
My thanks go firstly to my sources about the away shirts for next season. Insiders will have seen my artists impression of the shirt expected to be the Premier League away shirt, but also now another person has contacted me to inform me that the additional blue away shirt that I also mentioned is now being openly shown to Club officials by representatives of Nike. So with our away choices being Blue or White with Redcurrant stripes, we only have to wait until the end of June to have the chance to spend our hard earned pennies, but you can definitely forget Green!!! Thank goodness!
The other thanks go to Zak, the manager of the 3one7 pub on the Finchley Road London NW3. His 700 capacity pub is being transformed into the “Official” Gooner Semi-Final venue prior to the semi with Chelsea tomorrow between midday and 4pm. The pub that boasts multiple big screens, a Pool table, three levels and an outside Beer garden also serves good food and the week following the semi, Saturday the 25th of April they will also be hosting the “EROS” event for lovers of old Skool Garage and Funky House. Currently there are 200 confirmed Gooners. Remember all you need is to be OVER 18, carrying Arsenal membership ID (RED, SILVER,GOLD) or a semi-final ticket for the Arsenal end. If you have neither, just make sure that you arrive with someone that is carrying one of these items, and of course wearing your colours. LETS TURN WEMBLEY RED! If you are an Arsenalinsider reader and want somewhere to watch the game and savour the atmosphere with chanting Gooners, then put on your Arsenal shirt and just tell the security men that you are an Arsenalinsider, and you also will obtain entry to the venue. LETS RAISE THE ROOF on 317 Finchley Road, just ten minutes down the line from Wembley Park Tube station!