Dortmund: a chance for redemption of sorts

Hello there. I’m back after a short sabbatical from both Arsenal and football. No Twitter, few blogs and certainly no TV related to Arsenal since Saturday’s debacle. I literally went into media lockdown until the next game which, thankfully (or not depending on the way we’re playing at the moment), is this evening as we entertain Borussia Dortmund at home.

I’ve got to be honest with you kids; the United game hit me hard. Hit me harder than I thought it would actually. The predictability. The inevitability. The feeling of painful DeJa Vu. All the errors, all the worst of this modern day Arsenal side (which I class as the post Invincible’s period), it was all there to see. I could probably go on and on about our failings, but the most redeeming thing about football when you play the number of games we play this season, is that you are never far away from righting the wrongs. From atoning from the sins. So between now and Christmas Arsenal have an opportunity to atone their pants off. Starting by beating Dortmund tonight.

And it has to be a win tonight. Because I haven’t been reading many football sites, I’m not sure if a point is enough to progress, but even if it is, I don’t care. I want this Arsenal team to sweep aside the ills of its current season plight and begin afresh with a big scalp. If that starts in the Champions League, then so be it, because we need something and soon.

Arsène Wenger is a well paid man and this is what he is well paid for. Results. He has been negligent this season in his acquisition of enough results in all competitions, but he has the chance to bring people like myself back into ‘Happy Street’ by going on a run. Come on Arsène, it’s what you have done before, so is there life in the old dog?

As for the team news, well, we’re a bit like The Rocket pub on Holloway Road with about an hour to go before kick off on a Saturday lunchtime. One-in, one-out. The return of Koscienly is great to hear – especially as he comes into the squad – but his return is tempered by the fact that we have to rely on 19-year-old Martinez in the sticks against Dortmund again, as Szczesny is out. Hopefully it is just a short-term injury that will see him return at the weekend.

Actually, we’re nothing like the Rocket, because we’re more like ‘one-in, three-out’, with Wilshere and Walcott all sitting on the sidelines again. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to see Theo for more than ten minutes before the end of the season, eh? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Still, at least we’ve got Welbeck to offer the pace up front, which…what? He’s a doubt too you say? Well isn’t that just a delight? Still, at least we’ve got Sanogo to not score any goals up front tonight, because we can’t rely on Giroud due to his ineligibility. Seriously, only Arsenal could be gripped in the midst of an injury crisis, and a player who could slot in back to the team can’t make it because he isn’t registered. I don’t blame the club at all in this instance; how on earth were they to know he’d heal extra quick from a broken leg? I’m more exacerbated by the fact that we finally – after what seems like a decade of ‘three-weeks away’ players suffering ‘little bit setback’s, we get one returning from injury early and he can’t even play!?!?

Do you think Arsène Wenger smashed a black cat crossing his path, with a mirror whilst walking across three drains, after the 2005 cup final? Because it feels like it after the perpetual bad luck we constantly seem to face.

Dortmund have their own problems too mind, with Reus out until January and league form which belies their actual quality, shown by the fact they’ve absolutely walked this Champions League group. Klopp is still adored by the yellow army, who are sure to be in fine voice this evening, so I do wonder what the Dortmund mentality will be tonight. They are almost tailor-made to sucker-punch us this evening. A counter-attacking side, who don’t have to come out, because they’ve already qualified? Against a side who were toothless at the weekend and done over by two counter-attacking goals from three chances in a whole match at the weekend just gone? It’s a horror story whose predictability will strike fear into every Gooner watching from anywhere in the world tonight.

I fear how low this Arsenal team can go if we lose tonight. I fear that our season could be one for which even the perennial fight for fourth is over before Christmas. We’re not winning games, we have a seemingly endless list of injuries and, I’m sorry, but we have a manager that has dented my confidence in him so much I’m not sure if he can recover.

I hope he does. I want to say I was wrong in May as we lift a trophy and have turned around our season to finish third. But right now, I just don’t believe it’s possible, so I’m not hopeful for tonight.

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, United hit me harder than I thought. Football can always have a quick turn around and I could be loving Arsène again within months, but I don’t see it right now. Sorry.

C

Injuries abating, history fears not

So, Le Boss hath spoken, decreeing that we have no new injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s massive game against United. In fact, the injury situation doesn’t seem as terrifying as it has been over the past month, as players are beginning to return. As usual with The Arsenal, players are returning in all of the positions that we are currently well stocked in but hey, beggars, choosers, etc.

It might have only been a brief update to the official site, but it was still welcome to get Arsène’s ‘all clear’ on some players. Arteta, for example, will be needed in the base of that midfield if Flamini’s recent performances are anything to go by. The tenacity and cardiness of our Gallic enforcer still seems to be there in his system, but Flamini seems to have lost positional sense and his ability to find another red (or yellow) shirt of late, so the metronomic movements of Tricky Micky will be welcome for our back four.

We may still see a duet of the Flamster and Arteta just in front of the back four, to provide extra cover against the obvious attacking threat United possess, but at least if a scenario like the one that led to the first Swansea goal two weeks ago happens, we know that Mikel is taking down an oncoming player closer to the centre spot.

The other good news is that Giroud will be back, which will certainly please Aaron Ramsey of all people, who thrived from his hold up play last season. It would be remiss of me to suggest that Rambo is not versatile enough to perform without the big Frenchman, but there’s no doubt he profits from Olivier’s place at the top of the field. It will probably be a few weeks before he’s ready to effectively challenge Welbeck for a starting spot, but just seeing him in the squad will be a welcome boost, not least because it will push poor old Sanogo further down the pecking list. I feel for the fella, but he’s not at Arsenal level yet and without games he never will be, so Arsène needs to January loan his ass to another club. Preferably in the Premier League. After all, he only needs to watch Match of the Day to do his scouting. Plus, we’ll save a few pounds on travel expenses if he stays in this country. No need for booking flights for any of Steve Rowley’s crew then, you see.

Anyway, back to the team and thankfully both Kos and Debuchy are out and about running. Arsène still thinks it’s three weeks but the fact that Kos is actually alive is pleasing to hear. We’ve had both Vermaelen and Rosicky in recent past disappear for injuries expected to be a couple of weeks, only to see them gone for an entire season, so I’m sure you’ll join me in breathing a huge sigh of relief there. The sooner we can get the first choice back four together, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

What was interesting about yesterday’s update, I thought, was that there was no mention of Welbeck. Perhaps that’s because there was no need to. After all, Woy said he was fine and if Arsène doesn’t even feel the need to mention it, surely it’s a non-story, right? RIGHT?? I hope so. But the trouble with supporting this club is that usually ‘surprises’ don’t fall into the ‘nice’ category. They usually fall into the ‘dropped your car keys into a poo-encrusted toilet so now you have to since when you dip your hand in there’ category. I’m trying to stay positive. Welbeck will be fit. If I have to avoid three-drained manhole covers all day between now and the game tomorrow evening I will. I’ll do it I tells ya!

So, finally, before I wrap up for the day I thought I’d give you a little ‘heads up’. I am terrified about tomorrow. I’m terrified because at home, against the poorest United side in my living memory, with the injuries they have, we’ve never had a better chance of picking up three points. Yet I’m terrified because we never seem to get the run of the green against that lot. I think back to 99, when we’ve dicked on United and gone down to a wonder goal after Bergkamp missed a penalty, or two when Owen Hargreaves (of all people! He could barely walk for most of his United career) scored that free kick after we’d outplayed them in their own back garden. Or when Almunia and Diaby’s 50p head caused a 2-1 defeat that I witnessed live in the flesh. Or when Sagna went for a meaningless challenge two seasons ago that cost us three points. Or even last season’s 0-0 bore draw. Every time we come up against United we rarely have the beating of them. We’ve had one win in 14 since 2009. I’ve been a season ticket holder for six years and I’ve never seen us beat United (I was away for the Ramsey goal that got us our only win in that time). That’s why I’m terrified. I’m terrified because of history. Because history is rarely kind to The Arsenal. History against United is the person that unscrews the salt pot so you spill all of your salt on your dinner and can’t enjoy it. That history is one in which I am haunted.

I fear another haunting. I fear us totally dominating and losing. Or drawing. Another draw. Don’t let it happen Arsenal. Please.

Anyway, more of my terror tomorrow. Adios for now.

The teenage dreamer still burns bright.

Chris asked me to write 50 words on ‘What’s wrong with Arsenal’, it’s surprisingly hard. I was torn between a few avenues to go down. So I closed my eyes and pointed. Have a go and send them to me, I’d like to hear your take – Here’s my attempt. As you can see, I cheated. and I’m not sorry.

I’m not.

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury, is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy); that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one another to that required level. I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see – but you get the idea – losing simply wasn’t an option.

Re-reading that ‘The greatest team’ debate, it is obviously down to preference. Many would throw the 1990-91 side into the hat, but it all depends on what generation you’re from and I suppose the key component is nostalgia and your resounding memories. Tim Stillman recently wrote a marvellous piece on nostalgia, take a look if you haven’t seen it. You’ll enjoy it.

I feel this is a very important subject that won’t go away, and to be honest, I’m not willing to face, because it’s close to my heart. Like pulling a plaster, do it quickly, or it’ll happen in the shower when you least expect it. I suppose it’s become a more acceptable subject to discuss. Previously if you mentioned it you’d be lynched for such blasphemy. It’s, as you’ve probably guessed it, the manager and his future.

I was at the Hull game and as I was funnelling out amongst the disappointed home fans, two gentlemen starting singing “Arsssseeeeennnnneeee out, we want Arsène out”. Then they went onto slagging off Puma (which seemed bizarre, but who am I to judge?). Everybody near me looked very uncomfortable with the situation and hung their heads. Another man nearby replied “You’re on your oooowwwwnnn, you’re on your ooowwwwnn!” Which made a few people smirk. So I suspect I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about discussing it or making their opinions known. But I quietly got to a point last year where I was in the ‘Win the FA Cup, take a bow, be lauded for everything you’ve done…have a glass of red on the beach. You’ve deserved it’ camp. That sentiment has changed this season and we have experienced somewhat of a watershed moment. Tim Clarke (Arse2Mouse) described it as – When you realise your father, your hero, the great untouchable man you thought he was, see cry for the first time and it hits you, he’s just a normal bloke trying to find his way. I’d like to add that I think at that moment you love him more because you realise what he has actually achieved along the way.

I felt that way because the general consensus amongst the majority of the fan base (being at the ground, chatting with friends, social media, etc) seemed to want him to go. Initially, at that point for me it was unthinkable, because the young impressionable dreamer in me wouldn’t allow that Arsène poster to be taken down.

Our fan base had been spilt for a while now and I don’t think a new manager, success or not, will change that instantly. But back to Arsène – unless he wins something major and we break that glass ceiling, instead of rubbing our faces on it, opinions won’t change.

So, this season, where do we begin? We are a mess. Like leaving your toddler with a crayon & he creates a masterpiece in your hall. (I haven’t done this…or maybe I have done this…). There are lots of conversations about conceding the title in November, but the reality is that we were never in the title this season. I don’t want to be that guy that brings up the lack of transfers, etc, etc, but that (the lack of activity in key areas) killed any hope we had. I think it’s bizarre that that people thought we’d have any chance? If the activity wasn’t enough evidence then surely Martinez pulling down our pants at Goodison (again) was a clearer message, no?

As I mentioned above, unless Arsène has a certain quality of player, his management will struggle, when it really matters. His dream and vision is an ideology, not a coaching style, and that will only take you so far. Patrick Vieira has said it’s his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. I admire him for it but his dream is (has) slowly strangling him.

I’m not really enjoying writing this as Arsène has taken Arsenal to some unbelievable heights, but it has been fading for a number of years now. He’s making simply perplexing decisions, some that I’m starting to hate him for. Going into a season with one real centre forward option, not signing a centre half, passing up on Cesc Fabregas (I’ve taken that very badly, as you can probably tell). I understand all the variables for the decision(s) on Cesc but I was in the ‘buy what we need, and begrudgingly leave Cesc’ camp. I understand ALL the dynamics, but he did neither.

We currently live on this completely different level of frustration, like spraining your wrist and trying to cut a steak (I haven’t done this… or have I have done this…). If you take everything into account, success is a real possibility for us but we seem to squander it in ludicrous fashion every year. To be honest, this could all be down to the unbeaten season curse. I’d be ok with that, Ha!

The skill of a great manager is to build a team which plays in a way that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately we have more this season yet we are well below his par. I feel for him because injuries have haunted us for years. If I had one wish for Arsène it would be a season free of major injuries. Then it would be a great gauge on how he handles his squad.

The injuries have killed us for years but not compensating is probably the biggest deficiency. Something very obvious, if a team play often with one another in training and matches then they get to know each other better, sequences become more automatic. They become everything Arsène’s play is based on. If our players played together for longer periods, we would be better as a side, which I know is a really ‘no sh*t Sherlock way of thinking, but sometimes you need to say things things out loud to realise.

Our form this year has been poor. For a few reasons: Injuries, which prevent rotation; change in direction, to try to build cohesion. We’ve seen that in our low intensity (bizarre) pressing, it’s all a sign of a lack of harmony. If we could keep players fit it would give Arsène the ability to switch things up, rotate when needed instead of playing out of form players.

I guess I’m just trying to come to the terms with is accepting the inevitability of it – him leaving, whether that’s the end of this year or the end of his contract. Without going into it, it’s going to really hurt. Crying into a pillow kind of hurt. Staring out the window watching the rain pissing down screaming “WHY?!” As you eat ice cream, kinda hurt.

One thing for sure is, it’s not working now, and it doesn’t look like it will in the near future. This whole ‘success’ thingy we all want? I have to be honest, I don’t think the league is a real possibility for us with, or without Arsène. I think what’s wanted, and possibly what is actually needed, is fresh eyes.

Hearing Arsène being interviewed on beIN sport recently. Everything he says is spell bounding. I get caught up in his genius. I could listen to him forever and a day. He still makes me dream for that happy ending. My young impressionable dreamer side always barges in and says ‘give him time to build that side, win the Champions League before you go, complete your journey’. I hope he’s working towards a smooth transition. That’s the direction I believe the Arsenal wheels are turning. But deep down, I hope Arsène is still doing what he does best, which is to dream.

Cheers for reading,

Be happy,

Ben.

Feeling overly sensitive, worrying about Saturday

Yesterday I had a wee bit of a Twitter monologue as I commented on the Walcott ‘I’m a fan’ story that appeared on the official site yesterday. It wasn’t so much a rant as it was a musing, that the club hasn’t helped him out with the headline which specifically referenced the term ‘fan’ as if he himself had said it.

Before I elaborate, let me just say I have no issue with Walcott, his contract situation a couple of years back, or him as a person. He seems a perfectly amiable chap.

Instead, my thinking was more along the lines in of ‘the club don’t help the players our – PR wise – sometimes, do they?’, because in the subsequent article that I clicked on, not once did Walcott say ‘I’m a fan now’. He did talk about seeing the game differently, trying to remember the buzz fans get when a player does something special, etc, etc. all positive stuff and I have no issue with it. I just think the club could have chosen their article title a bit better.

Because he’s not a fan, is he? Not in the sense that you and I are a fan. Not in the same way, anyway, I don’t think. I don’t think there are many actual ‘fans’ that are professional footballers these days. I just don’t see it. They are not like us. They earn more money, they do it as a job and they see the changing of clubs like we see the changing of companies in our own working careers.

And hey, I don’t begrudge that, because I had had a number of ‘clubs’ in my working life. But much like I would say I hold an affection for each of the ‘clubs’ I’ve worked for, I have not been loyal enough to stay there since I left university.

Which is why I don’t think the use of the term ‘fan’ did Theo any favours, because my immediate response to seeing the headline was to dismiss the sentiment before I’d even read the article, which is wrong because what was said in the article didn’t reflect the title.

Are the official site looking for some extra clicks for advertising? Who knows. Maybe. After all, the Marketing Team might be tasked with bringing in £x,xxx before the end of the year and maybe a few extra clicks will help drive up the advertising revenues. But it’s not something we’re used to seeing on the official site (click whoring, I would call it), so it’s taken me by surprise somewhat.

Or maybe I’m just being a little too sensitive and should just learn to chill, Winston.

Perhaps I’m just a bit more tightly wound than usual because it feels like there’s more riding on this weekend’s game than there would have been a month ago. After all, we’ve played pretty average so far this season, never really getting into our full flowing rhythm and looking like we could end the season with 25 draws on the board come May. But this game on Saturday represents an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to drink in some much needed confidence if we can overcome United, who are still a very good side, one in which we have an appalling record with over the last five or so years.

It feels like a game like this weekend – should we win it – could be a catalyst for us to final break through the malaise that has been the opening third of the season. We need something. Some kind of NOS fuel injection or whatever similar metaphor you can think up in your head. Which is why I’m so tightly wound, because I fear the spiral of the team if we once again succumb to what is fast looking like a United team with more injuries than Ryan Shawcross could count to. Although admittedly that’s just double figures.

We need a win this weekend. And on home soil too, to give the fans a lift, so I’m naturally exceedingly nervous.

Anyway, enough of my own insecurities, because it’s not proving too therapeutic to re-read them on the blog. Just getting me more nervous. Shall we talk about Danny Welbeck? Hopefully he is fully fit, because he’ll be a very important player on Saturday. One suspects that of all the players looking to prove a point, he’d be front and centre when it comes to wanting to get one over on his former employers. Tricky Micky Arteta’s been kicking his heels at the training ground this week, and having very little to do, he thought he’d tell the official site how Welbeck is tailor made for The Arsenal.

Micky tells us that it is the technical element of Welbeck’s game that has surprised him and, whilst I have noticed the effervescent running and ‘chase-em down’ attitude of Welbeck as a positive, the technical ability of the lad must be something that is also important for a player to quickly adapt to life at The Arsenal. After all, the pace in which the game is played, the importance of quick interchange of possession, is all-important in Arsène’s world. So you can see why he’s found it easier to settle in.

He also looks stronger than I remember seeing him beind at United. He holds up the ball better and is better in the air than I thought. The fact he’s only 24, plus that he is still getting to know his teammates, all bodes well from my perspective. Let’s just hope he’s fit for Saturday. Otherwise it’s Sanogo time. We all saw how that worked out against Leicester, so let’s keep those fingers crossed for ‘Welbz’. We’ll find out soon enough, as Arsène is sure to give an update to the dotcom later this afternoon.

Anyway, enough of my jibber-jabber, I’ll leave you in peace. Have a good’un.

More Micro-blogs: What’s wrong with The Arsenal (continued)?

The theme from yesterday continues, my valued Arsenal compatriot, with another batch of friends, colleagues, co-workers, or generally anybody that will talk to me about anything to do with football. Well, actually, not so much football, as it is 100% The Arsenal.

If you didn’t manage to tune in yesterday then you can relive the thoughts of fellow friends here, or you can scroll below and see what the latest round of colleagues make of the conundrum that is Arsenal. For those that missed yesterday, the background here is that after speaking to many different people about Arsenal in all walks of my life (boozer, online, work, etc), I decided to try and collate a series of responses to the simple question:

What’s wrong with The Arsenal?

I’ve asked contributors to provide just 50 words max, hence the term ‘micro-blog’ (which I think sounds kinda cool, but I’m sure someone will tell me it’s been done somewhere on the internet that I don’t ever visit) and have kept the question as broad ranging as I possibly good. Here is the latest thoughts from friends on what they think.

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Ben Leeder

The key problem with all of Arsène’s squads, post-Highbury is a lack of standout character(s), to compensate for Arsène’s ‘Wengerball’ philosophy. Recently reading Amy Lawrence’s Invincible (A must buy) that side simply lived and breathed on the will to win and push one and other to that required level – I appreciate it isn’t the best example because it’s probably the greatest Arsenal team you or I will ever see, but you get my flow – We’ve seen you you can’t allow this squad (insert any of Emirates era teams) that much freedom when they need so much guidance.

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Jokman

Too heavy an emphasis on attack, tactical ineptitude at the back, injuries hitting us with the force of 2000 Hasselbaink backsides, an obstinate outlook from Wenger and failure to buy a defender in the summer. I still support though. I’m a SUPPORTer.

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Gary Prince

Previous boards self interest, David Dein introducing Stan, the fall out and sale to Usmanov. Giving Arsene total control over football matters with no governance or overall control. A board happy to “make do”.

A manager without question or challenge, refusing to accept another’s opinion or adapt to changing circumstances.

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Dave Seagar

Apart from the obvious injury woes I would say – Don’t pick out of form players hoping they will play themselves into form (AR & SC) Change the policy of FBs being wingers. Let them defend and stay as back 4 and allow Theo, Ox or Campbell to provide pace and width which is the key.

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Block 5 Gooner

You can blame players for poor performances but a whole team? That would suggest an issue with motivation or tactics. Never been a fan of throwing away money but equally having a ‘make do’ attitude is negligent. Then there’s the ‘going AWOL’ tactics. Works most of the time except when we face quality opponents.
It pains me to say but I’m afraid Wenger is the problem.

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Garrulous Gooner

We have heard for many seasons how we lack a commanding presence on the field. I think we require to world-class footballers to make us a real force. A central defensive partner for Koscielny, and a more naturally defensive midfield player. Their intelligence and leadership qualities are equally as important as their footballing abilities; the sense and authority to say to their full-backs and midfield partner respectively “Don’t you leave my side for the next 10 minutes, and then we’ll go from there.” I doubt it’d be in that language, but you get the gist.

Hand-in-hand with in-game management goes flexibility, and, unfortunately, our team currently mirrors our manager in that sense.

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Hannah Feiner (a Legal Bod at my work)

Firstly, what’s right? The hard-work ethic of Alexis Sanchez. The man simply does not give up. Creates opportunity out of nowhere. What’s wrong? Utter complacency. A football team, shockingly, consists of eleven players. They all have a part to play. If everyone had the Sanchez mentality we’d be, well, invincible…

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Mean Lean

50 words? gee thanks Chris.
Truth is, I don’t think there is a simple solution to the question. There are many factors at play here such as Arsene’s style of play which means a lack of a proper pre season hits us more than most. Injuries, lack of defensive options and poor individual form have cost us dear. This squad is better than we’ve seen I’m convinced of that. Whether you think Arsene’s time is up or not, it doesn’t matter too much for me because this squad should perform better than the one that finished seven points off the title last season along with winning the FA Cup

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That’s yer lot. Well? What do you think? Having read the mixture of these views over the last couple of days it’s quite clear that nobody really has a silver bullet on what is going wrong. Football is a clearly subjective topic matter, in the sense that very rarely do we see anything in black and white. For what it’s worth, I do think that Arsene, having accumulated so much power, now has to accept that ultimately he is the one most culpable when we fail as a club. There are always mitigating factors, other issues and elements that are beyond his control, but rarely does much at The Arsenal fall outside of his control, so I think that he is the one that ultimately has to right the wrongs in order for us to be successful this season.

Thanks to all the contributors of the micro-blogs over the last couple of days. I’ll buy you all a pint. Of water.

Defenders, injuries, and Arsene’s Gordon Bombay impression

There’s literally nothing going on in the Arsenal world today. Like, nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch. It makes providing daily musings on all things Arsenal quite a challenge you know. But, I do it because it’s my bit of fun really, so I shouldn’t complain. It’s not like my life is dependent on ensuring that information about Arsenal is syndicated to you regularly, so when there’s nothing on, there’s nothing on. Except, I do actually want there to be something to talk about. Got any ideas?

From an injury point of view I suppose there’s always something to talk about. Hypothesizing on why we have this many injuries, who is injured at the moment and why the club haven’t come out and told us about the latest couple to hit the team – Gibbs and Arteta. The former has been speculatively quoted as six weeks on the sidelines, but the latter is expected to be a shorter injury lay off. Either way, both are quite injury-prone players and with our defence thread-bare as it is, it does leave the decision to have minimal playing staff in that part of the pitch quite baffling. We all know that Gibbs is injury-prone. Likewise too, after Koscienly was carrying a knock from the World Cup we all knew it was only a matter of time. I fully expect Mertesacker to break in half, bursting into flames, whilst an inexperienced fireman throws an unknown liquid on him which turns out to be paraffin against Burnley on Saturday afternoon.

Arteta too is of the age where he should be viewed as squad rotation, not first choice, purely based on his injury record more than his actual ability. Against Sunderland I thought he played very well and kept us ticking over, but I think we’re likely to see a lot more knocks and injuries to him over the next six months, so that we don’t have another option aside for Flamini (or both if we’re looking to cover our ailing defence?) is crazy in the least. And I know crazy. At the in-laws this weekend I was given a salsa called ‘Crazy Fred’s’ and it had scotch bonnets in it. So I’m well versed in the art of the insane.

There is always transfer guff I could speculate on, I suppose, but really? Do we really have to be subjected to the kind of rubbish about Pedro handing in transfer requests so he could join us? He’s a good player but what on earth would we do with another wide forward? Are we stockpiling them for some kind of nuclear footballing holocaust? Or are we going to do some kind of inverted ‘Flying V’ formation that see’s us playing with hardly any defenders any more so we can all just on-rush the opposition straight from any set play, kick-off, corner, etc? Actually, given our reluctance to purchase cover at the back, perhaps I’m on to something there. Arsene Wenger is playing the Emilio Estevez ‘Gordon Bombay':

“Keep swingin’ Charlie and maybe you’ll give the goalie a cold”

I don’t even bother clicking on the links on NewsNow any more. It’s 99% transfer trash and never leads to any real insight. You’d do better trying to learn the art of divination through tea-leaves than use any online media source for your insight into who Arsenal are going to sign.

Anyway, like I said, relatively little on so I’m going pause, reflect, then eat something for my breakfast.

Ciao.

Anderlecht preview: Victory to build momentum

Champions League Matchday 3 sees us make the short trip along the Eurostar to Belgium, where we line up to face Anderlecht tonight. But before I go into some thoughts on the game, a little rant, if I may…

This morning I was up early driving back from the inlaws (Management has broken her wrist and so she is being ferried to and from her work by Senior Management) when I heard full chapter and verse about the “amazing atmosphere at Anfield tonight. The Real Madrid players will have played all over the world, but this will be special” and I wondered ‘is there any other club that enjoys so much hyperbole thrown at it in relation to atmosphere as much as Liverpool?’. I would love to see what Liverpool do differently to us when we’ve entertained Bayern or Barca in the past. I’d wager little. But this media soft-spot for Liverpool is borderline nausea-inducing.

Anyway, moving swiftly on and towards all things Arsenal, who face a tricky – but not insurmountable – away trip to Anderlecht. It’s been made all the more testing by the fact we’re missing both first and second choice ‘keepers, as well as our first choice centre half and right back. It will mean a somewhat unfamiliar and rather raw look about our back five this evening, but even so this is a game that Arsenal really have to be looking at to win tonight.

If it’s true what Arsène says, that 10 points is a minimum target that usually achieves progression into the next stage of the competition, then this is the sort of game that can help to put a foot in the door of the next round. An away win followed by a home victory against the. Belgian champions will leave us with nine points and will probably mean that a draw in our final two games will at least see us progress. Of course we want to win the group, but qualification is the first hurdle to try to overcome. Defeat, or even a draw, will probably mean that we have to beat Dortmund at home and that is by no means a given seeing as we’ve already been beaten by them once this season and defeated last season on home soil.

But let’s not be fooled into thinking that we’ll sweep aside Anderlecht tonight. They will be in the mood for an upset and, having seen Arsenal labour the point on Saturday, I’m sure they will be looking at Hull’s performance and thinking they should be able to get something from the game. We are yet to fully fire on all cylinders in any competition (even against Galatasaray and Villa there were cracks) and that will give enough fuel for their belief.

I’ll confess that I have very little frame of reference when it comes to tonight’s opponents, as the Belgian League is not one that makes my ‘must see’ list. Save for Anthony Van Den Borre (once of Portsmouth) and Stefan Defour (not bad on Football Manager), I know few of their players and am not sure of the style of football the ‘Purple and White’ will produce tonight. But without wanting to be accused of the type of arrogance that is labelled at Wenger when he doesn’t analyse an opponent, I suspect that we’ll see a team that will want to start the game quite tight, keep Arsenal at bay for the first 15 minutes, then up the tempo gradually as they build their confidence.

Of course, because I do little research of note on our opponents, I could be completely wrong and we could see them try to catch us off-guard by coming flying out of the box. Our defeats to Dortmund this season, Chelski and Liverpool last season, we’re built on a foundation of speed and blitzing us in the first 15 minutes, so if Anderlecht do adopt that tactic it could stun us enough to leave us as docile as a sloth. At the weekend after both goals we looked a little shell-shocked for at least ten minutes after each goal, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Anderlecht managed tell his players to adopt the same tactic.

Of course that is not without it’s risks. Last season saw an Arsenal side that could be pressed high from the front to the back without fear our quick counter attacks. This season we have injected notable pace in Welbeck and Alexis and playing a high line to squeeze space between attack and midfield, as well as midfield and defence, would leave a lot of grass for our forward players to play with.

So whilst our back four will have a makeshift feel about it, the attacking side of the team will look a lot more polished, certainly on paper anyway. They may have looked rather lacklustre on Saturday, but the Champions League often brings a more expansive brand of football to it, so you’d hope that we can find more space for midfield and attack in tonight’s game than we did in the Premier League at the weekend.

Although Walcott is back, there’s no way he’d start (I probably should have checked to see if he’s in the squad, but my internet connection on my phone has just gone down as I’ve just entered a tunnel, so I’m out of options there!) tonight after such a lengthy injury, so I think we’ll see Alexis, Welbeck and The Ox as our most forward-lying players, with Santi, Jack and perhaps Arteta playing in the middle of the park. Arsène could go for Ramsey and Wilshere if he thinks that we’ll spend most of the game on the front foot, but with a rather youthful looking defence (Chambers will surely come in for Monreal), I think Arsène will consider giving the captain the nod in the hope that there is more protection for the back four.

Tonight is a game that could prove quite significant. After stuttering at the weekend, victory tonight will ensure we to into this weekend’s game against Sunderland off the back of victory and hopefully some added confidence. We have a run of winnable games (in theory) and we need to start building momentum now.

Come on you reds!