An open letter to the football gods on derby day

Dear footballing karma gods,

I am a good boy. I work hard, pay my taxes and generally try to build enough good karma in my life to make sure that it is a happy one. Yesterday whilst I was out walking I even picked up some litter in my town centre. It was a Robinson’s Fruit Shoot and somebody could have tripped on it.

Yesterday you saw fit to grant myself a small mercy in the watching of Chelski lose to Aston Villa and for that alone I was grateful, but you even thought you would deliver a couple of red cards to Chelski players too, which will ensure that both Willian and Ramirez won’t take to the field next weekend when we play them at Stamford Bridge. Thank you for that. Also, thanks to you for ensuring that Moneychester City’s best central defender won’t be playing against us in two weeks time as he serves the final game of a three match suspension, having been sent off against Hull. Again, I thank you and appreciate that you couldn’t go as far as having Hull win against the oil whores, I understand and appreciate that.

But today is a new day, a special day, a day in which I am beseeching you to grant me all of your cosmic karma powers and help to deliver Arsenal three points. I know that a lot of getting those points will be down to the eleven players on the pitch that play in red and white today, but if you can see fit to grant us any kind of luck on an important day in our season, I will express my gratitude by personally and publicly thanking you and for repenting any of my sins and curse words I have sent in your direction over the last seven months or so. I know I have cursed your hand of fate dealing us injury blow after injury blow, but if you seek to re-address the balance this afternoon I will happily ‘call it quits’ with you. How does that sound?

I’m sure Arsene will do everything in his power to set up a team that is capable of beating our nearest (geographical) rivals today, to make your job a little bit easier, so I expect to see the back five of Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscienly and probably Monreal at the back. In midfield I think Arsene will go with a more defensively minded two of Arteta and Flamini and the three just sitting behind Giroud will probably consist of The Ox, Santi and Poldi. You might have seen The Ox against Bayern during the week; he was superb and at times looked unplayable. What am I talking about? Of course you saw the game in midweek, because you saw fit to take Mesut Ozil away from us for the next month or so. But I’m not angry, I’m not upset, I just hope that you can see it in your heart to give us three points today.

Three points this afternoon will give us Gooners hope. If we get it, it will mean we’re four points behind Chelski with a game in hand and level on points with Moneychester City (although they have a game in hand over us), with them still needing to come to the Emirates in two weeks time. We can speak about that on another day, because I’m probably going to be sacrificing a goat or some similar hillside creature to you around that time as well. Is that what this afternoon’s fixture needs? Do you need me to sacrifice some sort of creature in order to appease you? I’d love to, in fact I have a suggestion in the form of Mike Dean who is reffing the game today, but a) I’m not really the ‘killing’ kind, and b) it would probably end up with the game being called off. Ritual human slaughter isn’t my thing I’m afraid. I will wear my newly found lucky piece of clothing for the duration of the game, in the form of the flat cap I’ve had for about five years but never taken to the football. I wore it against Everton and it seemed to work its magic, so I’m prepared to wear it again today – inside my own house and look like a bit of a wally – if The Arsenal get three points today.

The Spuds are an unpredictable lot, your footballing karma godliness, you know. They have been awful of late and some of their new manager’s (he’s a Gooner don’t you know, so actually, if you think about it, he’s in a win-win situation from his side, so you can deliver us a victory without fear of making him as sad as he was last weekend against Chelski) team selections at times have been puzzling. That makes me even more nervous though, because I fear the unknown and we don’t know what sort of Tottenham team will step out on to the field today. Whoever does play, I know they’ll be massively up for it, so if you could grant us a bit of early luck for which the Arsenal players could capitalise on, i’d be forever in your debt.

Finally, before I bid you my goodbye, I’d just like to point out that we haven’t won at White Hart Lane since 2007 and so by granting us our first win in seven years, you’d be throwing one of those curveballs you so love to deliver. Like you did yesterday when you made Mourhino look sad.

Yours faithfully and sincerely

Chris.

P.S. Come on you reds.

Stoke; The return of ‘The Feeling’ is welcome

Happy Saturday to you, my fellow Gooners. I don’t know about you, but its first thing in the morning (had to drop the Management off at the airport – working in Dubai for a week :-( ) and I’m starting this blog with a little bit of apprehension ahead of today’s game. Don’t get me wrong, I think we can win it and I hope that we will, but I have ‘the feeling’ back. I remember it well. It was the ‘feeling’ I got when we were fighting for the league against United in the first half of Arsene’s reign. It was the nervousness and apprehension ahead of every single match leading up to the last ten or 11 games in a season, knowing that we were still in the race for the title and knowing that we have our own destiny in our hands. Silverware is still most certainly in our sights.

We do have our own destiny in our own hands. If we win all remaining eleven games we will be Champions. That’s a fact. That we have a host of extremely difficult matches in order to do that, as well as the probability that we will unlikely actually be able to win all of those games, still doesn’t detract from the pure cold, hard, facts that we are masters of our own destiny.

But it starts with today’s game against Stoke. Lose or draw today and not only is it more than likely not going to be in our hands any more, but with the run of games we have coming up thereafter, it won’t exactly have Gooners shouting that ‘I believe’ from rooftops, will it? The margins when you get to this stage of the season are so fine that, if you’re going to lift that Premier League trophy at the end, you really do need to take advantage of every opportunity. Today is an opportunity to keep the pressure up on an away ground in which we’ve won once in six attempts. Stoke – aka The land of Mordor, birthplace of Orcs and Goblins – represent a very real and very difficult threat to our assault on the league. They have already dispatched United (admittedly less of a feat these days), as well as picked up draws against Chelski and Moneychester City and have always been difficult to beat. Indeed, the bookies reflect that in their assessment of the odds. Arsenal are of course seen as favorites, but I’d expect slightly shorter odds from a team that sit just three points off the relegation spaces, so clearly history has played its part in the thinking of the bookmakers.

Will history play a part in today’s game? It’s hard to tell actually. The local Stoke regional rag has certainly been doing its level best to try to mask the deficiencies of this current Stoke sides form this season. Nobody likes a Tony Pulis, but it’s hard to imagine that he would have a well-drilled Stoke side in the same position they currently occupy under Hughes. The need and requirement of the locals in Orcsville was for a more expansive style of football, which they have, but it looks at times as though that has been at the expense of what is at the core of this team – built up over a number of years – and I wonder if that straying away from what they know i.e. longer-balls, target men receiving and relying on set pieces, has been a cause for them not picking up as many points as they probably would have imagined. History too seems to have played its part in trying to rile up both Stoke and Arsenal fans, with Stoke chairman Peter Noakes talking yet again about the Ramsey incident, as well as a quite ludicrous article from Danny Higginbotham about how Arsenal have ‘no character’. I am pretty sure Arsene isn’t the type to stick up a copy of articles in the dressing room before the game, but I hope comments like that filter through to the Arsenal team, because we have character and we’ve shown it on numerous occasions this season.

Anyway, regardless of that, there’s a job that The Arsenal need to do today and if the team plays to its full potential, then we should be able to pick up the three points. The team have had a week to prepare and recharge their batteries in preparation for today’s game, so there can be no excuses on ‘tired legs’ and we have to see a pumped Arsenal team. I think we will. There might be questions about who plays at left back, but the rest of the defence should remain relatively settled. In midfield I wonder if Arsene will offer to reinforce the two anchored midfield roles with Flamini and Arteta, with a three sitting in front of them of Cazorla, Ozil and I hope Rosicky. If you read my pieces regularly, you might have come across my Rosicky ‘love-in’ during the week, so I’m advocating that we thrust our ‘Little Mozart’ into the front line and see if he can’t make music in amongst the snarling Stokies. Up top I’d expect a Giroud hopefully buoyed by his two goals against Sundrland, as well as a full week in which to recharge.

For Stoke they’ll most likely welcome back German clobbermeister Robert Huth, as well as Ireland and Etherington, but thankfully we’re spared that bloke Assaidi, who loves a wonder goal. I hate wonder goals scored against us. Not least because they get replayed in adds again and again, so I hope there is nobody in the Stoke team that pops up with one of those today.

Anyway, I shall be watching the game from a pub in Ware with my fingers crossed hoping that we don’t have to go through hell and back to collect the points we need to stay level with Chelski who, let’s face it, won’t drop points against a terrible Fulham team.

Catch y’all tomorrow.

NLD preview: nervousness with a wee dram of confidence

Hooray, hooray, it’s Derby Day!

Nothing better than the feeling of anticipation that envelopes you before a local derby. And what with today being an FA Cup affair, it seems to have a little bit more intrigue about it today, so I am an excited Gooner going into a home tie against the old enemy. Today is an opportunity to make another statement in our season. Today we can end the Spuds hope of a domestic trophy (although I realise they are still in with a chance of European success). Today we can take a hammer blow to their confidence.

But what makes the NLD more exciting – in a cack your pants kind of way – is that this fixture could go any way. Yes, we’ve got used to having the upper hand in terms of our league finishing position, yes we’ve beaten them more times than they have us, but rarely do you get an easy afternoon and that all adds to the feeling in my stomach which makes this match all the more intriguing.

It’s a game that has bought about 75 Arsenal wins, 45 draws and 54 wins for ‘them’ which, when you consider the number of trophies we have won, plus the fact we’ve finished above them for so many times particularly in the most recent couple of decades, the win ration between the two clubs seems quite close. It’s a cliché, but that stat clearly shows that anything can happen in the NLD and quite often, it does.

Are you nervous today? I am, but it’s a nervousness with excitement. It’s a nervousness with a wee dram of confidence, because we have once again found form after a mini blip the other side of Christmas and we find ourselves going into the game off the back of three victories. We might have a bit of an injury conundrum or two that need overcoming, but any player that takes to the field today will be confident, so we should too. Some have suggested that playing  a resurgent Totteringham now is possibly not the best time to be rocking up against the lilywhites, but I liked Arseblog’s comments yesterday about Theo’s response to the question about whether or not it was a good time to play them. He’s right, it was a stupid question, Theo’s right about it perhaps not being a good time to play us and Arseblog’s right about the football brain fart that seems to have clouded the journo’s memory that funnily enough, we’re actually top of the league.

But league form goes out of the window today, and unfortunately they are quite capable of getting the win or taking us back to their gaff for a replay, so hearing Arsene say this gets treated as a league game was music to my ears yesterday. We need to be on it from the start because they will want to carry on from their decent win at Old Trafford by taking another big club scalp. And of course, it would just happen to be that time of the year when Greedybayor actually decides he wants to get a few goals, having been told there could be another contract up for grabs for him. He’s still getting wages paid by Moneychester City at the moment, so if he wants the Spuds to go anywhere near half the wages he currently gets, he’s going to have to put in some shifts, which is why we’re seeing such a resurgence from the Emmanuel the Mercenary. If I sound bitter, it’s because I have a nasty feeling that he’s going to do what he seems to have done nearly every time he plays us and score. There’s no doubt he’s a handful when he wants to be, but he seems to reserve his best football for us and by the sounds of it he’s managed to recover from being stretched off in midweek to play again today. That’s why I hope Arsene keeps his normal back four and we see Big Per and Kos at the back, flanked by Sagna and Monreal (with Gibbs still injured).

In the midfield I look at the possible Spuds line up of Capoue and Dembele and think that our three should include Arteta to marshal the Belgian’s movement, plus Arteta who can push forward if Capoue is sitting deeper. If they play the same team that lined up against United, it means Erikson will want to drift across the park and not operate as a natural winger, so with both Flamini and Arteta operating in front of the defence I think that works. Just in front of them, providing he’s fit – and the pictures of him training yesterday suggest so – I think we’ll see Ozil. On the left we’ll most likely have Cazorla and on the right will be Theo, with Poldi up top. The only position I think might be up for question will be if Arsene decides to insert Rosicky into the team, because Arsene does like playing the effervescent Czech in our big games when he’s fit. Plus, Arsene did admit that Tomas and NIcklas made a very positive impact against Cardiff, so I wonder if he will look at that game and decide that perhaps Santi should be dropped to the bench with Rosicky in from the start. Actually, now that I think about it, what about Jack? He’s had a couple of really good games and in my opinion was the best player against Cardiff, so relegated to the bench seems a little harsh, but I suppose it will depend on how Arsene feels over his bowl of cornflakes this morning. The important thing is that we’ve got options. And if we need to, we can change things around a bit, so there is plenty to be cheerful going into today’s game.

I hope we’ll be able to give them lot a tonking, but I suspect this will be a close encounter under the floodlights, so strap yourselves in, and get ready for the rollercoaster ride that is The Arsenal Vs Spuds.

Cardiff: success the sum of many parts

Well that couldn’t have gone any more to plan yesterday, could it? I mean, if you’re going to head away from home to a team that’s already picked up a few ‘big club’ scalps already, you’re looking first and foremost to ensure that you quieted the home fans early, then make sure that you pick up the points by knocking in a goal or two later on.

As every week goes by, we’re finding out more and more about this team and how they’re up for the fight, with yesterday being another example. A tricky away fixture against a Cardiff team that have proven themselves to be good at home was ticked off the fixture list with a 3-0 in that, whilst not as convincing as the score-line suggests, was still three points that I think we deserved.

What I love about this team is that everyone seems to be in form. We’re not a team with one superstar that drags us through games, we’re a collective of players that all play their part, each one contributing in his own way to getting results.

Take Szczesny for example. He made a superb save from a Frazier Campbell header when we were still at 1-0 that would have swung the pendulum of momentum in Cardiff’s direction and who knows what would have happened if the Welsh side would have pegged us back. He’s showing his maturity and form in every game, but the best thing about his form is that for the vast majority of the match he’s watching, which means he’s only called into action a couple of times in 90 minutes and so his concentration levels have to be at their pinnacle. And the reason he’s only being called in for questioning? A defensive meaner than my year nine geography teacher. And he was Welsh and from Cardiff. The back four we have is settled, composed and strong as a unit, with yesterday showing exactly what each of them are good for. Mertesacker is making a fabulous habit of just stepping in and breaking down attacks with his long legs, whilst Koscienly sweeps up any balls that get beyond him, which means that we’re building a foundation at the back which is causing issue for attacks across the land. The two full backs GIbbs and Sagna got forward as often as possible and for the most part were acting as wingers. That afforded our creative midfielders of Wilshere, Ozil and Ramsey licence to roam across the pitch and rotate in different positions.

So let’s talk about that midfield, shall we? The rotation and movement of the three above opened up space all over the park and the first goal was a classic example of the space that our midfielders get as a result. Mesut picked the ball up on the left hand side just outside the penalty box, then floated in a sumptuous ball almost on the penalty spot, where Rambo was unmarked and able to loop over Marshall. There wasn’t really anything that the ‘keeper could have done but it was a fabulously worked goal at a time where we were in the ascendency. Jack was playing well too. He was drifting past players like he did on Tuesday night and he was showing that his form appears to be coming back after a stuttering first ten games of the season. He probably should have scored too early on, smashing a ball unluckily against the corner section of the bar and post. And Mesut, good old Mesut, the man who has supposedly failed to impress if you read the media hyperbole, had a fantastic game and looked to all the world worthy of his lofty price tag. He roamed from left to right, found his man with consummate ease on two of the three goals and it was as if he’d heard some of the media berating he’s been getting and responded in the best way possible. No Bendtner, not by getting yourself in the back pages for doing something stupid, but by getting on the pitch and having a blinder.

I thought tricky Micky Arteta also had a good game in front of the back four and looked strong in the tackle, composed on the ball and hovered in front of the back four giving them an outlet for distributing the ball throughout the game.

There was even time for a Theo cameo and an assist to his name with the third goal and second for Ramsey.

The only two players who didn’t have it all their own way were Santi and Giroud. Santi was a bit quiet again, but he still got involved in the play and played a solid 7/10 in my book. But perhaps it’s indicative of the way we’re playing that a 7/10 is viewed as a ‘quiet’ game. He’s still to find his top form and the form of last season, but he’d too good not to get there, so I’m not too worried at this stage. AS for Olivier, well, it just wasn’t his day in front of goal. He still held the ball up well, led the line and was strong as always, but he just couldn’t bag a goal. Although the bizarre situation in the first half where he was through on goal with just the ‘keeper to beat yet thinking he was offside stopped, despite the lino not raising his flag, probably summed up his day: good run into the box but just lacked that killer touch in front of goal. Never mind; he was the hero last week, but with this team we have enough collective responsibility that it was somebody else’s turn to be the hero.

So we sit this morning seven points clear at the top of the league and although it will not be the same by the end of the evening tonight, it is still lovely to watch Match of The Day knowing that we’re building a bit of wiggle room with our lead that will afford us the ability for a blip or two. Now it’s on to Hull on Wednesday night and, if we can pick up another three points there followed by three against Everton next Sunday, I’ve no doubt we’ll have pulled away from our rivals a little bit more than even today.

Enjoy the Sunday folks.

SG Podcast 7 – Live from Hawaii

The seventh Suburban Gooners podcast includes the usual crew of Ben, Chris & Steve but, as our first ever guest, we are also pleased to have Paul (aka Invinciblog – co-owner of Gunners Town) joining us live from Hawaii. This week we talk Southampton, Marseille and Cardiff…we also have a cheeky laugh at the Spuds.

You can play the pod below, download it or subscribe on iTunes.


Direct Downlaod - left click to play or right click to ‘save as’

iTunes

Handsome man given gift by a Saint

Boy is my head pounding today. That’s what happens when you have a combination of booze, boogie and more booze, I guess. Everything feels an effort and hence the delayed post today, because the land of slumber was far too appealing on a Sunday morning.

As for The Arsenal, we came, we saw, we dispatched a Southampton team that had already picked up points on the road in Liverpool and Manchester. It was one of those games that will be chalked down to ‘the stuff of champions’ if we do manage to go the distance and lift the Premier League trophy in May. One of those games that, on the end of season DVD, will be shown in about 30 seconds and will be remembered for blunders rather than an exhibition of domination.

What Artur Boruc was doing pirouetting inside his box with a handsome French opponent closing him down is beyond me, but I’m certainly thankful he did. I’d said in yesterday’s blog that goalkeeper’s usually come to the Emirates and play a blinder, so my ‘commentators curse’ on the Pole was clearly in full effect on 22 minutes. I don’t want to wear it out though, so I’ll probably save it for another big game before wheeling it out again. Maybe against Chelski on 23rd December. Credit has to go to Giroud though. So often you see strikers rush in, have the goalkeeper just drop a shoulder and they are a few paces past them to react quickly enough and continue chasing. Ollie G stood his ground and was gifted an early Christmas present to which he made no mistake by tapping the ball into an empty net.

It wasn’t as if a goal hadn’t been coming though. Before we were gifted the lead we had already seen a sumptuous Wilshere chip come back off the inside of the post and into Boruc’s arms, whilst a fine fizzed ball from Ozil into Ramsey was delicately flicked from the heel of his boot on to the outside post. So when we did take the lead, there could hardly be any complaints about us deserving it. People will talk about luck, but if we hadn’t had that opening goal, there’s always a sense of urgency and I still think we’d have continue to press and got one in that first half anyway.

It says a lot about the team that we can actually defend a lead these days. The Arsenal of old would probably have looked very edgy against a Southampton team that specialised in pressing high up the pitch and trying to stop teams playing out from the back. Pushing defenders into enforced errors is clearly something Southampton have been doing this season, and you could see by the lack of time on the ball we had throughout, why this side have had such an impressive start. The also matched us for possession too at times – something you don’t often see at The Emirates from an away team – but if I’m completely honest I can say with the benefit of hindsight that there was only two real chances that they created in the whole game. One was in the first half when an Arteta miskick on the edge of the box was knocked goalwards by Lallana, with the second coming from a Jay Rodriguez volley that Szczesny was equal to. It was a little bit Arsenal circa 2011 from the away team: plenty of possession, looking to build from the back, but not having as much cutting edge as one of the top teams in the division.

The second half was a game of few chances and you could see that our mentality was to ensure that we were tight defensively and not concede any sloppy goals away. Arteta, who had been poor in the first half but upped his game in the second, looked much better in winning tackles and distributing the ball, but the only time when we really looked nervous was when he came off with an injury. The hope is that it was just a precaution from physio Colin Lewin. Santi and Mesut were quiet throughout the game and the Spaniard was particularly lacklustre in some of his passing I thought. However, we need to bear in mind that he has travelled halfway across the world over thee last week to play in meaningless friendlies, so it’s something that might just have had an impact.

The game wasn’t finished off until the 86th minute when we were granted one of those penalties that we should see more of in the division. As a ball was floated in to the box from a corner it was clear that Fonte had a sizeable chunk of Mertesacker’s shirt and referee Clattenburg had no hesitation in pointing to the spot to give it. Unfortunately I couldn’t be at the game and so I was watching in a pub showing the match, to which a few Chelski fans had the cheek to suggest it shouldn’t be given, but it was a clear pen. It’s the old cliché of ‘if they do that for a few weeks and give penalties away for every shirt pull, you’ll soon see it stop’, but it is still true and if you pull an opponents shirt in your own penalty box you’re always taking a gamble. Up stepped the man of the day Giroud and he smashed the ball home to make sure the points were secure.

He’s growing in stature with every game. It’s funny how two seasons ago we were all so worried every time a certain Dutch Bloke went down with injury. Back then we were so reliant on one talisman to get us goals and win us games that we prayed to every footballing god we could that he could stay fit. We’re not the same team and we don’t have the same reliance when it comes to goals, but we are getting to the stage where Giroud is so far ahead and stands out so much because he’s the only player in that position that can do what he does, that you can visibly see the nervous faces in the crowd every time he goes down. We need him to stay fit and keep banging in goals. If he continues to do that for the season, we’ll definitely be in there with a shout of the title.

That’s it from me today, so I’ll take my leave and go and find some paracetamol. Laters.

SG Podcast 6 – Who wants to pod forever?

This is the sixth Suburban Gooners Podcast with the usual team of Steve, Chris & Ben joining forces to take your mind off the international window.

You can play the pod below, download it or subscribe on iTunes.


Direct Download - left click to play or right click to ‘save as’

iTunes

Szczesny saves our weekend

Much like his form in 2013, Wojciech Szczesny has made yet another save this weekend (he’s saved our weekend), by signing a new deal and giving us all something to talk about whilst we’re slap bang in the middle of this interlull.

Yesterday the club announced that our Polish number one had signed a new long-term agreement with the club and Wojciech himself stated “Arsenal is like my family and I’m so happy to be committing my long-term future here. I’ve been at this Club for over seven years now and I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their support towards me during my time here.” He may not be English, but he’s still a home-grown talent having been at the club since he was 16, so it’s really good to see that we have a young player that’s taken his chance and firmly established himself in the team.

I’ve always rated Szczesny. Even when he was dropped for Fabianski I felt that he was still head and shoulders above any other ‘keeper and despite the fact he lost his place, I never really felt that Lukas could permanently replace him as number one. In fact, on Friday I did a podcast for GoonerDyllan about young players coming through at Arsenal and at some stage during the proceedings we did talk about Woj and his form of late, as well as his potential to be Arsenal’s number one for at least the next decade. You can have a listen to the ‘Three Blokes Talking Arse’ Podcast here if you like.

Anyway, what I say on the podcast is something I’ve always felt about our young shot-stopper; he has something a little bit different to the last couple of ‘keepers we’ve had. When I look back at the time before Manuel was a haunted figure liable to make a mistake at any moment, he was only ever an ‘okayish’ ‘keeper. After he ousted Jens as the number one, he only ever did what you expected a ‘keeper to do. He would make saves you’d expect him to make, not get to balls you wouldn’t expect him to get to and made fewer mistakes than towards the end of his Arsenal career. I felt the same with Fabianski. When at his best, I felt he was only ever ‘okayish’. Szczesny has something different about him. He gets to balls that you’re not expecting an average ‘keeper to get to. He’s a good shot stopper, but particularly over the last six months and even so this season, he’s also commanding his area better than ever before. I’ve lost count the number of times he’s plucked the ball out of the air when put under pressure from a corner or cross deep into the box this season. Towards the end of the Swansea game this season was probably the most obvious example of that, as he must have collected the ball three or four times in the last ten minutes when we were under the kosh a bit.

If you’re going to win competitions, you need to have a good ‘keeper that saves you points in a season. I think Wojciech has that. Don’t get me wrong, he still has lots to learn and you only have to look at his dip in form last season to see that he must also have an able-bodied deputy to push him all the way, but I think that we have quite a player on our hands. As a young lad I played centre-half for my university and if there’s one thing a centre half loves, it’s a goalkeeper that commands his area that you can rely on. Get a good one of those and as a defender you feel extra confident in your ability to have shut-outs. We’ve all lauded the work of the defence this season and towards the end of last, but that is often seen as the back four, which does a disservice to Wojciech in my mind. He’s just as important as the other four and some of the shutouts we’ve had over the last year will be as much down to him as they are down to Bac, Kos, Per and Gibbs.

Away from our young Pole, there were a few internationals that were carried out yesterday, with Arsenal players involved across the globe. Mercifully, Aaron Ramsey wasn’t even in the squad to play against Finland, so it seems the footballing gods are shining for us during this internal break. I’ve just touched some wood whilst saying that; perhaps you should do so just for reading it as well, y’know, just in case and all that. Santi Cazorla was only on the field for around 58 minutes against Equatorial Guinea, whilst Nacho was an unused substitute and so he won’t have any adverse effects or injury problems. Santi even scored the first goal, which looked a little fortuitous if you ask this bloggers opinion. So with this weekend’s friendlies or play-off matches completed, we look to be in good shape. Again, I reiterate that I’m touching wood again whilst writing this.

Other than that there’s not a lot else going on. Unless you count Woy making very soft threat gestures that Wilshere needs to play more games and that if he’s not playing by March April it might be something he’ll take a ‘look at’. Who you trying to kid Woy? You know you have such a paucity of options for the national team that even a half fit Jack Wilshere is a better option than a Cleverly or ageing Liverpool midfielder. Pull the other one son, it’s got bells on.

See y’all in the morrow.

Some freshness after international break?

We all know my feelings about internationals by now, right? Cool, so you know that whilst I’ll talk about yesterday’s matches, the reality is that I do it through gritted teeth, in the absence of anything else to talk about. I mean, I’m not going to give you 1,000 words on the form of Pudsey on BBC1 last night, am I?

I could probably do a better review though, because I watched more of that stuff than Eng-ger-land. If ever there was an example of ‘meh’ness about yesterday’s match, it has to be seen in the fact that the upper tier was half empty. Way to fill the stadium FA, good job guys, picking an international powerhouse like Chile to line up against. Nice. They might as well not have bothered and allowed the players the rest that I explored so vocally yesterday, but like I said, common sense never prevails for our football authorities.

I suppose if I’m going to look at the positives, it’s that Wilshere came off after 70 minutes. Hopefully Woy will rotate for the Germany game and Jack gets only a short amount of game time. Gibbs didn’t get on to the field and if it is the same in midweek next week then I’ll be more than happy, because he’ll have trained, but will be feeling nice and fresh for the visit of Southampton.

Across the water – quite a bit actually – the two games that I really paid attention to because of the Arsenal connection was Italy v Germany, and Ukraine V France. Mercifully, Big Per wasn’t even in the squad, which was great to hear and hopefully the only place he’ll take at Wembley is in one of the director’s boxes when the German’s play us. Mesut replaced Gotze on the hour mark and whilst that’s not ideal, at least he only play for 30 minutes. I have a nagging suspicion that he’ll start on Tuesday, but if he’s limited to 60 minutes then I guess that means he’s only played a full 90 in the space of 12 days, so it’s not all that bad. I have no idea how he played.

As for France, well, I’ve saved the best for last. I’m sorry to any of my readers that are French, but the 2-0 defeat to Ukraine was a perfect result from an Arsenal perspective. Imagine if France don’t go to the world cup? Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscienly will have an entire summer to recuperate. If only England, Spain and Germany could have been so generous – we’d have the vast majority of our players fit and able for the start of the 2014/15 season. It would be grand. Anyway, there’s more, because the French boss Didier Deschamps has clearly lost his mind (to our advantage) in playing Matthieu Debuchy ahead of Bacary Sagna at right back. Again, I can only assume that the same will happen in the return leg next week, so that means that our right back might just have had more of a rest over this break than we could have hoped for. But, my wonderful friends, it gets better. Laurent Koscienly, you wonderful boy, getting yourself sent off in injury time for fighting. Clever, clever stuff, as it means you’ll have a full week off now before playing for The Arsenal on Saturday.

So folks, let’s consider our back four – Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscienly and Sagna. All will have had less game time and all should be fresher for Southampton as a result. Sweet as a nut, as they say. It’s always the concern that the players are run into the ground, but it appears – at this moment in time anyway – as if the fates are conspiring in our favour. Right now we have a group of Arsenal players who either haven’t played, won’t play, or have had limited game time. That’s a-ok with this gooner; the fresher they can be for a game against an in-form Southampton, the better. Then when you add that to the list of probably starting players that have stayed at home – Theo, Poldi, Arteta and Flamini – you start to get the hope that we’ll have a team that has a freshness about them that can be used to put Southampton to the sword. More on that towards the back end of next week.

Olivier Giroud played 70 minutes, but hopefully Deschamps has some more crazy pills to take and Benzema starts on Tuesday night. That would be super-awesome.

The only question marks that remain are that of Rambo, Santi and Nacho, but to be honest I suspect Santi probably won’t start given that he’s only recently come back from injury. They make the, quite frankly ludicrous, journey to equatorial Guinea and then South Africa so we just have to hope that both players aren’t too knackered by the time they get back by Thursday. As for Rambo, at least Wales are at home to Finland so there’s not as much travelling time.

Anyway, as always during these stupid international breaks, there isn’t really much more for me to comment on, so I’ll bid you adieu.

SG Podcast 5 – This is the podcast