Aston Villa travel to the Emirates this afternoon with Arsenal looking to secure our 7th Premier League victory in a row in order to further increase the distance between us and 4th/5th place.
Chelsea and Spurs are playing each other in the early kick off so at least one of them will drop a few points, although Villa always give us a good game at the Emirates; we lost 2-1 at home towards the end of last season after Darren Bent scored an early brace.
It is difficult to know whether Wenger will use Santos ahead of Gibbs. Santos played 60 minutes for the reserves last week, so I am expecting him to have a run-out of half an hour or so. Other than that the back four picks itself. Sagna, Vermaelen and Koscielny have all been very impressive in recent weeks.
The big team decision for Wenger comes in midfield and attack. Arteta and Song will start, and given his current form you can’t leave Tomas Rosicky out of the team. If Wenger wants to play Aaron Ramsey in centre mid, then Rosicky will be out on the wing (as he was vs Everton) at the expense of AOC & Gervinho. Theo Walcott is also in good form and is very rarely left out of the starting line-up. Robin van Persie plays as always.
Arsenal 2-0 Villa Looking at the team you can see that we will be fielding an almost full-strength side which is more than capable of brushing most teams aside. Villa are normally quite tough opposition, but they have been in terrible form recently and I don’t see that changing this afternoon.
In an effort to reduce speculation on his future, Cesc Fabregas has made it clear that he is happy playing at Arsenal. Fabregas is constantly being linked with a summer transfer back to his childhood club Barcelona as an eventual replacement for 31 year old Xavi, but reiterated that no decision has been made about a move away from North London. Any decision on his future will be made by Arsène Wenger.
News within the last few days suggests that it is increasingly likely that Fabregas will remain at the club for at least another season. It would seem that Arsène Wenger’s biggest battle will now be keeping hold of contract-rebel Samir Nasri. One thing is for sure – we cannot afford to lose both of our talented midfielders if Wenger wishes to build on this season.
“I am an Arsenal player. I have been very happy for eight years and I am very happy.
“There have been no decisions. It doesn’t always depend on the player and at the moment I don’t know anything.
“You can never say never in this life as so many things happen that you can never predict. But I am very happy where I am. Anything else would be speculation that is untrue.
“He [Wenger] is the boss, the one who makes the decisions – you should ask him.”
Cesc had previously vented his frustration at the lack of silverware at Arsenal, but acknowledged that the club has bright times ahead. His only major honour with Arsenal so far was the FA Cup in 2005.
“A player who is not frustrated at not winning titles is either lying to himself or lacks ambition.
“But there is a good team and a good manager and one of the most faithful fanbases in Europe. With those I believe we can make progress and one day win an important trophy.”
The key word here is “we”. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I believe that choice of words is extremely important. The fact that Cesc uses the word “we” suggests that he still considers himself part of the club, and believes that he will still be there when the team wins their next major trophy.
I honestly don’t think that Cesc is going to move to Barcelona, but I am worried about losing Samir Nasri. Keeping Fabregas will soften the blow if Nasri were to leave. Then again, every week the status of Cesc’s transfer seems to change and there are only a handful of people who know exactly what is going on.
The Guardian is just one of the newspapers reporting that Arsène Wenger is interested in signing Lille striker Gervinho this summer, but may be forced to sell some squad players who are deemed surplus to requirements in order to fund the transfer.
Gervinho scored 14 goals in 35 games this season as Lille claimed their first league title since 1954, but the French club are reportedly ready to cash-in on their Ivory Coast star.
Several other English clubs, namely Spurs, Everton and Liverpool, have looked at the option of bringing him to the Premier League, but Gervinho has made it clear that he would need to play Champions League football (which would be available to him at Arsenal and even if he were to stay at Lille).
Wenger recently told the press “for the first time in a while, I will be very active”, which would suggest that it isn’t completely unlikely that such a high-profile player would join the club this summer.
Gervinho has confirmed that he intends to make a decision on his return from Ivory Coast’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin in the first week ok june, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to decide that a move to Arsenal would be in his best interest.
According to Carlos Vela’s agent Eduardo Hernández, the Mexican will not be leaving the Emirates during the summer transfer window.
“I spoke with the people at Arsenal. There are many rumours going on about the player but the reality is that he will return at Arsenal.
“He was called by Mexico for the upcoming Copa America and the instructions I received is that Carlos must report back to Arsenal immediately after holidays.
“Carlos is an Arsenal player and at the moment there is no transfer movement.”
In my opinion, it is unlikely that Vela will develop into the striker that we really need. He has scored 11 goals in 60 appearances for the club, but has not had a consistent place in the starting XI. If Wenger isn’t going to use him, and just sends him out on loan, it is unfair to keep him at the club.
Vela may do well at a mid-table Premier League club. Maybe a move to Spain would suit him better? Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I just don’t feel that he is cut out for Arsenal.
Two early goals from Darren Bent yesterday helped to secure a 1-2 win for Aston Villa at the Emirates. Yet again, defensive mistakes from Sebastian Squillaci within the opening 15 minutes saw us chasing a game that we should have had in the bag.
Robin Van Persie proved the main source of any Arsenal attack in the first half, scoring a goal, which was rightly disallowed for offside, and moments later hitting the post with a sublime effort. Richard Dunne brought down Aaron Ramsey, who was through on goal in the penalty area, but no foul was given. It was a ridiculous referring decision, as Dunne should have been sent off for clearly denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
RVP then slid a ball through to Jack Wilshere, whose shot would surely have hit the back of the net had the Dutchman not been pegged back for a “foul” on Dunne – who was lucky to still be on the pitch. Replays showed that the two players just tangled legs. It was not a foul and shouldn’t have denied us a goal. Had RVP also fallen over, would a penalty have been given? Probably not…
The team kept the ball well in the second half and it was only a matter of time until they scored. The ball was crossed in for Maroune Chamakh, who scored a header and celebrated for precisely 5 seconds until that too was disallowed for a stupid reason. The referee had seen a push by Chamakh on Kyle Walker. Having had the benefit of seeing the replay I believe that there was nothing in it, and the goal should have stood.
Robin Van Persie scored a late goal (his 21st of the season), but there was not enough time to grab an equaliser. With around 65% possession, 15 attempts on target and 13 corners, our lack of composure in front of goal was obvious.
I would like to offer just one piece of advice to Arsène Wenger. Stop playing Bendtner on the wing! He is 6’3″… we need him to be on the end of crosses, not crossing the ball into the box (which he isn’t great at doing).
The defeat in our last home game of the season left us with our worst home record for 14 years. Far from the “fortress” that we once believed in, the Emirates has become a place where opposing teams really feel that they can leave with all 3 points. The referee yesterday was rubbish, but I honestly don’t think we can blame the referees for every time we have dropped points at the Emirates this season. We have also lost to Newcastle, West Brom and Spurs, and had 3 goalless draws against Blackburn, Manchester City and Sunderland – and we all remember what happened at the end of the Liverpool game.
This season we took 37 points out of a possible 57 from our home games. Compared to other seasons, that just is not good enough.
Last season: 47 points
2003/4 Invincibles: 49 points (at Highbury)
2006/7: 42 points (our first season at the Emirates)
I have only been to three home games this season. 6-0 Blackpool, 6-0 Braga and 1-0 United. Maybe I’m a lucky charm for Arsenal this season? Then again, I also went to the Carling Cup final…
In 2000, Robert Pirès joined the club from Marseille for £6 million as a replacement for Marc Overmars, who had left for Barcelona for £25 million.
Despite some initial weak performances, and comments that the English game was too physical, Pires adapted to the Premier League with relative ease – regaining the fantastic form that he had shown at his previous clubs – and quickly established himself as a fan favourite.
Pires was a crucial part of the 2003/4 Invincibles season, along with Thierry Henry. The pair went on to score a combined total of 57 goals, as Arsenal became the first English club to remain unbeaten for an entire league campaign for over 115 years – a feat which has not been achieved by Manchester United under Sir Alex.
Arsenal fans voted Pirès as the club’s 6th greatest player of all time – ahead of the likes of Ljungberg, Seaman and Overmars. With 5 trophies in 6 years under Arsène Wenger (during what could arguably be seen as the most prosperous years the club has ever seen), Pires offers a reminder of just what is achievable under our current manager. Having scored 84 goals in 284 appearances with the Gunners, Pires will be forever remembered as one of the most talented players to grace English football.
Now on a short-term contract with Aston Villa, Pires returns to face his former club this weekend. His presence will be felt all around the Emirates on Sunday, regardless of whether or not he actually plays. Should he be allowed to play, it will be his second game at the Emirates stadium. In 2009 Pires played the full 90 minutes for Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals, and received huge support from the home fans.
Arguably, Wenger never really replaced the players of the Invincibles season with similar-minded players of equal ability, preferring to build a new squad using younger players who would grow into their roles. However, if our current team were to reach similar successes as Pires, Henry and Ljungberg managed 10 years ago, then the 6 trophyless years would be quickly forgotten.
The ever increasing rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United is mostly due to the perceived hostility between Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Fergurson. Yesterday – the 45th game between the two managers – saw Le Boss outsmart Fergie for the first time since November 2008.
Although it remains mathematically possible, most Arsenal fans heading towards the Emirates Stadium yesterday afternoon knew that we are unlikely to win the league this season. A loss would have been extremely frustrating, but almost insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, on a day when our season was all but over, Arsenal gave one of their strongest performances and showed the “mental strength” that we had been lacking in recent weeks. Although scant consolation for yet another season without silverware, we have potentially stopped united from gaining a new record 19th league title – albeit gifting Chelsea with a chance to win the league in this topsy turvy Premier League season.
Cesc Fabregas missed out due to an injury picked up during training on Saturday, so Aaron Ramsey was brought in to support Jack Wilshere and Alex Song in midfield. The performances of Wilshere and Ramsey showed us that they are the future of Arsenal.
Chris Foy had a dreadful game, and his performance could have a hugely significant outcome on the league title. His positioning was extremely poor, so much so that Robin Van Persie ran into him while dribbling towards goal and the ball hit him on two other occasions.
As usual, the match looked to be going Manchester United’s way. One fan sitting behind me shouted at the referee “For f**ks sake ref! Why don’t you just give Fergie the whistle?” The match became disjointed at times, due to Foy stopping play for every single incident, no matter how small.
The main talking point in the first half came when Vidic was not penalised for his blatant handball in the penalty box in an attempt to stop Robin Van Persie getting to the ball. Not only would Arsenal have had a penalty, but United would have been down to 10 men (as Vidic had denied a goal-scoring opportunity). Having escaped a red card, Vidic, named in the PFA team of the season, is available to play against Chelsea next week.
Wayne Roony’s opportunities were relatively limited and, bar a free kick that forced Szczesny into a two-handed diving save, he was quite ineffective. Alex Song dealt with Roony relatively well, forcing him to drop deeper into midfield in order to pick up the ball.
Samir Nasri was substituted for Andrey Arshavin at half time. At the time this looked to be a tactical move, but it has since emerged that Nasri was withdrawn as he was suffering from a tight hamstring. The second half saw Arshavin put in one of his best performances of the season. Far from his usual lazy self, he tracked back well, made some unbelievable tackles, and slid through the occasional passes that opened up United’s defence.
Arsenal broke the deadlock about 10 minutes after the break. Aaron Ramsey, who was not properly tracked by Ji Sung-Park, held his run and slotted home Van Persie’s cutback. This was Ramsey’s first goal for the club since his return from the horrific injury that kept him out for just over 9 months.
With half an hour left, Sebastian Squillaci replaced the injured Djourou, and from then on I thought that it was only a matter of time before we watched the team concede two late goals. Emannuel Eboué then replaced Theo Walcott, and received a relatively warm applause considering his last contribution at the Emirates 2 weeks ago.
As Michael Owen went down in the last minute, my heart sank. We had done it again. We had given away another penalty and another three points. However, to my surprise, the ref waved for the players to play on. 4 minutes of injury time ensued, and the last 30 seconds were filled with jeers from all the home supporters. The referee seemed to take an eternity to blow the whistle, keen to let Wayne Rooney have yet another free kick. Even so, the team held out for the 3 points that they deserved.
Sir Alex was quick to spout his usual rubbish in the press conference, arguing that United deserved to win:
“[Gael Clichy’s foul on Michael Owen was a] clear penalty kick as far as I’m concerned. He’s definitely brought down but we’re not going to get decisions in big games I’m afraid.
“I think we were unlucky bearing in mind I don’t think Edwin van der Sar made a save. Arsenal play lovely, nice football but never looked like scoring to be honest.”
Arguably, Fergie was right to criticise the referee, but he does this so often that people have stopped listening. Clichy looked to have fouled Owen, but the penalty wasn’t given and for once a major decision did not go United’s way. I think that “Red Nose” should just count himself lucky that he isn’t missing Vidic for next week. How he was able to say that we never looked like scoring is beyond me. Clearly he is unable to accept that he was simply outplayed at the most crucial part of the season.
Wenger’s Injury Updates:
“Cesc has got a kick on his thigh that has disrupted some fibres. We’ll know on Tuesday if he can practice again. He had a test yesterday that he couldn’t get through. He has a chance to play on Sunday.”
“Samir has a hamstring problem, a small one I think.”
Man Utd don’t often do it, but they gave us a lifeline yesterday. Their draw with Newcastle means that we can go within 4 points of the leaders, who still have to come to the Emirates. There is, however, the small matter of beating Tottenham. In recent weeks we have looked below par. Passing has not been as crisp as usual and we have been very wasteful in front of goal. Are we still feeling sorry for ourselves after not winning the Carling Cup? Whatever is stopping us play our usual game, we have to put it behind us and realise that the league is there for the taking. If we can grind out a couple of wins before the Utd game, who knows what could happen.
Last season, we went to White Hart Lane in a similar position. We had a chance to win the league, but we bottled it. Last year we said we had injuries which cost us points. This year, we really do not have any excuse. Apart from Vermaelen, we should be able to field our strongest team. I need not remind you that the last two league games we have played against Spurs have ended badly for Arsenal. Perhaps the most painful was the 3-2 loss earlier this season, at the Emirates. But we have to put all of this behind us and focus on what needs to be done. I honestly believe that if we win out next 6 games, we will win the league; the question is, can we do it?
Arsenal – WDDDWD (7th in the EPL form table)
Tottenham – WLDDDW (9th in the EPL form table)
It is perhaps quickly worth noting that Chelsea currently sit top of this form table, with 16 out of a possible 18 from their last 6 games. If we are not careful, we may not even finish second.
Wenger has said that “It is down to me to use Jack well and that’s what I will try to do.” However, I think he sees this as a very important game for us and will perhaps choose to rest Jack at a later stage, perhaps before the Utd game.
2-1 victory for Arsenal
Matches against Tottenham rarely fail to deliver in terms of excitement and an array of emotions will undoubtedly be on show later tonight – from fans and players alike. Tottenham know that if they can stop us getting three points, we can pretty much say goodbye to the title. With that in mind, they may be inclined to simply contain us and go for the draw. However, I think they will be more attacking due to the fact that they themselves are fighting for a top four finish. Furthermore, there is the added belief among the Tottenham fans that they are now equal to us. The game will not be an easy one, and the atmosphere at White Heart Lane will be very hostile. However, nothing would please me more than seeing Arsenal take all three points back to Ashburton Grove.
Arsenal have not won an away match in all competitions since 19th January, when Wenger’s men won 1-3 against a Championship side – Leeds United. In addition, since beating Barcelona at the Emirates, Arsenal have managed only two victories, against Stoke and Leyton Orient. Hardly the form of Champions, let alone that of a team challenging for an unprecedented quadruple (as we supposedly were, up until a few weeks ago).
On Sunday, Arsenal travel to Bloomfield Road to take on a side that we thumped 6-0 in the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season. Despite Blackpool’s perilous league position, sitting only one point off the relegation zone in 17th place, the Premier League newcomers have been great value for money this year. Their captain, Charlie Adam, has been nominated for PFA Player of the Year and has produced some stunning performances including wins against Tottenham, Sunderland, Stoke and twice against Liverpool.
Average goals per game involving Blackpool is the highest in the league by a long way, with 3.484 goals/game on average. Only three other sides (Man Utd, West Brom and Newcastle) boast goal/game averages above 3. The media is lauding Blackpool as a success for the Premier League due to their exciting style of play and high scoring matches, especially as Holloway didn’t go on a huge spending spree after their promotion last summer.
Blackpool could start the match in the relegation zone, and Arsenal could be ten points off the leaders, if results on Saturday go against both teams. Blackpool haven’t beaten the Gunners since the mid 1960s, and their recent Premier League form isn’t good either – they have lost 10 of the 14 league games since the start of 2011.
However, in 14 games at Bloomfield Road this season, no side has managed to keep a clean sheet, including Blackpool. If Arsenal fail to win tomorrow, it will be the first time that they have failed to win in six matches since December 1998. This impressive statistic should indicate that our current poor run of form is about to end, but the lack of initiative and leadership against Blackburn was far from reassuring.
Arsenal – 5th in the Premier League form guide, despite three draws on the trot
D W W D D D
Blackpool -17th in the Premier League form guide matches their league position
D W L L D L
Arsenal - Denilson, Djourou, Fabianski, Mannone, Song, Szczesny and Vermaelen are all ruled out, with Sagna and Walcott as doubts
Blackpool – Basham and Carney (I don’t know who they are either), Rachubka is a doubt
2-5 victory to the Gunners. I can see a high-scoring game, as both teams have an open style of play. A fourth draw in a row wouldn’t only be detrimental to Arsenal’s ever-fading title hopes, but it could put second place in jeopardy. A resounding win is on the cards and I believe Bloomfield Road is the place for this to happen.
Ryo Miyaichi may not be able to play for Arsenal next season due to problems with his work permit. The 18 year old Japanese starlet was signed from Chukyodai Chuyko High School in January, having impressed Arsène Wenger when he trained with the club last summer.
Ryo is continuing to impress during his loan spell at Feyenoord, so much so that the Dutch media refer to him as “Ryodinho” after he was compared to Brazilian star Ronaldinho. He has made 8 appearances so far in the Eredivisie, scoring one goal and making an assist. When interviewed about his loan spell to Feyenoord Miyaichi said:
“I just have to go there and give it a shot… Hopefully one day I will be standing on the pitch at Emirates Stadium.”
Miyaichi has also been clocked running 100 metres in just 10.84 seconds, which is only marginally slower than Theo Walcott.
However, Arsène Wenger has failed to get Miyaichi a “special talent” visa due to several technical difficulties, and it is unknown whether he will be able to play for the club in the future. Arsenal were in a similar position last season. The club failed to gain a work permit for Wellington Silva and were forced to send him out on loan to Levante. Lets also not forget that it took over 2 years for Carlos Vela to be granted a UK Work Permit. Vela was loaned out first to Salamanca and then to Osasuna while the club waited on a decision.
Rumours started to circulate earlier this week that Miyaichi may face a loan spell in Italy to play for Napoli if the visa is not sorted. There are also suggestions that a permanent move may have to be agreed depending on the status of his application. I find it very difficult to understand when an application for a player (who is clearly talented and will highly benefit the team) is being blocked.
Having watched clips of Miyaichi online, I would be extremely disappointed if he was not allowed to join the club. The club is looking to expand its Japanese support, and this represents the perfect opportunity as he would be the first Japanese player to play for Arsenal. There is the possibility that this will all be sorted out within the next few months and that he will be in our squad next season, but this is not looking particularly likely.
Arsenal have announced that the price of Club Level season tickets will rise by 6.5% for 2011/12.
7,000 fans will have to pay a minimum of £160 more than they have paid this season, with the Arsenal Supporters Trust worried that this could lead to increases in prices throughout the stadium. A decision will be made early next month to decide if the rest of the Emirates season ticket holders will face similar price rises.
A club statement aimed to assure us that the the rise is only 4%, but this is further inflated by a rise in VAT. However, the Supporters Trust has criticised the timing of the price increases and suggested that the club is simply trying to maximise commercial revenues.
“We are very concerned at the impact this will have on the fans at a time when bills are increasing, wages aren’t and some people are losing their jobs… Some members have come to us already expressing their concern. They are worried that they won’t be able to afford to come to games. This is stretching some fans’ loyalty to the limit.”
Despite having just over 60,000 seats, tickets at the Emirates are a rare commodity. There are currently over 40,000 fans on the waiting list for season tickets and Arsenal will have no problem replacing those fans who cannot afford to or choose not to renew their tickets. Fellow Arsenal blogger Le Grove was quick to give his opinion saying “…it’s an absolute disgrace and about time Arsenal fans voiced their discontent about the way things are going online and in the ground.”
It would seem that many fans are unhappy at the way that the club is currently being run, and I have two questions that I wish to raise:
1) Do Arsenal fans get value for their money?
Most fans go to the Emirates to watch the team play beautiful football, dominate games and outplay opponents, but the fact remains that we are without a trophy for 6 years. The good thing is that the club offer 7 tickets for cup games on top of 19 Premier League matches, something that I don’t think many other clubs currently offer. However, increasing ticket prices despite record pre-tax profits of £56 million seems unnecessary. If Wenger was spending large sums of money and the club needed to raise funds then I might be able to understand the logic behind this proposal.
2) Does the club justify having the most expensive season ticket in the League?
An Arsenal season ticket is currently 74% more expensive than a season ticket for Manchester United, who are the most successful team in English football. United have won countless trophies during our barren spell and remain in three of the four competitions this season. Liverpool have the second most expensive season tickets in the Premier League, but even the cheapest season ticket at the Emirates is £200 more expensive than one at Anfield.