14 of our first-team players will be put to the test as they represent their countries over the next week. Several important qualifiers for Euro 2012 and the African Cup of Nations are due to take place, as well as some friendlies that will allow players to gain some much-needed international experience.
Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have all travelled to Luxembourg to represent “Les Bleus”, who have improved considerably under new manager Laurent Blanc following a dismal World Cup. Gooners must be pleased that Nasri, who has been one of the stand-out players at club level this season, was not included in the French squad the travelled to South Africa last summer.
Robin Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, Maroune Chamakh, Thomas Rosicky, Carlos Vela and Emanuel Eboué have also been called up to play for their respective countries, while Henri Lansbury and Kieran Gibbs are representing the England Under 21’s. It is also important to note that Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Alex Song would all have featured in their countries squads if they weren’t injured.
Although I think it is great that so many Arsenal players are representing their countries at such a high level, I do feel that this can create some unnecessary problems for the club at such a crucial part of the season. How many times have we seen players injure themselves on international duty? Reports have already started to emerge suggesting that Nicklas Bendtner has picked up a small ankle injury while training with the Danish squad ahead of their match in Norway, and RVP can’t seem to play for Holland without requiring several months on the sidelines afterwards.
Injuries aside, the main focus of the weekend will be on the two extremely talented young midfielders playing tomorrow afternoon at the Millennium Stadium. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are used to playing at the same club, but tomorrow they have the rare opportunity to play against each other. The two have pushed their way into the Arsenal first-team (although the latter suffered a major set-back due to the horrible injury suffered just over a year ago), and both will be looking to have a similar impact at international level.
In a surprise move this morning, new coach Gary Speed has handed Aaron Ramsey the Wales captaincy. Ramsey will become the youngest player to captain Wales, in only his 3rd appearance for the country, despite Speed having several more-experienced players in the squad. Ramsey’s last game for his country was over 16 months ago, and many are saying that he is not ready to be given such a large responsibility. However, I am in agreement with Robbie Savage, who says: “Ramsey will feel Wilshere has taken over his club slot and he will be looking to prove a bit of a point.”I am sure that Ramsey would relish the opportunity to show just how strong a player he really is.
Jack Wilshere will almost definitely start in the heart of England’s midfield, with Fabio Capello hailing him as the future of the England team. He has put in some incredible performances recently, and has been a revelation in the new-look England team.
“Yes, yes [he will play for England], because he is good, because he plays without fear, and with confidence. Also for someone so young, he is a leader. It is incredible. I never saw someone so young be a leader on the pitch. It is incredible.”
A comfortable performance by Arsenal’s second string puts us through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Although this team has failed to produce on many occasions this season, they finally managed to cap off great ball retention with the ability to score goals. Too many times, we have seen Bendtner, Denilson, Chamakh and Rosicky under-achieve. They weren’t brilliant today, but it was an improvement.
In my opinion, the main problem with the second string is that they aren’t like the younger ‘reserve’ sides that Arsenal used to field in the cups.They used to be first team players (Almunia, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Eboue etc). They were dropped over the last few years (due to new players coming through or injury). The team that beat Sheffield Utd 6-0 were young, fearless and bristling with enthusiasm. The current crop are lacking form and confidence and feel unwanted.
Bendtner scored a hattrick today. It was probably the worst Arsenal performance to have come away with three goals, but if anyone can do it, it’s our great Dane. He became the first Arsenal player to score a hattrick in an FA Cup match, since Ian Wright against Yoevil in 1993. Bendtner made some shocking passes, and his control was worse than a rabid dog, but he did his job. In football, it’s all about results, and Nicklas scored the goals we needed. Wenger took him off to rapturous, but perhaps slightly sarcastic, applause. Maybe he was being rested for the Barcelona game. Ironically, we may actually need to start with Super Nick at the Nou Camp! Maybe he can replicate his heroics from last season…
Diaby returned from his latest spell on the sidelines, but was exactly the same as ever. He made powerful runs through the midfield, and his link-up play was good. As usual, he had no end product. After one particularly brilliant run, he found himself one-on-one with the keeper. His shot went wide – typical Abou! A bit more composure in the box, and he would be a superb attacking midfielder. Unfortunately, more than once, Diaby got to the opponent’s box, turned around, and passed it backwards. A long-range effort, or an attempt at a defence-shattering pass would be so much more useful!
Orient fought hard and tried to play passing football, but unfortunately they were not good enough, so it often ended in clearing the ball out of play. They had a few decent chances in the first half, one which had their fans believing it was in. This particular opportunity fell to the League 1 side as Arsenal’s defensive duo, Miquel and Squillaci, were caught way out of position. A low, whipped cross was met by an Orient striker, who had found himself in acres of space as our centre-backs went missing. His shot was off-target, but as it hit the net from behind, the ripples caused cheers from the away fans.
The first goal came thanks to a lung-busting run from Rosicky, and his pass was cut back to the penalty spot. Chamakh met the ball at pace, and slotted the ball into the far post. The home fans were still smarting from the cup final defeat, so cheers were hardly deafening. In fact, there were some areas of the crowd that felt the need to boo the Arsenal team when they came onto the pitch. Disgusting behaviour in my opinion, but fans do have the right to voice their views. To me, beating down the already-low morale of their own team seems rather foolish.
The second goal came courtesy of a floated cross from the ever-effective Kieran Gibbs. Bendtner out-jumped his marker and sent an impressive header into the top corner. The next goal was scored soon after, after the ball was nicked off Leyton Orient defenders as they tried to play themselves out of trouble. Bendtner grabbed the ball and ran at their back four. He dipped inside and fired a fantastic shot into the far side of the goal. 3-0 to the Arsenal at half-time, and we were almost certainly through to the quarters.
The final two goals arrived after much teasing and taunting of the opposition, but not many notable chances. A sensational run by Gibbs led to a penalty, after he was brought down in the box. Super Nick stepped up to seize his hattrick, and the match ball was his thanks to a decent spot kick. Clichy came on in the second half, and marked the occasion with his second goal… EVER. His first came in a 1-2 defeat a few seasons ago, and it got deflected. This strike was far more impressive. He took the shot first-time and smashed it into the far corner, after a cross had evaded two Arsenal players.
Overall, it was a necessary win, for many reasons. Arsenal needed to get the morale back up after the defeat in the final, because the next match against Sunderland is terribly important, especially as Utd dropped points last night. However, plenty of the players who played in the final were absent tonight, such as Song, RVP, Arshavin, Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny and Djourou. These players will probably still be pretty upset, but a 5-0 win should help to lift the gloom. In addition, Arsenal now have a quarter-final tie at Old Trafford to look forward to. It will take place only four days after the Barca game, so next week will (hopefully) be a great week to be a Gooner!
After making a brief comeback against Chelsea as a substitute, Abou Diaby was given the chance to start against Wigan. Unfortunately, his return was short-lived. After just 27 minutes, he was forced off the pitch with another injury.
This is how the Arsenal website describes his new injury:
Abou is set to be out for “some weeks” after picking up a calf strain in the 2-2 draw at Wigan on Wednesday night. The midfielder hobbled off during the first half at the DW Stadium and was replaced by Jack Wilshere. Afterwards, Arsène Wenger confirmed the bad news. “It is a calf strain,” said the manager. “He is out for a while now. Some weeks I think.”
Is this just bad luck, or are we beginning to see a pattern with Diaby?
Undoubtedly, Diaby has the potential to be a very good player. However, he has been plagued with injuries during his time at Ashburton Grove. He is still a young player and we hope he can put this phase behind him.
Wenger seems happy with the progress of Emmanuel Frimopong, who was unfortunate to suffer from a cruciate knee ligament injury. Wenger said that he is “coming along well for a guy with a cruciate injury.” He also said that for such an injury “you count nine months and it is now nearly six. He is close to running and in one month he should start to play in training.” This is good news as he looked to be a very promising young talent.
Thomas Vermaelen seems to be nearing a return to the first team after 4 months out. Wenger said that he “would rather say late January” about the possible return of our star centre back. However, Wenger admitted that he has to be careful because he has “been hit so many times with backlash that I am very cautious.”
Keiran Gibbs and Manuel Almunia should be available early in the new year.
£8million Lorient striker Kevin Gamiero states his desire to leave
Gamiero has been quoted in French newspaper L’equipe as saying that he has wanted to leave for over 6 months. The forward has scored 38 goals in 95 games for the Ligue 1 side, a decent return for a player of only 23 years old.
“It’s been six months since I have wanted to leave, so that is not why I’m playing badly. When I score, you do not speak of my desires to leave.”
However, with Bendtner stating his desire for more playing time, it seems unlikely that Wenger will go out and buy another striker. As written in the last article, we have plenty of top quality attacking players, making a signing of this sort even less likely.
In addition, Wenger would not spend £8million on a player who’s contract runs out in 6 months. He didn’t do so for Chamakh, hence why our French striker wasn’t purchased until last summer.
Likeliness Rating 1.5/5
Wenger says he may spend in the January transfer window…if the right deal comes along (doesn’t he say this every year?!)
Our manager has come out with the same quote he puts out before every transfer window, that he will spend “if necessary.” The Metro reported that Wenger has promised to spend if a chance pops up, but doesn’t want to halt the progress of our current crop of players. He’s right. It might ‘kill’ Denilson and the other ‘promising’ youngsters at the club. Alternatively, Wenger could buy some players that would compliment the best footballers currently at the club.
“If we find a player we need who can give something more to the team then we will do it. But the problem is people want me to develop young players. They want me to develop Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and to also buy players. But the two do not go well together. You have to play players at a certain age or you lose them.”
Likeliness Rating 2/5
Barcelona to attempt a double Spanish purchase of Torres and Cesc in the summer
Barca have been boosted by the recent cash injection from their sponsorship deal with Qatar, worth £125million over 5 years. They hope to use this money to move forward with their advances on these two Premier League stars. Arsenal‘s captain has been linked with a move back to his first club for a long time now, but we can only hope that Wenger can hold onto our skipper as long as Cesc continues to put his heart and soul into the club. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that enough from Cesc this season, possibly due to Nasri’s surge of good form, niggling injuries and the World Cup victory (with many of Barca’s players) still fresh in his mind. Barca made an offer of around £30million last summer for Fabregas, which is a disgustingly low figure. But with this extra sponsorship money, we could see the Catalan club prise away our Spanish star.
Likeliness Rating 4/5
Given to Arsenal?
With the ‘keeper out of favour at Man City, there is a possibility of Wenger attempting to make an offer for Shay Given. The fans have been voicing their anguish at Wenger’s inability to purchase a new shot-stopper in the summer. However, some strong performances from Fabianski and Szczesny, following Almunia’s relegation from the no.1 position at Arsenal, has seen this Given rumour subside. It seems unlikely that Wenger will pay a substantial fee for a goalkeeper who is probably not much better (in our manager’s opinion) than what we have already got. I am inclined to agree with him.
To start with, congratulations to Braga for taking advantage of a poor Gooner display to nick all three points. Both goals were counter attacks and the two finishes were classy.
Arsenal had between 68%-72% of the ball, depending on which statistician you believe calculates possession correctly. The passing game was alright. But there was little spark and innovation in the midfield. Fabregas looked disinterested.
I think he has a few things weighing on his mind. He isn’t a born leader – despite that fabulous show of courage against Barcelona last year when he played with a broken bone. But further to this, Cesc played with plenty of top quality, determined Spaniards throughout the summer. He won a trophy. He returns to Arsenal, having clearly stated his desire to play for Barca, and is surrounded by a bunch of skillful, yet thus far unproven, Gooners. Finally, Cesc has been playing with a hamstring problem, something that Wenger shouldn’t have allowed.
Denilson was tidy, but refused to pass the ball forwards. Wilshere tried his best, but wasn’t on form. Our defence was generally very solid, with Djourou playing well. But, as always, a few lapses in concentration (like in the Spurs game) let the opposition get through our defence and score. No matter how well Gibbs, Squillaci and Djourou play, if they concede those kind of counter attacks on numerous occasions, they are simply not good enough.
Bendtner was absolutely awful. From the first to the last minute, he failed to hold up the ball or make any decent runs in the opposing half. He came deep and crowded out the midfield. Walcott showed some bright moments, but was generally ineffective due to a lack of supply. Rosicky is a great player, but he doesn’t impose himself on matches like Nasri does. He was quite poor last night.
Chamakh made an instant difference with his composure on the ball and heading ability. Gibbs put in a sumptuous cross, at 0-0, and the Moroccan headed the ball down for another substitute, Carlos Vela. One of the most blatant penalty decisions of 2010 was waved away, with Vela getting booked for diving. He moved the ball away and got hauled down. How is that not a penalty? The player got none of the ball and all of the man. Ridiculous.
Anyway, we lost. It makes our route to the knockout stage slightly more difficult. But we will do it. Partizan at home will hopefully be a 10-0 victory. Or 1-0. Any victory will do at the moment!
The Villa game on the weekend will be difficult, but considering Arsenal only seem to lose matches in pairs, I reckon we won’t lose another. My prediction is for a boring 0-0 draw.
We had lots of possession. Gibbs is better than Clichy. Bendtner is now confirmed as crap. Ramsey is back in the reserves (really clutching at straws now…).
We lost. We conceded two goals in the last ten minutes (albeit with ten men on the field). Fabregas (although he has been playing badly) and Eboue got injured. We didn’t create much. Everyone looked bored and lacking determination. Wenger still makes his substitutions far too late in the game. We didn’t get a blatant penalty at 0-0 (which would’ve surely finished the game). Shakhtar won, so we may not win the group. Spurs may be on more points than us in the CL after tonight.
Walcott and Nasri featured against each other last night
I think I speak for most Gooners when I say that we hate international breaks. England are, quite simply, rubbish. This is especially the case when we compare them to the beautiful attacking football which we enjoy every week. They have a defensive-minded manager combined with players lacking in determination and skill. An England match isn’t pretty.
However, us Arsenal fans had a bit of a treat last night. With Gibbs, Walcott, Sagna and Nasri all starting in the match last night, almost a fifth of all the players on the field were Gooners. Furthermore, if it hadn’t been for Wilshere pulling out of the game due to injury, we would’ve had the pleasure of seeing five Arsenal players take to the Wembley pitch.
As it happened, four of my favourite players was plenty for me. They generally excelled and I felt a shiver of excitement that international football rarely fails to provide. Samir was brilliant, controlling the game as he does for the Reds. Gibbs contributed well, especially considering his recent injury setback. He was composed on the ball but he looked slightly out of his comfort zone, perhaps due to the lack of familiarity. In addition, he was given a torrid time by… Bacary Sagna! Our reliable right back also played very well, he was defensively strong and breathtaking in attack. He crossed for France’s second goal and was a constant pest for England. Walcott started on the right for England but was starved of supply due to a poor English midfield. Unfortunately, when Theo got possession, he didn’t do much with it. He may not start on Saturday, but if he does, he will need to be more inventive and involved in the game.
Chamakh was also on international duty last night and scored a bizarre goal against Northern Ireland. The keeper attempted to clear the ball and it ballooned off the Arsenal forward into the net. RVP also got a game under his belt for Holland and this could indicate he is ready to return for the Gooners.
But now we turn to the Premier League and Arsenal have a home game against Spurs at 12.45 on Saturday. This game is a derby and although it is early in the season, Arsenal cannot afford to lose another home match. With Chelsea, Man Utd and City all dropping points far too easily, I don’t think we can say this match is a ‘must-win’ in terms of the title. However, for confidence and bragging rights, I see this as a game that must end in three points for Arsenal.
I would love to see Gibbs, RVP and Theo start the match after playing last night. But we have to be realistic, so I don’t see RVP starting the game after Chamakh’s good form and RVP’s lack of first team action. It will be difficult to accomodate both Nasri and Theo, because I think Wenger will be wary of Spurs’ main strength, their midfield. For this reason, Wenger will probably prefer to play a more defensive midfield, with Song, Fabregas and Wilshere/Denilson.
My team prediction:
If I had the choice, I would drop Denilson for Walcott, moving Nasri into midfield. In addition, I would start Gibbs ahead of Clichy, due to Gael’s poor run of form and I would start RVP ahead of Arshavin. This would result in a formation more like a 4-5-1 than 4-3-3, although they are essentially the same formations, with the latter encouraging slightly more attacking wingers.
My Score Prediction:
I reckon the game will end 2-1 to Arsenal, with goals from Nasri and Song. However, this game is going to be close and could easily go either way.
“It’s a medial knee ligament strain. It needs to be checked on the scan but it will be a few weeks [out].” This is what Arsene Wenger said about Gibbs’ recent injury.
Arsenal now have five players out; Gibbs, Frimpong, RVP, Vermaelen and Ramsey. It’s a given that RVP would take out a few months of this season with ‘minor setbacks,’ and with Chamakh‘s good form, we can deal without the Dutchman for a while. Frimpong is very much a player for the future and Gibbs is still Clichy‘s understudy, despite some saying he is the better of the two. Of course we could do with Vermaelen and Ramsey right now, but I have been thoroughly impressed this season by Koscielny (although he cannot handle Drogba, but who can?) and, at times, Djourou.
But the big question is; how bad is our injury list? Well, for starters, we are no longer top of the injury table. Fulham and our opponents this weekend, West Ham, have the honour of taking joint top spot with 6 injuries each.
Of course we miss the five players that are currently sitting on the sidelines, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. Both RVP and Ramsey look set to start full training some time next week. Having these players back in the squad is fabulous, not only because they are quality players, but also because they will encourage Theo, Bendtner, Wilshere and Song to fight for their places. Sometimes, such as in the West Brom game, our players need more drive and determination. Competition for places can provide such an incentive.
The next key question is why have we suffered such horrific and long-term injuries over the last few seasons? Here are some possible ideas:
- Poor medical staff
- Feeble refereeing leading to hard challenges from opposition
- Opposing managers trying to stifle our game with strong challenges
- Bad luck
- Too many games
- Fast, one-touch football leading to late tackles
- Buying injury-prone players
We at Straight Talking Gooners believe that it is a mixture of a few of the above. The main point we want to stress is that our style of football will always lead to the opposition being too slow and making rash tackles. Furthermore, there is a strong consensus in the Premier League that we don’t like opposition closing us down quickly using strength and hard tackling to dispossess us.
Is our injury list the price to pay for the fast, attacking and skillful football we play? What do you think? Please leave your comments below, telling us your view.