WBA Preview: Let’s not have a repeat of last year

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So this afternoon it’s the turn of Roy Hodgson’s West Bromwich Albion to visit the grove and as the title of this post requests lets not have a repeat of last year…

I won’t go into detail on that 2-3 defeat at the hands of a Baggies side that had only just come back up after a spell in the Championship, to find yourselves trailing by three goals at home against a newly promoted side who had seen a first half penalty saved makes for as uncomfortable viewing as any of this seasons defeats doesn’t it?

Chelsea number two Roberto Di Mateo was the man in the West Brom hot seat back then so at least the Italian won’t be able to stage a similar game plan this time around but I’m sure Hodgson will be reminding his players that victory is achievable.

In all honesty I think we’ll be far too strong for the Baggies but then again I said that last season too so what the hell do I know? But given our current form particularly at the Emirates I find it hard to see past a home win, even when I take my Arsenal-tinted glasses off. If I’m honest I don’t really know how Albion are getting on this season, I know that’s fairly lazy of me and usually I would have spent a little time looking at their form and their squad so as to offer you a bit more insight on the fixture, at least I hope that’s what you usually get from my match previews?, but I’ve not really had the time and as I sit writing the first draft of this post I’m upon a train headed for the south coast of England with no form of Internet connectivity. I’ve dredged my brains for some kind of repressed memory I may have that gives an indication of our opponents form but I’ll I’m getting is a vague recollection that West Brom’s “celebrity” fans include Frank Skinner and Adrian Chiles. I don’t particularly like either of those two but if the people in charge at the Hawthorns want to do a swap for Shovel from M People and Piers Morgan I don’t think it’s a deal I could turn down.

Anyway I digress, partially as a distraction technique to cover up the fact I’ve not done my home work but partly because I’m quite adapt at going off on a tangent..

So back to the game and we have no new injury concerns. It’s incredible isn’t it, we seem to have had a real run of our key players staying fit (everybody touch some wood – except you over there, you stop what your doing right now. That call for mass wood touching was not a euphemism you pervert) Kieran Gibbs and Marouane Chamakh remain unavailable but aside from those two and long term absentees Jack Wilshere, Abu Diaby and Bacary Sagna we’re at full strength and I for one think thats pretty flippin’ positive and I’ll be praying that when the players return and we awaken from yet another inter-coma in a couple of weeks time that will still be the case. The boss says that Gibbs and Chamakh should be available again by then so that should strengthen us even further, depending on how you look at it, but the gaffer has made those sorts of predictions before. Take Diaby (some body please take Diaby) the Frenchman has been expected to return after every international break since Euro 2008 or at least that’s how it seems.

With such a wondrous selection of players for Wenger to choose from it’ll be interesting to see the line up this afternoon, I think we’ll see the return of Laurent Koscielny and it could well be Per Mertesacker who makes way. Vermaelen needs game time and Larry had a breather during the week so let Mertz have a break. I know it won’t he the first time we’ve seen Vermaelen and Koscielny paired together but it will be interesting to get a look at the duo marshalling our back line together.

I’ll be surprised if Van Persie dosen’t come back into the side, I don’t think Park was quite as poor against Marseille as some posts have suggested but personally I wouldn’t start the South Korean today. Play Robin from the get go and hopefully with a large chunk of the second half remaining our lead will be comfortable enough that Ju can replace the Dutchman and maybe show the kind of form he did against Bolton in the Carling Cup a few weeks ago. There has been a lot of talk this week of January moves for a striker, it’s something I would welcome especially if it were a player such a Lukas Podolski as some have suggested because I’m a big fan of the German. But for now Wenger is claiming he is quite happy the options he has up front but then again he would wouldn’t he.

Other than Robin & Larry coming back into the starting XI i think the team will stay the same, the boss isn’t going to rest players ahead of their international jaunts so aside from those two I don’t think we’ll see any changes from Tuesday nights European stalemate.

I’ve just remembered something else about WBA – With his hair dyed platinum blonde Peter Odemwingie looks like ’80’s pop star Yazz. That would most likely be more of a benefit to the baggies were they attempting to win promotion from the Championship. Christ, M People & Yazz in one post… I think it’s time for me to wrap this up.

I’m not going to be at the game this afternoon, as you read this I’ll be on a completely separate body of land and the reason for that is related to the fact that I’m 32 years young today – Yep 1979 was a great year for Gooners. All I want in way of a present is an Arsenal win and three more of those precious points.

Enjoy the game wherever you’re watching it and keep me updated on events at the grove via Twitter. Dave will be delivering your post match report tomorrow so be sure to check it out.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

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A little defence of Wenger

Good morning…

Well I have begun writing this yesterday, well it’s today at the moment as I know it but when you read this tomorrow, or today as it is at the time of you reading this, today will be yesterday unless you are reading this at some whole other point in the future in which case I wouldn’t like to suggest what day it might be.. Make sense?

As that was an odd introduction we may as well continue with the Bizarre –

Sir Alex Ferguson came out yesterday in defence of Arsene Wenger. When discussing the recent criticism the Frenchman has faced he of the red hooter said:

“The work he has done in the 15 years he has been at the club is the best in Arsenal’s history,”

“Yes, he has not won a trophy for six years but what does that mean? The quality of his side has not been reduced. He still has great quality in his teams”

Now it isn’t often I find myself agreeing with the Scot but he is absolutely right, in the current circumstances it is easy to only see the negative but we can’t just dismiss all that has come before and in relation to the past Fergie also said:

“The competition is far greater now. When Arsenal and ourselves were going head-to-head, that went on for about eight years”

Again he is right, there are now more than two teams competing for the major honours we have to offer in this country. We haven’t slumped into the disgrace that is Scottish football as many predicted in fact it has gone completely the other way largely due to the amount of money that certain clubs have had to spend. Some of those clubs have found that money via wealthy benefactors & others have spent millions they just don’t have in the hope that it will generate success & maybe in some cases & in some form it has – look at Spurs they played in the Champions League last season after a period of heavy investment but it lasted but one solitary season. Old bollock face thinks the way to reverse things is to go on another massive spending spree, well look what that approach did to his last club Portsmouth. They spent way beyond their means & won the FA Cup & got into Europe now after almost going out of business they’re milling about in the Championship barely staying afloat.

‘arry saw the writing on the wall there & jumped ship to the next cash cow leaving him free to absolve himself of any part in Pompey’s downfall.

It might not always bring success in the form of big shiny trophies but the sustainability of the club and it’s ability to continue to challenge for honours without resorting to the bank account of the never never has to be respected doesn’t it?

I get as wound up as much as the next fan when Wenger says that fifteen years of Champions League football & top four finishes are as good as trophies because they aren’t but we’re not strutting about like Charlie Big Bollocks pretending to be a new footballing super power.

All managers, players & fans want to win trophies but the number of clubs vastly outweighs the number of trophies available each season and as Fergie says there is just so much more competition now days.

It is hard to fight Wenger’s corner, as I’m typing this I can already hear the voices shouting “We should be one of the clubs who win those trophies” – yes maybe we should but in recent times we haven’t been but that is not to say we won’t be again and whilst Wenger may not be the man who delivers that in the end you have to say that Ferguson is right again when he asks of his old adversary “Who is going to replace him?”

Just look at their faces... urgh

Talking of spending money (or not) there was also a story floated about yesterday morning that Arsenal had approached Bolton with a £6m bid (plus add on’s) for Gary Cahill.

This caused outrage across the footballing spectrum from Bolton fans to journalists to Arsenal fans and seemingly even the Wanderers Chairman & manager. Owen Coyle said that the offer had to be described as “Derisory” but he also said that he knew that as a third-party & that there had been no ‘official’ written offer from the Gunners.

Trotters Chairman used his Twitter account to re-tweet a fans outrage at the sum supposedly being discussed. That re-tweet was quickly removed once Wenger, during his pre match presser, suggested that £6m certainly wasn’t the figure mentioned & that he was willing to confront Gartside in order for the man who was once best mates with Fat Sam to prove any of this was true.

Of course this all meant that a number of journalists all got there knickers in a twist over Arsene suggesting he was going to “confront” Gartside & for not spending enough money or offering up enough for a player in the last year of his contract thus comparing that fact to the money we received for Samir Nasri & Gael Clichy blah blah etc…

The fact is Gary Cahill is not worth £17m especially as he is in the last twelve months of his contract & if we approached Bolton with a sum in or around that ball park they would undoubtedly ask for more. Why would we not go in with a lower offer to strategy things moving? In fact it was only a few days ago that Wenger was being lambasted for not making any kind of offer, he can’t do right for doing wrong at times.

Bolton need the money & we want the player, at the moment it’s all just a game of brinkmanship, all parties involved want the best deal they can get – why wouldn’t they?

I’ve a feeling that Cahill will be an Arsenal player come the close of the transfer window but I could be wrong. But Bolton clearly want to sell & are trying to squeeze all they can out of a potential buyer – they’ve been coming out almost weekly during the summer saying how they’ve had no bids in order to garner interest & why come out & make details of discussions known now? Attempts at price hiking? Fair play to them but they’re not in as strong a position as they think they are & they’re most certainly in no position to be making attempts to take the moral high ground.

In fact as Wenger suggested we may not complete any signings & he is right we might not but that isn’t to say (as some take great delight in doing) that the club are not trying to get players in, it’s just that there is no guarantee. We can only sign players if their clubs agree to let them go and that depends on us meeting the selling clubs valuation of the player which could be a million miles away from our own. A player, for the most part, is surely only worth what someone will pay for him? We shouldn’t have to over pay because we are Arsenal & we’ll be torn apart if we don’t spend every last penny the Emirates money vaults might hold. Should we?

Well now it’s Saturday morning & I’ve woken up in Bristol (140 miles from home)

To the vest of my knowledge we’ve still not signed anyone and rumours are circulating that we’re moving away from a bid from Cahill but could be going after Arteta & Fellanini at Everton. Two players I wouldn’t mind seeing at the Arsenal. Centre half, centre forward and a left back still as equally required & time is running out.

What we do know is that even if anyone were to sign today they can’t play at Old Trafford tomorrow but the good news is that Kozzer & TV look set to return – a solid back line is imperative against the champions. Hopefully Gibbs can return at left back and Sagna can switch back to the right.

But I’ll look at all of that far more comprehensively tomorrow morning (bright and early not the mud morning hour I’m posting this!)

One other interesting bit of news is that it is reported that Sol Campbell has been offered a coaching role in the clubs youth set up. That would surely be a fantastic appointment – I know the big man may have started his career down the road but he is to my mind an Arsenal man. Can’t see Ade emulating big Sol in a role reversal can you?

Right sorry about the somewhat random nature if this post – I must stop waking up in far away towns on Saturday mornings!

Thanks for reading

Paul

A new signing – more to follow?

The Ox

From early yesterday morning there were rumours that Arsenal had a player booked in for a medical (Neil Brooks was first with the scoop via Twitter) and for a couple of hours this was debated by many a gooner and like a good game of Chinese whispers more info was added to the story. It became ‘Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is having a medical at Arsenal’ and was again being disputed by some and reported as gospel by others – including the sport media.

It turns out that there was a medical taking place & it was indeed Southampton’s AOC who was being checked for signs of Walcottitis.

Walcottitis can strike at any time

Either the medical examination came back giving the youngster the all clear or the Arsenal medical team had come across another specimen they want to keep strapped to a hospital bed & to experiment on – I honestly truly & sincerely hope it is the former, dear god don’t let it be the latter.

It’s reported that the deal to take the England U-21 international, who turns 18 next week, from the south coast to the big smoke is going to cost us £12m up front with £3m in add ons going the saints way at some point in the future (Possibly depending on a myriad of factors).

So a player that the club have been eyeing up for a long time now was finally snapped up to make the total of new faces in the squad a nice round…3.

It took absolutely no time whatsoever for so-called supporters of the club to start sniping at the manager, the Chief Exec & even the player himself. Apparently it matters not that this is a highly rated, and equally highly sought, young player who by all accounts was desperate to join our club. No, it apparently matters more that he isn’t a 26-year-old, seven-foot centre half.

Transfer Listed?

Now don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned defensive powerhouse is certainly a more pressing need & it would have been great had the club unveiled such a colossus too much rapture and fanfare, but they didn’t. Hopefully before week’s end they will, but at this juncture they didn’t so perhaps it’s more important to look at the positives of the actual acquisition.

There is no doubt that at the moment the lad with the posh name is indeed a raw talent & having been plying his trade several depths below the level of the Premier League, not to mention his tender years, it may well take some time for this purchase to start paying dividends but personally I have no doubt that it will.

It’s easy to immediately compare AOC with Theo Walcott, they have both earned a place in the Southampton first team squad at a young age, they both have a somewhat similar style of play & they’ve both moved to Arsenal for big money early on in their respective careers. But actually I’m not sure how similar the two are, certainly not in terms of footballing ability, yes they’re both pacey and like to take on opposing players, but from what I have seen of AOC (and admittedly that isn’t a hell of a lot!) he is a different beast to young Theo and won’t need to be wrapped in cotton wall as Walcott was when he first came to the club, and arguably still is.

AOC seems to be built bigger than Theo is even now, in a way reminiscent to Rooney when he first appeared for Everton (like we can forget that) but not so much that he looks like some sort of hulking man-child prepared to ravage cities. I suspect that AOC won’t be hustled off the ball as easy as Walcott sometimes is, he looks like he can scrap it out a bit more. I’m not sure that his play is all that similar to Theo either, although it could be that Walcott is often set the task of working a channel and isn’t given the licence to get through the middle and/or into the box that AOC seemed to have at St Mary’s – I guess we can soon coach that out of him mind.

So it will be interesting to see how & where he is used this coming season and in which competitions, obviously the Carling Cup springs to mind, with Arsene Wenger saying “”He is an exciting young player who will provide us with creativity and offensive quality. Alex is a versatile player who can play in a number of positions. He can play as an attacking centre midfielder, or wide left and right”.

That rarest of things, a happy Gooner

What isn’t in doubt, as the pictures on the official club site show, is how pleased the lad is to be joining us and his desire to do well and prove himself worthy was evident in his first interview after putting pen to paper.

One similarity with Theo Walcott is just how articulate the boy is and how measured he appears to be. It’s another young British player, with a bright future, in our ranks and if all goes to plan you can’t help feel a tinge of excitement when you consider that in a few short years we’ll be treated to the delights of Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey, Miyaichi, Frimpong, Afobe & AOC.

But yes yes yes, that is, as always, more star-gazing into the future and an extension of project youth, I know. What we all want to see now is those vital cogs we’re so desperately missing in the here and now added to the squad. Well on that front there are so many whispers about a deal for Cahill being imminent that I’ve had to ask them to pipe down because collectively they’re deafening, drowning out the sounds of police sirens & helicopters.

Not quite the hulk, but desperate times & all that

I don’t know how true it all is or if any move will materialise, but I do know that in these final few days until the season begins managers are looking to get deals done. Owen Coyle is after Shaun Wright-Phillips and if he wants to take the little man from City he needs cash money.

Bye Nicklas

It seems that we could see a few moves in and out over the coming days, Nicklas Bendtner has intimated that the only thing holding up his move away from the club is an agreement between Arsenal and his perspective new employers. Carlos Vela looks set for a loan move to France or Spain & of course we’re still expecting Almunia & Eboue to complete moves to pastures new, not to mention the question marks that still hang over the futures of Cesc & Nasri.

Whatever happens with those or any other deals I have to say that all in all I’m excited by the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and look forward to seeing him represent the club.

Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed throughout the day for all the latest news.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal.

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