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

Carling Cup: Arsenal 2 -1 Bolton

So here we are in the last eight of the League Cup, a competition we apparently don’t take seriously, for the ninth consecutive year.

I think it’s fair to say we didn’t stroll though last nights game, at times it was hard work, but the experienced players in an all changed starting XI made the difference on the night. They showed their quality and with a few of them making returns from injury lay offs they even helped, along with a few youngsters, to show that our squad is perhaps slightly stronger than it is sometimes given credit for.

The stand out players for me on the night were Ju Young Park, Yossi Benayoun, Thomas Vermaelen and Nico Yennaris. If you’ve read a fair few other match reports this morning you may well be asking why I’ve not mentioned Andrey Arshavin in that list, or you may well have been at the game and decided yourself that the Russian was the best player on the park. Judging by a lot of the tweets I’ve seen that seems to be the general opinion and whilst Arshavin’s quality was certainly a key element in our victory I still can’t help but feel slightly frustrated with him at points.

To be honest it’s not even his actual football so much, apart from those short passes that don’t quite make it to their intended recipients leaving me wondering if the little fella thinks that either some of our players are a little quicker than they actually are or if he sometimes doesn’t calculate the weight of the pass relative to the distance the ball needs to travel? But as I say it’s not just that, what I have a real bugbear with is the amount of time he spends on the floor. I’m not sure if Opta have a stat for it but surely the midfielder must spend more time on the ground after being fouled and/or falling over than any other player in the league. If you’re not hurt, get up and get on with the game.

I’m aware that all sounds a little negative on my part given we won, again, last night and I certainly don’t mean to it’s just I find it hard to fawn over a player who undoubtedly has so much more to give. But credit to him because he was the catalyst for both of our goals and playing behind the striker rather than being stuck on the left flank obvioulsy suits him, but that’s not really a surprise because he isn’t a winger.. 

Drifting out to the right and receiving the ball from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the Russian moved towards goal unopposed by the backtracking Zat Knight before drilling a low shot past Ron Weasley-a-like Adam Bogdan and into the bottom left hand corner and put us back on level terms after former Gunner Fabrice Muamba had put the Trotters in front only six minutes earlier.

It took just three more minutes for the Gunners to get in front and it was Arshavin who set up the winner…

The impressive Park had made a few offside runs and as Arshavin picked up the ball and moved forward the South Korean had once again strayed into an offside position. Arshavin held on to the ball long enough for the Striker to check himself and then released the ball for Park to run onto and curl a lovely shot past Bogdan. It was a great finish and a goal the player’s performance deserved.

I know he has only played two games since his move, both coming in this competition, but on the evidence of last night Ju surely storms ahead of Marouane Chamakh in the pecking order. He was always looking to be involved always wanting the ball and whilst a few of his strikes on goal failed to give the Bolton stopper any real trouble it was heartening to see a striker who is prepared to perform his primary function and as long as your attempting to score goals will surely start to flow.

Yossi Benayoun was outstanding in my view, the Israeli has made only three starts for the Gunners since signing on a season long loan from Chelsea on deadline day and this is certainly his best of those performances so far. The former West Ham man worked tirelessly all night, I would wager he covered more ground than any other Arsenal player. Like Park Yossi has found his first team chances limited and whilst he is ineligible to play against his parent club at the weekend he certainly did enough last night to let the boss know he can play a pivotal role this season.

Another plus was the return of Thomas Vermaelen, the man just exudes class as a footballer and crucially a centre half. It’s such a rare problem for Arsene Wenger to have and whilst it’s one of those so-called good problems the gaffer must be suffering a slight selection headache when considering what his first choice centre back pairing will be. Mertesacker has improved with every game he has played in is starting to look assured at this level whilst forming an impressive partnership with Laurent Koscielny, in my view the ever impressive Laurent Koscielny. So the boss has to make three in to two, but that choice may now not need to be made until we play Marseille next Tuesday after Tommy was withdrawn after eight-five minutes last night and replaced by Daniel Boateng. There was some initial confusion after the game when it was suggested the Belgian had suffered a calf strain but it now seems that he was suffering from a touch of cramp and asked to come of as a precaution. Either way Wenger thinks the defender will be a little short for the trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and after two months on the sidelines that shouldn’t be a surprise. You can’t not play for two months and then play two games in a week. We may see him named amongst the subs on Saturday but I really would be surprised to see him start. *Update – It now seems the club are saying he will be fit, in which case a quick return to the starting XI may not be such a surprise after all. Tommy to partner Mertz, with Koscielny moving to RB?

Iggy Miquel gave an assured performance at left-back and Franny Coquelin went about his work quietly but professionally. AOC had a fairly quiet night in relation to his recent performances and Emmanuel Fimpong was not quite at the races before being replaced by Ryo. The Japanese youngster really got the crowd excited but you can still see just how raw he is and we shouldn’t be expecting to see him make massive inroads to the first team in the near future – but all the youngsters mentioned above are exciting prospects we’ll see much more of.

To finish off I just want to mention a player who I thought was brilliant last night and hasn’t maybe received as much praise as he should have…

Young Nico Yennaris gave a solid performance at right back, it is of course very early days and I’m not suggesting he should be coming into the first team on a regular basis as cover at right back during Sagna and Jenkinson’s lay-off’s. I’m not even 100% sure right back is the lads bet or preferred position but last night he did himself and the side proud and certainly didn’t look out-of-place and I look forward to seeing him develop and improve along with the other lads I’ve mentioned above

So another positive night for the club, we’re still not out of the woods but we may have come to a bit of a clearing which allows us to regroup and get our bearings. We’ve seen again the good work the club does at youth and academy level and had a peak at some of the players who could well be first team regulars in a few years, whilst a few summer accuasitions have maybe shown that their signings were a little shrewder than we may have previously considered.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

Bolton Preview

Well there is bad news to start the day off with. Late last night it was revealed by the Arsenal that Jack Wilshere will have to undergo surgery on his right ankle and will be out for a period of “months”. The player himself used his Twitter page to confirm the news and suggest that he hopes to return to action around Christmas time.

This is no doubt a massive blow for the team and young Jack, the bone hasn’t healed whilst in the protective boot he has been wearing for the last month or so and the club have decided that now is the time to take further action in the shape of surgery. It’s very disappointing news but we have to think of Jack’s long term future and this needs to be dealt with correctly and if this operation proves to be just that then it’s surely for the best.

Considering that Jack has only played one full season of first team football with the Gunners, after a brief loan spell at today’s opponents Bolton, we’ve really missed his tenacity in midfield this season. The sooner we can have that desire and drive back in the side the better and I wish Jack well in his continued recovery. At least it gives him more time to listen to the whole Michael Bolton back catalogue.

So, today see’s Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers visit the Emirates.

In league terms the Trotters are having a sorrier time of things then we are at the moment (just), in fact their poor run of form can be traced back to our previous encounter at the Reebok at the end of last season.

Tamir Cohen’s last-minute header, which was celebrated with emotional scenes as the defender revealed a t-shirt commemorating his late father Avi, left the gunners nine points behind leaders and eventual champions Manchester United with four games left to play while Bolton were themselves flying high in eighth place and seemingly pushing to end the season with Europa League football to look forward to. That victory, which all but ended our title chances, was somewhat of a bright spot for Bolton in their end of season darkness. Their previous fixture had seen them go down five goals to zero against Stoke City Rugby Football Club in their FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley and Coyle’s sides final five league games, which followed that win against us, all ended in defeats.

While the opening game of this season saw the Lancashire side get back to winning ways with a 4-0 hammering of newly promoted Queens Park Rangers they have since seen their league form continue in the same vein as it ended last season. Four defeats in four, including a home defeat at the hands of Norwich City last weekend, has seen the sweet taste of victory being confined to the Carling Cup – the second round elimination of Macclesfield and Tuesday nights 0-2 victory at Villa Park.

So in their last fourteen games since, and including, that FA Cup humiliation the Trotters have won only four times and have been beaten in the other ten games scoring eighteen goals and conceding thirty-two in the process. That run looks like this – LWLLLLLWLWLLLW.

At any other time you would look at that and expect Bolton to arrive in London tomorrow and be little more than cannon fodder for the gunners but as we all know our own form is hardly that of a side you would back to win the contest.

Since that late and currently familiar capitulation we’ve managed to win only five of our own fourteen games in all competitions. We’ve picked up four draws and been beaten no less than six times. In this period we’ve found the back of the net on nineteen occasions yet we’ve been forced to pick the ball out of the back of our own goal on no less than twenty-six, meaning our run only appears marginally better than this weeks opposition due to the addition of the letter ‘D’ – LWLLDDWLWLWDLW.

What is clear is that whilst both sides have the ability to score goals we both also have a penchant for letting them in too, so on paper we should maybe expect this to be a high scoring encounter which would make for another great game for the neutral in which we compete.

The team news is pretty much as expected, Yossi Benayoun is out with the ‘strain’ which he alluded to in his Tweet on Thursday (turns out it’s a thigh strain, not an eye strain from reading without sufficient light) and Johan Djourou misses out with a hamstring injury. Arsene Wenger has suggested that they may both be back for the North London Derby on October 2nd but will defiantly miss the Champions League clash with Olympiacos on Wednesday as well as this afternoons fixture.

Tommy Rosicky is back in the squad whilst Bacary Sagna & Aaron Ramsey both came through fitness tests yesterday morning so are likely to start.

It will be interesting to see who takes up the left back position, using our last two fixtures as a barometer I wouldn’t say there is much between Andy Santos and Kieran Gibbs who have each had a game to in which to state their case. I suspect Wenger might go with the Brazilian but I wouldn’t be confidant enough to put money on it.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have done enough to win himself a place on the bench after his performance in the win over Shrewsbury earlier this week, similarly I think Franny Coquelin’s performance in the same game will see him take us a place amongst the subs ahead of Frimmers.

Other than that I would have thought it will be very much as we were against Blackburn Rovers last weekend but with Theo coming in for Andrey Arshavin.

My line up would be –

Szczesny – Sagna – Mertz – Kozzer – Andy Santos – Song – Mickey – Rambo – Gervinho – Theo – RVP.

Subs: Fabianski – Iggy – Gibbs – Franny – Arshavin – AOC – Chamakh.

I think we’ll see a home win and the collection of three much-needed points, but I’m not sure it’ll be an easy victory. One thing I will guarantee is that Kevin Davies will be booked – the lumbering forward has collected a total of eleven bookings in games against us, that is more than any player against any one side in Premier League history.

I’m really looking forward to the game, it’s a traditional three o’clock kick off and that always sits well with me. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching and if you happen to be up in the North Bank sat next to a guy who clearly needs a shave then chances are it’ll either be me or a tramp who has somehow managed to get into the ground.

Thanks for reading

Paul.

Year of the Ox

Arsenal: Fabianski – Jenkinson – Miquel – Djourou (C) – Gibbs – Oxlade-Chamberlain (Aneke – 90) Coquelin – Frimpong (Ozyakup) – Benayoun – Park (Ryo – 72) – Chamakh

Goals: Gibbs – 33. Oxlade-Chamberlain – 58. Benayoun – 79.

Shrewsbury Town: Smith – Grandison – Jacobson – McAllister (Richards – 72) – Goldson – Wright – Hazell (C) – Wroe – Ainsworth (Taylor – 78) – Collins (Bradshaw – 72) – Morgan.

Goal: Collins – 16

Well there were a couple of collectors items on show at the Emirates last night – Two English goalscorers for the Arsenal for the first time since Sol Campbell & Franny Jeffers scored in the FA Cup victory over Farnborough Town in 2003 and there was a goal scored by an Arsenal player from outside the box, I’ve no idea when we last saw that? Denilson at Goodison Park on the opening day of the 09/10 season?

The first half of this third round Carling Cup tie wasn’t pretty, but I think it’s worth remembering that Shrews keeper Ben Smith pulled off two top quality saves from Marouane Chamakh within the first ten minutes. Had either of those early chances gone in the complexion of the game could have been different but as it was the League Two side made the gulf in league status look miniscule.

While Graham Turners side grew in stature and began to sense an upset may have been on the cards, our players, a decent mix of youth and experience, started to mimic our first choice XI perfectly. The Shrews were knocking it about comfortably and we just couldn’t get a foot hold in the game, allowing our opponents plenty of space which they made the most of. Mark Wright had a shot which Lukas Fabianski seemingly choose to completely ignore as if there was no ball in play and Marvin Morgan had a shot blocked by Kieran Gibbs who was doing his best Gael Clichy impression, pushing high up the pitch and leaving gaping holes on the left side of our half. Buoyed by their early efforts Shrewsbury took the lead after seventeen minutes.

I mentioned Marvin Morgan as the  Shrewsbury danger man yesterday and it was indeed the big forward who whipped a lovely ball in from the right flank, captain for the night Johan Djourou made no attempt to win the ball in the air and James Collins was on hand to head it past Fabianski. I’ve no idea what has happened to Djourou, I can only imagine he has been spending far too much time with Manuel Almunia because the Swiss centre half has seemingly caught the Spaniards penchant for indecision and an indifference to perform even the most basic of tasks expected from him.

I’ve always been a fan of Djourou’s and whilst he has suffered from those mind farts on occasion during his Arsenal career it now seems his brain has completely shat itself.

Shrewsbury seemingly had us on the ropes and pushed on for a second goal which they were unfortunate not to get especially when Fabianski, seemingly inspired by Djourou, stood idly by as McAllister’s effort dribbled along the ground and towards goal. Either the Polish keeper had a vision of the future or was just incredibly lucky not to concede a second as the ball went just inches wide of the far post.

Somehow we rode our luck and got ourselves back into the game as the clock ticked towards half time. Shortly after the half hour mark. Carl Jenkinson, who suffered football mutilation at Old Trafford a few weeks back, crossed in a lovely ball from the right which pinged off Chamakh and onto the head of the unmarked Kieran Gibbs who directed the ball inside the post and past Smith to put us back on level terms.

It was somewhat a relief that half time came, but mainly that was from a personal perspective because I had two pints of cider inside me looking for an exit. As the ref blew to signal the end of the half I made the dash to the gents and there was another of those collectors items, I was in there alone and when I came out there was no snaking queue.

The second half was far more enjoyable and the difference in class began to show. I had spent most of yesterday looking forward to seeing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make his full debut and in the second half his quality really began to shine through. In tandem with Franny Coquelin, who I thought was outstanding and is maybe starting to edge his nose in front of Frimmers in the pecking order, the former Southampton youngster began to torment the opposition and excite the home crowd in equal measure.

Frimpong, himself an obvious crowd pleaser, encouraged by the fans to shoot whenever he had the ball at his feet did just that but Smith was equal to it. I’m not sure if the players had been told to test the keeper from distance or if they were just taking a punt but AOC soon joined in. His shot from twenty-five yards out sneaked underneath Smith into the back of the net and put us in front for the first time in the match. The Ox had the bit between his teeth now and was suddenly everywhere looking for the ball and trying to do something with it. In fact he had another decent effort on goal but this time Smith got his gloves to it. AOC certainly deserved the standing ovation he was given when he was replaced by Chuks Aneke late on, it was a fantastic home debut and hopefully has gone some way in proving that Wner was right to spend big in order to secure the midfielders signature.

By now Arsenal were well and truly in the driving seat but whilst Shrewsbury began to tire they certainly didn’t show any less commitment.

With just over ten minutes of the game remaining Yossi Benayoun bagged his first Arsenal goal, although for a brief moment it looked as if the Israeli had taken too long to get his shot off. Substitute Ozzy Ozyakup cut back from the by line and after what felt like an eternity (in football terms) Benny prodded the ball home to finish off the Shrews and put us into the fourth round.

Ryo got a twenty-minute run out and somewhat disappointingly he didn’t get too involved, but it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying. The Japanese winger was making some decent runs and looking to be involved and I think we were all hoping to see something spectacular from the lad. He’ll get more chances and during his brief time on the pitch did enough to make us all want to be there when he does.

As I said, Chuks Aneke also made his debut replacing the Ox with just a minute plus stoppages left on the clock and while the game had all but petered out by then the front man was everywhere on the pitch looking to get as many touches of the ball as possible which was really heartening to see. The youngster certainly is a big old unit and watching him tower over guys much older than himself I began to wonder if Wenger is attempting to put together a new breed of big powerful players?

Whilst Chuks is surely the offspring of NFL legend William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry it’s worth noting that both Frimmers & AOC are big lads for their age. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with that, could well be nothing.

Flicking on Sky Sports news when I got home last night I was appalled (but not at all surprised) to see them running with the strap line “Wenger told he won’t be sacked“. This is so far removed from the truth I wonder if it might actually be slanderous (it isn’t), Ivan Gazidas nor anyone else has given the Frenchman the so-called ‘vote of confidence’ or any thing like it. Our Chief Exec was asked if Wenger’s tenure was in danger at an event and responded that it certainly isn’t. That does not constitute Wenger being given assurances over his future, it isn’t as if Ivan said ” I called him in, we had a chat and I let him know he was safe for now but we’re keeping a close eye on things“. Knowing the power Arsene has at the club I wouldn’t be surprised if the person clearing their desk after a conversation like that was Ivan.

I’ve made my feelings about Wenger’s future beyond this season known and I stand by that but as I’ve said I will never abuse le gaffer or call for his head. He has done far too much for this club and whilst I’m not totally sure he can I certainly wouldn’t put it past him pulling something out of the bag. I just hope that both the boss and the players use this criticism as a springboard, close ranks and stick it to every doubter out there. It was fantastic when towards the end of the game last night the home supporters gave a rousing rendition of “There’s only one Arsene Wenger“.

Lastly, I just want to touch on last nights attendance. There were 46,539 inside the grove last night and for a third round league cup tie against a side who are in what is effectively the fourth division that is incredible. I posted a picture of the number of empty seats around Dave and I in the top-tier last night and there were a fair few sections like that but lets put this into context –

Arsenal v’s Shrewsbury Town – Carling Cup Third Round – 46,539

Man City V’s Napoli – UEFA Champions League* – 44,026 *This was big spending City’s first ever Champions League game an they couldn’t fill the United Stadium.

So which attendance figure is embarrassing? Which group of fans has more passion Samir?

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

Shrewsbury Town Preview

So tonight see’s our reintroduction to the Carling Cup. Whilst this seasons competition is now at the third round stage this is our first participation since last years final and we all know what happened there don’t we.

Since our late capitulation against Birmingham City, who this season are gracing the Championship, our form has resembled that of a side destined to partake in a relegation scrap. Remember that as we kicked off at Wembley we were still right in the title race, still in the FA Cup and despite facing a trip to the Nou Camp still in with a chance of progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League thanks to an outstanding 2-1 victory over Barcelona in our first leg tie. Our form in ALL competitions since that final has looked like this –

P – 22. W – 6. D – 8. L – 8. F – 31. A – 38. – WDLLDDWDDLWLLDDWLWLWDL

It’s certainly not pretty is it.

So yesterday saw a lot of discussion about the kind of side we should field against League Two opponents Shrewsbury Town in this evenings game.

Many Gooners have been calling for the side that was beaten by Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday to be utilised again tonight for seemingly two reasons – A) Some kind of punishment for the woeful second half performance up in Lancashire & 2) Giving the side a taste of victory which will help them kick on in the league.

To be honest I can see the merits in both these arguments but have to say that ultimately I disagree with both. Firstly, putting a team out in what would be the footballing equivalent of the village stocks surely gains no real purpose. The players will not respond to what would be perceived as public shaming and I can’t imagine it would make le gaffer very popular. Also it just isn’t the Fenchman’s way of doing things is it, in fact I was pretty surprised that he has come out and spoken in, what is for him, critical terms in the wake of Saturdays shambles. It isn’t very often that Wenger speaks in this way publically and maybe it’s something we should welcome? He certainly hasn’t hung anyone out to dry or pointed fingers at individuals but maybe a sharp little poke of the stick like this can help focus the players a little more, the opposite hasn’t seemed to achieved that. It certainly isn’t the answer to the problems, far from it, but it’s maybe a form of accountability?

With option two, giving the side a taste of victory, again it doesn’t really float my boat. No disrespect to Shrewsbury Town but if it takes a victory over the side from the fourth tier of English Football to inspire our best players then we’ve got serious problems, also why should we should we allow back slapping and self-congratulation for something that we would expect to see? Imagine we send out the strongest possible eleven players we have available and they struggle against the Shrews, never mind how the media et al would react, how would we react? I imagine we would soon be hearing about protests before Saturdays home game against Bolton and the sale of black scarves would sky-rocket.

On the whole I think it’s the perfect time to play a mix of players who are considered ‘first team’ and some of those who are on the fringes of being such.

I said yesterday that I would like to see a line up of – Fabianski – Jenks – Djourou – Mertz – Andy Santos – Frimmers – Benny – AOC – Ryo – Chamakh – Ju.

I would include our most recent defensive signings because whilst they may both be international footballers there is no doubt they are still adapting to English football and personally I think it would be more beneficial for the German & Brazilian then Kozzer & Gibbs. The XI named above is made up of players who have and/or will make first team appearances this term, be it due to injuries, suspensions or form and whilst some of the younger lads should certainly be included in the match day squad for games like this and indeed on the bench I think we need to be giving game time to those who are going to need it most.

I’m not ruling my select XI out but according to Jamie Sanderson at Young Guns Blog Wenger is set to name the following line up – Fabianski – Jenkinson – Djourou – Miquel – Gibbs – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Frimpong – Coquelin – Benayoun – Chamakh – Park.

So not too dissimilar to my projected line up and certainly a side I would be happy to see take the field tonight as those players who differ from my selection are equally as deserving of a run out and equally as likely to make in roads on the first team this season.

Jamie Suggests that we’ll see the likes of Daniel Boateng, Nico Yennaris, Chuks Aneke, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Sanchez Watt & Emi Martinez on the bench tonight with Ryo joinig them due to his lack of fitness.

I have to say I’m hugely excited about seeing Ryo and AOC this evening, I know that over the past fifteen years we’ve seen many exciting prospects come through our ranks, often through this competition, some have disappeared into the football wilderness, some have moved on to other clubs and some have become first choice players but these two have such a buzz about them. We certainly shouldn’t be heaping too much pressure on the youngsters at this stage but if they can hit the heights as many are predicting then we could be in for a treat.

I won’t lie, I know little about Shrewsbury Town aside from Joe Hart played there. Apparently they’re flying in league two and their danger man is Marvin Morgan who has bagged seven goals so far this season, so he may well be one to watch.

I know there will be many empty seats tonight and the crowd will have a lot of families and young supporters but despite all the negativity currently surrounding the club and the disappointment we’re dealing with this is still a great chance to get behind a group of players who cold be pivotal to us in the longterm and I hope we can get behind them and give them the support they need and see the Gunners march through to the fourth round.

Thanks for reading.

Paul. (Follow @Up_TheArsenal on Twitter)

Do they play football on Endor?

Good morning,

Thank goodness it’s Friday at last, it means two great things shall be happening tomorrow. Firstly I’ll be staying in bed until an hour that is far more reasonable than the stupid o’clock of Monday to Friday and the second is of course the Arsenals lunchtime visit to Ewood Park to face bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers (I say bottom of the table but lets face it, they’re only three points behind us)

I always want to make some wisecrack about the home ground of the Lancashire club being called Ewok Park and seeing their stands full of the fluffy little four footers – but as yet I’ve not thought of a suitable pun. If you have one then send it on a post card.

 The early team news from our perspective is pretty much how we were prior to the Dortmund game

Aaron Ramsey has a small chance to play according to le gaffer, but I can’t see him taking any risks with the Welshman’s fitness not at this stage of the season or, with all due respect, against Rovers. Give the lad a little extra time to recharge his batteries and bring him back in for the Home game against Bolton.

There was no mention of the fitness of Tommy Rosicky or Abou Diaby during Wengers presser but frankly why would there be? The pair may as well be scrapped for parts.

Obviously Tommy Vermaelan & Jack Wilshere are still out but the boss hopes the Belgian will return after the international break in early October.

I would imagine we’ll see the same eleven start as did in Germany Tuesday night, especially as the majority of them are unlikely to feature in the Carling Cup tie with Shrewsbury on Tuesday so they’ll get a weeks rest. We’ll look at it in a bit more detail tomorrow morning but I certainly think that having a level of consistency in our side could only be a positive.

In other news, many Gooners are up in arms because Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas has said that Arsenal won’t win either the league or Champions league this season in an interview with Sport Magazine. So….

I don’t have a problem with that really. A – We won’t and I don’t expect us too & B – I’m never fussed about the things players of other clubs have to say about ours.

Let it go people, he isn’t a Gooner any longer and there is no reason to claim that in his heart he still is, none of us liked it when Barca were doing the same. By all means respect Cesc as a former player of the club, which means don’t send him abuse for airing his views.

I know the Spaniard is claiming he didn’t say some of the stuff in the interview, but to be honest it’s a fairly long piece and I can’t imagine they made it all up. Sure the gutter press will twist it and use it as another example of our demise but so bloody what. I couldn’t give a fiddlers fart for what the red tops think or print, I don’t read their papers I don’t read their tripe, I don’t get wound up by it. Lets not forget that Cesc has form for this after his Don Balon interview.

There is no point in snivelling and crying because someone said something about our team that we don’t like, the best way to deal with it is to go out and support our team starting tomorrow and if you’ve not yet got a ticket for the game against Shrewsbury then what are you waiting for go to the online box office and snap one up for as little as a tenner now.

Right that’s me done for the day. Now to count down the hours until I can go home.

 Thanks for reading.

 Paul (You can follow me on Twitter)

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