Monday, 29 April 2013


I'm still not sure if the arrival of Podolski will bear the fruit we expected. This is a German international player who hit 100 caps by the age of 26; this is not to be taken lightly. I really like Podolski but I fear he is more of a cult figure at the Emirates as opposed to being a fans favourite because of brilliant performances. At the age of 27, he is due to hit his peak years but in what position do Arsenal fans or, more importantly, does Arsene Wenger see him holding down and eventually becoming a key member? 

My initial thoughts upon signing Lukas Podolski, were that he would be nurtured to become our main centre-forward but that thought has deteriorated drastically over this season with his rightful lack of playing time in this position. He started there on his debut against Sunderland and was poor. His movement, energy, mobility, first-touch were not at the level required for our team to dominate the ball and keep the ball moving at a good tempo. However, this was the first game of Podolski's career at Arsenal so he will be forgiven... by the fans anyway because Wenger had decided not to start him there again until yesterday. 
In my knowledge of Wenger, you can say what you like about him being a soft-touch but one thing he won't do is play you when he doesn't believe in you. He doesn't play Podolski as a striker and in my eyes that clearly represents his clear lack of belief in Podolski as a striker. A manager that has transformed the likes of Henry, Anelka, van Persie and even Adebayor into top-level strikers knows exactly what he is looking for in a striker and Podolski will never be a centre-forward for Arsenal. Based on the mould of previous Arsenal strikers, its hard to see what Podolski brings as a striker. We have always been used to seeing strikers of strength, speed, mobility, technique & creativity. Podolski doesn't seem to fit into any of those brackets. Same could be said with Giroud. What is hard to doubt about Podolski is, he is extremely clinical. In front of goal he is ruthless, which 9 league goals from 46 shots proves.

Also, his ability to put a cross where it needs to be, is devastating but I remember a player called Arshavin, who had great stats, but his all-round contribution was becoming less and less by the week. Fans had a similar love-in period with Arshavin and I actually think there is an interesting correlation between Podolski and Arshavin in their Arsenal careers. 

Arshavin came in as a big signing to play on the left, as has Podolski, but as his form deterioated he was suddenly being played in the wrong position by the manager according to the fans. The difference's between the players would lie in their creativity; Arshavin had the flair and the creative instinct to drift in of the flank and link up with the midfielders and strikers whereas Podolski is more of an efficient wide-forward who craves service. Arshavin, for all his shortcomings, even had a stint up-front where he scored a cracker against Liverpool in a 2-1 victory at Anfield.

The thing is, Podolski wants to play as a centre-forward for Arsenal and there are so many theories relating to his recent exclusion from the first eleven. There have been reports that suggest Podolski has an ankle injury, (that in a way, I hope is true) which is being fuelled by Wenger's refusal to let him complete more than 4 full games since being at Arsenal. It is also hard to ever recall such a left-sided player being used by Wenger on the left-wing for Arsenal. We have been used to the likes of Overmars, Pires, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin; all in the main creative midfielders who come infield onto their stronger foot. This helps us keep the ball a lot better and allows our full-backs to get on the outside. 
Now, as I don't ever see Podolski being a centre-forward at Arsenal, I do see a system that can eventually integrate him into our team as more of a striker and even get a better Theo Walcott again. The difference lies in the centre-forward they are playing with. Giroud will naturally make our wide players (that are strikers by nature), play as wingers; get wide and cross the ball in as he is a target-man type of striker. Walcott can just about get away with it because of his rapid pace.

The problem with this system is it makes us so rigid and Arsenal's game has got to be fluid and based around players that can interchange positions and keep possession - thats modern day football.
Couple this with all the strikers that are being linked to Arsenal recently, the most frequently linked player has to be Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina. He is not reknowned as a clinical goal-scoring striker so why would Arsene Wenger want him? What would he bring to the team? Firstly he is a creative player that drops deep in order to get onto the ball and make things happen. Typically in a system with a new striker we would be assumed to be playing in a 4-3-3 formation but with the winger-cum-strikers (Podolski & Walcott) we possess, we need to find a way of utilising such serious goal threats.
I believe a player in the mould of Jovetic will give us an interesting system that wouldn't be matched by many teams in Europe. The fact Jovetic will drop off deeper throughout the game will make him harder to mark and will force Podolski and Walcott to make the runs through the channels as Jovetic gets onto the ball, in the spaces between the opposition defence and midfield. This essentially is Jovetic playing the false No.9 role but Walcott and Podolski will then be playing as inside forwards as a partnership up-top. In effect this "4-3-3" formation will alter into a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Jovetic playing in the hole behind Podolski & Walcott.

The benefits behind this are its going to give us a more creative and fluid team which can change shape during the game. As we know, if Podolski or Walcott need to retreat into winger positions as a counter-attacking measure, they are familiar with the duites. I think the system can be judged to be narrow but if the balance is correct in midfield, our full-backs will give us that effective wing threat. 

In order to be effective from these positions, Podolski and Walcott will have to study the runs that Ljungberg would make when Bergkamp (who would be perfect as a false No.9 in modern day football) picked up the ball looking to make a killer pass.  

In my opinion, Podolski can succeed at Arsenal but it desperately hinges on the type of striker we recruit in the summer. I think with the signing of a hybrid striker, a 9.5 striker or whatever you want to call it, we will see a better Podolski and definitely that signing could kill two birds with one stone as Walcott also looks to make the step up as a striker. We have seen the benefits of what this type of striker can bring to the team in previous seasons 
with the Van Persie - Walcott partnership, so its reasonable to say Podolski can still have a big impact at Arsenal.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Return of #LeBoss

The ruthless streak has re-emerged. The man, who is often described as a father-figure type of manager, has "lost his rag". The way Wenger has hit some of the mainstays in his team with a severe reality check is reminiscent of a Dad who has been punishing his disobedient children. And rightly so.

Wenger is a man, that should be judged by his actions. He has a reputation of standing right by his players and remaining loyal. You could say he adopts an unwritten code of  "all that happens at the Club, stays within the Club."

Wenger's inability to publicly criticise players has often been seen as a weakness by fans. Fans had grown tired of Wenger always trying to put a positive spin on poor player performances. It had begun to sound scripted to fans. It had begun to sound insulting at the worst of times. Has this great man lost sight of what it takes to win? Has this man started to see a different game to what we were watching? Players were slipping to shocking standards but were still guaranteed to start in the next fixture.


The breaking point came at White Hart Lane; a game Arsenal lost without being outperformed in the slightest and the leaving us 7-poits adrift of Spurs. It was easy for Tottenham to win the North London derby against a shaky defence who certainly looked like they were not executing any training ground drills with some shocking defending.
Arsenal Training Session
Wenger had clearly become annoyed by his defence. "What happened today, we have seen many times this season repeated in the big games...We played offside in a position where we shouldn't have played offside." These were Wenger's post-match comments after the game against Tottenham and he didn't pull no punches. He made it apparent he was happy with the "energy levels of the team" and the team performance but felt the defence had let them down at decisive moments in the game.

Players such as our Captain - Thomas Vermaelen and Woijech Szszesny - our No.1 goalkeeper, had the media making embarrassing suggestions that our manager doesn't allow us to train on defending. When you actually think about that suggestion, it is totally ludicrous and borderline disrespectful to suggest that one of the World's finest football managers doesn't use any form of defensive/tactical coaching in any of his sessions. This was a huge blow to the ego of a manager who had only suffered his 5th North London derby defeat in the Premier League after 34 games.

Not good signs for the Arsenal heading into a second-leg clash against the newly-crowned Champions of Germany, Bayern Munich. Losing 2-0 on aggregate and heading to the home of the leading German team in bad form, we were being tipped for a thrashing.


This is when the manager snapped and made some drastic changes. He dropped our captain Vermaelen, who is the worst captain I have seen at Arsenal in 20 years. Wenger was clearly unimpressed by his leadership and organisation of our defence and thought Laurent Koscielny, who had been chomping at the bit, was due an opportunity.

This was a huge surprise but an even bigger surprise came in the managers decision to totally drop Woijech Szczesny from the squad. Our No.1 goalkeeper had been dropped and replaced by Lukasz Fabianski, a goalkeeper previously known as "Flappyhandski" and had been out for 13-months prior to a game we were expected to get hammered. Not to mention, our boy-wonder, Jack Wilshere as well as Lukas Podolski had also been diagnosed with ankle injuries and Bacary Sagna was still not back from injury.

Now, a lot of Arsenal fans were happy to settle for a defeat as long as we showed an enormous pride, as we know this result could potentially give us a jump-start in our pursuit of Champions League football. Along with our injuries this team selection from Wenger was seen as big gamble and could backfire , leave us with a thrashing which would send us into freefall. However, as we all know, the managers decisions have been well and truly vindicated after we beat Bayern Munich 2-0 at The Allianz Arena. Since then we have won 4 out of 5 league games and have managed to look a lot more assured in our game; scoring 11 goals and conceding a meagre 3.

Vermaelen had returned to the team against Norwich but was promptly dropped as soon as Per Mertesacker became available again. The manager said, "as a captain and a leader that shouldn’t guarantee you a place in any game. For purely sporting reasons, or tactical reasons in the game, when you don’t think it is the right selection, do you put the player in just because he is captain?' If you know Wenger, he always has a captain who is core to the team. This only spells trouble for Vermaelen and after his shocking performance as captain this season, Wenger will listen to offers for him in the Summer.
The managers' recently employed, heavy-handed style seems to have ruffled a few feathers recently and Wenger has even gone as far as saying, "What will decide our attitude, my attitude (in the transfer market), is how we do now until the end of the season." Clearly this is a big suggestion to players that they must step up their game or be shipped out once the transfer window opens.

What Wenger said about Szszesny , who lets not forget has only just turned 23-years-old today, would of been classed as a lack of public support for the player. As had been earlier mentioned, Wenger will always cover up poor player performances but he took a total change in direction and publicly questioned Szszesny's mental strength and said, "recently, he had one or two games where he was performing less." This was designed to nullify Szszesny's level of complacency and was an unusual step for our manager but I can only assume Wenger , who is an advocate of humility, wanted to bring Szszesny down a peg or two and force him to work harder on his game. 

This was followed promptly in the form of criticism of Wenger from Szszesny Snr, that Szszesny Jnr apologised for in a written statement, that then saw Szszesny playing for the Arsenal u-21's against Liverpool (surely further punishment from Wenger).
There is also the recently reported issue surrounding Podolski's career at Arsenal who has also been frozen out of the team recently but that should be left for another post.

Add these instances of ruthlessness to the belief from David Dein that, his close friend, Arsene Wenger will splash the cash in the Summer, "The fact is he has to strengthen the team and I know he will do that."

Arsene Wenger has been frank in his interviews lately, has dropped players who he doesn't see as performing and is apparently lining up big transfer targets for this Summer; I think its fair to say there will be plenty movement in the Summer and Wenger won't hold any prisoners.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Another week passes with another poor defensive showing from our Arsenal team. We score 3 goals but quite alarmingly, we also concede 3 goals. Arguably 3 extremely sloppy goals, the type of goals a defence with 4 fully-established International defenders should not be conceding at home regardless of who the opposition is.

This is becoming a theme for us over recent years and it has to be said, it doesn't seem to take much for us to slip into old, bad habits. In seasons gone by we generally start the season with all the improvements we hope to see from our team, we get all optimistic and then we get a couple of injuries and it seems like the players forget all of the key defensive improvements we have made at the beginning of the season.

We have all seen the importance of  pressing the ball when trying to get it (Barcelona have implemented this brilliantly over past seasons), yet we seem to have begun to stand off the opponent and allow them to play again. This is all good if the team wants to go away, sit deep and hit a team on the counter-attack (Liverpool away). We were extremely resolute against Stoke which did hinder us as an attacking threat but we looked organised, drilled, confident and disciplined.



A few weeks down the line and we look "fragile", a word being bandied around a lot at the moment and even in the most unfortunate circumstances this word should not be affiliated with the calibre of players we have. Our captain, Vermaelen is arguably the most fragile of all, contributing to a lot of poor goals being conceded and clearly not being an advocate of paying attention to key details. He has started hoofing the ball quite regularly and been shunted out to left-back - telling signs that his confidence has been badly shattered. Wenger has confirmed that Vermaelens confidence is low, ‘I think what has happened to him in recent weeks has affected his confidence.'

Even more alarming is, this is during a season where we are expected to improve defensively as we have now acquired a defensive connoisseur in the shape of Steve Bould. He has been brought in to address these lingering issues that have halted our progress for many years. I would expect Bould to be mentoring our centre-backs but the only 1 to have excelled is Mertesacker, who has been a rock for us. Is this down to Bould having a better understanding of Mertesackers style? Or maybe the fact the defender is simply already a proven international defender with the composure and a better understanding of what is needed to succeed at Arsenal?


Arsene Wenger is an attack-minded coach. Nobody has ever had the privilege of calling him a negative manager but what he is seemingly lacking is the tactical nous needed to shuffle the team around and get us playing in order to get the 3 points and move on to the next game. 2-0 up vs Schalke and then Fulham should be followed by a comfortable performance where we totally take the sting out of the game by using our experience. Instead, we need more of a cushion to keep us from throwing the points away, which of course, we did.

Wenger has in the past, suggested his teams will win as long as they play to their strengths. Unfortunately this is not the case anymore as the quality is not the same. We are lacking the similar quality to absolutely dominate games, pass teams off the park and wear them down.

However, in Wengers defence, the team is a very new team and still adapting to each other as well as the Premier League and its robust demands. After being out for 524 days, Wilshere explained, “we still have a lot of new players. I have only played with them three times and we feel we are getting better and better as a team, and that we are bonding. Hopefully things will just get better from here."


Our team is lacking the physical balance needed in midfield, we have a particularly small midfield which is not the strongest. The man held responsible for restoring any balance in our midfield is Diaby and its not a coincidence that since his injury we have performed poorly. I'm of the opinion that the Wilshere-Arteta-Cazorla will not work how we would all love it to as it is too small and our biggest hope of it working is that the players find a much-required cohesion to dominate the ball and retain it under pressure. Our tallest midfielder, in what many would class as our best midfield, is Mikel Arteta at 5ft 9 ins. This is causing us to not retain the ball well under pressure and is allowing us to be overpowered in midfield. This is where the "fragile" problem stems from.

Wenger has put all of his eggs in one basket with Diaby and clearly it has backfired. His physicality occupies players from other teams and enables Cazorla to find space. Cazorla is the man we need to get on the ball and make things happen. For this purpose in itself, Diaby is key. When he doesn't play, the balance needed for a defensive game where teams get stuck into us or want to play a game of football against us is gone. Where is the protector or midfield general we need? Where is the runner in midfield? The legs of the midfield? It sounds like an out-dated requirement but it isn't (ask Barcelona, who bought our midfield hard-man).

There are not many players who can give us the blend that Diaby does. The only other 2 players in that mould are Yaya Toure and Marouane Fellaini. A signing in this mould wouldn't solve all of our problems. Chelsea have shown you can have a strong holder (Mikel) and then a box-to-box midfielder who will run constantly (Ramires), which gives the team a good base to attack and allows Mata, Hazard and Oscar to concentrate on attacking matters. We have used this model ourselves in our most successful team in history, Vieira and Gilberto.

The blend in the team is not quite there in a number of positions. I actually feel our defence is the most complete part of the pitch for us although there is clearly a problem with defending in our team, but its exactly that - the team. I wouldn't put the blame on the players, they don't buy themselves' or pick themselves'. Wenger has to address the balance and wisen up tactically.

Saturday, 30 June 2012


With all remaining Arsenal players no longer participating in the Euros, we now look forward to the hectic transfer window speculation which promises to be filled with minute-by-minute updates on who Arsenal are "making moves" for, blah, blah, blah... As we all know, Arsenal have already snapped up two of Europes most proflific strikers last season and we are not even in July.

Welcome Olivier Giroud. More so, welcome to Lukas Podolski, whose future position in the Arsenal team is inexplicably linked to whether Van Persie signs a new deal at Arsenal. The parallel between the two is there for us to see.

Even if you compare the comments made by Wenger upon signing both players, he hails the comparable qualities of both players'. When Wenger signed Robin van Persie in 2004, he said, "He can play on the left side of midfield, as a creative player behind the main strikers or as a target man." Sound familiar?

Robin van Persie with his PFA Award
Fast forward to 2012 and the season where Robin van Persie had finally delivered on the managers' belief that he would play as a centre forward. He smashed in 37 goals, while being captain, winning various personal accolades and firing Arsenal to 3rd in a turbulent season for the club. The bad side of this is, his fantastic form coincides with his contract being up in a year and being available for a free transfer.

Many Arsenal fans are becoming used to players having 1 or 2 great seasons and then leaving after years of waiting for them to deliver. However, once a player leaves we always have an internal solution who is ready to step up but quite honestly, in the case of RvP, we have Bendtner, Vela, Chamakh and Park Chu-Young who are not capable of scoring the amount of goals Arsenal require from their strikers.

You can call me sceptical but this does have me wonder why Wenger moved so sharply for Lukas Podolski, 27, who is left footed, similar in style to our own Robin van Persie, 28, and has even been playing in the same false number 9 role for FC Koln while wearing the number 10 shirt. When players are brought into the team it is normally to give you a different option in that department.

Not only this but Arsenal took the decision to wrap up this deal and announce it in May BEFORE the season had even finished. As Arsenal announced the signing of Podolski, Wenger said, “He is a versatile striker - he can play through the middle, behind the striker, up front, on the left and on the right." This highlights the almost identical similarities when comparing the two players.

Lukas Podolski

Announcing a deal so early is far from a typical Arsenal scenario. Was this Wenger ensuring we had a striker already in, incase van Persie decides to leave? Or was this Wenger genuinely adding to our armoury in order to provide cover/options to our ONLY top class striker.

Wenger has spoken of the desperate need to help van Persie with goals coming from different parts of the pitch and this has to be undoubtedly his WORST collection of strikers in his 16 year tenure. However, with the 25 man squad rule, your players MUST be capable of covering different positons and our current bunch of strikers, except van Persie, are not versatile enough.

We also have a vacant left wing slot and regardless of whether we love Oxlade-Chamberlain or not not, Podolski is not coming to play second fiddle to him or Gervinho. With Arshavin looking likely to move back to Zenit and Benayoun not being signed permanently, Podolski will give us a totally different option on the left hand side as a left-sided, left footed attacker.

The similarities run deep in the pair; They both had a poor Euro 2012 tournament, in comparison to the standards they have set, with both of their solitary goals even coming with their weaker right foot!

I honestly hope Podolski is coming to be his own man and not simply fill the boots of a departing van Persie.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Losing becomes a habit. And as we are seeing at Arsenal it is becoming a familiar story. Arsenal have already lost 8 games this season and have a goal difference of +6 which is "un-Arsenal-like" to say the least.  A far cry from The Invincible's team who remained unbeaten for 49 games.

This is despite having the top goalscorer in the Premier League, Robin van Persie, who has scored an astonishing 19 league goals already. This is also despite Arsenal, at the same point last season, being in 3rd place challenging for top spot, having a goal difference of +22 and a healthy points total of 43.

The standard has been raised by the two Manchester clubs but had Arsenal maintained a similar standard to last season, Arsenal would be 4th at least and within touching distance of Spurs.

But how can Mr. Wenger expect to keep us within touching distance of the elite Clubs in England by selling our top players and not quite replacing them with the household names we crave or we believe the Club has funds for? Players like Hazard, Mata, Goetze, M'Vila were all linked with us over the Summer and we ended up with a loan deal for Benayoun and Park Chu-Young. 

"Imagine the worst situation, that we lose Fábregas and Nasri; you cannot convince people that you are ambitious after that." These were the words of our own manager who allowed the worst case scenario to become reality. The trust had now been broken as Wenger endured his worst Summer ever at Arsenal as he failed to replace our star player, Cesc Fabregas, with a player of top calibre.

The substitution that confused home fans
He has shown he still has an eye for young talent and will spend money on a long-term investment i.e Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who made his full league debut against Manchester United and sparkled. He instantly showed what a handful he can be. A lot of fans were having a go at Wenger for spending £15m on Oxlade-Chamberlain during the Summer and it is quite ironic that his decision to take Oxlade-Chamberlain off during the game was met with jeers from the home fans.

After the game, Wenger seemed to be caught in two minds as to whether to accept he made a mistake and Arshavin let him down or whether to insist we stick together and don't question him. He said, "Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team. I have to justify [substituting] a guy of 18 who's playing his second or third game? Let's be serious...We win and lose together. You want me to blame one player? I will not do that. If I've made a mistake, I'm sorry..". In the initial SkySports post match interview when asked "could Arshavin of done better for the goal?" Wenger replied, "You should ask him." This contradicts Wengers argument of Arshavin being Russia captain and is actually on the verge of hanging Arshavin out to dry.

As John Cross also said we prefer "raw enthusiasm over lazy talent". I agree with this totally and I actually question why so many senior players at Arsenal seem to play with such a lack of enthusiasm at Arsenal. The Chamakh's, the Arshavin's, the Squillaci's, the Almunia's? Why are they still at the club? Why does nobody want them? They are deadwood and are hindering young players' prospects while collecting big wages and draining club resources as they totally under perform.

Then the young players out on loan such as Bendtner, Vela and Denilson were on the verge of breakdown if they had to spend another season at our Club. These players are not even remotely interested in playing for Arsenal or under Wenger, and while they were heralded as future superstars and deemed good enough for Wenger to waste up to 5 years on, not one of them seems likely to attract a big bid from any top European sides.

Perhaps this is one of the key reasons why Wenger is yet to spend, the fact players have not been moved on promptly and kick out of the door has also managed to keep Wenger from spending to improve the team.

Wilshere (right) yet to feature this season
There are also 11 injured players who are awaiting a return from injury such as Wilshere, Sagna, Gibbs etc who will undoubtedly improve us on our current wretched run but these are familiar problems we face and complain about on a season to season basis.

Inevitably our standards, ambition and expectation have all become based at a mediocre level. Our league position represents that and Mr.Wenger has yet to replenish the situation. The fact Wenger begged Pat Rice to stay when Rice was hellbent on retiring also suggests that Wenger is not open to change, new ideas, refreshing the backroom staff or promoting from within.

Steve Bould linked with Assistant role
Steve Bould and Dennis Bergkamp were names mooted as possible replacements for Pat Rice but Wenger was never interested and actually convinced Pat Rice that the right decision would be to stay on. This has undoubtedly contributed to the stale factor that is lingering at the Club.

The players, staff and fans have hung on his every word and this is why the unrest, frustration and nervousness are common place at The Emirates. He has always been trusted to deliver in the face of adversity but currently he appears secluded.

"You don't know what you're doing" is a chant that has reared its ugly head all to frequently at The Emirates recently but what is important is to remember that Wenger has a huge passion for the Club, has a long term vision that nobody can imagine at the moment and that Arsenal is still our Club. 

Support it and love it regardless.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


We are fast approaching a feast of football which is appropriately labelled as "Super Sunday" and like it or not, Arsenal fans across the country will be worried. 

Arsenal could of gone into Sundays clash, at The Emirates with Manchester United, in 7th place. However, they should be buoyed by the way Saturdays games have panned out with Newcastle losing, Liverpool losing and Chelsea only managing a draw. These results leave Arsenal 5 points behind 4th placed Chelsea with a game in hand - versus the team that spanked them 8 - 2 in August.

After the 8 - 2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United, Wenger said "You feel humiliated when you concede eight goals." I would agree. It was an abject performance to say the least. There were factors which left our hands tied as we were mercilessly ripped apart at Old Trafford. Wenger also says, "It was a terrible day for us, it was a combination of an under-strength team and weakness. We collapsed physically in the second half." 

We had players like Traore on the pitch, who were not even bothered as they knew they were about to leave. We had a bad injury/suspension list with the likes Vermaelen, Sagna, Wilshere, Song and Gervinho all missing. We had out of form players like Djourou, Koscielny, Ramsey and Arshavin getting the runaround while rookies such as Jenkinson (who was also sent off) and Coquelin were exposed to the ruthless reality of playing against Premier League champions. Not forgetting the loss of Fabregas and Nasri coupled with the signings who had yet to be made part of the new Arsenal such as Arteta, Mertesacker and Santos.

At that point Arsenal were written off with no regard for the problems at the Club. Ex-Arsenal player Paul Merson questioned Arsene Wenger; “Don’t put those kinds of players on the pitch and make them like lambs to the slaughter – it’s not good enough. You have got to start looking at the manager now and asking questions."

At that point, Arsenal were 17th in the league with 1 point on the board and a goal difference of - 8. The long and desperate road to recovery began at Arsenal and since then Arsenal climbed the league table, sitting in 5th place while negotiating 1st place qualification in a Champions League group containing Marseille and Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. The dark clouds over Arsenal seemed to have finally cleared and pride as well as confidence appeared to have been rediscovered.

However, in the build up to this game the murmurings seem to have begun again; with Arsenal losing 3 out of the last 6 league games, Wenger's position being questioned and van Persie yet to sign a new deal. As always is the case, Arsenal seem to have severe injury problems, with arguably more injuries than in the last encounter. The lack of full backs available is a serious concern and there is a possibility of there being as many as 8 of the same players who played in the game at Old Trafford remaining in the line up for the return fixture.

Arsenal fans will be desperate to see Vermaelen playing in any capacity, even if it is left back, and if Arteta is not fit, will be a huge blow to Arsenals plans.

The thought of Nani and Valencia running at Djourou and Miquel is a daunting prospect and I believe thats where the game will be won or lost. Manchester Uniteds wing play is extremely important to their style of play and Arsenals full back positions are particularly weak so its inevitable Manchester United will consistently play through the wings. Paul Scholes will play in Manchester Uniteds midfield and hit the wings instantly with his classy range of passing and he will be key to Manchester Uniteds game plan. Arsenal will need to get stuck into Scholes instantly and not give him any time on the ball. This will be important if Arsenal are to stop Man. United from dominating that spacious Emirates pitch.

It will be a hard game tomorrow but the importance of the game is massive. If we win tomorrow it can totally change the prospects of our season;give us huge confidence and squeeze the gap between us and the teams ahead of us. If we lose it will consign us to the expected barrage from the "I told ya so" brigade. Lets hope its the former results that we are celebrating tomorrow night.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Welcoming Andre Santos; A flamboyant wing-back originating from Brazil.

He has emerged into the first-team eleven with a swagger and presence only to be expected from the brilliant Brazilian school of wing-backs.

He arrived at Arsenal Football club on transfer deadline day, with the usual stigma attached to Brazilian defenders; very good going forward but poor in defence. A general idea of his instincts were to be confirmed when he chose the No.11 jersey commonly used for wingers. This signalled the intent of the wing -back, who at the age of 28, would be classed as experienced cover for Kieran Gibbs.

However, Santos had other ideas which have seen him become something of a cult figure at The Emirates. He has scored 2 goals in 7 starts including a key goal in the 5-3 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

He makes marauding runs which display the typical traits of a Brazilian wing-back. Years of studying Roberto Carlos and Cafu prove the mentality ingrained into a Brazilian wing-back is "attack is the best form of defence".

The entertainment factor Santos provides is top class and there is no denying that his forays into the final third leave us exposed at the back but he brings a new dimension to the Arsenal attack, which hasn't been so productive since the days of Ashley Cole.

The Brazilian flair which Arsenal have been crying out for, has been a welcome addition as far as I'm concerned. The fact that Santos can already boast the same amount of goals that Clichy scored in his entire Arsenal career shows the cutting edge he will bring to the Arsenal team in attack.

As Wenger has said, “I feel it’s an important part of winning – having a full-back who creates.” I agree.