Sunday, 27 March 2011

Jack and Aaron enhance reputations

It may have been a rather boring game, but there were positives for Gooners to take away from it.

Our two representatives, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, emerged with yet more credibility, adding yet more football people to their burgeoning list of admirers. Jack was his usual self, winning tackles, playing through balls, and spraying passes about with ease. England's new 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to ours, really suited him and helped him play as well as he did, alongside Scott Parker. You can catch highlights of Jack's performance on 101greatgoals, here.

Captaining his country for the first time, Aaron looked a little rusty, as can be expected since he's still on the road to recovery from his injury. He gave the ball away a few times, but showed good feet and awareness, and completely skinned John Terry before firing just over. As my Dad said to me, it's good for him to get another 90 minutes under his belt. I think after a proper pre-season this summer, he'll be ready to command a starting place.

Really, with these two young stars, Alex Song, Samir Nasri and all of the other young talents at the club, I'm not sure selling Cesc would be as disastrous anymore.  We still look a little lost without him, so we need to hang onto him for a bit more, but soon I think we'll be able to let him make that move to Barcelona.

Jack and Aaron are both such good players, it's difficult to comprehend that they're only 19 and 20 respectively. One is captain of his country already, and the other certainly must be some time - I would be surprised if neither wore the armband for Arsenal in the future. They both lead by example, getting stuck in, cajoling their team mates, scoring and creating goals. I'm so pleased we have them at our club.

The fact that Aaron is captain of Wales just weeks after coming back from a career threatening injury speaks volumes about his strength of character, especially seeing how young he is - he's Wales' youngest ever skipper. It takes great mental resolve to return so strongly from such a huge blow, and that's exactly what he's done. Being made captain will have boosted his confidence ten-fold.

As for Jack, he's already an established started for club and country near the end of his breakthrough season. Some credit should go to Bolton and Owen Coyle, who gave him vital Premier League experience. Arsene couldn't have handled his development better. There's not much I haven't already said about this young lad - it was only a few days ago that I covered his rise to prominence - so I'll leave it at that.

Now I've got a football match to help my team win - we're playing top of the league. We're 2nd, but they have a game in hand. Before I go, make sure you watch the video in the post below. Truly inspirational stuff.

Video - Arsenal: Down But Not Out

Before I bring you a new post on Jack and Aaron's performances, I wanted to share with you an inspirational Arsenal video. If you don't get goosebumps, there's something wrong with you. Enjoy.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A look at our run-in

If we win all of our games until the end of the season, we're champions. It's as simple as that.

Can we do it? Yes. Will we do it? That's a whole other story. That's what I'll be covering in this post. However, even if we don't, we can still win the league if Man United slip up. But can we really rely on that happening? I don't think so. Here's a list of the fixtures and my verdict on the result.

Blackburn (H) - April 2nd
While Blackburn are a tough team to play against away from home, we usually have enough to overcome them at the Emirates. Our games with them at the Grove are sometimes high-scoring; the last time they came to town, we beat them 6-2, and I remember there was a 4-2 in our first season at the Emirates. It may have been our second actually, but oh well. Their form on the road is fairly average, and they've also struggled at home recently. Verdict - win.

Blackpool (A) - April 10th
Despite the fact that we beat them 6-0 at home early on in the season, Blackpool are a really tough team to play at Bloomfield Road. United struggled to a victory, Sp*rs and Liverpool lost and other "bigger" teams have fallen there too. We can take solace in the fact that Man City and Chelsea both won there though, and we can match those performances hopefully. We should have all the big guns back by then, if not by the previous week. Verdict - win.

Liverpool (H) - April 17th
The Reds have come back into form recently under Kenny Dalglish, despite one or two dodgy results. They beat Man United 3-1 with ease, and brushed aside Sunderland more recently. Without a doubt, the danger man is Luis Suarez, but we will have to be equally as wary about Andy Carroll - obviously he got the winner for Newcastle at the Emirates and caused problems all day. This game is difficult to call, it could go either way. Verdict - draw.

Tottenham (A) - April 20th
If we're still in the race by the time this game comes around, which we should be, so much will be at stake for both teams - a Champions League place for Sp*rs will probably still be up for grabs. It's a tough place to go - last time we fell 2-1 - but now we actually have the spine of our team fit and mostly in form, other than Djourou, Vermaelen and the goalkeepers. Szczesny could be back by then anyway. Still, again it could go either way. Verdict - draw.

Bolton (A) - April 24th
Formerly our bogey team, Bolton have probably been replaced by Wigan. We don't seem to get travelsickness when visiting the Reebok anymore, and ground out a great 2-0 win there last year, Fabregas and Merida on the scoresheet. Bolton should be a more attacking side under Owen Coyle, and should leave themselves open at the back, and since Theo should be fit by then, we can definitely exploit that. Verdict - win.

Man United (H) - May 1st
The big one. It will go a long way to deciding where the title ends up. If we win, that's a huge, huge boost. If we lose, they open up the gap (if it still exists, which it probably will). It's a must-win, and I have a feeling the players will step up to the plait - the fans will be behind them 100%, and Wenger will make sure they're aware of how big a game it is if they don't already know. Verdict - win.

Stoke (A) - May 7th
Another team we've struggled to beat on the road is Stoke. We all know what happened last time we played them, but we still came back from Ramsey's horrific injury to triumph 3-1. It was a great show of our mental strength. I think it will be a huge boost to have Szczesny instead of Almunia this time, he's so much better aerially. Plus if we have Djourou we'll be even better equipped to deal with the long throws and corners. We should be OK defensively if we do have those two and our other first choice players at the back, but it's whether we can break them down that worries me slightly. With RVP, Cesc, Theo, Samir and Arshavin though, we should have enough in the Arsenal, if you'll excuse the pun. Verdict - win.

Aston Villa (H) - May 14th
We beat them 3-0 at home last season, but the scoreline really flattered us. We struggled until we brought on a 70% fit Cesc, who changed the game in our favour, and got us 2-0 up before going back off. We should have him and the rest of the absentees on the day starting from the off this time though - plus Villa are weaker than they were then. Verdict - win.

Fulham (A) - May 22nd
The final day of the season. If these results come true, which they probably won't, we should still be in it and have a great chance of lifting the trophy. I don't think the players would bottle it this time, they've done so twice (wouldn't count Barca) and I'd say it may just be third time lucky. Verdict - win.

If my predictions come true, we'll end the season on 81 points. A little optimistic, but I don't see any reason why that can't happen. If Man United draw once or twice, then I think we'd win the league off those results. An unbeaten end to the year doesn't seem likely with Arsenal, but we can do it. We just have to believe!

That's all for today, by the way the title of the blog is finally correct - I turned 15 today. Cheers.     

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The meteoric rise of Jack Wilshere

From being a shock inclusion in the starting line-up for a Premier League game, to being one of the first names on the team sheet - it's been a crazy year for Jack Wilshere so far.

In fact, his surge to prominence has been so great that many, including myself, would be surprised if he wasn't named PFA Young Player of the Year. It wouldn't even shock me if he was on the shortlist for the senior award, he really has been that good this year. 

Out of our 49 games this season (thanks to @ArsenalCW for that stat), Jack has played the most, starting 36 times and coming off the bench four times (stat found here). Out of those games, he's barely had a bad one. He's scored twice and assisted eight goals, but those stats don't tell the complete story.

He's usually played alongside Alex Song in a midfield pivot, although he has had other midfield partners - he's linked up with Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey at times. He's also played in the "Cesc role" in the Carling Cup final and against Sunderland in the 0-0. The compliments and appraisal Jack's received have come from all corners - his captain, team mates, managers and opponents have been heaping on the praise, and it's little wonder.

The stand-out performance from his season would have to be against Barcelona in the home leg. I'll let your minds drift back to that wonderful game for a moment... great wasn't it? Anyway, he bossed the game against the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. If Balotelli didn't know who he was before, he definitely would after that performance.

(Speaking of people who didn't previously know who Jack was, after he starred in his first Emirates Cup, I somewhat prematurely got his name on the back of my shirt. All my friends would laugh at me and say "Who's Wilshere? I bet he's rubbish". Who's laughing now?)

His only two goals of the campaign so far have come against Aston Villa in the Premier League and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. The former was a diving header at the back post to seal the three points in the dying embers of the game, while the latter was a beautiful dink over the goalkeeper after a flowing move.

The eight assists he has provided include important goals for Chamakh and Bendtner. One of Marouane's goals which was set up by Jack turned out to be the winner against Birmingham. Our English prodigy played a one-two with Alex Song, before slipping in Chamakh who did the rest.

Bendtner's goal was arguably Jack's best pass of the season, and a hugely important one. Even though we didn't win the Carling Cup in the end, the goal brought our hopes of the final back to life midway through a tough second half against Ipswich. Jack received the ball inside his own half, and sent a searching ball right into the path of Bendtner - and the rest is history.

The fact that Capello has revealed he'll be an England regular from now on is telling of how good a season he has had. He only made his international debut earlier this year, and already is being talked of as future captain of England, and indeed of Arsenal. But it's not just his skills that warrant such high praise.

His attitude is always 100% spot on. He gives every fibre of his being in every game, no matter what, and never shies out of a tackle, winning more than he loses, despite his slight frame. Another thing Arsenal fans appreciate about him is how he acknowledges the fans without fail, after every game. He accepts responsibility for the team's failures, even when he played his heart out, and he doesn't take credit for our victories.

Many players divide opinion in this club, but not Jack. The image of him after the Carling Cup final would have touched every true Gooner. We all knew how hard he'd worked for that trophy. If we win the league this year, a huge amount of credit has to go to him. He's been immense.

Djourou out for minimum of four weeks

Arsenal have confirmed that Johan Djourou does NOT require surgery on his shoulder.

This news means that he'll be back in training in around a month.
See the full story here.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Rumours, midfield duo still believe, Szczesny will be back

I'll begin today's round-up by discussing a few transfer rumours - the man pictured above, if you don't already know, is Napoli's Edinson Cavani.

You should already know by now though. The Uruguayan striker is now one of the hottest properties in Europe, having fired Napoli into fourth place in Serie A. Most people probably thought Ezequiel Lavezzi was their best talent, but not anymore. Cavani's goals, a lot of them sensational, have come by the bucket load this season. He's grabbed 29 goals in 40 games already, and there are plenty more to come. You can check out his superb "diving scorpion kick" goal here. Make sure you do.

Anyway, to the point - we've been linked with him. Well, I wouldn't really include him in the rumours section of an Arsenal blog if we hadn't. The Metro has claimed he has a £20 million buy-out clause; he's actually only on loan to Napoli from Palermo. Personally, I would pay that. He's only 24, and will be world class. I can't see Wenger paying that much for a striker though. 

Apparently Manchester United now lead the chase for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who I mentioned that I'd like us to sign a few posts back. I can't see him going anywhere other than Arsenal to be honest. 

Nicklas Bendtner has again been linked away from the club - this time in a joint swoop from AC Milan. The other player is Andrey Arshavin, and the price quoted is £45 million. I'm not sure I'd do that deal, it's a huge amount of money for those two, but they're important players for us.

Andrey has that ability to break down teams when we're struggling for inspiration (see West Brom at the weekend) and score crucial goals, something Nicklas also does. Plus, strikers and wingers are players we have few of. If we sold B52, that would leave us with Van Persie, Chamakh and Vela. Unless of course, we signed Cavani. But that's just a fantasy.

Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere have publicly got behind the team today, both insisting we're still in with a huge chance of the title. Here's what Rambo had to say:
"We have a game in hand and we play Man United at home so we are definitely not out of it [the title race]. Definitely not. There is a lot to play for and hopefully we can do that and become champions at the end."
While Jack is still backing us to be United's strongest challengers:
"There are nine games left and we really have to go to it. United still have to come to the Emirates and we will have to beat them — from now, that is the biggest game we have to look forward to. Until then, we will just have to win every game. We all feel we are still their main challengers and we believe we can win it. Hopefully the fans do as well because we need them behind us."
I agree with both of them. I always said Chelsea were still in it, but I still think we'll have to collapse hugely for them to overtake us. We did that last season, but that was without our best players - Cesc, Song and Theo are all returning soon, and then we'll only be without a couple of goalkeepers, Vermaelen and Djourou - nothing we can't cope with. Hopefully..

The topic of goalkeepers leads me nicely to my final part of the round-up. Wojciech Szczesny says he'll be back stronger than ever:
"If you lose a game, you can pick yourself up - but when you are injured, you cannot just miraculously come back, you know it will take some time to get fit and you won't actually have a game for a few weeks, so that is the biggest challenge. But I am confident I will get through it and come back stronger than ever."
I'm sure he will be back, and ready to continue his claim for the number one shirt. If Fabianski wasn't injured too, Wojciech would have a real fight on his hands to regain the shirt. However, I think next season it'll be Szczesny between the sticks outright, Fabianski as back up. In my opinion, that's not too bad.

That's all for today Gooners, should be another post up tomorrow. Enjoy, comment, spread the word.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Wilshere named in England squad to face Wales

Jack Wilshere has been selected in the squad for the England vs Wales EURO 2012 qualifier. 

He should go up against team mate Aaron Ramsey - both are expected to play. Here is the England squad in full. 

Ben Foster, Robert Green, Joe Hart;

Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, John Terry, Kyle Walker;

Gareth Barry, Stewart Downing, Matthew Jarvis, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young;

Darren Bent, Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney.

Berbatov beats Bolton as United go five clear: top tier round-up

Premier League

Having slipped up against West Brom, we needed Bolton to have at least held Manchester United at Old Trafford for it to be a point gained. This was not the case; a rare Jussi Jaaskelainen mistake saw Dimitar Berbatov bundle home in the 88th minute to win all three points for the Red Devils.

To make matters worse, Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to power their way back into contention for the title. Second half goals from David Luiz and Ramires gave the Blues a win in a tightly contested game in London. 

There was a result to put smirks on our faces in Saturday's lunch time kick-off, a 0-0 draw between Sp*rs and West Ham at White Hart Lane. Defoe in particular, who had his "100 Goals" shirt ready to be revealed, missed a hatful of chances, with Rob Green in top form. 

Liverpool continued to rebuild their season with an impressive, hard-fought win at the Stadium of Light. Dirk Kuyt scored a debatable - to say the least - penalty, before Luis Suarez kept up his excellent form, finishing off a good run with a sensational shot. John Mensah was given his marching orders late on for a second bookable offence.

Elsewhere, Wigan came back to beat Birmingham 2-1 with a strike from Maynor Figueroa winning it at the death, while Everton overcame Fulham by the same scoreline at Goodison Park. Stoke thrashed Newcastle 4-0 at the Britannia, and a Matt Jarvis stunner was enough for Wolves to beat Aston Villa - and drag their rivals into a relegation battle. 

Finally, Blackburn came back to force a draw with relegation rivals Blackpool at Ewood Park. A ridiculous penalty was slotted home by Charlie Adam, who bent a beautiful free kick right into the "postage stamp" five minutes later to make it 2-0. A goal from Chris Samba got the home side back in it, before Junior Hoilett snatched a point at the death.

La Liga

Real Madrid kept up with Barcelona with a 2-1 derby win over Atletico Madrid. Karim Benzema kept up his wonderful form, opening the scoring with a deft finish past David de Gea, before Mesut Ozil made it two. Sergio Aguero grabbed a late goal for Atleti, but it turned out only to be a consolation for los Rojiblancos.

Barca beat Getafe to stay five points clear of Real having played the same amount of games. Goals in each half from Dani Alves and Bojan put the league leaders 2-0 up, and Manu's 88th minute goal didn't change the outcome of the game. 

Bottom of the table Malaga got a huge win at home to fifth placed Espanyol, winning 2-0 to jump two places to 18th. Levante scored a last-gasp winner to pull away from opponents Deportivo la Coruna, who remain in trouble at the bottom. Racing Santander gained on Real Sociedad by beating them 2-1.

Mid-table Osasuna thrashed Hercules 4-0 away from home, and the losers find themselves propping up the table with nine games to play. Sporting Gijon climbed to 15th with a 1-0 win over Almeria, while Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal are currently at half time, with the score 0-0. Sevilla are due to play Valencia later tonight.

Serie A

Inter Milan closed the gap on AC Milan to two points at the top, with Giampaolo Pazzini scoring the winner on 52 minutes. His cool finish was the only thing that could separate Inter and opponents Lecce, who put up a good fight. Milan were undone by a 10th minute goal from Palermo's Goian in a tough away clash, and now face a real battle with rivals Inter for the title.

A double from Francesco Totti helped Roma to a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina, leaving his side 6 points behind 4th placed Napoli, who play Cagliari at 7:45pm. Juventus kept their Europa League dreams alive, with club legend Alessandro del Piero getting the winner against Brescia. Udinese saw off Catania 2-0, Gokhan Inler and Di Natale scoring.

Parma beat Sampdoria 1-0 thanks to Zaccardo, leaving their opponents in a bad position near the bottom of the table. Chievo beat bottom side Bari 2-1, while Bologna and Genoa played out a 1-1 draw. 

Reaction to draw with West Brom

Having watched the game again on Football First, then again on Match of the Day, it's clear what the problems are. 

Without Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott, the 4-2-3-1 formation just doesn't work. Koscielny and Squillaci can't really play together that effectively. Manuel Almunia is a rubbish goalkeeper.

To most, these were clear before today, but that performance should put the final nails in the coffin for Arsene. There's not much he can really do about the centre back pairing at the moment, but I suspect he'll select Lehmann ahead of Almunia from here on in. As for the formation not working without the three players mentioned earlier, that won't be too much of an issue as they'll all be back for Blackburn in two weeks. Hopefully anyway.

The 4-2-3-1 is designed for four players in particular - Song, Fabregas, Walcott and Robin van Persie. Song can protect the back four while occasionally ambling forward in attack. Fabregas can pull the strings, play balls from deep or lead the attack. Walcott will receive some of those balls, and play dangerous balls into the box or get in behind the defence. Van Persie relies on the service from Walcott and Fabregas, but when they aren't there, the formation doesn't work as well.

Van Persie ends up isolated and only getting the odd chance from a cross. He has improved his heading this season, but it's not enough to hope he'll score from there. When we don't have Cesc and/or Theo, we should play Chamakh alongside van Persie. Then we can play balls aerially and along the floor to Chamakh, he can lay it off to van Persie, and we get chances.

Another problem which has been explored over and over again is how clinical we are - so many game-changing, and indeed season-changing, chances go begging. If Aaron had put that rebound past Carson it would have been 1-1 and we would have been on the front foot. Instead it was saved. I could list so many examples of where we didn't take our chances and it came back to haunt us - I won't; instead I'll point out where taking our chances helped us.

Against Chelsea in late 2010, we were underdogs despite their poor form. We didn't get many chances, but we took the important ones at the important times. We scored right on the stroke of half time having dominated - if we hadn't, our heads may have gone down and who knows how the game would have gone. Then after half time, straight out of the blocks again, 3-0, quick as a flash.

Sadly I think injuries have once again been our downfall this season - it's not our first choice team that is letting us down, it's those that back them up - Diaby, Denilson, Almunia. I'll leave Squillaci out because I feel that he's a decent player, but his partnership with Koscielny just doesn't work. We need a clear-out in the summer, of the deadwood, and then to bring in new, fresh talent who want to win. I think we should get Gokhan Inler from Udinese to back Song up and push him for a place even. That would mean we wouldn't also have to rely on Jack as much - he's played an unbelievable amount of games and it must be only a matter of time before he's burnt out.

I think we also need a right winger, someone like Theo with pace to burn. Maybe Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or if we're being extremely optimistic, the excellent Eden Hazard, who's been in top form for title favourites Lille. Then perhaps a Squillaci-esque centre back, only one who can play with Koscielny. However, Kyle Bartley could be the answer. We'll have to wait and see though. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

WBA 2-2 Arsenal

How we are still in the title race is a mystery.

At one point we seemed dead and buried; 2-0 down thanks to terrible defensive play. By the end of the game it looked like we were going to snatch it - alas, it wasn't to be. 

All of the pre-match talk focused on Aaron Ramsey, and how great it was to see him back. Fans were praising Wenger for his inclusion in the starting eleven, although some preferred to criticise Le Boss for starting Denilson once more. With Ramsey starting, it was a choice between two unfavoured players for Wenger - instead of Tomas Rosicky, he picked Denilson. 

Of course, another option was to go for a 4-4-2, with Robin van Persie and Bendtner or Chamakh in attack. Then we could have had Arshavin and Nasri on the wings, with Wilshere and Ramsey in the centre. In hindsight it would have been better; we finished playing our best football in a 4-4-2, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Perhaps we ought to play 4-4-2 whenever we're without Song and/or Cesc.

We went 1-0 down early on, just three minutes in in fact, thanks to yet another goal conceded from a set piece. Koscielny knocked it out, and it was whipped in well by Brunt. Steven Reid lost Aaron Ramsey, and powered in a header. The general consensus was that Almunia could have done better - indeed, he only went for the ball with one hand. Try using both next time, Manuel. If there is a next time.

We struggled during the first twenty minutes, but got going after that. Clichy swung in a cross for RVP, whose looping header hit the bar. It fell to Ramsey on his weaker left, and he couldn't beat Carson who blocked. It was a great chance, and one we should have taken. Our endeavours were helped by James Morrison being forced to leave the field of play to get stitches after a collision with Koscielny, but we couldn't make the extra man count. We went in at half time at 1-0 down.

Denilson had come in for huge criticism amongst the fans for his inability to... well, play football, and Arsene seemed to agree with the majority, bringing on Chamakh at half time as we averted to a 4-4-2. It's rare for Arsene to make a change at half time - perhaps that is a significant pointer as to how much we were struggling. 

Just before the hour mark though, it got much worse. Almunia decided to race out of his box to challenge for the ball - in some situations this is acceptable, but not when you're challenging your own player. He confused Squillaci, before shoving him to make matters worse. Odemwingie stole in to take advantage of the mix-up and gleefully slotted home. We needed serious readjustments.

Moments before the second, Bendtner had replaced Ramsey. He perhaps lacked a little sharpness, but still looked decent. We threw everyone forward to try and score, but it didn't seem to working. West Brom even had more chances to score thanks to woeful play at the back, but luckily for us they didn't. 

Then on 70 minutes, we were back in it. Andrey Arshavin linked up with Chamakh before rifling in a shot, and made it 2-1. Hope.

This gave us the boost we so badly needed, and Arshavin was the one to instigate the second goal. He curled in a cross which struck the bar, and van Persie forced the ball over the line. Improbably, it was 2-2. 

We pushed and pushed, as did West Brom, and it looked like we might find an unbelievable winner to send the away fans into delirium. However, as hard as we tried, we couldn't. Clichy had a shot saved well, and Sagna had a shout for a penalty turned down. The referee blew for full time, and it finished 2-2.

Afterwards, Wenger blamed the pitch, and called it a point gained. Seeing as Man United scored a late winner against Bolton, it's more like we've dropped points. However, I feel both points can be justified - it's Wenger trying to avert the blame and encouraging the players. On the other hand, it may make players think "Oh it wasn't my fault, it was the pitch's fault. I'll just play the same way next time." If that's the case, all Wenger will be encouraging is complacency. Ah well, whatever you think's best, Arsene.

Further analysis should follow tomorrow. Until then, Gooners. Keep your heads high. There's a long way to go until the end of the season. 

Team news: Ramsey is back

Aaron Ramsey is back.

For the first time since breaking his leg against Stoke last year, Aaron Ramsey starts a game for Arsenal. Here is the team in full.

Almunia; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Ramsey, Denilson; Nasri, Wilshere, Arshavin; van Persie

Bench: Lehmann, Rosicky, Eboué, Chamakh, Gibbs, Miquel, Bendtner.

Team courtesy of Arseblog.

Friday, 18 March 2011

WBA (A) Preview

We've had varying success at the Hawthorns in past years.

Last time we played there, we won 3-1, courtesy of two from Nicklas Bendtner and a header from Kolo Toure. The previous game, however, we went down 2-1. If my memory serves me correctly, Philippe Senderos scored for us, but Darren Carter came off the bench to score a wondergoal to win it for the Baggies. I'm sure we all know and still shake our heads at what happened last time we played them though - it was a shocking collapse, and 3-2 genuinely flattered us. We could have even snatched a draw; Nasri hit the bar, and Rosicky flicked a late chance well wide.

It was Almunia's last performance in the league for us, and he's expected to return between the sticks tomorrow. He saved a penalty having conceded it, and to be fair had been having a decent season; and then it happened. Three goals in the space of 15 or so minutes flew in, at least two of them could be blamed on Almunia too. I'm not sure what he could have done about the first one, but the second was straight at him and he helped it into the net - the third was just idiocy. He raced off his line to try and tackle a player who wasn't going anywhere, and made it easy for him to square for Thomas, who couldn't believe his luck.

We really do not want anymore of that from Almunia tomorrow, it's a huge game in our season and we need good performances from everyone. In his previous two games against United and Barca, he did play very well to be fair to the guy, so more of that from him please. Lehmann should be on the bench for his return to the side after his move was finally confirmed by These days it seems like the last place to have the news though, and often gets things wrong, even passing off fake Twitter accounts as real. 

Diaby has been ruled out as I said yesterday, which for me is good news - not that a human being is physically damaged obviously, but that he can't negatively affect our chances of victory, which let's face it, he does often. Most if not all of us are probably hoping to see Ramsey back starting in the league, but realistically I can't see Wenger throwing him in the deep end in such an important game. We'll probably have to settle for Diaby's partner in crime; the other Chuckle brother, Denilson. I expect he'll line up alongside Wilshere in the deep-lying midfield positions. The defence will surely be Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci and Clichy - I'm a little worried about the centre backs, as I said yesterday they're a troublesome pairing, and Odemwingie can be a handful on his day. Hopefully he'll be off his game again tomorrow.

I'd expect Arshavin to play on the left, with van Persie in the lone role, and Nasri and Rosicky to take the remaining central and wide right roles - who in which, I'm not quite sure. The bench will then probably be made up of Lehmann, Eboue, Miquel (not Miguel!), Gibbs, Ramsey, Chamakh and Bendtner. With the injuries we have, that's still a good team. Definitely capable of turning West Brom over, but they're in a decent run of form.

They're unbeaten in four since they were beaten 3-0 by City, but even then they put a good show on. Under Hodgson they've been improving, and our loanee Carlos Vela has been in excellent form. The good news is, he won't be playing, so that's one player we won't have to worry about. They still have other dangerous players - Brunt, Morrison, the afore-mentioned Odemwingie too. Then there's Fortune... every time I've seen him he's been useless, so I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up scoring against us! Hopefully I've not jinxed it. They have the likes of Scharner at the back, and he's great at getting on the end of set pieces; attacking and defending, while Brunt has a wicked delivery, so we'll have to be watchful.

Well, that's about it for today. Enjoy, follow me on Twitter @15yearoldgooner and hopefully we'll get the three points! Cheers.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Jens returns, Cesc and Theo not fit for WBA, Vermaelen's season is over

It's been a day of good news and bad news. 

Sadly, the bad far outweighs the good on this occasion. I suppose I'd better get that out of the way first.

Cesc and Theo will both definitely miss the West Brom game at the weekend - this shouldn't come as a particular surprise, since Cesc's hamstring usually takes a while to heal (as do most hamstrings) and Theo was ruled out for 6 weeks about 4/5 weeks ago. I wouldn't be surprised if we rushed him back, but I'm sure it wouldn't do too much harm - his injury didn't seem like the type you could aggravate, whereas Cesc's definitely is. Indeed, he's aggravated it many times in the past. Hopefully next season he will have had a good old holiday, and will be fresh and ready to go, his hamstring the least of his worries. At the beginning of this season he barely had any pre-season rest, what with the World Cup, so that was probably the reason for all his hamstring problems. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Thomas Vermaelen has been ruled out of the rest of the season, with AW saying he "never expected him to be back by the end of the season". This begs the question, which has already been posed by many - why did Wenger say Vermaelen was one of the reasons not to sign a centre back in January? But, we digress. In other centre back related news, Johan Djourou has hopes of returning for the last couple of games in the season. Let's hope that Squillaci and Koscielny haven't already ruined our season with their calamtic defending by then, because we'll really need Johan. Obviously I don't think Koscielny is a bad player, I think he's excellent when paired with Djourou, but then when it comes to playing with Squillaci, things all seem to fall apart for him. He was superb against Barcelona, Chelsea, and so on, but the most significant performance was against Newcastle. In the first half alongside Djourou, he was great, hardly put a foot wrong. But when Djourou was forced off, everything went pear-shaped in defence, and Koscielny ended up conceding two penalties and not doing much to stop the other two goals. 

It's been a joy to watch Johan mature from a clumsy, bumbling joke of a centre back to a commanding, powerful monster at the heart of our defence this season. If it wasn't for Jack Wilshere, he would easily win most improved player, with Samir Nasri an honourable mention. He's had a few shaky performances, like against West Ham away (still kept a clean sheet), but when he's been good, he's been really good. Against Chelsea he had Drogba completely in his pocket, won everything in the air and everything on the floor. In the game versus United when he sustained his injury he was good too, intercepted everything that came his way, and in the Carling Cup final he made two interventions that genuinely took my breath away. It's thanks to the form of he and Laurent that we haven't had to worry about Vermaelen being injured, until one of the two was injured too.

Arsene confirmed that 'Mad' Jens Lehmann has joined up until the end of the season in a Sol Campbell sort of a deal. He probably won't feature much, but as Wenger says, he'll push Almunia to improve (hopefully) and like Sol he'll try to instill a winning mentality amongst the players - something we badly need really. Maybe whilst warming up on the touchline at WHL he'll feel nature's call and urinate on Twitchy... we can only hope.

It also sounds like Abou Diaby did his groin during his Old Trafford stroll last Sunday. I've included that in the good news bracket as it should mean Ramsey plays instead of him at the Hawthorns on Saturday, and we all saw how much we improved when the Welshman replaced Diaby against United. Or Wenger will just find a way to include Denilson yet leave Ramsey on the bench, who knows. 

One last thing, if you aren't already, do follow me on Twitter @15yearoldgooner and spread the word!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Hi. I'm a huge Arsenal fan, I'm 15 years old, and this is my blog... maybe all of those points are obvious. I'm hoping to become a football journalist when I'm older, so I'm starting a blog. I can't promise frequent ramblings, but I'll post as much as I can. 

Now, a little bit about myself... I'm a regular at the Emirates, and my favourite players are Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere. If I didn't feel the need to limit it to three I'd also include the likes of Robin van Persie, Alex Song and Gael Clichy; I could go on too. There are a few players I have little time for too - Denilson and Abou Diaby always test my patience, as I'm sure they do all Gooners, although I do have a soft spot for Tomas Rosicky, who comes in for a lot of criticism amongst our fans.

My all-time favourites include Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp of course - I think I speak for all Arsenal fans when I say that (maybe not the Irish in terms of Thierry...) - and I also love legends like Adams, Rocastle and Brady, even if all I've seen of them has been on tapes my dad's shown me.

I'll try and write something soon so there's actually something to look at, it'll probably be on Friday. Until then, Gooners.