There was one clear contrast between the Newcastle and Wolverhampton games, which revealed the difference between a 1-0 defeat and a 2-0 win. That contrast was Cesc Fabregas.
Fabregas had one of his worst ever performances in an Arsenal shirt against a determined Newcastle side on Sunday, and that game ended in defeat. Of course there are more factors than just Cesc, but his performances are a fascinating strand of this story.
Against Newcastle Cesc misplaced almost 27% of his passes during the game, and this epitomised the way Arsenal played as a team on the day. In the end the team found little rhythm or flow, and were beaten deservedly.
Arsenal dominated Celtic yesterday to reach the finals of the Champions League, with a good display of passing football. Sadly the headlines today focus solely on the dubious penalty Eduardo won for the first goal.
There was little or no contact, and if it had been given against us I would be upset about it. The fact is though that this happens in football. As Wenger said Babel blatently dived in the CL QF at Anfield 2 years ago which knocked us out of the competition. I have no idea why Eduardo went down like that, but he isn’t the sort of player you expect that of, and it seems to be a one off.
The press seem to be having a field day over Eduardo’s actions, in a qualifier where we were always going to go through. Players like Drogba have a reputation for diving and never seem to get this sort of reaction. That is what I don’t understand. Eduardo wasn’t right, but there are much worse offenders in English football.
Aside from that the game was a straightforward affair, we passed the ball around neatly, and Eboue’s performance was a highlight! He made several nice turns and passes, and his goal topped it off. He was playing in the front three and often was playing as centre forward which was interesting.
Arshavin, Ramsey and Wilshere came on in the second half and all looked impressive. Arshavin showed why he is one of the best players in Europe at the moment, scoring a goal and making an impact within minutes of coming on. Denilson also performed well.
Most pleasingly the central defensive partnership of Vermaelen and Gallas was again solid last night. Vermaelen didn’t miss a header, and made several interceptions as did Gallas, and both made excellent forays going forward.
A good performance, now we need to see the draw this afternoon for the group stages. As well as that we have the small matter of a league tie at Old Trafford on saturday afternoon.
To presume that Arsenal will now qualify for the Champions League this season is a very dangerous mentality. To presume that the FA Cup and the Champions League are the only genuinely important games remaining is a very dangerous mentality.
Arsenal may well sit six points ahead of Aston Villa in the race for 4th spot, but there are some tough games remaining for the Gunners. Aston Villa are bound to pick up their form in the remaining few games as well, so the Premier League is still very much a priority for Arsenal.
With this in mind, I thought that it would be appropriate to take a look at the remaining league games for Arsenal and to reveal my football predictions as to how many points will be achieved. Will the unbeaten run keep going? Will the loss of Clichy and Gallas be crucial in the coming weeks? A little speculation never hurt anyone, so let’s take a look.
Saturday 11th April
Wigan v Arsenal: Forgive me for my pessimistic attitude on this one, but I think it is going to be a draw. The combination of being tired from Europe and the injuries will affect Arsenal.1 – 1.
Tuesday 21st April
Liverpool v Arsenal: Liverpool’s home form has let them down this season at crucial times. This will be a must win for them, but Arsenal have been good against the ‘big four’ this campaign. Another draw for me. 2 – 2.
Sunday 26th April
Arsenal v Middlesbrough: This should be a home banker. Middlesbrough will be fighting for their Premier League lives at this stage, but Arsenal should have more than enough. Arshavin, Van Persie, Adebayor and Walcott up against Chris Riggott and co? 3 – 0.
Saturday 2nd May
Portsmouth v Arsenal: This is a very difficult game. Pompey will need the win to steer clear of the relegation zone. For some reason, I see the unbeaten run coming to an end here. 2 – 1.
Sunday 10th May
Arsenal v Chelsea: In response to the Pompey defeat, Arsenal will start this game at an electric pace. The crowd will be loud, the players will be determined and the luck will be on Wenger’s side. 2 – 1.
Saturday 16th May
Man United v Arsenal: I think it is fair to say that Arsenal will have their say on where the title goes this year. In the penultimate game of the season, Manchester United will still need as many points as possible. However, they will drop two on this occasion. 0 – 0.
Sunday 24th May
Arsenal v Stoke: A nice home win to finish the season? I think so. After this hammering of Stoke, optimism for next season will be extremely high. 5 – 0.
Should these results come true (remember they are just predictions that you may disagree with), Arsenal will gain another 12 points to leave them on 70 for the season. This means that Aston Villa would need 19 points from their last seven games to overtake them. Quite a big ask, I’m sure you’ll agree.
However, Arsenal are by no means guaranteed the points I gave them. The games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United could go either way.
Overall, my message is that 4th place is by no means guaranteed. The Premier League is still my number one priority and I just hope the players are aware of this. A win at Wigan tomorrow would do no harm at all.
End of Season Update:
Not bad – We finished on 72 pts and took 4th place!
Phil Brown and his chums at Hull have finally submitted their accounts of the alledged Cesc Fabregas spitting incident after being given an extension for submission by the FA. This follows the disapperance abroad of all witnesses – just the one – Brian Horton.
Phil Brown was decidedly shifty when interviewed the morning after the game (read here), and didn’t seem to clearly remember all of his accusations – many of which seemed to stem from a blinding case of bitterness at Hull’s season collapsing in front of his eyes.
Since the original allegations it has become clear that Brown suffers from some sort of memory loss applying to handshakes, and post-match comments, but is a good northern lad, who calls all women ‘darling’ and has very strict dress codes.
Cesc Fabregas has vehemently denied all allegations, and has never spat at anyone in his career, contrary to claims that he spat at Michael Ballack in 2005, which was ruled by UEFA as untrue.
The ‘fake tan man’, as he is known in Hull, has commented:
“We really just want the truth to come out. If the truth comes out then we’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Good for you Phil – you don’t need to worry about any of the disrepute you have brought upon Hull City – a team who before this were high in most Arsenal fans’ estimations.
I can’t see that much will come of this, but if the FA do rule that there was no spitting incident then Hull will be left very red-faced indeed.
After watching the 3-1 win in Newcastle this weekend I pondered over Diaby’s role in central midfield. Diaby scored in the match and it struck me that he might be a good candidate for conversion to striker.
There is a good case that he should be converted to play as striker. Firstly he has proven that he can find the back of the net – scoring quite a few goals in his time at Arsenal, against Liverpool in last season’s CL QF, and against Fenerbahce this season (image above), as well as many others. Diaby took his goal well at the weekend too, with a powerful and accurate shot.
Another factor is that in central midfield he can be a liability. I know that he has amazing potential for central midfield, but he takes risks with the ball which are unacceptable. His distribution is not quick enough; he doesn’t release the ball, choosing to hold on to it and try to dribble it round 3 players instead. This isn’t saying he can never play there, but merely suggesting we should always consider where we can get the most out of a player.
I know many would like to see him fill the Patrick Vieira mould, I just don’t think he has the defensive nous about him. That isn’t to say I think he is a bad player, just more of an attacking midfielder – if he is playing in midfield. We know that he likes to think of himself as an attacking midfielder, but what if we extended this idea further?
It could be argued that his attributes fit the strikers mould – he is tall and powerful, useful against the tough defences in the Premiership. He also has amazing control and can hold onto the ball in very tight positions – the urge to dribble round players which is so dangerous in central midfield could be very effective in taking on the last line of defence. He can also pass well when he wants to, and as he showed at Newcastle he has pace, and most importantly a great shot.
The state of the squad does pose a problem, as we lack big strong midfielders; Diaby fills a gap there, whilst we have plenty of players who can play up front. So for now it would seem that selection consigns Diaby to stick to learning to play in the centre of midfield. However, if the need existed for a striker then I think he could be a successful conversion. It would be very interesting to see how he would perform if Wenger deployed him up front, but he will always be a central midfielder.
Arsene Wenger is a fantastic manager, and he has a great record at Arsenal, but one constant in his career is underachieving in European competition. This doesn’t sit well with Wenger, and I can see why, he clearly deserves a European trophy and he has come close on several occasions, not least in 2006 when we were 10 minutes away from winning the Champions League.
This article is a bit of Wenger history. It’s interesting to try to look at some of the more distant past to understand what Wenger has been through in his career, and why he is the man he is today.
His first major managerial post was at AS Monaco from 1987 – 1995. He won Ligue 1 in 1987/88, his first season, got his first taste of the European Cup the following year, reaching the Quarter Finals, but losing to Galatasaray 2-1 on aggregate, the team who were to beat Wenger’s Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final.
Wenger then won the French Cup in 1991. This led to his first European final the following season in the 1991/1992 Cup Winner’s Cup. His Monaco side played well beating teams such as Swansea City, Feyenoord and AS Roma, who we are facing in this season’s Champions League. Monaco faced Werder Bremen in the Final.
The Final was marred by news of the collapse of a temporary stand in Bastia’s French Cup semifinal with Marseille which left 13 dead and hundreds injured.
Otto Rehhagel, who later led Greece to their 2004 European Championship win, was the Bremen manager, and his side won by 2 goals, even though Monaco dominated possession. Wenger had players such as Petit, Djourkaeff, Thuram and George Weah in his side that day.
Wenger went on to a UEFA Cup Final with Arsenal against Galatasary in 2000, which we lost on penalties (I was crying) and a Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006, which could have been so different.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Wenger has had a great career, but until he puts his name on a European trophy he will not feel like he has achieved his potential. He has had the chances and come close, and this must be frustrating, I’m sure he still remembers these times.
Wenger is a competitive guy, and this season he will want to put right his awful record in European finals and bring the Champions League to Arsenal.
Arsenal won 2 – 0 today after a fantastic London derby against West Ham. The game was brilliant – fast-paced, and attack minded. I give credit to West Ham for attacking and playing good football. It was end to end stuff.
We had some great passing moves. Walcott looked dangerous and Van Persie deserved a goal – hitting the post with a great freekick – Rob Green played really well and it took an own goal from Faubert to put us ahead in the 75 minute as Adebayor came off the bench and made an instant impact.
Everyone played fantastically, and the second goal was the icing on the cake!
Arsenal started well, although there were a few close calls early on – a badly defended corner lead to Clichy clearing off the line, and a Porto shot skimmed the bar.
Van Persie looked so much sharper than on Saturday, and he got the first goal – a lovely move, leading to him sliding in Ade’s cross. Click to watch.
Ade got the second, heading down into the ground from a corner, the ball looped over Almu and in off the underside of the bar. Click to watch.
RVP scored again in the second half, this time taking it past the Porto defender and smashing it home with a left footed drive. Click to watch.
Ade finished the scoring from a penalty after Bendtner was brought down in the box. Click to watch.
Goals: Van Persie 31, Adebayor 40, Van Persie 48, Adebayor 71 pen.
We could have scored more, Bendtner, Nasri, Eboue, Walcott all spurned chances. Walcott played well, as did Nasri – I thought he added an extra dimension to our play which was much needed. Clichy was also back to his best on the left!
Eboue, Bendtner and Vela came on, Eboue didn’t contribute greatly, except by making the crowd laugh at his imitation of Ronaldo step-overs – badly.. Bendtner, who I think is excellent, wasn’t sharp at all, but still looked ok. Meanwhile Vela performed fantastically and is definetly one to watch!
All in all a good, standard Arsenal performance, Porto weren’t great, but we kept possession well and closed them down, which made it hard for them. The goals were well taken and we could have had more. In the last 10 minutes we got a little complacent but we still won 4 – 0, a clean sheet is always welcome!
One point to make is that Porto never really got going, and we were lucky that Clichy cleared their best chance off the line. They like to play attacking and keep the ball on the ground, that is our game, and we can beat anyone at that on our day. The Fulhams and Hulls of the world are teams who you need to beat to win the Premier League.
4 points now in the CL – top of Group G, so lets take this result and push on against Sunderland on Saturday – another team who will be hard to beat.