Arsenal 2-0 Man City, a sign of things to come?

Cesc Fabregas and Adebayor returned triumphantly against Man City, Cesc set Adebayor up for both his goals – and it showed how much we have missed his incisive passing.

Image courtesy of mcaparrotta

The 4-2-3-1 formation really plays to our strengths and allows all of our more attacking midfield players to get forward – yesterday Arshavin, Walcott and Fabregas were all over Man City, whilst Song and and Denilson provide cover.

Another clean sheet was a good step in the right direction – Almunia made some good saves, and the defence looks a lot more alert compared to earlier this season!

The only thing that could worry me is that all of our victories have come against lower teams – but that is good, as these are the teams we dropped points against at the beginning of the season, and we know we can beat the other top 3.

This means that the team has started to raise their game against smaller teams and understand the value of every game. A few months ago we sometimes played like we had won the match before it began – and that cost us points!

So a great result, and with our captain back from injury things are looking up!

How many of Arsenal’s team would make it into Manchester United’s starting eleven?

As much as the end to the current season could be extremely exciting and successful for Arsenal, they are still not quite where they used to be as a club. There was a time, of course, when they were unbeatable. There was a time when it was only the Gunners and Manchester United fighting it out for the league title.

So, what has happened in the last few years which has prevented Arsenal being one of the ‘big two’? For eight seasons in a row, Arsenal finished no lower than second in the Premier League. This was until the last three when their final positions have been 4th, 4th and 3rd.

One way to see just how far away Arsenal are from being Manchester United’s main challengers again could be to see how the individual players compare. How does Arsenal’s full strength team match up to the best team the Champions can put out?

This is something I would like your opinion on, so without too much analysis, let’s take a look at my views:

Edwin Van der Sar v Manuel Almunia – Has to be Van der Sar unfortunately.

Gary Neville v Bakari Sagna – Personally, I’d rather have Sagna in my team.

Patrice Evra v Gael Clichy – For consistency purposes, it has to be Evra.

Rio Ferdinand v William Gallas – This is a close one, but I think the odds would be in favour of Ferdinand.

Nemanja Vidic v Kolo Toure – For similar reasons that Evra won, Vidic is the winner.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Theo Walcott – For what he has achieved in the last couple of years, it’s going to be Ronaldo.Ask me again this time next year though.

Ryan Giggs v Andrei Arshavin – Giggs is still a decent player, but for creativity and variation the Russian wins this one for me.

Michael Carrick v Cesc Fabregas – No competition, Fabregas all the way.

Paul Scholes v Denilson – A number of players could fill this position for Arsenal and all of them will be as good as/better than Scholes at some point, but for now, the former England man has to get the nod.

Wayne Rooney v Robin van Persie – For me, this is the closest one of the lot. In fact, I can’t choose between them. This one is a draw.

Dimitar Berbatov v Emmanuel Adebayor – Neither have been fantastic this season. However, the Manchester United man (and Carlos Tevez) has produced the goods more often.

The end result for this ‘experiment’ is Manchester United 7.5 v 3.5 Arsenal. Whether this means much, I’m not sure. However, it does suggest that Arsenal are just two or three established high quality players short of challenging for the Premier League again.

This could happen in the next couple of years when the likes of Walcott, Clichy and Denilson really kick on as players – you never know. It certainly makes a change from the days of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, or Tony Adams and Ian Wright and co when Arsenal would have been much closer to Manchester United in this type of analysis.

Something to think about isn’t it? Let me know your thoughts.

By Thomas Rooney

Arsenal 2 – 1 Hull City Highlights. Bitter Brown’s spitting controversy

Arsenal 2 – 1 Hull City: Barmby 13, Van Persie 74, Gallas 84. Highlights here.

Morning all! Last night provided a satisfying win in controversial fashion. Hull’s early lead, through a lucky Barmby goal, was cancelled out by typically late Arsenal goals, from RVP and Gallas. Arshavin was the all-important factor again in this win; this was the sort of game we would have lost a few months ago.

A twisted Phil Brown had a bit of complaining afterwards which focused on three points:
1. He claims Gallas’ goal was offside, as Djourou headed it last – this is debatable.
2. He was unhappy that Wenger didn’t shake his hand
3. Most controversial of all – his assistant Horton, claims that Fabregas spat on him in the tunnel, and he is taking this to the FA.

Firstly the Gallas goal – it looked like it did come off the goalkeeper’s fist last, so Gallas probably wasn’t offside, but it may have come off Djourou. In either case it has been given, we were looking like scoring a second at some point, and luck, which we have lacked, finally came our way. So I can understand his frustration.

Wenger saw the goal afterwards on the Setanta interview and looked very awkward, the questions asked also focused on the fact he didn’t shake Brown’s hand – this was because Brown had gone off to the away fans and players at the final whistle, that is all.

The most crazy claim is the spitting accusation. Wenger told the post-match interview that this was the first he had heard of it. A very bitter Phil Brown said that Fabregas had spat at Horton:

“I was there and I witnessed it, he spat at my assistant manager down the tunnel, that’s their club captain. Hopefully he’s proud of himself. He spat at his feet.”

Fabregas has now put out an official statement on Arsenal.com.

“I categorically deny that I spat at anybody after the match. I have never done this in my whole career on the pitch, so why would I do it when I am not even playing?

“I can understand the frustration of losing a game to a dubious goal, that has happened to me many times in my career as well. But this is not the fault of me or any of the Arsenal players.”

I can believe Fabregas, I see no reason for him to spit, but we don’t know the whole story. It may be some sort of mix up, which has been misinterpreted. It would be in our best interest to get this sorted out as soon as possible. It would be very sad it if it has happened, but equally stupid if bitter Hull have fabricated this story.

Anyway a great result, with a good performance from Song yet again. I was happy with Walcott who looked dangerous at times too, even though his delivery wasn’t the best. Our best player by far was Arshavin, he created most moves, again showing his value, whilst Nasri and Bendtner showed their class, coming on in the second half and changing the game.

Nasri is looking increasingly effective in the central role late on in games, while Bendtner can drop off into the hole, and Arshavin drift in the wide left area. Our attack looks very convincing even if we were poor in the first half, I think that was down to the suprising nature of Barmby’s deflected goal. The fact that we have so many players who can switch from attack to the flanks and midfield is very exciting. We have kept the momentum up with that win, and now we need a result at Newcastle on Saturday.

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Arsene, learn the lessons from this season. Trophies anyone?

Arsenal’s 4-0 win against Allardcye’s Blackburn this Saturday was impressive, it was like watching the Arsenal of old, and it was just what the club needed. Arshavin seems to have brought the team out of the mire, and I hope it stays that way!

This season has been tough, the hardest that Arsenal have experienced under Arsene Wenger. We have seen a lot of inconsistent form, and a small squad stretched to the bare bones through injury. Yet now it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The way the midfield of Walcott, Song, Denilson and Nasri/Arshavin performed on Saturday was fantastic. The goals were sublime, and Eboue capped it off for me! I know there will be setbacks ahead, but now the defence has tightened up and the team aren’t taking games for granted I think that we can salvage some pride from this season.

Arsenal are in the FA Cup and Champions League QFs and 4th in the League, with the top three still to play. We should relish that, because we are good enough to beat all three, and that gives us the chance to move higher up the table than we already are. As long as we can maintain form, which has been the struggle this season, then we will finish the season with some self-respect.

Next season we will hopefully start the season injury-free, and Wenger add one or two players to the squad. Our team is very good, but Wenger needs to learn the lesson of the last few years and add some depth. Hopefully younger players like Song and Denilson will have matured further and be playing top football this season, which they have begun to show glimpses of.

In any case I don’t want to get too carried away, it’s just nice to see the team play well and score some goals. The best realistic finish I can see is 4th place and the FA Cup in our trophy cabinet. I would settle for 4th though, and that will be a big enough challenge in itself.

Arsenal are in a position now to save themselves from UEFA Cup anonymity, and allow Wenger to begin to plan for next season. I just hope he learns the lessons from this year.

Here’s to a win against Hull tomorrow night and a Semi at Wembley!

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Every Arshavin goal! Video

Arshavin scored 51 goals at Zenit, watch them all here.

Hopefully he can continue his good form at Arsenal!

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Arsenal well done! Highlights of those special goals. Wenger – keep building this team!

West Brom 1 – 3 Arsenal: Bendtner 4, Brunt 7, Toure 38, Bendtner 44. Highlights.

Well done Arsenal! We scored a goal! Things are finally starting go our way! 3-1 is a decent result even against West Brom, who have the worst defence in the league. I don’t care, as long as we take 3 points!

The main thing Arsenal need to do now is maintain stability within the team and become more clinical. Wenger is building something good here, Gooners need to keep the faith.

Arshavin impressed me again yesterday, he has the ability to make killer passes, and when settled in will surely be a great player for the club. Wenger went with Bendtner and he proved that he can play up front for Arsenal with two well taken goals.

One concern is Gallas, Toure and Silvestre are all out injured, but I am confident that Djourou is good enough, and Song looked so much better last night when playing at centre back, it seems to be a much more natural position for him to play.

Tonight the Villa – Man City result will be crucial, I’m praying for a City win, that would put us 3 points behind Villa, and in a very good position.

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The longest goal drought in 14 years, is Champions League happening next season?

It was the same old story at Ashburton Grove yesterday, Arsenal showed sparks of their potential against Fulham, but ended with another 0-0 draw and just a point to show. I am seriously worried about qualifying for the Champions League now. With 11 games left we are 5th, Villa are 5 points ahead, with a game in hand tomorrow, that could be an 8 point gap. Not what you want this late in the day.

The team don’t seem to be able to grab the late goals we have depended on to pull us through hard games in the past. In the last few minutes this week against Fulham, and last against Sunderland we just allowed them to play the ball around, when we need to attack.

This is the worst season under Arsene Wenger, and he said on MOTD that he is concerned about Champions League qualification, he should be. We are unlucky that we have a lot of crucial players injured, but our poor form at the back end of 2008 is now catching up with us.

It seems that this team can either create goals but concede too many, or keep a tight defence but score none. The club has been through a very, very turbulent season, a glance at the line-ups this year hints at that, and Wenger is struggling to keep the boat from capsizing. I think he has managed to get us into calmer waters, the defence is not leaking goals, but the attack has dried up.

I’m just hoping we can really start our season now. I know it’s a confidence thing, if we can get some goals, get Arshavin to gel, plus Ade, Fabregas, Eddy, Rosicky and Theo all back, then we can push on and start taking points, but 4th place is still a huge challenge. I don’t want to be unrealistic, so lets just say that it can happen in if the team gels, and we start scoring goals.

I respect Wenger’s policies and I think he is having to rebuild this season after shoddy foundations (i.e. Gallas as captain) were exposed this year. We will improve and get better, but I hope that Wenger has learned serious lessons from what has gone wrong this season.

Almunia points to fear factor as Arsenal look to improve home form against Fulham

This is a guest post by sportswriter Thomas Rooney

As we all know, Arsenal’s form at the Emirates Stadium hasn’t been brilliant of late. Three of the last six Premier League games there have been drawn, with the Gunners only managing to find the net on four occasions along the way.

So, what is this down to? Well, Manuel Almunia has admitted that some of the Arsenal players feel under more pressure playing at home than they do away at the moment.

After last weekend’s draw at home to Sunderland, some sections of the crowd booed, venting their frustration at being unable to break the deadlock.

It is a frustration that comes on the back of Arsene Wenger’s men not being able to manage more than one home goal in a league game since defeating Manchester United 2-1 back in November.

Speaking about the situation, Almunia has said how a number of the players ‘feel under more pressure’ at the moment because the team ‘is not winning’.

The goalkeeper went on to say that because the players know that the ‘fans deserve more than 0-0 scores’; this builds the pressure on the team when they try and break opposing teams down. He says that the attacking players are ‘spending a bit more time’ on getting their shot away.

As for how the team can rectify this, starting against Fulham tomorrow, Almunia believes that they need to find a ‘nice balance’ that results in Arsenal being ‘tight at the back but get the goals.’ That is the idea Manuel, yes!

The next game where Arsenal can search for this balance, as already mentioned, is against Fulham tomorrow. It is a must-win game if the Gunners are going to start closing the gap on Aston Villa in 4th place and another draw simply isn’t good enough.

Roy Hodgson’s side are hard to beat these days though and will fancy their chances of being the latest team to frustrate Arsenal at the Emirates.

Hopefully though, Arsenal will take their chances and cruise to a comfortable win. That would be exactly what the players, coaching staff and fans need right now. How about Andrei Arshavin grabbing his first goal as well? Perfect.

As far as team news is concerned, Abou Diaby will miss the game after injuring his calf against Roma on Tuesday. Elsewhere, there appears to be no fresh concerns for Wenger as his team look to stretch their unbeaten run to 14 games.

Wenger confirms Arshavin will make debut against Sunderland

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

The Emirates played host to a night that belonged to Eduardo on Monday night. This weekend, it is the turn of new signing Andrei Arshavin to adhere himself to the Arsenal faithful as he makes his debut against Sunderland tomorrow.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the Russian will make his debut at the Emirates, but has admitted that he has ‘not decided what to do with him yet’ in terms of whether Arshavin will start the game.

Arshavin hasn’t played a competitive game since the end of the Russian domestic season in November and Wenger admits that he is ‘still working on his preparation’.

The Arsenal boss went on to say that because Arshavin isn’t qualified for the Champions League game against Roma next week, this gives the player another week of working hard in training. This should then ensure that he is 100% ready.

With this in mind, it is probably more likely that Arshavin will be on the bench to begin with. Wenger obviously feels that he isn’t quite ready to play 90 minutes as yet, so the best option could be to use him as an impact substitute against the Black Cats.

It will be a very significant moment when he is introduced for the first time as the Arsenal fans are expecting plenty from their new £15m man. Hopefully, his ability will shine through and he can help the team secure an important victory.

As for the game itself, well it is one that has to be considered as a must-win. Arsenal are still five points off Chelsea in fourth place and they can’t afford to drop many more points. Sunderland are a decent team on their day though, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In terms of team news, Eduardo is out of contention after picking up a hamstring injury. However, Emmanuel Eboue is back from suspension and Johan Djourou is back in contention after recovering from a sickness bug.

The most significant news though is that Arshavin could well make his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt. Hopefully it will be marked with an encouraging individual performance as well as a victory for the team.

Hleb tips Arshavin to shine as Derby Day looms

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

Alexander Hleb – remember him? The one time Arsenal man – who moved to Barcelona in the summer – has found time to speak about his former club. In particular, he has had words of praise for new signing Andrei Arshavin.

Shouldn’t he be concentrating on all things Barcelona, I hear you ask! Well, he would do, but to put it politely, he isn’t getting a look in at the Nou Camp. Since moving from Arsenal last year he hasn’t played nearly as much football as he would have liked. Many Gunners may find the following phrase appropriate – ‘I told you so.’

In my opinion, Hleb should never have left Arsenal. He was playing regular football, was part of a team that suited his style of play and most importantly he seemed settled. Despite this, he jumped shipped to Barcelona and if his latest comments are anything to go by – he is regretting it.

Hleb says that he is desperate ‘for more time on the pitch’ and will do all he can do ‘fight for a place in the team’ between now and the end of the season. The problem being that Barcelona are top of the league by a mile and are playing some excellent football at present. Thus decreasing Hleb’s first team chances in the next couple of months.

So, what does the future hold for him? Well, he has admitted that he will ‘see what might happen in the summer’ because he isn’t willing to sit on the sidelines for two seasons on the trot. Maybe you should have stayed at the Emirates then Mr Hleb? I’d be interested to see if he would consider a move back. Would you take him?

Anyway, onto more immediate matters that Hleb has been discussing. He says that Arsenal’s new signing Andrei Arshavin will suit the ‘style of the team’ and that the Russian will prove to be ‘a success’ in the Premier League. Overall, Hleb strongly believes that Arshavin will ‘enjoy his time at Arsenal’.

Speaking of Arshavin, he is all set to make his debut for the club in this weekend’s game with Tottenham. Let’s talk a bit about this eagerly anticipated 144th North London Derby.

First things first – it is a must win for Arsene Wenger’s men. In terms of points to secure a 4th placed finish, in terms of confidence for the rest of the season and in terms of condemning Spurs deeper into the relegation mire – this is a must win game.

Nothing other than three points will do. Some people may consider a draw to be a decent result, but not for me. A similar performance as the wins over Manchester United and Chelsea please Arsenal. Let’s make sure that Arshavin gets off to a winning start so that the team can finish the season strongly.

As far as team news is concerned, Arshavin is included in the squad and could well start the game. Elsewhere, Emmanuel Eboue is fit but Abou Diaby is banned. For Tottenham, Robbie Keane is set to captain the side on his return from Liverpool.

Whatever players are in an Arsenal shirt on Sunday though, they must show the fans how much they care about this game and they must prove that they have what it takes to claw back Aston Villa in the race for 4th place.