Cardiff City 0 – 0 Arsenal Highlights: Replay at the Emirates

FA Cup 4th Rnd. Cardiff City 0 – 0 Arsenal: Highlights here

Arsenal went to Ninian Park with a reasonably strong line up yesterday and came away with a draw from a match that we could have won.

I missed the first 20 minutes, but it seemed to be a reasonably even first half. Cardiff spurred on by their fans at Ninian Park, and trying their best to close Arsenal down. They had some good chances but I don’t think they ever looked like winning.

After half time Arsenal came out with renewed vigour and we dominated possession and chances as Cardiff tired.

There were good performances from Gibbs and Song, but Ramsey looked off colour on his return to his old club.

In the end after having many good chances to score the game ended 0-0. Bendtner, RVP and Adebayor all had good opportunities, and I thought we were good going forward, it’s just a pity we couldn’t finish Cardiff off.

Wenger said after the game:

“We could do without the replay, 100%, but let’s not complain because we play football.

“It’s one more game to play. If that’s the price we have to pay to stay in the hat, we’re happy to do it.

“We are short at the moment and cannot rotate much. I could rest a few players in this game but not as many as I had wanted.”

Hopefully we can do the job on 3rd Feb at home now.

Jay Simpson scores for West Brom: Loan Update

Jay Simpson scored West Brom’s first goal last night against Peterborough in the FA Cup 3rd Round replay, which helped them to a 2 – 0 win.

He scored on 17 minutes,and was was replaced by Craig Beattie in the 71st minute, but great to see him get his first Baggies goal.
Jay has got me quite excited this season, his goal in the Carling Cup against Wigan was sublime, and the experience he will get with West Brom is invaluble. He is performing well for them and the more goals and games he gets the better!

Next season I think he could be challenging for a place in the Arsenal first team.

What are your opinions?

Update: Watch the highlights here, at ITV. (Thanks to Dosboss for the link)

Arsenal 3 – 1 Plymouth Highlights. Cardiff next in the FA Cup & Walcott’s contract frustration

Arsenal 3 -1 Plymouth: Van Persie 47, Gray 50 og, Duguid 53, Van Persie 85. Highlights here.

Arsenal put themselves through to a 4th Round tie at Ninian Park in the FA Cup after a 3 – 1 victory over Plymouth.

The first half was all Arsenal, but to little effect. We had few shots on goal and the possesion we had didn’t have an impact. It was good to see Ramsey play, I thought he had a good game, Gunnerblog has a few points about him here.

The second half started with a bang, two Arsenal goals, RVP got the first from a corner and then a Gray own goal just minutes later.

Plymouth came back with a goal and their 8,500 fans went mental. It was quite refreshing to see some more enthusiatic support in the Emirates this season. The sombreros went flying through the air to shouts of ole! when Vela came on, and to good effect.

Our third goal was deserved, RVP attempted a lob, the keeper deflected it, and RVP went round him to put the ball in off the underside of the bar.

In other news, all is quiet on the transfer front, but Walcott’s agent claims Theo is frustrated that Arsenal have not continued contract talks started in November. He still has 18 months remaining, but it would be sad to lose another player on a free.

Arsenal’s FA Cup Campaign Starts Today & Wenger has located a player!

Forget the League today. It doesn’t matter how your team is playing in the Cup anything can happen. The FA Cup is a very realistic chance for us to get a trophy this season, and I would take it right now.

Plymouth aren’t playing great, they’re 15th and have only won 1 game in the last 8, but they’ve got 8,500 fans at the Emirates today, and they’ll be up for the occasion. Still, I think most people won’t be expecting any upsets today.

I think Wenger should really go for the FA Cup this season, it is still a prestigious trophy and there’s no way we are winning the League!

Wenger has also been talking about potential transfer targets, he isn’t giving anything away, but he says we have at least ‘located’ some players!

“First of all you have to find the player, identify him, convince him to come here and at the moment that is not easy. We have located a few though.”

The highlights will be up after the game!

Update: Highlights post here

Hill-Wood doesn’t expect Arsenal to spend big as Wenger & Co prepare for Plymouth

This is a guest post by sportswriter Thomas Rooney

It was thought by many that this current transfer window would see a change for Arsenal. Many believed that the club would spend big this month to accommodate for injuries and to try and help the team force their way back into the top four of the Premier League.

However, speaking about the Gunners options in the coming weeks, Peter Hill-Wood has revealed that Arsene Wenger will not be splashing the cash – far from it. Instead, the Arsenal chairman says that the club has got to be ‘run in a sensible way’.

This is fair enough I suppose. No Arsenal fan wants the club’s future finances put in jeopardy because of one massive spending spree. However, can we not expect a bit more transfer activity than usual?

Well, from what Hill-Wood had to say, it seems not. He said that there is ‘not a lot of money anywhere’ in football at the moment and that this will restrict what Arsenal spends in the coming weeks.

The chairman finished by saying that he had faith in the ‘young, talented players at the club’ to make sure that the second half to Arsenal’s season is a successful one. He also hinted that a couple of the younger players, who hadn’t been given much of a game as yet, will get their chance before long.

The fact that Arsenal have talented youngsters cannot be argued – everyone knows that. However, the team is in a situation right now where there is a distinct possibility that it could miss out on Champions League football next season. Is the young talent enough to get out of this predicament?

My personal opinion is that one or two big name signings wouldn’t do any harm. Even if it was the two players that have already been linked – Mikel Arteta and Shay Given. They would both provide valuable experience amongst the Arsenal team.

The thing is, £20m would be needed to prize these two away from their current clubs and going by what Hill-Wood has had to say – this just isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, enough about that! A more immediate issue is that of the FA Cup third round tie against Plymouth tomorrow. The Championship side travel to the Emirates in hope rather than expectation and in all honesty, it should be a comfortable win for Wenger’s men.

As Barnsley proved last season though, anything can happen in the FA Cup, so Arsenal shouldn’t take their opposition lightly. It should be treated like any other game and concentration levels should be as high as ever.

It will be interesting to see what team Wenger puts out, but I would imagine that it will be as strong as possible. Arsenal can’t afford to be knocked out at this stage, after all.

As far as the omens are concerned, everything is in favour of a home win. Plymouth have never beaten Arsenal, they have lost their last three away games and have failed to score in four on the road. Perhaps most significantly though, they lost to eventual winners Portsmouth last season – so perhaps that will happen again this year!

Let’s hope so. Arsenal fans could do with a trophy.

Why Arsenal Stumbled This Season

The season that started so brightly for Wenger and his young squad ultimately ended in tears. Literally in tears, shed by Gallas on the St. Andrews pitch if you take the results at face value. Unbeaten at the beginning of 2007-08, when and why did Arsenal fade away?

Firstly the goal difference of each match shows a very real drop in league form after the 26th game of the season. The run until then had been near perfect. The first major blip you see for games 10 and 11 was the 2-2 at home to Manchester United and then 1-1 with Liverpool away.

Analysis of Arsenal\'s League Results

Graphs courtesy of Arsenal Stats Centre

The first League loss at Middlesbrough actually came after a 3-1 loss in the Champions League dead rubber at Sevilla away. The Arsenal beat Aston Villa away 2-1, drew at Newcastle 1-1, before succuming to Middlesbrough 2-1 away too.

In retrospect this looks like four fatiguing away games slowly taking their toll. But the team still bounced back. Arsenal lost 1st place on Game 29. Game 30 came against Chelsea where Arsenal slipped further behind.


Arsenal\'s League Positions

A bit of nifty work on Excel highlights the point where the form turned bad. Games where Arsenal scored first are highlighed, because the pattern is fascinating.

The Point Where Arsenal\'s Season Went Wrong

Ananlysis Of The Matches Where It Went Wrong

The first bad result is in the FA Cup at Old Trafford, where a weakened side lost heavily. The Arsenal then lost top spot after drawing at Wigan, having surrendered a five point lead to United at this point.

The Champions League results against AC Milan were a bit of a blip. The players were possibly more focused on these big games than those against teams like Wigan and Middlesbrough.

After Sagna’s injury at Chelsea the team surrendered a lead and then conceded two at Bolton, and this pattern continues, as Arsenal lost their leads in the the next four games. This shows just how fragile the team was, the defence especially brittle.

At home Arsenal only drew during this period, but only scored first there in the two games at Liverpool, the rest all required equalisers.

The terrible run highlighted can be summed up in the fact that in 13 games Arsenal went out of all three major competitions. The confidence of the young squad was affected, but in some ways this was not a collapse. The results don’t show the full picture.

The problems can be simplified into four categories:

Defensive Errors

A key point in the awful form, conceding too many in the last few games. All the goals from Liverpool and Manchester United in the last four games were preventable, stemming from a lack of concentration. I suspect some of it has to do with confidence but concentration is needed.

Squad Depth

The thin squad provided little cover for wingers and few experienced defenders or strikers. Arsenal were predicted to struggle at the beginning of the season so the good form was surprising. The team performed well until the Spring, and showed potential, but it is a common for small squads to fail through the Spring. Here, fatigue showed through in the last month resulting in costly mistakes. The team requires signings of one or two key experienced players who can bolster the squad, maybe three if you count the ‘keeper.

Injuries

This follows on from the last point. Wenger lost an in form Van Persie early in the season, then Fabregas too, whilst in form. Fabregas hardly scored after the injury, and definitely suffered from a break in playing time. Rosicky was key on the wing for the large part of the season, was also injured.

The mother of them all was the horrific leg break Eduardo suffered. Undoubtedly this had a negative psychological impact, as well as ruling out a key striker, who Wenger said, “would be like a new signing”  in the new year.

In terms of defence, the team lost experienced Toure, although Senderos filled in admirably. Then Sagna was also injured, which exposed our defensive problems further whilst desperate measures were taken, playing Toure out of position.

Key decisions

More controversial is the point that key decisions went against the team. This cannot be an excuse for failure, but it does provide some context to compare to the psychological state of the side. At Birmingham, a last minute debatable penalty was given, resulting in two points dropped after a terrible game. Again, against Liverpool in the Champions League arguably Toure did not foul Babel, but a penalty was given seconds after Walcott’s run put Adebayor through for a goal to put Arsenal in front.

I am not slating the players, Wenger, or the club. Almost every player invested a huge amount of effort this season. Wenger was right at the beginning of the season when he said the team could achieve great things. They have played fantastic football regularly this year, and mounted a title challenge.

The side needs to aim as high as possible. They now sit, only four points behind Chelsea after their 1-1 with Wigan. Once the season is over Wenger needs to focus on strengthening the squad and maintaining the quality within the side. The key to success is stability in the team and in management.

From Milan to Wigan: 0-0

Much has happened during the past 7 days! Beating AC and then dropping 2 points up at Wigan yesterday. It has been up and down. Euphoria on Tuesday, and then reality check on Sunday!

The result against Wigan was a disappointing 0-0 on an atrocious pitch, with Wigan battling hard and doing a good job of really limiting our passing and chances. Wenger’s post-match interview here.

We started with Fabregas on the right, Walcott injured himself in a behind closed doors match against Colorado Rapids earlier in the week. We seem to be suffering from a lack of wingers at the moment! Gilberto and Flamini in the middle, Senderos kept his place in defence. Good news is that Toure and Van Persie both started on the bench and then came on to play a part. You can argue that maybe it was unwise to play Walcott in the friendly with our current injury problems, it probably was, but that only comes with hindsight.

Within the fi<rst minute we could have gone ahead with Adebayor clear on goal, but Kirkland made a good save to keep it level. During the first half we played well we did lack width in midfield, and Gilberto played quite poorly in the centre. Nevertheless we had some good chances and seemed to be on good form.

The bad condition of the pitch, and Wigan's fighting mentality saw us go into half time nil-nil. The second half saw us lose momentum and dominance, possibly a bit drained after the win in Milan. Van Persie came on for Bendtner, nice to see him back, but he did look a bit rusty. Toure also came on for Gilberto, Fabregas moved inside and we had Toure on the right.

All in all, we dominated the first half, but had limited chances, and Wigan upped their game in the second half, we still were frustrated in attack whilst they kept us busy defensively with some good work by Valencia on Wigan's right. Fabregas had a great chance blocked by Kirkland's legs in the final stages. It was quite depressing really, by stoppage time although we had made some inroads, Wigan renewed their attack and might have even nicked a goal on the break.

It seems like we dropped 2 points, but that is the nature of the game. The press may make a big deal of every game we don't win but at the moment we are 2 points ahead. Man U may have a game in hand at Derby, but a win there only gives them a one point advantage. Unusually I have some praise for Andy Gray's commentary, he played down the hype about our league form and pointed out that the race is very close, and defintely not over yet!!

MOTD 2 picked up on Bendtner and Adebayor not linking up well, this was true at times, but maybe it just wasn't our day. Senderos deserves a mention, he has lacked in confidence in recent years and taken a lot of stick, but the guy is on form, and he kept Toure off the team sheet. Good on you Phil.

To cheer all you up: Tuesday, March 4th, the San Siro, that has to go down as one of our great European nights, I just watched the highlights hereat Gunnerblog. That made me feel better! Fabregas’ goal was fantastic, and we totally outplayed the current champions, and they admitted it. It was great to see Walcott run clear of Kaladze to cross for Adebayor to get his first goal for us in the CL. Pity he couldn’t get another against Wigan.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the FA Cup this year:

Barnsley 1- 0 Chelsea

Man U 0 – 1 Portsmouth; against all the odds, Man U ended up with Ferdinand in goal after Van der Sar’s injury and Kusczcak(?spelling!) was sent off. Fergie went mental about the ref.

Middlesborough 0 – 2 Cardiff

Bristol Rovers 1 – 5 West Brom

Amazing results, only one Premiership side in the semi’s for the first time in 100 years. All the big four out; it’s up for grabs.

Middlesbrough at home this weekend, another team fighting for their lives in the Premiership.