How many points will Arsenal get from the remaining games?

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.

Image courtesy of dyobmit

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!

By Thomas Rooney

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

The greatest Arsenal moment ever?

It’s some good clean fun watching this clip. I don’t think it will ever be surpassed as the greatest result in Arsenal’s history.

It never gets old, no matter how many times! If only this season could end the same way, I would be a very happy man.

Should Abou Diaby be played as striker?

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.

Image courtesy of Wonker

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.

What do you think Diaby’s best position is?

Where is the Flamster now?

Mathieu Flamini’s emergence at the heart of the Arsenal midfield last season was a revelation. Previously used as a squad player, and with is contract not renewed at the beginning of 07/08 he was available on a Bosman last summer and AC Milan snapped him up.

Image courtesy of tpower1978

This dismayed many Arsenal fans, myself included, and this year, rightly or wrongly, Flamini’s absence has been blamed for some of our inconsistent results.

He did form a great partnership with Fabregas, but don’t forget we also lost Hleb, another key midfielder, to Barca, during the summer – and this has weakened our team further.

Some pundits and many Arsenal fans said he was a fool for leaving, and wouldn’t get games in an AC Milan team with the likes of Gattuso and Pirlo, and he would be playing lowly UEFA Cup  football to boot. I thought the same, and above all I was sad to see him leave Arsenal.

At AC Milan he has had ups and downs, but is starting to look like a real bargain.

Ancelotti, the manager under whom Henry had a miserable time at Juventus before joining Arsenal, is the Milan manager now, and at the beginning of the season he was looking to see if Mathieu Flamini could be pushed into a full-back role. This utility player label was the one he had tried to shake off at Arsenal, and it seemed like he was back to square one at the San Siro:

“I had also played this role a couple of times at Arsenal, but I discussed his matter with Arsene Wenger and told him my natural position is in midfield.”

Flamini has started to get more games in central midfield, after a stint where Gattuso was injured, and is becoming a regular, although he only came off the bench in the 88th minute against Roma at the weekend. He has played in 13 games this season and Milan are 3rd in Serie A, 9 points behind Mourinho’s Inter. Their UEFA Cup campaign is also going well, they face Bremen in the round of 32 in February.

So Flamini isn’t doing badly – he has put in some of his commited performances for Milan – but he has sacrificed Champions League football and a guaranteed first team place. Arsenal’s form has been inconsistent this year, we might not even finish 4th, so although I hate to say it, if Flamini can hold down a place at AC then the move might have benefitted him.

A note: Read Flamini’s stats for AC Milan this season here (i.e. games played etc.!)

What does 2009 hold for Arsenal?

The new year is upon us finally, and we can now close the book on 2008, arguably the most painful of “The Wenger Years”.

The most painful part was seeing our hopes of silverware slide away during the early months of 2008, after building up a fantastic team, and playing fantastic football it all went wrong. Dumped out of all competitions, undeservedly, we then lost Hleb, Flamini and Gilberto in the summer, weakening the team, rather than strengthening it.

You all know the story, and aside from highlights such as beating Man Utd and Chelsea, the opening of this season has been poor, compounded by inconsistency, injuries and crisis.

The captaincy issue and Gallas’s behaviour, our woeful defending especially the loss of Toure’s magic touch, plus poor cover in midfield have left the team in tatters. Now Fabregas is injured we really have serious problems. Worse still the boardroom unrest and uncertainty; Lady Nina out, Usmanov’s interest, are contributing to a bad situation.

The focus is now on Arsene Wenger. This man completely changed English football in his time here, and he is worshipped at Arsenal. A lack of trophies has made people question Wenger and there is a huge demand for money to be spent on new players.

I really have no idea about what will happen to Arsenal in 2009, I don’t think anyone does. It doesn’t look great, a threadbare squad, and a race just for 4th place with Villa, which if lost could see the departure of our remaining established players e.g. Fabregas or Ade.

If we invest wisely now then we could reap the rewards. But long term succcess depends on the reaction of the players. So far we have seen very inconsistent displays from this squad, losing to poor teams like Man City. We need midfield players like Nasri, Denilson, Diaby to play to their full potential and stay injury free. With some clever additions we have a great squad. BUT, strengthening and confidence are both desparately needed.

2009 could see Wenger’s Arsenal rise from the ashes of last season. I’m not saying we can win the title, but build some foundations for 09/10 and stay in the Champions League. Otherwise it could be the end of the Arsenal we know. I hope Wenger has the chequebook ready!

Was Emmanuel Eboue misunderstood?

The debate over Eboue is pretty one-sided these days, since the Wigan game I’ve been thinking about the player who was at one time regarded as our best right-back.

These days people see him as more of a liability in his role on the wing. But he isn’t actually our first choice in that position.

I don’t think he is a great winger, but he is a decent defender. A few months ago I wrote a post and one of the comments left was this:

“Wenger probably has been wanting to develop Eboue and make him into a Ray Parlour type player.”

This is partly true, people criticise Wenger for selecting him, but there are several points to be made about Eboue:

  • Wenger plays Eboue because we have no choice – Walcott, Rosicky, Eduardo, Nasri are all reguarly injured.
  • We lack experienced playerswho can fill in – Walcott last year, Vela this year.
  • Wenger may also select him because he sees potential to turn him into a midfielder.

Eboue has the potential to become a good winger – he can cross, we saw that in his days at right back. His main problem is dribbling and passing – he finds it hard to go round players and his control isn’t great – his scoring ability is also reminiscent of Francis Jeffers.

He has been utilised on the left this year – as Theo has made the right wing slot his own. This hasn’t helped – he has had to cut inside to use his stronger right foot. I think that he did have some stronger performances early this season – but he has also played very badly – the Wigan game is an example, I was there.

The Wigan game and the booing have knocked his confidence, and I think that it will take him a while to regain that. It really isn’t helping the team when fans act like that.

Overall he would never be my first choice winger – he doesn’t have the pace, the control, the vision or the passing, and his dirty play and diving only piss off most Arsenal fans. He dives way too much and is extremely petulant. He doesn’t contribute to the team in the way that players like Nasri do, and many attacks end with his mistakes. But the thing is that Eboue is Wenger’s squad player, Wenger doesn’t see him as a first-teamer.

He is a useful utility player, he only gets to play so much due to our injury list. Vela seems to be playing more games, and may eventually be used to fill in on the wings as his performances have looked classy. Eboue is just filling in!

Don’t get on his back – he isn’t a great player, and he does stupid things, but a bad patch of form is just a bad patch of form, remember that he has been played out of position, and when only just returning from injury.

In the end, I’m saying that Eboue  is a useful squad player, we shouldn’t turn him into a scapegoat when things go wrong. I personally will never boo him.

Gallas’ self-criticism – will he ever be the same?

WIlly Gallas has been talking recently about his inconsistencies this season. He has been under-par this year and his mistakes against teams like Fulham (click to watch highlights) have cost us points in the first 7 games of the season.

Gallas told L’Equipe:

“I can say we have not seen the Gallas from 2006 this term so far. In a few matches, I have not been so good. With the French team in Sweden and Austria, I was not very good at some moments.

“I would close my eyes if I would say I am strong. That would mean I don’t recognise I did have a few bad performances, as recently with my club against Hull City. Maybe I feel a little tired.”

“Do I experience the most difficult period since I joined Arsenal? We could say yes. Above all I miss consistency. One match is good, the other one is not so good. However, I am doing everything to get to my best again because I can’t accept not being in good form. I’m still young and have plenty of things to achieve.

He is a defender with good qualities, but Arsenal fans have been divided over him since he came to the club. He can play the ball fantastically and he has attacking qualities, but maybe he is best paired with a strong centre back.

There are quetions over whether Toure is the right man to partner him, and also over whether he is the right choice for captaincy.

ArsenalAddict suggests moving Djourou to CB and putting Toure as DM, this might work – Djourou is a tall, strong centre back, and Toure has the pace and style to play in midfield, but Wenger has already said he will not use Toure there.

I think Gallas will come good when he finds consistency, but we should be looking to replace him, not Toure, in the future.

I have a feeling Wenger will stick with them, he backed Gallas to be captain this season, but don’t be suprised if Silvestre gets a chance in defence as well as Djourou.

Related post: Vieira Backs Gallas

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Where are Arsenal heading? Transfers and Chief Executives

According to Arsene Wenger, Arsenal are close to appointing a new Chief Executive. The position has been filled by Ken Friar, the ex-Managing Director, since Keith Edelman’s departure in April.

The lack of leadership in this position perhaps explains why we have struggled to bring players in this season.

Wenger told Arsenal.com:

“It is progressing quite well. We are getting to the end of the story. I am involved in it and I am consulted for it but it is down to the board to make that decision.

“Having consulted me, they will take the responsibility to name the right person. I think the decision will be made soon but I don’t know exactly when.”

A rather large hole was created when David Dein left the club, and we need someone who can play his role in the day to day running of the club, and in transfer negotiations. The Board seem rather distanced from Wenger, and we have been in limbo since the depature of David Dein.

Hopefully a new appointment will help iron out difficulties and play a large role in Wenger’s relations with the board and in transfer negotiations.

Talking of transfers, it was disappointing to see that we hadn’t snapped up a last minute midfielder on deadline day, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days, as we are linked with Ghana’s Steven Appiah, who played for Ghana last night.

He would be available on a free, so we coud sign him up straight away, but he has struggled with knee injuries, and we don’t need any more injury prone players. Also I’m a little worried that clubs such as West Ham have shown the most interest..

Also, a bit of fun here, check out this post by Block19er at Clockenders.

I’ve also been introduced to a news service called FeedZa recently. You can see their football section here, and vote for stories you like. They list a lot of sites and it makes interesting reading, but it needs your input! Have a go!

What does Silvestre mean for Arsenal

Mikael Silvestre signed for Arsenal from Man Utd in the shock signing of the season yesterday. Reportedly the fee was around GBP 750 000, which I think is worthwhile for an experienced defender.

Silvestre is 31, he plays at left back and in central defence, and he is a good addition to the squad.

I still think that the one midfielder Wenger wanted is on his way, Silvestre was just a good bit of buisness he spotted.

It is worrying that Man Utd sold him to us, as maybe that means they don’t see us a title rivals, but if it turns out that he provides good cover, or even breaks into the first team and plays alongside Gallas, it will be a shrewd bit of business on Wenger’s part.

Last season we bemoaned the lack of experience and strength in depth, especially in defence and if Silvestre can clear that up then I will be very happy.

We shouldn’t have any animosity towards him, he may have played 9 years for the Mancs but he is an Arsenal player now. I hope that he provides a new aspect to our game.