Posts Tagged ‘Diaby’

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Not!

April 21, 2011

So, here I am, having just watched the best damn derby game for some time, trying to write something meaningful to begin the post with a bang, but quite frankly, I am lost for words. They say it is better to sleep on it and all that, but I just don’t think it will make the pain of squandering the lead once more to lose another two points just like a few days ago go away. As much as I could just about live with the result against Liverpool, this one made my blood boil: ‘3:1 and you fucked it up’ echoed around the SHL and you will certainly not find me disagreeing with that.

Just to be fair, let’s get the good bits out of the way first: I believe the team as a whole deserves praise for their response after the Sunday fiasco, coming to the ultimately hostile place and not cracking after our initial lead lasted only two minutes, but adding another peach of a goal just five minutes later. Another good thing was that we just kept on going and looked impressive throughout the first 40 minutes, which eventually paid off when Robin scored the third.

This is where the praise for the team as a unit ends, and the only good words I have from that moment onwards go to our young goalkeeper. Some people may say he could have reacted better when facing their player rather than conceding the penalty which set the score at 3:3, I say put him behind a defence that will not leave him ridiculously exposed like that or at least under a manager who knows how to defend a lead and watch him go. Sure, I may be a bit biased, given that he is my countryman and namesake, but come on, results of the MOTM poll on Pravda.com tell me that I may just be right. Like it or not, given what we saw in the second half, he is the sole reason why we have managed to get away from the SHL with a point and kept our pride more or less intact by not allowing these unsavoury characters from down the road to do the first league double over us in Wenger’s tenure. Another fine performance from the young goalie in a big game and as far as I am concerned, buying a ‘top’ player for ridiculous money to be our next no.1 will be just another sign of shocking management as the sums we are talking about here are much better spent on improvements in other positions to represent much better value for money.

Take a bow, son!

Which brings me to that less pleasant part. Since we are now officially done with the due praise, time for a short analysis of what went wrong: given the few results I really can’t be bothered to mention ad nauseam, I think it’s a foregone conclusion that we can’t defend a lead to save our lives. Last night’s game was pretty much the epitome of that, as we witnessed us conceding goals just minutes after scoring not once, but twice and the blame must be laid at our players’ door as VdV and Huddlestone were allowed all the time and space in the world to score two good goals. The former was allowed to run with disinterested Diaby (who had another stinker, by the way) jogging after him instead of busting the gut and the latter just stood outside the box waiting for the inevitable rebound to smash the ball low and hard off the post to double their goal tally on the night. As far as the second half is concerned, apart from the RVP’s wrongly disallowed goal and Szczesny’s heroics, the less is said, the better.

I mean, will this team and manager EVER learn? Don’t know about you, but I am yet to see any evidence to convince me that it is the case. I could add something about Our Glorious Leader’s gut-wrenching post match interview, but I think you know what he said and what my opinion on the subject is, so I guess I will spare my keyboard all that furious tapping. Come to think of it, I will actually touch one subject, which is the ’15 unbeaten game run’ nonsense: dear Arsene, I hasten to point out that it is actually theoretically possible to go the whole season unbeaten and get relegated with 38 points to your name. We are now in the third and the way the things are going I would not even put the unthinkable past this lot. Now look at our fixture list between now and May 22nd and take the rollercoaster of a season thus far into the account, can you really say, hand on heart, that you are absolutely positive that we are certain to qualify to play in the CL?

You gotta laugh, otherwise you will cry…

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Three points in the bag + Big news on the ownership front

April 10, 2011

Just as I thought I would sit down and write a nice match report, here comes the damn Yank with all his money and spoils the plan. Despite all the legends surrounding the life of a sports blogger which would make you believe it’s all jet-set, caviar, champagne and other stuff I prefer not to mention, it’s harder than it looks! But hey, I can’t really complain, could be much worse, like nothing to write about or doing a post mortem after a less favourable result, eh? As they say, there is no harm in excess and I feel that my readers can’t be let down by yours truly, so let’s get cracking!

I gotta say phew, we made it look like hard work! Those who watched the game will know the scoreline does not tell the whole story – just to start, let me tell you that if the bookies took bets on Arsenal lineups and if I was a gambling man, I would probably be stinking rich by now. It’s only the inclusion of Lehmann as a result of another mysterious injury sustained by Almunia that would put a spanner in my works on this occasion, you know? And before anyone asks, I categorically deny possession of the Grays Sports Almanac issued some time in the future, as I would definitely be a ‘gambling’ man and could probably afford to buy our club with the lunch money. Not to mention that my yesterday’s preview would contain a set of prophecies about Diaby getting the first goal and Zinedine Eboue scoring an absolute cracker of a second and the comments section would be full of suggestions for me to seek professional help, just for me to have the last laugh! I mean, to continue on the gambling subject what were the odds of that happening? Walking past the bookies offices during the day, the adverts mentioned Nasri, Robin, but these two? Fair play to them, especially the latter goal cheered up the travelling support and I thought that we were well and truly on our way after a bit of a shaky start.

But we just don’t do the things the easy way, do we? We had a few more situations to score, most notably when Nasri hit the post with the keeper beaten after hitting the ball in clever fashion. Robin also had a chance to increase the damage earlier after hitting the ball straight at the keeper, but to be fair it was not the easiest of chances. In the latter situation, the peach of a long, pin-point pass from Cesc, who played his 300th (yes, that’s three hundred you see there) game for the club deserved to be an assist. He was also in the right place to clear the ball off the line with Mad Jens in a bit of trouble just before the final whistle.

The start of the second half looked a bit like the beginning of the first period with the only difference being the goal they managed to pull back after seven minutes. Oh shit, here we go again, I thought and probably so did you! A bit later on Koscielny tackled the opposition player in the box, my heart skipped a beat and quite rightly so, as it looked like a stonewall penalty. Lee Mason must have either not seen it or might still be consumed by the feeling of guilt with regards to allowing that Saha goal when we played Toffees at home and he was miles offside. You would think we would have run out of the ref credit by then, but when Koscielny barged a player in the box sometime later, the whistle stayed silent as well. Say what you want, I’ve seen them given! Maybe he thought football was a man’s game, as when Wilshere was a victim of a similar, albeit much stronger barge earlier on, he did not bring BFC player to order either, which resulted in Jack the Lad being kicked left, right and centre. Given that he is the biggest hope of England playing nice flowing footy in the coming years, that’s a tad unpatriotic if you ask me, but there you go.

Enough said, we have finally put the game to bed in the 75th minute when Theo broke free and squared the ball to RvP for the mother of all easy finishes. 1:3, thank you very much! Since there was not a lot to write home about afterwards, it was not quite the broadside I was talking about yesterday, but a win and three points are not to be sniffed at and I would be daft to think otherwise. I don’t even want to begin to think about the consequences if we did not get the result ahead of the next week’s clash with Liverpool next week. Emirates can be a very cold and unforgiving place and tens of thousands of thumbs pointing downwards can knock the stuffing out of any gladiator. Now, I don’t need to tell you that it would be the last thing we would need, do I?

Moving  on to the next subject: without a shadow of doubt, the Gooner universe has been rocked by the news of the imminent takeover by the largest shareholder, Mr Stan Kroenke, who appears to be set to acquire the shares held by Danny Fiszman and Lady Nina, taking the percentage of the club owned past 60 per cent. Breaking news indeed.

Blunt object or Stanley knife?

He is not a man of many words, hence the ‘Silent Stan’ moniker, so it is difficult to fathom what that means for the club, small shareholders and – last, but not least – the most important people, which is you and me. It’s getting a bit late, I need to do a few other things, so for the time being I suggest you read the brilliant piece from The Swiss Ramble to get the idea on what kind of man he is. Rest assured that I will come back to you with my take on the subject as soon as I get my head around it a bit more.

The sudden nature of the takeover suggests that Danny Fiszman may not be in the best of shapes, so please spare a thought for him as one of the men behind the club being where it is, if not out of the common human decency. All the best, Sir!

P.S. The goals and other videos linked in the article are courtesy of Arsenalist, which is the best place on the web to get the highlights from the Arsenal games. I have now included the link to this site in the side panel and you may want to check it out whenever you happen to miss a game or just relive a moment or two – enjoy!

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Gunners go naval. Blackpool preview.

April 10, 2011

Ahoy Gooners, today we travel to arguably one of the finer places for an away trip, sweet weather, seaside resort and since the plan is to put another nail in the coffin of our opponents’ top flight survival hopes, we may as well make the most of the rare trip we will make there, as barring some odd cup game we may not have another occasion for at least another year. Even though the game is at the time which pretty much leaves little space to enjoy the rollercoaster ride or view from the Blackpool Tower, at least have yourselves a little stroll on the beach if nothing else! Failing that, go to a pub and get yourself in the mood to sing your heart out for the boys, but I don’t need to tell that to the most brilliant away supporters on the planet, do I? Thought as much…

Let’s not dwell on what Our Glorious Leader or less-than-glorious chairman had to say for themselves over the past couple of days, shall we? They say whenever God wants to punish someone, first he takes their reason away, so let’s just leave it at that. Whether you agree or disagree on the subject of the title being still within our reach or not, we still have a few games to play, and given the look of the league table, namely the top five, we still have stuff to play for regardless, as if anyone is sitting comfortably thinking that top four finish is a foregone conclusion without even considering the point tallies and respective fixture lists of the teams in contention, then he may have another thing coming. The glass half full brigade say ‘it ain’t over ’til it’s over’ and who am I to disagree with that undisputed truth, eh?

The general feeling amongst the fans is not the best and the good guys in red & white need to give us something to cheer about before the next home game against the resurgent Liverpool next week. Dismantling Blackpool in convincing fashion should do a great deal of good in that respect and I think everyone will agree with that. I like Ian Holloway and Blackpool, as they play fairly decent football, but they are hopefully set to feel the wrath of the wounded beast that is the Arsenal Football Club. The picture posted today shows USS Iowa firing the devastating broadside of her 9 16-inch guns and this is the sheer destructive power I am expecting my team to deliver today. No pressure then!

Yes, we tonked them 6:0 at home and their last victory against us dates back to the decade when the TV was black and white and Sp*ds last won the league, but we know that Arsenal broke a few ‘records’ of that kind already this season, don’t we? But let’s just concentrate on the positive thinking, the players need our support and as long as we do our bit, then we will either have a reason to cheer without feeling a bit stupid for not believing or we will have clear conscience as far as having the right ol’ moan is concerned if the worst happens. I think it sounds fair and reasonable, very much a win-win situation, if one can even think about it in these categories.

According to BBC, we have D******n and Song definitely out plus Sagna and Theo who are highly doubtful. Being the worshipper of the Murphy’s law, if they are doubtful, I consider them as out of the contention. Oh well, we will have to fight with what we have, it’s not like moaning about the absentees will heal them, is it? Good news is that we are likely to see Szczesny, Djourou and (whisper it) Vermaelen back in training shortly, which should allow us to see the backs of Almunia and Squillaci, preferably never to be seen on the pitch again. Given the personnel we have out, I would consider tinkering with the formation a bit, but since AW does not do tactics, it’s a moot point. I believe that we are most likely to see the following team:

 

Almunia

Ebowie   Squillaci   Koscielny   Clichy

Wilshere

Nasri                 Cesc

Bendtner          RvP           Arshavin


Subs: Lehmann, Miquel, Gibbs, Frimpong, Ramsey, Diaby, Chamakh

Well, at least that ‘s  what I would do, as we need as much dynamism as we can muster. As Blackpool like to shoot on sight, I want Wilshere playing the holding role, as he will at least get in the way a lot. The front three should just interchange positions to keep their defence on their toes. OGL may have different ideas, like playing Diaby, which may take all the sting out our counterattacks, but there you go – since I am in the mood for optimism, despite my better judgment, I will even say that even he is due a good game, surely?

Here is to hoping that Arsene managed to explain to the players that nothing but a roaring response will do. Seriously, as much as I exercise my God’s given right to criticise him and I question his actions a lot, this is out of love for the club (tough love, but love nevertheless) as you always want your loved ones to do well, no matter how much they may piss you off.  This is what supporting is all about afterall, no?

As comrade Watt likes to say, come on you Reds!

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Burnley preview. Walk in the park? Think again.

March 6, 2010

So, here we are, the international friendlies have gone by and for once we went through them virtually unscathed – yes, Carlos Vela got injured again playing New Zealand after scoring a peach of a goal, but if you take into the account the fact that he is not really a first team regular at the moment, you will see what I mean.

A lot has been said about the last week’s ‘unfortunate’ events at Britannia Stadium. I have voiced my opinion in the previous post and it did not change one bit. Shawcross came out and said he was not going to change either, which means that he is probably on course to add to the ‘impressive’ record of two fellow players’ legs broken at the tender age of 22. But no, he is not ‘that kind of player’. Twat.

Internationals or no internationals, our selection options are limited anyway – Big Sol joined Billy in the treatment room and Song starts his two game ban for collecting his 10th booking this season. This means that Silvestre and Denilson will both start – now while I don’t really rate either of them, I am intending on getting behind them fully and wholeheartedly: for the 90+ minutes today they are expected to do their best and some support could help them find the extra 10%, besides there is no point in getting annoyed with stuff you cannot change, is there? Here’s to both of them playing a blinder today and contributing to another fine victory by Arsenal FC. On the positive note, we are to welcome back Diaby and Arshavin and this should add some creativity, flair and maybe a goal out of nowhere.

Today, it’s all about the attitude: sure, it’s ‘only’ Burnley who only managed a single draw on the road this season and Coyle’s departure did not help them either, however, I have seen us losing or drawing a perfectly winnable game once or twice – the thing no Arsenal supporter wants to see today is complacency and knocking the ball about with no real purpose, we want to see The Clarets obliterated, this is a good chance to improve our goal difference, as this could be telling as far as winning the league this season is concerned. Yes, it may be THAT tight and we need to do ourselves all the favours we can. I want to see commitment, directness and belief – make no mistake, if we keep up with the two above us, we have every chance of nicking it. Yes, it would be nothing short of a miracle, all things considered, but hey, we probably deserve one, no?

It will be interesting to see if our players’ mentality has been affected by the horrific injury sustained by a team mate. We can talk about professionalism all we want, but they are all human afterall – after Taylor broke Eddy’s leg two years ago, our season went down the pan, as the players could not lift themselves up. Yes, we got a result last week, but how much of it was down to shock and not having much time to think about what happened and how much down to maturity? I guess we will find out soon enough – if we build on what we saw after the third goal, it may be the case of waking a sleeping giant (i.e. ‘now you’ve really pissed me off’), otherwise, we will witness another nearly season, simple as.

Have a good day Gooners – catch you all tomorrow to celebrate!

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All is well that ends well. Back in the race?

February 11, 2010

Madness. Absolute madness. When I signed the pact with the football gods using my own red and white blood, I should have read the fine print: ‘Supporting Arsenal may induce symptoms similar to bipolar disorder’. You would think it’s there somewhere, wouldn’t you? Just three days after going into the game at Stamford Bridge with no expectations and looking at the nine point gap off the top afterwards, we beat in-form Liverpool, they lose to Everton and the distance now reads six points. With ManYoo only drawing against Villa, it’s advantage Arsenal and the runaway pack now consists of three teams, possibly four if you take City with two games in hand into the equation.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? First and foremost, this post is a tribute to all the players who featured last night: this is what I am talking about, gentlemen, pride has been restored and my hat goes off to you. That wasn’t too hard, eh? Sure, there were a few things that may need to be ironed out in training, but I consider myself  happy with the fact that we managed to grind out a result after such poor run of games. The good guys in red have finally bounced back and let us hope that this result will improve levels of confidence ahead of the next week’s trip to Dragon’s Stadium.  Even the much criticised Almunia & Clichy had a good game with the former making an excellent fingertip save to deny Babel a certain entry on the score sheet and the latter looking much better than in the last two games, running, anticipating and making just a single ‘customary’ lapse. Good one chaps, more of the same please!

Arsene started with the XI nearly identical to what I suggested in yesterday’s post with the exception of Nasri and Eboue starting instead of Rosicky and Sagna respectively. The former lasted only 34 minutes and was replaced by my player of choice – to be honest, I am not too impressed with Samir who could do well with staying a few extra hours in the gym as he is looking a bit on the podgy side and should be told to make a bit more effort. Rosicky who came on instead had two significant moments in the game: a bad one when he fluffed his lines in front of Reina when through on goal as well as a very good one when he delivered a clever cross for completely unmarked Diaby to nod in. This proved to be the decisive goal that kept the precious three points at THOF.

At last, we saw more balanced team with Bendtner starting up top. He may be no Pele, but he looked lively and caused Scousers a few problems. Unsurprisingly, he managed to win quite a few aerial battles and used his physical presence well enough. I still think that having him as the only player of his kind is skating on thin ice, but there is nothing we can do about it, so we will just have to keep our fingers crossed for him to stay fit until the end of this season. Nicklas was yellow carded for diving on the edge of the box by Mr Webb, who chose to be a bit more lenient for Gerrard when he threw himself to the ground twice, first time trying to win a pen without success and once more for the freekick in the dying seconds, which Cesc blocked with his outstretched arm. Of course, the articles about cheating Arsenal and the hard-done-by Liverpool are written and pressed as we speak – if you expect any mention of Stevie Me’s embarrassing theatrics, think again: it should be clear for everyone by now that English players don’t dive/cheat, right? This is what these bloody foreigners do, I thought you knew…

Presence? Check. Pace? Check. Hunger? Check. Pride? Check. It seems like we can make the ‘plan A’ work, it’s all about the right balance, selecting correct personnel and motivation. Since we only employ one tactic against everyone, it’s pretty much about drilling the right levels of discipline into their heads: don’t leave your goal exposed, defend as a team and it may just work for the time being. It has to be said, if it wasn’t for Billy’s brilliant last ditch tackle in the box, we could have conceded one before we scored – there are already rumours that he may leave at the end of the season due to being offered just one year contract extension: I reckon the fans should unite and belt out ‘Two more years’ as we need warriors like him amongst our ranks. His experience is invaluable and if Silvestre warranted special dispensation to get 2 year deal, then Gallas should get it without asking as far as I am concerned.

Better. Much better. Not getting ahead of myself, but top three spot is ours to lose now, as the title is United’s or Chelsea’s. I still don’t think that they will drop enough points to make it exciting for us at the business end of the season, but all of the sudden, out title campaign doesn’t look the mangled wreck it was a few days ago.

Thank you for reading and have a nice day Gooners – I know I will!

P.S. Let’s all laugh at ‘Arry and Spuds: after Twitchy’s cocky press comments about their aim to leapfrog us in the table this season, they have lost to Wolves, which should shut them up for a few minutes – maybe there is a God afterall 😉

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We are top of the league! Yeah, baby!

January 21, 2010

Now can anyone honestly tell me that he or she was thinking this was going to end up with this scoreline? We needed a win by two goals or better to go top – quite frankly, it did not look like we were anywhere near being capable of doing it for the entire first half. I watched in disbelief as Bolton looked like a decent football team and wondered how on earth has Coyle managed to set them up to play like that within such a short period of time. Really, when Alan Wiley blown the final whistle and ‘We are top of the league’ roar sounded around Emirates, one could be excused for breathing a sigh of relief.

We started looking slow and sloppy, making plenty of misplaced passes and allowing them into game. Someone said in the aftermath that it is quite a common occurence this season that we don’t really look up for it in the early minutes and brought up a statistic that we have managed to score just one goal during the first 15 minutes in the whole season so far – I really don’t know how accurate that is, but if this is the case then it must be addressed, as quality teams may not let us back into games that easily. With the ‘do-or-die’ string of fixtures on the horizon, this must be kept in mind, as Villa, United, Chelsea and Pool are a different proposition.

It took them just 6 minutes to score the first goal. It has to be said, our defending was comical and they took full advantage of their height to win a couple of aerial battles to set up Cahill for a volley to put it past Almunia. I thought it was not that bad, as it should give us a required kick in the arse to wake us up. Since then, we dominated possession for the long passages, but nothing was really coming out of it and I started thinking that it could be ‘one of those days’. Conceding second goal after referee pointed to the spot as a result of Denilson’s completely mistimed challenge in the box did not help either. 28 minutes, 2 goals down and no luck in front of Jaaskelainen’s goal – it has to be said, things were looking bleak. Don’t know about you, but I was fuming – we needed a goal before the break, we needed it badly and boy we got it! Denilson passed the ball forward to Cesc, who managed to chip the ball cleverly to Rosicky who blasted in an excellent goal, leaving poor ol’ Jussi rooted to the spot. Conceding a goal that reduced their advantage to just one in the dying minutes must have been a bit of a blow for them and one must pause and think about how much we missed Little Mozart in the last season.

If it wasn’t for our no.7’s cracker, Arsene would probably need to get into Le Hairdryer mode once again, but since we started looking a bit better and got within touching distance, the half time talk must have been a bit more balanced. Whatever AW said, it worked – we came out flying and finally looked like the team we all love to watch. The way things looked, there could be only one winner, the only question was if we would be able to score three to go top, since we made it difficult for ourselves in the first half an hour. The equaliser came on the 55th minute, courtesy of Cesc Fabregas – yes, Jaaskelainen should have done much better and much will be made of Billy’s tackle in the build up that left Mark Davies needing to be stretchered off, but guess what? I don’t care – creating space to shoot in such a crowded box is nothing short of brilliant, and we have been kicked by them many times with referees not doing zilch about it. Coyle went on about bad sportsmanship on our part, but hey, this is Bolton we are talking about, remember? Like I said in one of the earlier posts, karma is a bitch…

55th minute, we are level and the general feeling is that we should go for the throat – 35 minutes is more than enough to score two and go top, since the balance swung in our favour and we smelt blood. Ten minutes later, we got a third goal after they failed to clear it following our corner and the ball landed at Verminator’s feet for him to whack it home and end his mini goal drought. Now we needed just one more to raise The Home of Football’s roof. It took us exactly 20 minutes to get it – a brilliant move on the edge of the box resulted in Arshavin getting just enough space to fire this cracker into Trotters’ net. While the job was not done yet, it was pretty much all Arsenal and you just couldn’t see where the opposition goal would come from. Sure, they had their moments, but we looked much more composed and if anything, should have added to our tally, but our little Russian chose to be greedy instead of setting up Walcott to score with his first touch after being introduced in the place of Eduardo in 90th minute.

‘scuse me:

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! 😆

Not bad, eh? Of course, there are a few things to worry about, like Diaby’s injury, which couldn’t have happened at worse moment, but hey, let us enjoy it while it lasts, and may it last as long as 9th of May 😉

Thank you for reading, I will be back tomorrow with some transfer window analysis…

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Everton preview.

January 9, 2010

Schools and shops closed, cars abandoned, football games postponed. In a few words, the country has ground to a halt. One can only hope that today’s game goes ahead, looking at the fixture list – given that we progress in all competitions, I just can’t see where we could squeeze this one in, as we may need to reschedule Burnley and Spuds, should we do well in the FA Cup.

Everton come with an enormous point to prove after the opening day result that surprised everyone, myself included – I have to admit, I expected a good result, but a much closer one, however, everything seemed to go just right on that day. Useless at set pieces? Not anymore. Panic defending? Who, Arsenal? Obviously, not one of the ‘experts’ gave us any credit for that and they just went ahead to point out how bad Toffees were on that day. Sure, they did not impress so far this season like I expected them to, currently in the 12th with a game in hand, but they seem to have turned things around and even managed to nick a point at Stamford Bridge after a rollercoaster-like game, which ended with 3:3 on the scoreboard. I have nothing but respect for David Moyes, who is a no-nonsense kind of manager, doing a great job on quite modest budget with a knack for finding good players. I would expect them to be up there fighting for Europa League places, come the business end of the season.

Looking at the squads, it is surprising to see that there is another club with so many players out. If I was to single out a few of their players who could give us problems, but luckily for us are out, I’d say Arteta, Jagielka & Yakubu, however, they still have Cahill, Pienaar and Fellaini as well as their new boy, Beckham’s LA Galaxy teammate, Landon Donovan who arrived on loan and will definitely be eager to impress ahead of the World Cup. They are certainly capable of giving us a headache and we have to approach this game fully focused in order to maintain momentum.

Having looked at their team, let’s look at ours – again, not a lot to shuffle around, is there? Thankfully, we will see Traore returning to play left back, giving us much needed pace in that position, the rest of the defensive block will contain the all the well-known faces. Moving on to the midfield, we will finally get to know the answer to the question if Denilson is the right player to replace our ACN absentee – whilst I would rather like him to get up to speed against Bolton, he will just have to get on with it and prove a few doubters wrong. He will face considerably tougher task of containing the aforementioned midfield trio and others. It will be quite interesting to see how he copes with the Belgian giant’s physical presence – the focal point of discussions regarding our backup DM was his perceived lack of strength to cope with bigger and stronger opposition players. He is likely to be partnered by Diaby who should help him to deal with it and perhaps in form Ramsey, who may get a nod ahead of fit again Rosicky, who will probably come on for him a bit later in the game. Upfront, I would personally go for Arshavin, Eduardo and Nasri with possible introduction of Vela to tear Tony Hibbert a new one in the last 20-30 minutes.

Nothing but 3 points will do – we need to maintain ‘visual contact’ with the top spot ahead of the do-or-die February. Frankly, I will take any result where our goals > their goals without any new casualties 😉

Come on you red & white beauties! Give us something to smile about in these cold, cold days 😀

P.S. Allow me to express my disgust with the ACN organisers unable to ensure safety of the players in Angola – apparently, the bus carrying the Togo team was attacked by a local militia and shot at for 15 minutes, resulting in the driver getting killed and a few players injured. Togo players are contemplating returning home and no one can blame them. I reckon we should pull our two players out of the competition, pay the fines and let them serve the inevitable ban imposed by the authorities – we wouldn’t have them available anyway and they would be fresh, rested and injury free. If all the big clubs did that, it would certainly give them fat, useless idiots at FIFA food for thought…