Posts Tagged ‘West Ham’

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Hammer time!

March 19, 2010

After some time without writing due to other commitments, I am back with a preview of the Saturday’s derby game – I am posting it a day earlier as I need to make my way to London today to do some work related stuff and I will be staying until Sunday because I am one of the lucky sixty thousand or so going to THOF tomorrow – I consider myself lucky as there doesn’t seem to be too many tickets available until the end of the season and I quite like WHU, especially after they did us a favour back in 2006. Besides, it is my first London derby, unless you count Chelsea v Charlton cup game a few years ago.

All sympathies aside, this is another cup final like game we need to win in order to stay within touching distance from the other two title contenders. Sure, they will drop points, but we need to gain on them if we are serious about winning the last (albeit the major one) domestic  trophy we still can. It will be interesting to see how our opponents will approach this game after getting humiliated at Stamford Bridge last week and even more so how will we, given the string of recent results and the squad brimming with confidence: as we all know, the line between confidence and complacency is very fine as far as this group of players is concerned and WHU have been a bit of a bogey team for us since we moved to the new stadium. I still remember us getting sucker punched by them when we should have mauled them and left them for dead in our first season there – I was at the pub full of their fans and they could not believe it either, honestly.

According to Our Glorious Leader, we will have our captain available for selection as well as Rosicky (both returning from injuries) and Song back from two game suspension caused by accumulating quite an impressive amount of yellow cards throughout the season. The only worry is that Billy is still injured and we will have to make do with one of the backup centre backs partnering Vermaelen – I have a hunch that this time it will be Sly to save impressive so far Sulzeer from fatigue, as this was showing a little bit in our last game. I may be wrong, as this time he had a whole week to recover and he may as well be raring to go in order to wash off the distaste left after storming out of Highbury during halftime last time he played them in Arsenal colours. The rest of back four pretty much picks itself with Clichy finally finding some form and Sagna looking good in the last game as well. In other areas we are almost at full strength – please feel free to think of your own favourites to start the game and I shall think of mine, I am guessing we would all come to pretty much the same conclusions anyway…

All of the sudden, it seems to be clicking into gear, don’t you think? It seems like all the underperforming players started playing like we all knew they could and like we fully expected them to – cynics may say that it largely coincides with the upcoming World Cup and the players’ willingness to get into their national coaches’ good books, I think I will stand by my own claim that they must have taken a long close look at themselves and considered criticism heaped on them by the fans, whose patience started wearing a little thin. It is really funny to see all the pundits who wrote us off a few times this season trying to back us up to win the title without looking like mugs – have to admit, I thought it would be between us and Chelsea this season but I was not too optimistic about us coming up trumps. Realistically speaking, we will probably finish a measly few points off the top, but hey, where is the fun in that? We will win the bloody thing – hell yes!!!

All I can do is keep my proverbial fingers crossed and sing my heart out tomorrow! I should be back with a game review on Sunday, but please forgive me if I get too wasted after the game and will not be able to string a few celebratory sentences together…

Come on you Gunners!!!

P.S. There is a small matter of Champions League draw today- bring’em on! 😀

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Dude, where’s my striker?

January 14, 2010

First of all, I love writing match reports, I really do – it hardly matters is the game was of the good, the bad or the ugly kind. But it is completely devoid of any joy if you have to do it 24 hours later and base your views on the highlights selected and compiled by someone else, then watched when you already know the score. It’s just not right – frankly, I am kicking myself for not checking the official website any earlier to know that yesterday’s game won’t be shown live and leave the work earlier to get to Upton Park, taking a local Gooner mate with me. Perhaps, I would find more ejoyable to write about ‘Hammers gunned down in JET attack’ and had better chance to see what’s up with all this Sol Campbell related fuss if I did. But hey, we’re not going to be crying over the spilt milk, are we? Thought not…

From what I saw, we looked dominant and won quite comfortably, despite the referee letting them back into it by awarding them not one, but two quite soft penalties in quick succession (not as quick as 2 JET’s goals in the first half, mind you) to bring the game level in the second half. And to be honest, it didn’t look like the opposition could muster much more. Some may disagree, but thanks to ATVO, I can only take a leaf out of Our Glorious Leader’s book and say ‘I didn’t see eet’. We had shaken it off and proceeded to try and put our noses back in front. Thanks to Frimpong’s strike 5 minutes later we went 3:2 up and further 7 minutes later Thomas completed his hat trick late in the game. Not bad, eh? A few good goals, nice passages of play, well, this is what we like to see, don’t we? Real shame we couldn’t treat ourselves with a live screening with no football in sight, great job ATVO, well done you 😯

Just a few words on Sol – playing with our reserve team, he is old enough to be the father to most of them. I think he really wants to join, as it must have been something else for him to be captained by a 18 year old. From what I could gather, given scarce footage, he generally made use of his experience, positioned himself well and did what he was expected to do. But whether he still has what it takes to step up, should the worst case cenario unfold, remains to be seen. I will quash the desire to rant about how we could and should do better than that for the time being. It is unwise to allow things you can’t change to get on your nerves 😉

Since we have more or less sorted out the shortage at the back, now is the time to go on and focus on strengthening in the attacking department – the silly season is nearly halfway through and we are not even rumoured to be after anyone of that sort. I mean, what’s stopping us? Are we really going to rely on Nicklas as the sole provider of an alternative option upfront for the remainder of the season or are we going to dip into our coffers and spend some money for proven quality, which can prove to be the difference between finishing first and being the first of the losers? AW doesn’t seem to be keen to bring anyone in for the long term – I reckon he would love to make another Sol Campbell-like signing to plug the gaps and provide some much needed depth. Sure, there is some logic in that, but he is not making it any easier for himself by doing that, is he? Seriously, I am resigned to give any striker of reasonable quality the benefit of the doubt, I just want it over and done with sonner rather than later, but that is not how we do our thing, right?

As always, Le Boss is keen to buy some young prodigies from all over the planet – the last one for the future is Bolivian right winger Samuel Galindo. Only 17 years old, yet he already captains his national U21 side, which is quite impressive if you ask me. He is rumoured to be going straight into the senior side rather than youth setup, read more on that on Young Guns website.

I will leave it at that for today – gotta run to pack my bags, as I am flying to Poland to sort out a few things. Wish me luck – last time I tried to go, I got stuck at the airport for 12 hours due to pathetic few inches of snow and didn’t go anywhere but back home. I am set to meet a few Polish Gooners for a few pints to cheer on the mighty Arsenal on Sunday, should be a good laugh.

Thanks for reading, I shall do my best to come back tomorrow…

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ATVO’s poor show on the family reunion and derby win.

January 13, 2010

It seems like a signing is looming large (really, no need to read between the lines, that’s just nasty) – looks like a deal, which aims to help to bring some required depth in the centre back position is as good as done. All the signs point to welcoming the return of one of the Invincibles, 35 years old Sol Campbell anytime soon. He has been training with Arsenal for some time and somehow got registered to play for us in the Reserve League against West Ham at Upton Park last night. This has been the first time he donned an Arsenal shirt since the memorable night in Paris where he scored a goal to put us ahead. Sol played in the first half last night and was replaced with Academy player, Ignasi Miquel, in the second. Talk about extremes…

Whilst I would love to write a match review, unfortunately it proved impossible to catch the game on ATVO, as they for some strange reason decided not to show any further reserve games for the remainder of the season. There is not a lot you can write on the basis of this, so I guess I will have to come back to you on that subject after I get to watch ‘extended highlights’ due to be available later this afternoon. Bizarre, if you ask me – reserve team games were one of the highlights of the limited program offered by our club channel. Surely, the right way forward must be to do more, not less? I can hardly understand logic behind it, being a subscriber myself – it would be great to have something to smile about after the game of snowball played on the weekend some would rather forget. We all would be more than happy to get eyewitness opinion on Campbell, see JET’s hattrick and give a cheer after the Frimpong goal.

Returning to the hottest topic of the day: I mean, how does Arsene do that? Maybe it’s my twisted sense of humour, but I find it hilarious that after tying up our permanent ‘new signing’ right at the beginning of the transfer window, Le Boss stuck two fingers up the author of ‘geriatric’ question asked during the last shareholders meeting in May. Sly is no spring chicken, but three years Sulzeer’s junior nevertheless – I don’t think AW does that on purpose, but you just have to appreciate the irony and laugh. Someone pointed out yesterday that it would have to be an absolute first for any player to sign on a free TWICE for the same club. Some will probably think that it is an idea worth giving it some benefit of the doubt, personally, I will go for small benefit of a very significant one: does he have legs to play high line like we do? We are not Portsmouth and tend to leave our back four as far as halfway line (well, sometimes), right? Besides, I can’t forget him allowing WHU to score 2 goals and storming out of the ground afterwards as well as asking Arsene for an opportunity to play ‘abroad’. Frankly, I think fella is mad as a hatter, but let’s see, there may be a method to this madness. Off the top of my head, I don’t recall any embarassing stories from the time he played for Pompey and he captained them to the FA Cup success in 2008 too. While I am a bit unconvinced, Wrighty7 offers a bit more of an optimistic point of view on this…

With a little (hell, a minimum) effort from ATVO, we will hopefully get to see how it went yesterday. Fact is that we did not concede a goal with SC in the back four, unlike in the second half, when we shipped two, penalties or no penalties.

Thank you for reading 😉

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Victory over The Hammers lines us up against The Potters

January 4, 2010

Phew, that was a bit of a nervy affair wasn’t it? For over 60 minutes until the double substitution we huffed and puffed but could not break down well organised, hard working Hammers and if that wasn’t for introduction of impressive Diaby and Nasri, we would probably find it very hard to get anything out of this game after they managed to beat our one man offside trap and put one past exposed Fabianski. Something tells me our Polish goalie will not have Sly on his Christmas card list after getting exposed again in a FA Cup tie!

Yesterday I said it would be curious to see what sort of team will be selected to take on West Ham in the FA Cup 3rd round game. There was quite lot of heated discussions on whether we do or we don’t care enough about this particular competition, which might have lost a bit of its old glamour, but still brings plenty of joy to football fans and is capable of giving us one or two romantic moments. Yesterday certainly brought one of these in the shape of once mighty Leeds United currently languishing in League One giving the Ol’ Red Nose’s team a bloody nose: SAF complaining about not enough injury time added on – priceless. What goes around comes around, Sir. It’s called karma and she’s a bitch 😆

The lineup suggested we were dead serious about progressing to the next round – the only ‘irregularity’ in the back four was Silvestre who surprisingly captained the mostly senior side and played in the left back position. The fact of players like Gallas not getting rest was quite unexpected, all things considered: we play Bolton on Wednesday, I guess AW must think out defence will not have their work cut out against them, since they are normally the ones who come to Emirates to frustrate us by keeping 10 men behind the ball and counting on occasional break.

In the midfield we saw Merida given a rare start beside Song and Ramsey. As much as I like the fella, this must have been one of his worst games for Arsenal – he had a real mare with plenty of misplaced passes and  poor set pieces, which resulted in AW putting him out of his misery to replace him with in-form Diaby. I have guessed our front three right, but for some reason Eduardo started on the left with Vela in the middle and Jackie Boy taking the spot on the right. A word on our little prodigy – I seriously hope he will get a loan move soon, as he has gone off the boil a little due to lack of playing time against the real opposition. Yesterday he looked like he needs it badly after being promoted to the senior squad where he is not getting anywhere near the amount of minutes he played last season while he was very much a part of our successful youth setup. Like Merida, he was substituted in the 65th minute and this is when we started fighting back with some real bite.

Until then, we did not do a lot, did we? Yes, we dominated the proceedings in the first half, but did not offer any serious threat to Green’s goal – a few tame shots, most of them straight at their keeper, a string of very ineffective corners and in the dying minutes, just as the commentary said something regarding WHU being ‘reasonably happy’ about being level at the break, it turned out that they had other ideas. Conceding a goal right before the whistle is always a blow and this one was no different – they seemed to have come out flying in the second half and seemed hell-bent on killing the game off. For the best part of first 20 minutes in the second half they looked the better team and it did not look like we had the answers. This piece from club website says it all:

Nasri and Diaby are both warming up, do Arsenal need to change things here? If I’m honest West Ham look more likely to score the next goal in this game.

Cue the aforementioned double substitution and inspired comeback – all of the sudden things started clicking and we finally looked like we were right in it: our movement and passing began to be more accurate and purposeful and their players started resorting to some ol’ time wasting antics, which left our travelling fans and AW unimpressed. One of these was Green after being forced to make a double save from Diaby and Song who was impressive again and will be sorely missed during the ACN.

Whilst their idea in doing this was to try and  break our stride, it was only enough to delay the inevitable. They say the cream always rises to the top, and this time was no different – just six minutes later we finally managed to break them down. Vela received Song’s pass on the edge of the WHU box and fed Ramsey who hit it with power and venom past hapless Green. Second sweet strike in as many games with his ‘weaker’ foot and another MOTM award – this guy will be something else. We got the winning goal just five minutes later when Vela crossed into the box for Eduardo to somehow outjump nearly three inches taller Upson and head the ball into the top corner. Green might have just got his fingertips to it, but it wasn’t enough and sparked ‘England’s,  England’s number six’  chants from jubilant Gooners seated behind his goal. He got beaten by Vela one more time, only for Daprela to clear it off the line. There were a few more good efforts by Dudu and Ramsey with the former putting the smart header over the bar and the latter seeing his late blast saved by the Englishman.

Subsequent 4th Round draw paired us with Stoke City at Britannia Stadium. This may be an interesting one, with vital fixtures coming thick and fast right afterwards. A lot will depend on our injury situation as well as on what kind of new signings we will or will not get before then. More on the latter tomorrow. Thank you for reading 😉

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West Ham Preview

January 3, 2010

Today we face a fellow London Premiership club in the FA Cup – this is the only London derby in this round, and we should try to do everything possible to claim local bragging rights.  AW said he wanted to win this game, but on the other hand he could not risk certain players, given the congested fixture list. While logic tells me that it is the sensible way to do things, given our dire position as far as injuries are concerned, my heart says that we should wipe off the last result we managed at Upton Park and do whatever it takes to progress to the next round. It will be interesting who we will see in a few areas – this will indicate whether we are seriously in it or if this is another potential trophy sacrificed on the altar of youth development, where one can assume the worst and if a good result comes it should be welcomed as a bonus. Fair enough, we are down to bare bones, but it is still sad to chuck away another trophy, barring some sort of miracle. Our game in hand played against Bolton Shitkickers 3 days later must come into the equation here with the title race tighter than ever with us firmly in it, despite most of the pundits still claiming this is a 2 horse race now (MU & Chelsea) since their early season championship favourite’s campaign is going horribly wrong so far. No complaints here – we seem to be doing better when we are ruled out or considered underdogs. I have predicted in the beginning of the season, this will be between us and Chelsea with nothing-out-of-the-ordinary ManYoo coming third.

I think we will see Fabianski in goal. Fella must be kicking himself for getting injured prior to Spuds game where he was to step in to replace out of form Almunia. I would not expect him to get many more chances this season with Manuel slightly improving since then and AW probably not willing to take any risks in the league. It’s fair to say that young Lukasz may do a lot today to get a good run in the cup and prove himself to Le Boss.

Keeper can’t do his job without  a solid defensive unit. Actually, this is where we will see how serious we are about this whole FA Cup thing – AW said he is considering playing Big Phil there – who will he be paired with? Silvestre is due to start, but no idea if he play next to Phil or in LB to rest Traore. Both these options have their pros and cons, we will find out soon enough. Right back position will be a strong indicator too – my money is on resting Sagna and playing Gilbert there, with Eboue gone to ACN.

In the midfield, we have very little choice with Fabregas and Denilson out. I would guess it will be Song (for the last time before this ACN nonsense, so he should get full 90 minutes), Rosicky and Diaby or Ramsey filling the third spot. That was easy, now on to the attacking three: I’m guessing Vela is a dead cert to start on the left, Jackie Boy may get a runout on the right and the central position should be occupied by someone more experienced like Eduardo, who happens to work very well with Carlos.

WHU have their own injury problems and survival battle on their hands, but in theory they can afford playing more first teamers due to the fact that the will have a whole week to rest before the next game as opposed to our 3 days, when we play our game in hand against Bolton. Zola said he wants to have a go at us, how much of this is just talk, aimed at the hacks who would love to have a go at foreign managers disrespecting the oldest, most traditional competition remains to be seen.

The game is televised on ITV 😯 There were not many of them since this CL Eduardo ‘dive’ nonsense when they got swamped with complaints regarding the commentary. It was almost funny to see them doing whatever they could not to broadcast Arsenal games – correct me if I’m wrong, the only game from the group stages was Olympiakos away when we were already top and we might as well not go there, was it not?

A few words on transfer rumours: not a lot to go through, is there? Apparently, we are not after Gignac anymore, AW is also reported to have rubbished all Huntelaar stories. The most recent one is Louis Saha for £5M plus Senderos. Whoa, whoa, whoa: do we really need another Manure pensioner on our books and one of questionable fitness for that matter? Moyes got him on pay as you play deal, as long as he gets just that here, I would not have too many complaints, but on the other hand, we have money, don’t we? We can and have to do better than that, and throwing Big Phil into the mix would be utterly stupid, as that would leave us needing to buy another CB: having Silvestre as third choice at club of our stature and with our ambitions would be bordering on negligence.

Dzeko is not wanted by his preferred club due to Berlusconi being cash strapped, so this will most probably lower his silly valuation. As far as I am concerned, anything over £20M is too much, but sometimes one must swallow his pride and pay a little over the odds in the seller’s market – despite recession, asking prices may be quite high in this window, due to not many quality players wanting a move in the World Cup year. Well, we have 28 days of this to get through, give me strength…