Can Arsenal Do The Double Over Newcastle?

Newcastle United (The Emirates Stadium)
FA Cup 4th Round: Saturday 26th January 2008 (3pm)
Premier League: Tuesday 29th January (7.45pm)

After the heavy defeat midweek against Spurs, Arsenal have a chance to progress into the next round of the FA Cup and keep the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table in the Premier League. The only thing standing in the way?

Newcastle United.

I haven’t actually commented on the return of Kevin Keegan, but whatever has been said I’m not sure it’s the dream ticket all the Geordies have been hoping for. Don’t get me wrong, Keegan is a lovable character – I mean who can forget that rant against Alex Ferguson?

We know King Kev is a man who wears his heart of his sleeve and he has shown in the past that the pressure can get to him. I just think that in today’s game (where the pressure is as intense as ever) with 24 hour sports channels and more media coverage than ever before Keegan might find the strain a bit too much. Remember he’s walked out on football clubs before.

Another problem I think Newcastle have at the moment is what Sam Allardyce left behind.

Newcastle is a club with big potential, and with fantastic fans but am I the only one who thinks the current squad they have is average at best? If you watch Match of the Day you would think that being the Newcastle manager was one of the most coveted positions in world football. I think there needs to be a lot of rebuilding before Newcastle will be where they want to be.

But then again Alan Shearer is the man offering his opinions so you would expect them to be biased wouldn’t you?

One of my friends is a Geordie and when I asked him what his predictions were for the Arsenal v Newcastle double header he was sceptical about the impact of Keegan’s return and thought Arsenal would win both games; 2-1 and 2-0.

Well I would take those results right now.

You can understand the lack of optimism from the Geordies, especially after a stale draw against Bolton last weekend but I think Newcastle will be more of a threat than everyone thinks. Yes, we are at home but no-one is giving Newcastle a chance and that’s when teams are at their most dangerous.

If Arsenal can get their act together after losing midweek and the Adebayor/Bendtner fight then we should be too much for Newcastle and win both games. But you can’t take anything for granted in this Cup or League. Look what happened when we had an off day at St James’ Park – we could have lost that game.

Finally, Arseblogger had a link yesterday to The Sun which claims Adebayor said to Bendtner “I’m only on because you’re sh*t!”.

There’s been some reports of Bendtner being too cocky which has apparently rubbed some of the Arsenal players the wrong way, while others say Adebayor and Bendtner have had a long-running fued. Well whatever it all was hopefully Arsene has sorted it out because Arsenal have come too far this season to just start fighting amongst themselves.

Annoying Yes, Important? No…

Tottenham Hotspur (5) – (1) Arsenal
(Tottenham win 6-2 on aggregate)
Adebayor (70′)
White Hart Lane, London

Well what can you say about that game?

Spurs were always going to be up for this, especially when you consider they haven’t defeated us in 23,421 games*

They fielded their stongest side, and it was going to be an even bigger ask for the kids with captain Ledley King back as well.

It’s a strange feeling getting battered and conceding five, even more so when it’s usually us handing out the drubbings – but if you look at the goals then you would have to say Arsenal shot themselves in the foot.

The first goal after only 3 minutes was disappointing because Jenas was under no pressure while he ran towards goal and took his shot. Justin Hoyte was a bit slow to react to the situation and let the Tottenham midfielder have a free pop at goal.

Then the second was an own goal by Nicklas Bendtner.

Credit to Jenas it was a decent delivery, but Nic was caught cold and his header could have gone anywhere. Then the third goal we conceded was straight after half time, this time scored by Robbie Keane. Fabianski really should have done better with the shot, which was pretty much straight at him and wasn’t travelling with much pace.

While Arsene said after the match that the third goal pretty much signalled the end of the game as a contest, I personally thought Arsenal could still get back into this with an instant reply.

And only minutes later Walcott crossed for Bendtner whose effort hit the underside of the bar.

This was not Arsenal’s day!

With the 50th minute approaching, I thought to myself Arsenal could still get 3 goals here if they quickly brought on Eduardo and Adebayor for Diaby and Walcott. But unfortunately that change didn’t happen until 15 minutes later.

You might say this is the competition for the kids, but with Gallas, Sagna, Hleb and Fabregas already on the pitch, it might have been worth going for it anyway. And with 40 minutes Eduardo and Adebayor could make a big difference.

Of course, if any of them got injured during that time then I suppose the gamble wouldn’t have been worth it.

But the thing was Hleb was getting the ball in excellent positions and moving the ball around well in the middle with Fabregas, but they had no attacking outlet for their possession. Bringing on Eduardo and Adebayor earlier could have changed the outcome of the game.

And Diaby and Walcott weren’t performing anyway, and always on the periphery of the match. Theo just couldn’t control the ball and wasn’t given much space, and Diaby was losing the ball and often going for the difficult dribble instead of the simple pass. I can’t remember the number of times I saw him take 4 or 5 touches when 2 would have done!

When Adebayor did come on, Arsenal had a bit more cutting edge and it only took him 5 minutes to score. Unfortunately we were 4-0 down at the time, but if he was on 15 minutes earlier could it have been a different story?

C’est la vie…

Arsene said after the game that the Carling Cup wasn’t a priority at all and Arsenal were in the fight for much bigger things. We’ve known that all along and looking at the bigger picture we didn’t lose in a cup which really mattered. Of course, that sounds bitter coming after a 5-1 defeat but it doesn’t make it any less true. Would it have been nice to be in the final? Yes, but it’s hardly vital to the outcome of our season is it?

You would have to say though that winning the Carling Cup would have been a huge ask if we made it to the final anyway. Chelsea will play their strongest team in this competition and our kids would have found it extremely tough to get passed them. So it’s comforting to know that Spurs have no chance of winning the competition anyway.

I would and will be putting a lot of money on that.

* Estimated number only.

T*sser Of The Month Awards: Bentley or Diarra?

You can understand why players could be upset at leaving Arsenal, especially when it’s for a smaller team but David Bentley and Lassana Diarra take it to another level.

Last week it was reported that David Bentley was “close to quitting football” and that he “lost his love for football” during his time at Arsenal. The poor guy had this to say:

“When I was at Arsenal I lost my love for the game. I sat down one day and thought: ‘I go to work, yet I don’t want to’

“When you you’re not enjoying yourself it doesn’t matter whether you are at a top club or not. If you don’t enjoy your time, what’s the point?

“It crossed my mind that football might not be for me. I thought about what I really wanted to do.”

Yeah, I really feel for the guy.

It must be so hard being a professional footballer. Nevermind that millions across the world would kill to be in his profession, and that he is being paid ridiculous amounts of money while the fans work hard to afford tickets just to attend the games.

Jesus Christ.

Seriously, is this guy completely deluded? Many players have career-ending injuries before they even get their chance at the big time and this t*sser is moaning about not enjoying himself. Why not try working 9 to 5 like the rest of us you stupid c*nt.

What planet is this guy on?

He’s obviously spent too much time around Cashley “how can I possibly live on £55k a week” Cole and Jermaine “let’s crash into a lamp-post and tell the Police my name is Ashley Cole” Pennant.

And then we come to Lassana Diarra, who has found a “regular first-team place” at Portsmouth.

He talked about how long he’s been waiting for his chance:

“I need to play. I am fed up of pleasing people. I am 22-years-old and the most important thing to me is football, my job, my passion.

“I know the trainer of Portsmouth and I know that he will play me. Everything has been very clear.”

Of course.

I really don’t understand this guy. He joins Arsenal, a team which actually gives youngsters a chance but is far too impatient – and Arsene usually doesn’t make you wait long anyway! It’s not as if Wenger has given Cesc, Cashley, Flamini, Clichy or Kolo a chance is it? Oh wait…

And I really feel for Harry Redknapp.

Because if Diarra is anything like he was at Arsenal the moment Diarra sits on the bench for a game then he will be throwing the toys out of the pram. The very reason Pompy bought him was because they have lost a lot of players to the African Cup of Nations so when those guys return Diarra is going to be a royal pain in the arse.

Good luck Harry.

Not Too Sure What To Think After The Weekend…

So Arsenal dropped two points at home against Birmingham City.

And to almost compound the misery, later that afternoon Manchester United convincingly crushed Newcastle United 6-0 to go level on points with us and to nick top spot by virtue of goal difference.

It seems in the last few weeks Arsenal have stuttered slightly, and haven’t really reached the level of performance we saw earlier in the season. But of course, all teams have bad patches throughout the campaign and it seems ours is happening now. The big question is when we can get out of it and start performing at our peak again.

But if we look at the season more closely things aren’t as bad as they seem. Arsenal lose points mainly because they draw matches they play badly in, while United tend to nick a win when things aren’t going their way. Although saying that, they have lost more games than we have this season.

The Birmingham game was a match we should have won, and even though they played well there really wasn’t any reason we didn’t get all 3 points. None of the big names played in the Carling Cup midweek and we should played much better instead of ticking along.

Many people have pointed out that after 22 games if you said we were on the same number points as the league leaders then we would take that all day long. Unfortunately maybe we’ve been bringing this point up far too much. Arsene keeps bringing it up, and it’s almost as if we feel privileged to be there, when in reality we could be several points clear at the top.

But on the other hand, maybe Arsene is making a valid point.

I mean just look at Liverpool.

It could be said we’ve been struggling recently but Liverpool are still an amazing 12 points behind with over 16 games to go. They haven’t won the league in over 17 years and this season doesn’t look like being the year that will change the history books.

The fact is Arsenal have 16 cup-ties left in the Premier League and it’s as simple as that.

It’s hard to imagine Arsenal would have drawn at the weekend if Kolo Toure was playing, and Senderos has a lot to prove over the next few weeks.

If Arsenal are within 3/4 points of Manchester United by the time Kolo and Eboue return I’ll be more than happy.

Spurs Still Can’t Beat A Rubbish Arsenal Side!

Arsenal (1) – (1) Tottenham Hotspur
Walcott (78′)
The Emirates Stadium, London

Last night was not a good performance, and Tottenham still couldn’t beat us!

After a bright opening 15 minutes, Spurs pretty much controlled the game and we stuggled to create any real chances in the entire 90 minutes.

If Spurs can’t beat us when we play like that, then they never will.

They even dropped Paul Robinson and had Ledley King back, but still they couldn’t hold on for the win.

With Senderos and Djourou starting together for the first time you could see the defence struggling throughout the first half, as Berbatov single-handedly ripped our backline time after time. We were fortunate when Spurs kept wasting their opportunities but on 36 minutes our luck ran out as Jenas was left with a simple tap in to score from close range.

Replays showed that Arsenal had held a perfect line – except for Senderos that is who was 4 yards behind the other players and kept Robbie Keane onside. I would rather have Djourou alongside Gallas for the next month, and the wrong player was taken off at half-time.

So Djourou was replaced with Sagna at the break and Hoyte was pushed into the middle. And Eduardo came on for the rusty Van Persie.

And Bacary Sagna made a huge different.

After a disjointed first half, Sagna added some stability and fight to the team. He was Arsenal’s Man of the Match and he only played 45 minutes.

The midfield was suffering, and it’s so sad to say it but Gilberto looked completely lost. Denilson was trying to run the midfield by himself and was crowded out, and Diaby and Theo just couldn’t get into the game. You saw it before the match even started – not being a first team regular really has effected Gilberto and most of the time he looks depressed, and it’s effecting him on the pitch. He’s never been the best passer of the ball, but he lost the ball on far too many occassions last night.

Am I right in thinking that we have yet to win a game this season when Gilberto starts? There was last night, the Champions League game against Sevilla and then the matches in the North East against Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

Diaby and Traore seemed to have a personal competition going with each other to see who can beat the most players without actually passing the ball. It got pretty boring after the first 10 minutes but they kept trying it throughout the match.

I can’t remember when an Arsenal side lost the ball so cheaply and so often than they did last night.

With the midfield struggling, Arsenal’s forwards rarely got the ball and Bendtner and Eduardo couldn’t impose themselves in the game – and the same was for Van Persie in the first half. Things opened up in the last 10 minutes when Theo ‘scored’ the equaliser and it was a really fantastic throughball from Eduardo to put him through.

It was a strange game yesterday. The kids are usually fearless and have brilliant movement and a high passing tempo but it seemed to stall last night. I suppose we have to give credit to Spurs (unfortunately) who did have their strongest possible team out. And after being beaten by Arsene twice this season already Juande Ramos was always going to make sure his side didn’t lose again.

1-1 is a decent result, because Arsenal WILL score at White Hart Lane and if Arsenal score twice in the second leg it’s pretty much game over.