How Has Arsene Turned It All Around?

Well I’ll be damned.

If my figures are correct then Arsenal are now 16 games unbeaten in the Premier League.

And I’m not sure what I’m surprised about the most. Because the first few months of this season were shambolic. Seriously, it was agonising to watch. There was no desire, no effort and we were losing to teams like Hull City, Fulham and Stoke.

Amazingly now we’re in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup and in 4th place in the Premier League, 3 points ahead of Aston Villa (albeit they have a game in hand).

And we are actually 10 points behind Manchester United, who many people have been calling ‘untouchable’ throughout this Premier League campaign. Now I’m not saying we’ve got a chance of winning the league, but if you consider the amount of stupid points we’ve dropped (with sloppy defeats and unnecessary draws) then we’d be right in the race.

The gap between us and the other top 3 teams has seemed mammoth at times this season but are we really that far behind?

It’s an old cliché but football really is a funny old game.

Because only a few weeks ago things looked so bleak for Arsenal, where we were minutes away from being 8 points adrift of Aston Villa.

So why have things suddenly started to look up?

The first reason is the arrival of a certain Andrei Arshavin. Seriously, this guy is quality.

He is truly a world-class player and I love him. He’s intelligent, energetic, full of skill and already has a handful of assists to his name. He’s also got an eye for goal (unlike previous midfielders who now warm benches in Barcelona) and adds a new dimension to this young Arsenal side. His arrival at Arsenal was a much needed injection of hope for the club and it’s no co-incidence that his arrival would coincide with our best form of the season.

The only downside is that we can’t use him in Europe, because he has the ability to make the difference in these kind of games.

But we also can’t ignore the recent form of Aston Villa.

While Arsenal have been solid in defence (although you wouldn’t think it if you saw some of the goals we concede), Aston Villa have been leaking goals and have literally been in free-fall. They haven’t actually won a game (in all competitions) since February 7th, when they beat Blackburn Rovers in the league.

Since then they have been knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton, threw away the UEFA Cup against CSKA Moscow and drawn 1 game and lost 3 in their previous 4 Premier League matches.

And this weekend they have to face Liverpool (who are as of writing trailing 3-0).

Then there is the faith Arsene has put in his players.

Bendtner, Song, Denilson, Diaby and Eboue have been the main focus of debate among Arsenal fans and I guess that even now most people are still undecided about these particular players.

Eboue has to be one of the most infuriating players Arsene has ever had during his time at Arsenal. We know he explosive pace and has the ability to take on players but his form has been too inconsistent. He is certainly the player with the most highs and lows this season and you just don’t know what you’re going to get. His form of late has been good though so that would have kept most fans onside, for now.

And I’ve always liked Nicklas Bendtner.

I can’t fault his workrate and he is far more intelligent than Adebayor. He is more of a team player and while his touch can be poor it’s still better than the Ade’s. And the key for me is this kid is improving all the time and is hungry. On the other hand it seems like Adebayor just can’t be bothered anymore. His body language and behaviour haven’t been the best and since his pay-rise it would appear that he has lost his desire.

But hopefully he’ll prove me wrong when he returns and goes on to help Arsenal finish the season strongly.

How about Song, Denilson and Diaby?

Personally, I’m not a fan of Song. As a squad player I think he’s adequate to fill in now and then but he’s just not good enough for Arsenal. When you talk about players like Cesc and Arshavin then Song isn’t really fit enough to clean their boots.

Denilson is a tough one, but overall this season I’ve been impressed with him. Whenever I’ve watched him play he’s been solid and done a job for the team. Not very glamorous but keeps the side ticking over with simple passes and protecting the back four. It’s not his job to make things happen so to an extent some of the criticism he’s had is unfair. He’s still very young and you can see that Denilson is a player who will improve with more experience.

And then we have Diaby. I’ve liked him when he’s played out wide or in the hole because he’s not afraid to shoot and he has the ability to pick out a dangerous pass. I think he’s a good player but you wonder where his place in the team is if Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri and Arshavin are all fit.

The final thing to say is thank you Arsene for setting up a potentially exciting end to the season.

Because during the first half of the campaign I (like many others) doubted the ability and desire of this current squad.

Cesc ‘Spitting’ Is Just A Smokescreen For Allardyce

As Arseblog has already said, Phil Brown and Sam Allardyce are good friends. They worked together at Bolton Wanderers, they appeared on Goals on Sunday together and no doubt both bought their bluetooth handsets at the same time.

And since last night there’s been all kinds of stories flying around. The Times have been stirring with a video which they believe shows Fabregas spit in Ballack’s face when we played Bayern in the Champions League a few years ago. I remember watching the game and seeing replays at the time and it was clear back then Michael Ballack was trying to get Cesc booked by pretending he got spat in the face. Straight after he got up and didn’t wipe anything off his face – let’s not make any mistake here, if Ballack got spat in the face he’d be wiping it and showing the spit to the referee.

But there’s nothing like a grainy YouTube video to sway the idiots.

Cesc came out and said:

“I categorically deny that I spat at anybody after the match. I have never done this in my whole career on the pitch, so why would I do it when I am not even playing?

“I can understand the frustration of losing a game to a dubious goal, that has happened to me many times in my career as well. But this is not the fault of me or any of the Arsenal players.”

And to be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cesc spit while playing football. Ever. And I watch a lot of Arsenal games.

Riquelme on the other hand is a different story. When he was about to take that penalty against Lehmann in the Champions League I saw him spit 15 times. I actually counted.

But on the other side, Phil Brown has been made to look quite stupid. Many (if not all) of his accusations against Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have been found out to be completely false. He is quoted as saying that he wasn’t surprised that Arsene Wenger didn’t shake his hand since he didn’t when Arsene refused to when Hull beat Arsenal earlier in the season at the Emirates. Although this picture would suggest otherwise.

And on this post-match interview with the BBC, he says that he saw Cesc Fabregas spit Brian Horton and goes on to say ‘whether it’s at his feet, his face, his body, it doesn’t matter…’ What the hell does that mean? Apparently there’s also discrepancies with his stories – saying he saw the spitting incident just off the pitch, and then inside the tunnel. Cesc must have been busy!

But it’s funny how all the disgraceful antics of Blackburn Rovers have been forgotten.

Firstly the shocking and diving ‘tackle’ by El Hadji Diouf. That was so bad it’s untrue – and the worst thing about it all is that 4 days on it’s completely forgotten. How can the FA not look at that and issue any kind of punishment? The ball was nowhere near Almunia at that point and to be quiet honest we’ve seen less serious incidents punished retrospectively.

If anything it was worse than the Eduardo tackle, and it’s clear that Diouf flew in and intended to hurt the player. And if we’re on the subject of spitting…

Then there was the dive from Morten Gamst Pedersen. Now when I saw the reply I admitted I actually laughed – it was that ridiculous. And the fact he got up and put his hands in the air asking for a penalty made it a million times worse.

It should will be one of the ‘hilarious’ clips played around the world for years to come.

But obviously because of Phil Brown being a c*nt all these things are now just a distant memory. I’m just glad Almunia is still walking.

Is Anyone Bothered About Arsenal Anymore?

I wrote how Arsenal were in free-fall back in August.

Funny how everyone thought it was a knee jerk reaction to the defeat away at Fulham, but I think most Arsenal fans saw it coming a mile away. And here we sit in March, hoping that Aston Villa lose games.

How pathetic is that?

Arsenal were always wasteful in front of goal but now this weakness really has reached new levels. It’s so hard to understand now lesser teams can play defensive and wait for their chances and take them. How many times have you seen teams defend in huge numbers at The Emirates and nick a goal on the break?

Why the hell are those teams so clinical and we’re not?

The ONLY saving grace over the last few weeks is Van Persie scored against Roma. But don’t let the 1-0 scoreline fool you – if we didn’t get a penalty we would have never scored from open play, and we’d be travelling to Rome in a couple of weeks with a 0-0 scoreline.

The bottom line we don’t have players who can shoot. Yes, Adebayor is out but he needs 6 chances to score anyway. The only players who I feel confident of taking a chance when it comes are Eduardo and Van Persie, and unfortunately Van Persie is feeling the pressure of being the only player who can score for us.

I will be utterly stunned if we’re not playing in the UEFA Cup next season.

And as bad as that would be, at least it would serve as a wake up call to our club who seem comfortable and almost happy to be a million miles away from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.