Live From Wigan: Wenger Is A Disgrace

I’m currently travelling back from Wigan and what a disgrace that was.

From the 60th minute, it was clear as day that Bendtner and Arshavin should have come off. Despite scoring the goals, they contributed absolutely nothing. Arshavin lost the ball time and time again, which lead to most of Wigan’s dangerous moments. He was absolutely awful, and Bendtner was the same.

Sagna had no defensive help whatsoever and with Eboue filling in at left back, you would think Wenger would have played Theo or Nasri who would have helped defensively. Wigan attacked at ease at times and the last ditch defending from the two central defenders was a sign that they were poorly exposed.

The fact was Wenger got it badly wrong. Every Arsenal fan in the ground could see that once Wigan went down to 10 men and we were still leading 2-1 it was time to change things and bring on Theo or Nasri to put Wigan on the back foot. Instead, Wenger chose to leave things as they were and the inevitable happened – Wigan scored. After it went 2-2 then Wenger brought the two substitutions on with only 10 minutes left – too little too late!

His substitutions have always been poor and this game was there for the taking. Two pointless points dropped. I can’t see how he fails to see things all the fans are talking about during the game. What was the point of leaving on Arshavin or Bendtner? They were clearly a burden on the team during the second half!

On the positive side, Rosicky, Wilshire and Denilson were excellent in midfield. Chamakh also did well in holding the ball up but time after time Arshavin and Bendtner would needlessly lose possession. Theo and Nasri looked bright when they came on but you can’t give them 10 minutes and expect miracles.

I know rotation was necessary after the Chelsea game but the fact was there were too many changes. Arshavin has been poor recently and to get 80 minutes is shocking. At 2-1 it was obvious what needed doing and it never came. The points are the most important thing and with last seasons debacle you think we would have learnt our lesson. Last year the Wigan fans chanted “Two nil and you fucked it up” and tonight it was “Two one and you fucked it up”. 

What a disgrace.

Have Everton Helped Arsenal Win The League?

Everton’s surprise victory at Manchester City tonight means that Manchester United are the Christmas Number One, with Arsenal second and Manchester City third. Chelsea will see Christmas in fourth place.

History tells us that Arsenal being second in the league at Christmas has served as a lucky omen.

In the 2001/2002 and 2003/2004 seasons, when Arsenal ended up lifting the Premier League trophy come May, Arsenal sat second in the league when the country were tucking into their Christmas turkeys and forcing down sprouts.

The only other two times Arsenal sat in second come Christmas in the last decade was in the 2000/2001 and 2004/2005 seasons, and in both of those campaigns Arsenal finish as Premier League runners-up.

So will Arsenal finish at least second this season?

Well this particular Arsenal supporter will be clutching to any straws he can find and will hope so.

And finally, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Big Game, Big Expectations – Big Disappointment…

I don’t know why I bother with Manchester United v Arsenal matches. Afterwards I end up feeling utterly shite.

Alex Ferguson has used the exact same game-plan for the last 5 seasons now and it works. While the “experts” at Sky were “stunned” that Berbatov wasn’t playing, I, like a lot of Arsenal fans I suspect, wasn’t at all surprised.

It’s the same old story, and Arsene Wenger either hasn’t realised it or doesn’t have the tactical knowledge how to deal with it.

It’s always Rooney up top, and two quick players either side to hit us on the break. These days it’s Nani and Park, and several years ago it was Ronaldo and Park.

If we know what United are going to do, then shouldn’t Arsene?

The sad thing was that Manchester United were there for the taking. Don’t get me wrong, they deserved to win tonight, but a big part of that was because we didn’t perform. We had glimpses here and there but there was no belief at all. I haven’t seen a team that was top of the league play with such a lack of confidence.

Is it the stadium? It is the team? Or was it the game-plan?

Whatever it was, Arsenal ran out of ideas, and lacked any kind of urgency.

Throughout the game and even at the end I had the belief that we could nick a goal so it was a shame that the players didn’t. Words to describe the performance are lethargic, tired and uninspired. And from a side that should be full of confidence it is frustrating and depressing.

This Manchester United side is the weakest for a long time. Yet we gifted them the victory and they didn’t find it very hard. I’d like to see what kind of spin Arsene puts on this performance.

The goal when it came was fortunate, or genius, depending on how you look at it. Apart from that, and the ridiculous penalty decision, United never really put Chesney Hawkes under any kind of pressure. Unfortunately, Van Der Sar have virtually nothing to do as well.

United sat deep and soaked up all the pressure with consummate ease. We never got in behind and while we had good spells of possession it was tame and it was almost playing at The Emirates.

Clichy was badly exposed time and time again and did well to cope with Nani on his own. As I’ve already mentioned, the penalty decision was farcical and for the linesman to gesture that he moved his arm towards the ball was completely ridiculous! Replays clearly showed that Clichy was on the floor and Nani poked the ball onto his arm. Clichy’s face wasn’t even looking where the ball was at the time.

As the second half went on you just hoped that someone in an Arsenal shirt could create that special moment but it never came.

People compare Arsenal to Barcelona but everything they do is incisive and dangerous. They ripped apart Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago and we are light-years away from that. We need to be far more clinical against the top teams and so far against Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and now Manchester United we haven’t been.

Maybe we can do what Manchester United did a couple of seasons ago and win the title against the other teams in the league, and almost write off the games against the Top Four. They managed to hammer everyone else in the league and lift the title, so I guess that’s our biggest chance.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny: 7/10
Bacary Sagna: 7/10
Laurent Koscielny: 6/10
Sebastien Squillaci: 6/10
Gael Clichy: 7/10
Alex Song: 7/10
Jack Wilshire: 6/10
Tomas Rosicky: 6/10
Andrei Arshavin: 5/10
Samir Nasri: 6/10
Marouane Chamakh: 8/10

Substitutes:

Cesc Fabregas: 5/10
Robin Van Persie: 5/10
Theo Walcott: 6/10

Manager Ratings:

Arsene Wenger: 5/10

Can Arsenal Actually Beat Manchester United?

Manchester United (Old Trafford, Manchester)
Premier League Fixture – Matchday 17
Monday 13th December 2010
Kick Off: 8pm – Live on Sky Sports 1

Let’s look at the different areas we usually take into consideration when previewing a game:

The Bookies:

Depending where you look, Manchester United are roughly evens, Arsenal are 3/1 and a draw is around 2/1. 3/1 is pretty high for Arsenal and on their day I believe we can beat anyone, with the possible exception of Barcelona.

The Form Book:

This is an interesting one.

In the last 5 games (home and away) it is Arsenal that have the best record overall in the league with 4 wins and a defeat, giving us a total of 12 points from a possible 15. Manchester United are a close second, with 3 wins and 2 draws, giving them 11 points from a possible 15.

But when you look specifically at home and away form, then you are dealing with the two home and away records in the league. Manchester have the best home record this season, with 7 wins and a draw from 8 games. They are undefeated in all games this season but away from home they have struggled, with only 1 win and 6 draws.

Arsenal on the other had have struggled at home (with defeats to Newcastle, West Brom and Tottenham) but have the best away record in the Premier League, with 5 wins, 2 draws and only the 1 defeat. So this game is a match-up between the best home team and the best away team.

As the old cliché goes, something has got to give!

The Referee:

The referee assigned to officiate this match is Howard Webb. I’m not sure what his record is for Manchester United, but at least he is a referee that doesn’t shirk the big decisions. At Old Trafford the main concern I have is over the big decisions, such as penalty incidents and whether they will be awarded to us if they are a blatant foul.

The good, and bad news, with Howard Webb is that from the last 9 Arsenal games he has refereed we have won 6 and drawn 3. The last game we lost with Howard Webb as the referee? Manchester United at Old Trafford in April 2008…

The Top Four Hoodoo:

Our very poor record against Chelsea and Manchester United over the last few seasons has been well-documented and the fact is that in the last 10 games against those sides we’ve failed to win any, losing 9 of them. And in the last 9 games we’ve played at Manchester United we’ve lost 7 of them. Arsenal are going to have to break a trend if they want to get anything from Old Trafford. Both Manchester United and Chelsea aren’t as strong as they were in previous seasons so if Arsenal are ever going to beat them, the time is now.

The Defence:

This is the main concern for Arsenal. Going forward we are as good as anyone and with Samir Nasri playing the best football of his career so far we are always a threat. So don’t be surprised if Manchester United single him out for some “rough” treatment.

But at the back, it is a really worry. If United are on form and sharp then it’s going to give us all sorts of problems. I never thought I’d be saying this, but Fabianski has pretty much kept us in a few games this season with some vital saves. Against Wolves was a prime example, and even against Fulham last week we needed to call upon his services far too much for my liking. And when you consider that was against players like Kamara then somehow I don’t think Rooney, Berbatov or Nani will be quite so accommodating.

Although I feel that he had a good start to the season, I think Koscielny has struggled recently. Squillaci is also hit and miss and personally I would be more comfortable with Djourou at the back. Whenever I’ve seen him (the away games against Wolves and Everton come to mind) he has been excellent. He makes good recovery challenges, is strong in the air and has good positional play. Even more importantly he makes vital interceptions. If we start with a defensive partnership of Squillaci and Koscielny then I will be concerned. The form of Nasri has masked the deficiencies at the back and I just hope that Arsene has noticed this and comes up with a way of sorting this problem out.

My solution would be to play Djourou alongside the lesser of two evils, Squillaci.

The Gut Feeling:

Call it blind optimism or plain stupidly, but I think we can do a job at Old Trafford. Of course, I realise that it is one hell of an ask and it will take some luck but if Arsenal are focused and give 110% then anything is possible. As so often with these big encounters, the first goal really is crucial. If we get it, then we will need the second but if United score first then it will be a massive uphill battle.

We’ve been hanging onto games recently (and just about come away unscathed) and in a weird way that might have prepared us better for any possibly onslaught United might throw at us. Our problems this season haven’t been from collapsing at the end of matches, but conceding stupid goals and having to chase the match. And hopefully the lesson against Tottenham will finally be learnt.

Although he hasn’t scored for a while and his form isn’t great, my biggest worry is Wayne Rooney.

He always seems to do it against us. He scored his first ever Premier League goal against us (that stunner into the top corner against David Seaman), his first Premier League goal for Manchester United against us and his 100th league goal against us! And just when you think he hasn’t battered us enough he scored in both Premier League games against us last season.

If you’re a betting man, a Wayne Rooney goal might be worth backing.