Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dortmund Preview

So tonight is a big game, against very tough opposition. In Europe there are no easy games, and Dortmund are practically flying at the moment, with 5 wins in 6 including a confidence boosting win over Bayern last weekend.

At their place, the atmosphere was booming, and we looked shaky to the swift attacking movements of 'the German messi' Gotze. We took the lead though, and defended well in the second half until a marvelous goal snatched the 3 points from us.

Tonight, both teams will have improved greatly. We have slowly been putting together a decent run of form, whilst they have been adapting to Champions League football. 

Arsene says:
"I believe that both teams have improved since. We have grown, they have grown. They had a difficult start, we had a difficult start and both teams have improved since. But we feel strong enough to be at home and finish the job."

So tonight will be a tough, tight game and will have a big outcome on how the group is decided. A win would guarantee progression to the knock-out stages, and hopefully give us a chance to rest some key players (ie Van Persie) when we go to Greece in a few weeks. But before we can even consider that we need to get the job done tonight - and today will be one of our trickiest games we've played in a while.

The team will probably be full strength:
Szczesny Koscielny Vermaelen Mertesacker Santos Song Arteta Ramsey Walcott Van Persie Gervinho

Rosicky has picked up a small thigh strain, but is replaced on the bench by Abou Diaby who hasn't featured in a football match since god knows when. There are small hints that Arshavin may be given a run-out, but I think he'll stick with the current winning side for now.

Let's hope things go to plan.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mikel Arteta - Efficient,Effective

In this international break, and what a boring one it has been to be honest, a lot has been said on Arteta, the player who plays for that country which is so good that he'll probably never even get in their squad and the country that will probably demolish England at Wembley on Saturday causing all the papers declaring them "best ever" blah blah blah. But back to Mikel.

Since arriving at the end of the summer, the silky Spaniard has nestled straight into the first team, and scored his second goal of the season with an excellent finish on Saturday. 

 After his first 8 games it is probably fair to say that he is as neat and tidy on the pitch as he is off it, and he has already become a vital cog in the team with Wilshere's injury.

His desire and attitude is excellent to see as well (not everyone can become captain in a David Moyes side) and sharply contrasts previous limp, 'unbothered' attitudes of players previously at the club. 

The story of him and Mert getting all the players to eat together at the training ground is exactly the thing we want to hear, and it is already apparent that team morale is quite high at the moment. At least while we're winning. 

He was signed for 10 million, with everyone thought he was a direct replacement for Cesc. Yet on assessment, this could not be further from the truth. Mikel has setteled into the deeper role in midfield, tucked next to song and slightly behind Ramsey. The 'Wilshere role' effectively.

Like young Jack, the 29 year old has boundless energy and never stops working for the team. 

Whilst we are frustrated at not signing the more glamorous Hazard or Gotze etc. Arteta is doing a sound job at the moment and is keeping together the young midfield. He has even averaged 10 more touches per game than our previous Spaniard did last season and his goals/game ratio is a lot better. Although again we must reiterate that you cannot compare the two. Arteta is bringing a lot to the team though, and he has more in him too. Now it feels like we have a lot of potential goals form midfield, with Ramsey and Arteta being accomplished finishers and even Song chipping in the the occasional goal.

He is not a "perfect" player either, and can drift from games, or not make a telling contribution for a whole 90 minutes. Something Wilshere/Cesc or even Ramsey never fail to do. Arteta has even made key errors such as needless free-kicks around our box and failing to follow his man from a throw-in against Tottenham. However, Mikel is the archetype of the "new Arsenal" that Wenger is creating this season. Hardworking, experienced, hungry and quietly effective.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Back to Basics - Arsenal 0-0 Marseille

Another quite boring game for Arsenal, and just 2 weeks after the last Marseille game. Yet this time we didn't finish on the winning side. A clean sheet, with a possible new cb partnership - although I think the Verm/Kos pairing has some potential - will be something to build on, and the chances we made could have easily been enough to win the game. We had 7 shots on target to their 1, and maybe if Robin had started the game things would have been different.

Overall, 4 points from both Marseille games is what we wanted, but having had a good win away it would have put us in an excellent position had we won tonight.
We started poorly and the Verm/Mertesacker combination was tested straight away. However as the game progressed we quickly became the better team and Ramsey in particular looked very dangerous.

Theo looked bright after an excellent performance at Chelsea and shot just wide after 15 minutes. Gervinho was full of running and looked our best chance of a goal, however (and this is something we talked about when he first joined the club) he lacked a quality final ball which made some attacks very infuriating.

The only slight negatives were from Park, who tried to mirror a Chamakh performance by being as ineffective as possible, and Santos, who was targeted by Marseille after his continuous attacking efforts. The Brazilian was leaving wide gaps behind him, but after half time I think he adressed this problem and he didn't have a terrible game against their best player.

The introduction of Robin probably led many to believe we were in the ascendancy after a very dull start to the second half. On the other hand, it was the French side who grew into the game, and were it not for some excellent defensive reading by Vermaelen and Mertesacker we may have been in trouble.

Ramsey, who squandered the best chance of the match, was replaced by Rosicky who set up Vanp Perise, but the Dutchman's chip was a few inches from avoiding the keepers grasp. Arshavin also came on for Gervinho, but failed to really get on the ball and make an influence, so when the game petered out into a draw noone was very surprised.

Szczesny 6 Jenkinson 6 Mertesacker 7 Vermaelen 7.5 Santos 5.5 Song 6.5 Arteta 6 Ramsey 7 Walcott 6.5 Park 5 Gervinho 6

Subs: Van Persie 6 Rosicky 6 Arshavin 5.5

That result gives us some food for thought. We cannot rest the majority of our players in the remaining games, and Dortmund (home) as well as a trip to Olympiakos cannot be underestimated. We are still in pole position in the group though, so cannot get too down hearted. 

After the game Theo Walcott said:
"Saturday (the 5-3 win over Chelsea) did take a lot out of us but yet again we were solid at the back. We need to be winning our home matches, but we know what to expect in the Champions League."

The unglamourousness of a 0-0 may have taken away some of the hype surrounding the squad after Saturday's exploits, however it also keeps the players grounded and we can focus on another very important 3 points at the weekend. The main thing to realise is that, whilst the 5-3 was an excellent result and performance, we still have a lot of work to be done this season. Whilst Arsene said last week that we had two cup finals approaching (the Chelsea and Marseille games) in fact we have to treat every league game as a cup final for at least the next few months as we simply can't afford to slip up.

Here's to 3 points at the weekend, Come on you Gunners!