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That top performance wins us a trip on the Orient Express! Will deadline day bring a smile to our faces?

January 31, 2011

I jest of course, to say we made hard work of the game is an understatement.

The changes we anticipated took place.

Three minutes in and Arshavin had the opportunity to give us the perfect start but a man so low in confidence fluffed his lines for not the first time this season, Bendtner followed suit a few minutes later with a poor effort from close range.

Arshavin was busy but nothing really went right for the little Russian.

Twenty minutes in and Nasri played a lovely chip towards Nikki but his effort, well, it was awful!

Soon after, Bendtner had another chance after being played in by Nasri again but this time he managed to control the ball and drive a hard shot in towards… (the corner flag) thankfully for him though, the Huddersfield defender Peter Clarke stuck a leg out and the ball deflected into the net. 1-0.

No doubt all Arsenal fans thought the floodgates would open, how wrong would we be!

Soon after we scored, Pilkington fired over a low cross from the right and Lee just failed to get on the end of it. Denilson then gifted the ball to Lee who played out wide to Pilkington – his shot went just wide passed the far post.

Same old for us, all possession but we lacked the cutting edge, Arshavin played a back heel to Nikki B but his shot on the angle was saved easily, well, he saved it!

Not too long after and every Arsenal fans fear came real, Nasri pulled up clutching his hamstring – off he went and that’s probably him out for both Barcelona fixtures, not to mention out for the league games!

Huddersfield then went close twice but we held on.

Then just before half time, Hunt had the ball at his feet, another Huddersfield player was lurking to his right in a clear offside position, but Hunt played the ball ahead of himself, went to go passed Squillaci but the Frenchman blocked his path. Obstruction thought Mark Clattenburg! Not only did he think it was a foul, he showed the defender a straight red card. No matter how many times I have watched it, it’s soft but it was right, picture the same scenario had it been one of our players in Hunts position…

Denilson filled the gap up until half time!

As expected, Alex Song appeared in the second half, Chamakh making way for the midfielder defender.

The second half was very different, in the opening minutes Arshavin hit the side netting when a cross ball looked the better option but with another chance gone, Huddersfield played with more belief. Around the fifty-five minute mark the little Russian chased back and got a crucial and perfect timed tackle in on Gudjonsson who looked destined to score.

Huddersfield then went very close to getting a deserved goal with two headed chances which were thankfully off target. Then just on the hour Almunia made an outstanding save, one that reminded me of the Spunky years, the save he made against Sheffield United sprang into my mind. I thought they had scored and then Big Al’s hand reached out and made the save.

A Huddersfield goal seemed not far away and finally it came on the 66th minute from a corner. Pilkington crossed the perfect ball into the box for Lee to head home. 1-1 and for me there looked like only one winner out there yesterday and it wasn’t us.

As expected, on came our captain in place of Diaby and again he would save our blushes!

For a player who is supposed to be no leader, his arrival sparked a bit of life into the Arsenal side, Koscielny had a shot blocked and Nikki headed over the bar. Nikki followed this with another shot over the bar and Arshavin followed suit with another shot over. We looked a little more settled but still in desperate need for a winner. We didn’t want or need a replay!

Ten minutes left to play and Denilson pulled up, clutching his hamstring! The smile on my face was short-lived, after treatment is was up and playing again. The game seemed to be heading for a replay until Bendtner was heading for goal when he was bundled over by McCombe. Two big decisions for Clattenburg, he got one right and bottled the second. Squillaci was sent off for a similar foul earlier in the game, this time the perpetrator was only show yellow.

Anyway, up stepped our little Spaniard, 2-1 and game over!

I think Cesc Fabregas being awarded the Man of the Match award says it all and if he doesn’t soon get a proper rest he’ll be the next player to pull up with an injury. No disrespect to Huddersfield but that starting eleven should have won the game on their own and not need the help of Cesc Fabregas. Were they having a off day, were Huddersfield better or is it that they are just not good enough to be trusted?

The win sees us head off on our travels to play Leyton Orient, another League 1 side! We always seem to better on our travels, we’ll certainly need to be a lot better than we were yesterday.

That’s it for the match report. I’ll leave it to you all to praise yesterday’s performance in the comments!

Oh, deadline day in the transfer window, with Squillaci now out for three matches, I wonder if Wenger will ‘try for someone’…

Have a good day…..

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How could you say such a thing Bouldy?? Huddersfield in Town today……

January 30, 2011

Ok, a bit tongue in cheek about Steve Bould. According to old favourite Paul Merson, a little while back the two of them were sat talking about the up and coming players at Arsenal and Merse asked who was going to be the ones to watch.

Bouldy said:

We’ve got this boy called Jack, he’s going to be a top, top player. You won’t believe how good he is going to be.

He said he was so good, he reminded him of Gazza (Paul Gascoigne for those who didn’t know)

Gazza was a great player in his day but sadly his off field antics were to be his downfall and I’m sure he ever truly got from the game what his talent and ability deserved. Wilshere has had a couple of brushes with the law which I hope has taught him a lesson and hopefully now he’ll settle down and not follow in the footsteps of a few English players who have appeared more times in front of a magistrate than they probably did their headmaster/mistress!

Thankfully Jack is reported to be tee-total, phew! I think he’ll will be better than Gazza and if he keeps his head screwed on, he’ll play for many more years that Gazza did.

On to today, we’ve already covered the connection between the two sides playing today and the sentiment behind that connection but when kick off arrives, that needs to be forgotten. We are in all four; we want all four so forget the so-called ‘gulf’ between the two sides, approach Huddersfield as if it were Barcelona, focus and get the right result. We don’t need a draw, we need a win.

I love the FA Cup and I’m sure we all want another date at Wembley so the team best not think this is done and dusted before it begins. It isn’t! Huddersfield will come to The Emirates with nothing to lose but they will also be very aware of the fact that Arsene Wenger will make changes, many changes!

To be fair, we all hoped the changes would be made today rather than in the midweek game just gone, so we can’t really moan today can we?

I don’t know much about Huddersfield FC and I’m not going to pretend I do, my knowledge ends at the Herbert Chapman connection and that’s no disrespect to our opposition. Their leading scorer Jordan Rhodes is out with an ankle injury and our teenager Benik Afobe cannot play whilst on a youth loan. Huddersfield are also without their defender Tamas Kadar with hamstring trouble.

Huddersfield are 45 places below us in the league but this is the FA Cup, league standings mean very little.

The last time we met was in the 1993/94 League Cup, we went through in the end 6-1 on aggregate. The last time we lost to today’s opposition was in 1971 but we have never lost to them in a cup competition!

Speculation is that Almunia will make his return today, as will Squillaci. Diaby and Rosicky are also in contention for a return. I think both Djourou and Koscielny could be rested and young Miguel will make his first start but I could be wrong; after all, I’m just ‘some woman off the internet’ ;)

On that note, that’s it – changes yes, they are needed but I hope those who get their chance today play well, certainly well enough to take us into the next round of the FA Cup. I also hope a few of the big boys are on the bench, just in case.

Have a good day all, don’t forget it’s an early start – 12.00 here in the UK.

Stats say it all for Al! Vela joins Baggies.

January 29, 2011

Yesterdays post was all about Herbert Chapman and today a few newspapers a running articles on the great man, I have taken two extracts from one of them.

Why don’t you like close passing?

‘Usually the ball merely travels across the field, and perhaps back again, without any advantage being gained. I want the best possible football but it must have a ‘kick’ in it.’

If you had one guiding principle, what would it be?

‘There is one golden rule: it is never safe to be satisfied. No matter how good the team may be, there should always be an attempt to improve it. It is sometimes suggested that a winning team are got together by luck. This has not been my experience. One has to watch a team like a thermometer.

Did Chapman know we would sign Denilson and as for the second extract, maybe someone should get Arsene to read it. ;)

We all knew it would happen but I bet none of us thought Carlos Vela would end up at West Brom for his loan. Suggestion is that Vela’s agent made demands that were just a bit too much for Bolton. I don’t think it makes too much different really where he goes in the Premier League as long as he gets playing time which is all he needs to build his confidence. The Baggies boss Roberto Di Matteo is obviously very pleased,

Arsenal and Carlos had a lot of options and I’m delighted both the club and player have chosen us.
It’s been well documented that Arsenal were keen for Carlos to stay in this country and the Premier League but I think a key factor was that they looked favourably on our style of play and performances this season.

So that puts to bed any kind of thoughts we had about getting Gary Cahill with Vela included in the deal, in fact, I have finally accepted that we won’t see any new centre half  at our club despite Wenger again saying yesterday he is not ruling out a loan deal. Squillaci is back tomorrow so as long as he doesn’t suffer any ‘setback’, old Ebenezer will keep his money in his pocket!

Woodgate turned down a loan offer yesterday, surely he wouldn’t would he? ;)

Another player who surely now will look to making his exit before the end of this transfer window has to be Manuel Almunia. How can he go from being understudy to Mad Jens, finally getting the number one position to reading he will from now on be a ‘Cup Keeper’. I know he shouldn’t be our first choice keeper but if I were him, I’d know I could be at another club and I’d want to move as soon as possible.

Wenger said:

At the moment Wojciech is the number one. He’s done nothing for me to take him out. It is down to the others to challenge him, but I can rotate the goalkeepers and in the cups I sometimes play different goalkeepers.
We have four good keepers at the club. You can always feel sorry for the three who do not play. Almunia has not played for a long, long time. He has been injured for a long time and in a situation like that you feel jobless.

He’s under contract and as long as he is at the club we’re happy to have him. I like him as a man and as a player and I have shown that in my decisions. I am happy that he’s here. Of course I feel for him.

For any doubters of our young Pole, he has conceded only four goals — one every 203 minutes. Fabianski has been beaten every 83 minutes and Almunia every 90. Both Szczesny and Fabianski have kept five clean sheets this season, but the latter has played 1,020 more minutes. Szczesny also has a 100 per cent catch rate and has not dropped a ball in 11 attempts, while Fabianski has a success rate of 94.4 per cent.

So there you go, probably no new centre half coming in and I think Wengers comments mean we won’t be getting a new goal keeper in either, not for a long while but for once, the latter doesn’t sound quite so bad does it?

That’s it for today, have a good one….

Huddersfield Town FC, Arsenal FC and Herbert Chapman – standing side by side……

January 28, 2011

On Sunday Huddersfield Town come to The Emirates in the FA Cup, both teams will stand side by side in the tunnel before entering on to the green grass.

Born in 1878, Chapman played for many clubs, including the Tiny Totts but most Arsenal and Huddersfield fans will think of his managerial career when hearing his name.

Chapman was at Leeds when naughtiness surrounding illegal payments hit the headlines. Chapman was banned from football along with a few others and employment took him to the Coke Works in Selby. In the winter of 1920, the company was sold and he was laid off.

Huddersfield FC stepped in, successfully appealed his ban and he became their assistant manager in February the following year. The following month Chapman took over as manager. Chapman bought in a few good players and the following year Huddersfield won the FA Cup, beating Preston North End 1-0 in the final. The league results were not good but they finished 14th that season.

One of Englands Finest

Chapman believed in a strong defence, fast counter attacking football and short mazy runs from the wingers –  this was passed down through the club at reserve and beyond making it easy for players to slot into the first team when needed. Tactics and further purchases of good players changed Huddersfield and in the 1923/24 season they won their first league title. The following season they retained title despite falling to ninth at one stage. Injury meant Chapman signed a new keeper, Billy Mercer – they climbed back up the table, reaching top spot following a 5-0 win over Arsenal!! They finished the season as Champions.

In 1925, Chapman moved on from Huddersfield after applying for a ‘job’ in the Athletic News – He was the new manager of Arsenal Football Club, salary and larger crowds attracted him to the job…

He went on to repeat the same achievements with us as he did at Huddersfield, taking us from a mediocre club to runners up in the league in the 1925-26 season, funny enough five points behind his old club. Sadly, the following few seasons we would finish mid-table but Chapman was building his side.

Some of his signings were: pacy winger Joe Hulme, forward Jack Lambert and full-back Tom Parker. Despite struggling in the league, in 1927 we reached the FA Cup Final, only to lose 1-0 to Cardiff. The same year, Arsenal became embroiled in a scandal; footballers’ pay at the time was limited by a maximum wage, but an FA enquiry found that Charlie Buchan had received illegal payments from Arsenal as an incentive to sign. Sir Henry Norris was sacked for his part and banned from football, but Chapman survived. Norris was replaced by Samuel Hill-Wood.

Chapman bought in more players – David Jack in 1928, Alex James and Cliff Bastin in 1929. He added defensive players, Herbie Roberts and Eddie Hapgood. Herbert Chapman was a cunning old devil, the signing of David Jack proved this,  Bolton wanted a record fee of £13,000 for their player.

This is how Chapman got his man on the cheap according to his assistant Bob Wall:

We arrived at the hotel half-an-hour early. Chapman immediately went into the lounge bar. He called the waiter, placed two pound notes in his hand and said: “George, this is Mr Wall, my assistant. He will drink whisky and dry ginger. I will drink gin and tonic. We shall be joined by guests. They will drink whatever they like. See that our guests are given double of everything, but Mr Wall’s whisky and dry ginger will contain no whisky, and my gin and tonic will contain no gin.

The Bolton directors got tiddled and the deal was made at £10,890.

Chapman had a five year plan when he arrived and almost to the day we beat Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup Final 2-0, the league remained a struggle that season but that FA Cup win seemed to spur the team on and Chapman had laid the foundations for a decade in which became the most dominant team in England, eventually winning five league titles.

Chapman fell ill with a cold in the winter of 1933, a cold that turned into pneumonia, pneumonia that would take his life.

Herbert Chapman passed away on the 6 January 1934, his football club sat four points clear at the top of the league.

Chapman will be remembered as one of the first football managers in the modern sense of the word. Taking full charge of the team, rather than letting board members pick the side. As well as his tactical innovations, he was also a strong believer in physical fitness in football – he instituted a strict training regime and the use of physiotherapists and masseurs.

In tribute to his achievements at Arsenal, a bronze bust of Chapman, sculpted by Jacob Epstein resided inside the marble halls of the East Stand of Arsenal Stadium, Highbury until its closure in 2006 and will be reinstated there once redevelopment work in the stadium is completed. A replica sits in the Directors’ Entrance at Emirates Stadium; he is one of only two Arsenal managers to be honoured this way, the other being current manager Arsène Wenger. Furthermore, Arsenal’s white away kit for the 2007–08 season was dedicated to Chapman and his achievements.

Unlike many other English managers of his day, Chapman was a fan of the continental game and counted among his friends Hugo Meisl, coach of the Austrian “Wunderteam” of the 1930s. As long ago as 1909, he had taken his Northampton side on a tour of Germany to play Nuremberg  and at Arsenal he had instituted an ongoing series of home-and-away friendlies against the likes of Racing Club de Paris.

Chapman had proposed a Europe-wide club competition more than twenty years before the European Cup was instituted, and regularly took his teams abroad to play foreign sides. He was one of the first managers to consider signing black and foreign players; as well as signing Walter Tull, one of the first black professionals in the game, for Northampton Town in 1911, he attempted to recruit Austrian international goalkeeper Rudy Hiden for Arsenal in 1930, but was blocked by the Ministry of Labour, after protests from the Players’ Union and the Football League. He did however succeed in signing Gerard Keyser, the first Dutchman to play English league football, as an amateur the same year.

In 2003, Chapman was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact as a manager. An English Heritage blue plaque commemorating Chapman was unveiled in March 2005, at the house in Hendon where Chapman lived from 1926 until his death. The first player or manager to be commemorated in this way by English Heritage. In 2004, on the seventieth anniversary of his death, The Sunday Times named him the greatest British manager of all time in a poll.

From Huddersfield FC to Arsenal FC

Huddersfield Town were presented with a replica of Chapman’s bust by Arsenal to celebrate their centenary in 2008, Huddersfield also contested the inaugural Herbert Chapman Trophy against Arsenal at the Galpharm Stadium on 6 August 2008, which Arsenal won 2–1.

It was in the 1930 FA Cup Final between his old and current club he suggested the two teams walk onto the pitch side by side – that was the first time of this ever happening and we all know it remains that way today.

So, for all Huddersfield and Arsenal fans, Sunday will be quite a special day……

Sorry it’s gone on a bit! There is plenty more to write about the great Herbert Chapman and I hope today both sets of fans can bring that to the comments……

And yes, I had to research Wikkipedia as even at my old age, I cannot recall the Herbert Chapman era…. ;)

Have a good day all………

Arshavin’s lost it, defender signs and midfielder leaves.

January 27, 2011

The defender signing is young seventeen year old Martin Angha – it’s his first professional contract with the club. All I can find out about him is that he is Swiss, he’s just over 6’ 0” tall and we signed him from FC Zürich when he was just fifteen years old – his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt was for the under 15’s in a 2-1 victory over Chelsea. All in front of 3000 people at Emirates Stadium.

Well, if he’s Johan Djorou type of Swiss we have a good one, if it’s a Senderos Swiss, let’s hope Drogba has retired before the young lad plays ;)

As one signs, another goes out on loan and that’s Craig Eastmond, He’s off to Milwall, the club where it all began for him….
Craig Eastmond is a born and bred South Londoner and he first signed for Millwall when he was eight years old. His brother Gavin also joined the same club. In 2007, Eastmond signed professional terms with Arsenal but for the time being he’s looking forward to going back to where it all began.

I used to play for Millwall before I came to Arsenal so I still have a few mates there, but obviously that was a long time ago. I left Millwall when I was 11 but it’s not bad to go home from time to time. Obviously new players will have come in since I left, so I will have to adapt to them. There were a few teams in for me but I chose Millwall.

I wasn’t getting into the first team so I thought I’d see if I could go on loan. A few teams came in for me, so I thought I would see how it goes. I asked the boss and he said you can’t go on loan at the moment but we will see at the end of January.

I wasn’t involved in the FA Cup or the Carling Cup so I knocked on his door again and he said OK. I want to play regularly in the first team and then come back and see how it goes. Of course I want to come back to Arsenal and prove that I can get into the first team. That’s the aim.

Well, I won’t be at all surprised if Eastmond stays at Millwall – he was given a chance last year in the Carling Cup and I’m not sure he did enough. In any case, I think young Frimpong is next in line now. I hope I’m wrong, I hope he gets plenty of playing time at Millwall, bulks up a bit and comes back a much stronger player both physically and mentally.

Little Jack say’s that our current crop are ravenous for success after being starved of trophies since 2005.

There is a hunger among the players to win something – it has been so long that we have almost forgotten what it is like, we need to bring that back into the football club – this is a big football club and we need trophies. Any trophy is a trophy and if we can win one in February, it will give us confidence for the rest of the season. Before the game, everyone was saying this was a great opportunity – just get a goal and it’ll open up and it did.

It would be massive for the Club – any trophy is a trophy and it has been five years since we won our last one. We know that if we win one, hopefully it’ll come along, and then it’ll open up more for us.

Jack was just 13 years old when we last won one, the FA Cup against Manure…..

I was 13,” he recalled. I remember the game – I was sat at home with my family and Vieira scored the last penalty. You could see what it meant to them and we just want to do that again.

Being a member of the team, the older players feel hungry for trophies and it rubs off on you. Even though I have only been here a year, I want to win trophies – that’s what this Club is about and we need to do that.

Well said Jack and I truly hope this is the year….

Finally Andrey Arshavin has admitted he has lost his confidence:

Now when I get the ball, I begin to think, ‘Should I try and trick an opponent? Or if I do, will I lose the ball? And what if I make a pass? Won’t they think that I am trying to get rid of the ball?

I am afraid of taking the initiative. When such thoughts appear, your final decision, as a rule, turns out to be wrong. And you waste a lot of opportunities.

I think we all knew he was struggling but what I don’t understand is why Arsenal haven’t given him a  few games for the reserves to help his game? He’s not going to get his confidence and belief back sitting on the bench is he and just think what that would do for the reserves too.

That’s it for today, have a good one….

Phew! Nikki owed us that!

January 26, 2011

We are on our way to Wembley for the League Cup final, our first final since the inaugural 2006-7 Emirates season. As pleased as I am, I am probably more relieved at than anything else at this moment. Despite dominating from virtually the off, we labored and made heavy work. At the hour mark, I started to seriously think Ipswich would make the first leg goal stand up and we would be left wondering what might have been. Fortunately, Bendtner finally made the breakthrough a minute later, and Ipswich’s resolve collapsed. Two more goals and 30 minutes later, it was job done, as our team successfully overturned a first-leg 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 aggregate.

Much of the talk in the hours leading up to the match was regarding who Arsene would name in the starting eleven. We knew to expect changes, as he had all but said there would be some rotation, hinting that Robin would be rested. In the end there were three changes: Denilson, Bendtner and Arshavin all starting, in place of Song, Samir and Theo. When I first saw the lineup, I was not particularly thrilled – the stakes were much, much higher than most recent matches, with a Cup final on the line, and I felt that our strongest available team should at least start the match in hopes of overturning the 1-0 first leg deficit early. A healthy early lead would perhaps allow second half changes, giving some of the starters the benefit of an early night’s work. If mass changes really needed to be made, I think the Sunday FA Cup Fourth Round tie versus Huddersfield Town would be the match to do it. But, as it is not my decision, we just had to hope for the best. And, not for the first time, events showed just why it shouldn’t be my decision…

So our starting eleven lined up as Szczesny, Clichy, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna, Jack, Denilson, Cesc, Bendtner, Robin, and Arshavin. On paper, still a formidable squad, but with lingering questions about the form of a few of these players. Ipswich, as expected, set up to defend. Almost immediately, Leadbitter tried to chip Szczesny, but sent the ball over the top. We built slowly, and gradually started to get a head of steam. Our first shot came roughly five minutes in, but Robin put the ball wide.

The first incident came on 10 minutes, where Cesc went down in the area after contact by McAuley – slight contact which looked embellished. Not a penalty from what I saw, but probably should have been a yellow for our Captain instead. But Halsey – who I thought did a poor overall job handling this match – did nothing. Just a couple of minutes later, Szczesny and Sagna collided while trying to get to McAuley’s header (which went over the top). The former was able to continue after a couple of minutes treatment, but the latter was not, so Arsene was forced into a very early substitution, with Eboue coming on.

Just one of many......

We resumed where we left off, and patiently built – unlike the tie at Portman Road, we took shots on goal, both Cesc and Robin trying their luck and forcing Fulop to save. In quick succession, Robin hit the bar with a header, and then Cesc was clearly taken down as he moved into the box. The Ipswich players went in hard and often on our Captain, undoubtedly wanting to introduce him to rugby tackling. No bookings were issued, but Cesc kept with the task at hand. The final fifteen minutes of the half feature more patient Arsenal buildup, stout Ipswich defending, a few shots (all taken by us), and no goal. 45 minutes down, still no Arsenal goals, and 45 minutes left to prevent Ipswich from knocking us out at this next-to-last hurdle.

No changes were made at the half – not that I expected any. We worked hard, created some chances, but were unable to unlock Ipswich’s defense. At halftime, it looked to me as though Robin needed someone else up front with him, either Theo or Samir, but no change was forthcoming. Ipswich started the second half brightly, winning a corner almost immediately. O’Dea then fired across the face of our goal. We regained control after about five minutes, and we forced a couple of corners, which came to nothing.

An hour gone, and just as it seemed as though we would never score, Bendtner came to our rescue with a quite brilliant goal. Jack sent a wonderful ball long down the left to Bendtner. He instantly controlled the ball with his right foot, swept it inside Edwards with his left, and made space for a low shot into Fulop’s right hand corner – FINALLY!! Exactly sixty minutes and seven seconds elapsed when the ball nestled in the net. Cue celebrations and palpable relief around the Ems. Jewell made a change on 63 minutes, sending an attacker (Scotland) on for an attacker (Priskin, who scored Ipswich’s first leg goal). It didn’t matter – Ipswich’s resistance was broken by Bendtner’s goal – much as the Eto’o goal broke ours in Paris, 2006.

Just over a minute later, we took control of the tie. Arshavin sent an excellent curling corner in from the left, Koscielny meeting it just ahead of Fulop with a firm header into the left corner of the net. This put us 2-1 up on aggregate and in control of the tie. To Ipswich’s credit, they came out of their shell, forcing a corner of Djourou, which came to naught. Then Scotland had a sniff of goal, but fired straight at Szczesny. With sixteen minutes remaining, Jewell made his final chance, bringing O’Connor on for Healy.

Just before that final change, we witnessed another strange moment from Halsey – as Cesc started a move towards the Ipswich goal, Halsey called him back and ordered a drop ball. Cesc was clearly irritated, but responded in the best possible way, killing the tie off with 13 minutes remaining. Denilson played a fine pass to Cesc, who took it across the halfway line, picked out Arshavin’s overlapping run on the left. Arshavin cut inside, bringing the defender with him, then turned back outside, and fed Cesc, who nutmegged Fulop to finish the tie. Our Captain immediately ran over to our bench, jumped into Song’s arms, celebrating with him, Samir and Theo, as the players now knew we were in the final.

Barely a minute later, Jack almost made it four, bringing the ball into the area, but losing it before he could get a shot away. Arsene brought Samir and Theo on for Robin and Arshavin with six minutes to go. What little sting Ipswich had was long since drawn, and we held out comfortably. There was a couple of minutes break for a pitch invader, Halsey blew his whistle after 92 minutes and change, and we were in the Carling Cup final.

As cup semi-finals go, these two legs were quite difficult and due credit must go to Ipswich Town. In the first leg, they clearly outplayed us and had a chance to make it 2-0, which would have made our task this evening that much more difficult. Even with only the solitary goal, they defended resolutely and proved a tough nut to crack – it took a very special goal for us to finally break through. If they erred anywhere tonight, it was probably not putting enough pressure on us to defend; protecting a slender lead is always a difficult ask, particularly against a side with an array of attacking options. But if they had managed to get an away goal – especially if it was before we scored – who knows what would have happened. As it was, we defended very well as a team and coped comfortably with whatever they threw at us.

No wonder he's happy......

Credit must also go to our much-maligned trio of Bendtner, Arshavin and Denilson. I was not happy they started the match, and at halftime, I thought their presence in the lineup was contributed to the areas we struggled in, as none of them played well in my view. But in the second half, they all improved significantly and each contributed to the victory. For Bendtner and Arshavin, here is hoping the goal and assists spark both of them into a run of consistent good form. Both of them have the ability to take off from here – we absolutely need them to find a rich vein of form – we have a lot of important matches coming up, and will need them to score and create goals, whether as starters or off the bench. As we have seen throughout this season, the opportunities are there. Denilson started the move leading to Cesc’s goal and I have always considered him as someone who can create more than he does. Hopefully his part in the third goal will be the first of many.

Allow me to add a quick word of praise for Comrade Eboue as well. Standing in for the suspended Sagna in the first leg, he had a torrid time, and his struggles seemed to affect the rest of the defence. Tonight, Sagna’s injury (which hopefully is not too serious and will hopefully see him back for the Everton match) forced him on after only 15 minutes. This time, however, Eboue defended well and helped out on the attack.

Finally, a well done to Arsene, who took a big gamble, resting three key players in Song, Samir and Theo. All three deputies vindicated this decision, contributing to our win, while allowing rest for the aforementioned first teamers; each of the second teamers got valuable minutes to maintain sharpness, and each contributed to (or scored) at least one goal, and all hopefully received a confidence boost. He stuck with Bendtner and Arshavin far longer than I would have, and it paid off as one of them had a hand in all three of our goals. Everything I would have done, he did not do – and events proved his decisions completely correct.

Tomorrow at St. Andrews, we will find out who our opponents will be. West Ham lead 2-1 from the first leg, but Brum have an away goal and home turf. We have played both these sides twice in the league already, and are 4-0 in these matches, scoring 9 goals, and conceding only one. In a one-off cup final, that probably will not be so relevant…Nevertheless, we will start heavy favorites against either of those sides.

It was tense and nervous for much of the time, but we got there in the end. As Arsenal supporters, would we have it any other way? We have seen how crashing out of cups has had a knock-on effect on the players, inducing slumps over the course of a handful of games. Now it is time for us to see how winning a Cup affects the players, how it instills the confidence that they can go all the way.

Our time is here, our time is now…


Written by Oliver

Wembley or Wilt??

January 25, 2011

If we win tonight and book our place on the big stage in London, with it will come confidence, belief and momentum. Should we fall short we could suffer a massive knock mentally and our form could dip. That’s not me being negative of pessimistic that’s just telling it as it could be.

Remember what happened last season after we were knocked out of the Champions League?  We saw our small hope of winning the league disappear after losing two away matches against ‘lesser’ opposition. We don’t want that to happen tonight, get the win and push on.

It’s all about winning!

Winning breeds confidence, confidence breeds more wins. A win tonight is not only about getting to the Carling Cup Final at Wembley, it’s about maintaining the momentum and giving us a chance to win the silverware we crave and deserve.

This is how we lined up in the first leg: in no particular order ;)

Wojciech Szczesny,  Emmanuel Eboue,  Johan Djourou,  Laurent Koscielny,  Kieran Gibbs,  Theo Walcott,  Cesc Fabregas,   Denilson, Andrey Arshavin,  Jack Wilshere,  Nicklas Bendtner

It clearly didn’t work that day did it?

We were beaten by a side that appeared more eager, more direct and more desperate to win. We had only a few chances, Cesc probably had the best but sliced over from close range and Theo saw a couple of good chances saved by their keeper, Martin Fulop. Leeds had a couple of good chances too in addition to their goal and they will again tonight if we are not focused. Priskin troubled Eboue and Denilson just wasn’t able to control the midfield in the way that Alex Song does. Of course, we had no Sami Nasri that night either.

There is no place tonight for many changes from the weekend, in fact any changes!  Arsene Wenger confirmed yesterday that we have no new injury concerns so play the strongest side and that has to be the same starting eleven that totally outplayed and battered Wigan. If Wigan couldn’t keep up with the way we played then neither will Ipswich. To be fair, if that starting eleven plays at its best, I don’t know of many teams that would keep up with us.

Well, Sagna isn’t suspended for this fixture, Nasri is fighting fit and healthy and if any one player deserves to play at Wembley its Alex Song, followed closely by Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and then the others ;)

Wenger has suggested the squad for tonight’s match will be the same one that faced Wigan. I hope he goes one step further and makes the starting eleven the same too despite him say he may ‘rotate a little’.

We have to play Sagna and we have to play Song. JD and Kos can carry on forming what is fast becoming a strong and steady centre pairing at the back and that wonderful attacking unit can blow the Tractor Boys right off their seats. Ipswich have no new injuries following their win at the weekend but they do have a new manager in place now. We know him too well and Paul Jewell is no mug. He’ll know exactly what he needs his side to do to guarantee their place in the final and no doubt he’ll get them doing that – but this is a cup match and we are Arsenal and it’s our turn.

All I would say to the staff at The Emirates is as soon as Ipswich arrive, take the coach keys and go and find a nice parking bay for their bus, we certainly don’t want to see it parked on the nice green grass between the goal-posts! :)

Wenger says:

We feel stronger and stronger in every single game. It is interesting the chance we have in front of us because for me the way we play is fantastic to watch. Let’s just keep going

Well, it’s down to you Arsene to make sure we do, pick the right side and we will.

Seriously, we have been waiting too long for this chance, some may think it’s only the Carling Cup, I’m not one of them!

Tonight is about getting the result to take us to Wembley, we all love a good day out :)

So will it be Wembley or will it be……….

Have a good day all……….


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