As is the case every Saturday, I am in pretty good mood. The dark days, where I questioned my sanity and my place on the plant, post those devastating losses to Norwich and Schalke are a thing of the past now.
Two good wins have raised the spirits among Arsenal fans, and the team as well, and they seem to be coming to play cohesively as well. Yes, we thrashed only f*cking 10 man Sp*rs, but the beauty of winning derby games is that it can act as a season changing match.
The win against Montpellier was not even in the least bit spectacular, but rather more an efficient result. Olivier Giroud seems to be getting the service he craves for, and is contributing by setting up others as well as getting a few for himself.
His assist for Podolski’s fine goal, even bought back some memories of a game in 1970, when George Graham scored. Giroud has now scored 7 and assisted 7 times in just 18 games for the club, and this a player who was instantly written off as the new Chamakh.
The goalscorer Lukas Podolski dedicated the goal to his mother and his son, both of whom were at the stadium for the Champions League encounter.
I think it was a great goal,I’ve scored a lot of goals in my career but this was a special goal. It was a home game, a Champions League game. I think it was a great goal, yes.[After scoring I waved to] my mother, who was upstairs in a box. She was there in the stadium and watched the game. [The goal] was for her.I think after my career, I will remember this goal and have this on my laptop and can watch the game. My son can look at this goal. I think it was a great goal and I’m very happy about it.I don’t do it all the time [in training],I try to score goals, I think I have a good left foot and I try to train on this in every training session. When I score a goal like this, I’m very happy.
While there have been some rumours that Arsenal could play a 4-4-2 formation, with Podolski and Giroud up front, the manager has struck to his belief and persisted with a 4-3-2-1 formation. This allows more greater width, but also helps shore up the midfield.
What we have seen in recent weeks is a splurge of crosses. Never before under the reign of Arsene Wenger, have I seen such a direct style of football. And, it seems to be working out. The manager understands the needs of modern English football, and that the tiki-taka style, while impressive, is not always effective.
We have always been complaining about a lack of a plan B, and we finally seem to have one. While Giroud may not really have the pace or the guile, what he does have is the ability to play as a target man. He can hold up play, whilst allowing others the time and space, something which van Cunty was able to do. And he is well complemented by good, pacy crossers of the ball. Podolski, Walcott and Chamberlain have contributed to the recent success of the forward line.
It is this very directness which has seen Arsenal now pump for a Spanish-like midfield, and an English-like attack. At the moment, it seems to be clicking, which is pleasing. However, defensive issues do remain.
While the return of Wojciech Szczesny is a big boost, not only because he is a great communicator, and a good shot-stopper, he also instills confidence and belief in the defenders, something which we have lacked with Vito Mannone in goal. He certainly wants Arsenal to emulate Chelsea’s feat last season, and end the wait for the European trophy.
Of course we have [taken inspiration from Chelsea]. They weren’t fantastic in the Premier League last season but had a fantastic run.I hope we can do what they did last season but do a little bit better in the Premier League as well.You only take part in competitions to win them. There are fantastic teams in Europe and ones probably more likely to win it than us. But I’m in this competition to win it, so that’s my ambition.
Kieran Gibbs’ return is a massive boost. While Thomas Vermaelen has filled in reasonably well, in his absence and the indifferent form of Andre Santos, there’s nothing better than having a natural left-back playing in his position.
This will again cause some selection headaches for the manager. The form of Per Mertesacker is such that it would be almost impossible to drop him. Koscielny, has been a beast at times this season. To think he was a fragile error-prone defender when he joined, he has shown remarkable improvement last season, and this, to become one of the best centre-backs in the league.
He will however have to probably step down and wait for his chance, as Thomas Vermaelen is almost undroppable because of his additional responsibility as captain. He has had some poor showings this season, and the added burden of captaincy seems to have affected him a bit. However, he has shown that he is a real fighter, and hopefully, he can pick up from the recent wins.
Moving away from the football, a bit, the big development on the financial side of the club has of course been the new £150 million deal signed with Emirates Airlines over the next 5 years. This is a huge increase from the £5.5 million a year deal we had with the Arabian airline.
Personally, this is fantastic news. The construction of the stadium took a massive toll on the club’s finance. Couple that with the player sales to cope up with the debt, resulting in a decline in quality on the pitch and in performances. We went from the ‘Invincibles’ to being a side having to fight for a top 4 spot.
Hopefully, the financial push from the sponsors will help us in improving the quality of our squad, while also help change our stringent wage policy. Far too often, our best players have moved away for want of more money. Yes, I despise the money grabbing whores, but the modern game is such, you have to pay the best top dollar, if you want to remain competitive.
The shirt deal is also ‘landmark’, because it helps us in going back to the financial levels of Manchester United, who, classlessly cancelled their training kit contract with logistics partner DHL, for want of more money. Their shirt deal, with Chevrolet, mounts up to £357 million a year.
And even though we hate it, financial gain has caused even Barcelona, the most traditional of all European clubs to snub their ‘no-shirt sponsor’ rule, to make way for the Qatar Airways advertisements on their kit, worth £125 million. Clubs like Sunderland, too, not the most fashionable of clubs, have somehow found great persuasive power, to attract ‘Invest In Africa’ at £20 million a year.
The attention will now focus to who the Gunners choose as their kit manufacturer. Arsenal have worn Nike kits since 1994, and after a renegotiation in 2003, the deal was extended upto the end of the 2013/2014 season. While rumors indicate that German giant Adidas is willing to pump in more money, than Nike, it is but logical for the club to side with the highest payer.
Liverpool signed a deal with Warrior Sports of USA, worth £25 million a year, for the next 6 years, while Manchester United enjoy a 13 year deal, signed in 2002, with Nike, worth £303 million, at £23 million a year. Arsenal didn’t get the best out of Nike however, in 2003, signing a £130 million deal, for 10 years, at £13 million a year.
So, it would be fair to say, we need to get the best possible deal out here. Even though I despise Adidas, for the fact they make Chelsea’s kits, we may have to bear with it, as long as the deal helps us buying quality players, and eventually helping us win trophies.
Right, enough of my rambling. To some team news, then. Theo Walcott is sidelined, with a shoulder injury he picked up against Sp*rs. While Abou Diaby, remains 3-4 weeks away from fitness, like he was couple of months ago, there’s positive news for Tomas Rosicky, who is expected to make an appearance for the U-21’s soon, after returning to training the coming Monday. Kieran Gibbs’ return means, Thomas Vermaelen will switch to centre-back, with Gibbs at left-back.
The midweek tie against Everton means there could be some chopping and changing. But, you would generally expect a full strength squad. The manager has told about the need to rest Wilshere once in a while, and this means more opportunities, for the likes of Ramsey and Coquelin to stake their claim.
Gervinho returns after his 3 week layoff. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked a bit out of sorts against Montpellier, and Gervinho would be raring to go. Hopefully, we wouldn’t be treated to much of his frustrating running around in circles routine, and hope that he contributes positively.
For Aston Villa, Darren Bent has recovered from his ankle injury. He has scored against the Gunners whilst playing for Charlton, Sunderland and Aston Villa too. However, he has been almost frozen out by manager Paul Lambert, who was at the end of a 5-0 drubbing by Manchester City, and will have to watch the game from the sidelines, after an altercation with the referee.
Christian Benteke, a Belgian international, has made a good start to life in English football. An Arsenal fan as a child, he has used his physique to good effect, scoring 4 goals in 9 games in all competitions. Joe Bennett (knee), Richard Dunne (groin), Chris Herd (knee), Charles N’Zogbia (knee) and Stilian Petrov (leukaemia) all have no set return date for the hosts. The Villains will also be without Craig Gardner, who is out for the season.
Here is how I expect the teams to lineup.
Villa have lost their last two games, a 3-2 loss at home to Manchester United at home, after leading 2-0 at one stage, and a 5-0 drubbing by Manchester City, and emphasis will be on tightening up on defence.
They have plenty of pace and power up front with Benteke and Agbonlahor, and the Gunners will need to be on their toes at all times, to deal with the danger. As has been the case in recent games, opposition teams have tried to stifle Cazorla, and Arsenal will have to find creative outlets. All in all, an exciting game in store.
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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