Friday, 30 November 2007

Aston Villa vs Arsenal Preview - A tough test

Aston Villa have both comprehensively beaten Chelsea and been well beaten by Manchester United. In both of these they burst out of the blocks and took an early lead. In one they held off some pressure from their opposition and in the other they were pegged back soon after and eventually punished heavily. Against Chelsea they were able to soak up the pressure and hit them on the counter late on to seal the points. This was when Chelsea were not at their attacking best. Against United they came up against a team in full attacking flow and Villa simply could not cope with the speed of the counter attack.

This gives me some hope as in games this season - Sevilla apart - we have been able to break teams down and score goals. Manchester United showed this is possible against Villa and hopefully we can do the same. Going a goal down will not be the end of the world but if we get the first goal then it will be a real bonus. If we can hit them on the counter early on then we might be in luck. As they are the home team and playing well, they will fancy their chances. They will no doubt come at us in the opening stages and here we must be patient, solid and use the speed we have to break quickly up field.

Villa's main threat is definitely their pace. They will either line up in a 4-3-3 with Young and Agbonlahor playing off Carew. Should this happen the two pacey englishmen will play wide and attack the full backs. They will try and get past these players and supply Carew with chances. O'Neill may decide to go with a more conventional 4-4-2 with Young on the right, Petrov on the left with Barry and Reo-Coker in the centre of midfield. He will then have Agbonlahor playing off Carew and using his pace to great effect. If Arsenal can stem the supply to Young and Agbonlahor, they will have gone some way to halting Villa. This in turn will hopefully isolate Carew.

So how do Arsenal line-up to deal with this? Assuming Clichy is not fit to play tomorrow I would go for solidity at the back. Traore had major problems against Navas and I would move Sagna across to left full-back. He can deal with Young as well as anyone in the squad while providing pace on the counter. On the other side Diarra should fill in. He is strong in the tackle and can prevent any attacks from that side. After his shocker on Wednesday Senderos must not be on the pitch. I have heard people suggesting Gallas go to the left with Phil filling in. With the pace of Agbonlahor we need both Toure and Gallas playing in the centre to deal with it. Carew may win most aerial balls but if we isolate Agbonlahor and Young then he should not get too much of the ball.

In midfield Flamini is back and this is fantastic news. He has been the reason our midfield has improved this season by adding a fighting aspect to our game. He harrasses players and does not give them time to settle. Gilberto was very poor in Spain and is clearly well off the pace. Denilson has filled in for Cesc at times this season but if I was Wenger I would try something new this time around. Although he has great vision and passing I don't think he has the cutting edge needed for this type of fixture. I feel we need someone who will move the ball quickly, get things going while taking opportunities to shoot when they arise. Therefore I would play Tomas Rosicky alongside Flamini.

Whoever plays on the wings must help the full backs. Eboue should be given one more chance on the right of midfield if Hleb is not fit. He can deliver a good cross which could be a good option for tomorrow. On the other flank I would give Walcott a game. He was brilliant for England recently and his pace will trouble Villa as they have been playing with natural centre backs as full backs. Should Hleb make it I would play him on the left and Theo on the right instead of Eboue. Eboue needs something to show him he must pull his socks up after his antics in recent games; being benched might do this. Wenger could go with 4-5-1 and put Denilson in there with Rosicky and Flamini but I think we should go with two up top like Man Utd did. This means Adebayor will not get isolated and we have more options on the counter.

Nicklas Bendtner played very well in midweek and deserves another game but can he play with Adebayor? For me he can but I think Wenger will always go for one or the other, not the both of them together. After his goal I would consider giving Eduardo another game but this time as a striker. He is NOT a winger despite showing some neat touches out wide. His main position is as a striker and his lack of defensive instincts would worry me. He knows where the goal is and with chances likely to be scarce, he is the man to take them. HE is wasted on the wing.

My team would therefore be:


The defeat to Sevilla may have come at a good time. With so many first teamers rested the defeat will not have come as such a blow as one in the League. The pressure of such a long unbeaten run is gone and we are starting a new slate. Most players have not actually lost but as part of he squad will want to put it right. As Toure has said this week - if we want to win then we must move on to the next game and get back on track. This game will be a tricky one, as Chelsea found out, but if we get our tactics right and concentrate for 90 minutes we can come away with something.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Sevilla 3 Arsenal 1 - Lets put it behind us and move on

On reflection this 3-1 defeat has cost us control of the group and affected our chances of a decent draw in the knockout rounds. However there are benefits of this loss. It might not seem it straight away but think about it a little:

With so many first teamers out rested or injured the loss will not affect them so much. The pressure of 28 games unbeaten is now gone and the pressure of this record is off. They can now concentrate on a new run with the first teamers back. Had the loss occured this weekend to Villa, in a few weeks against Chelsea or god forbid against Spurs, it would have had a stronger affect on morale. A defeat was inevitable and I'd rather it was now, with the younger squad players in, than in the League with the first team.

There is one main worry from tonight and this is Phillipe Senderos. When Kolo Toure leaves for the African Cup of Nations we will be left with Gallas, Senderos and Djourou. Djourou has better pace and is decent in the air but hasn't done brilliantly for Birmingham. Alongside Gallas he might do better but I think Senderos will get the nod. The problem is that Senderos is so clumsy and lacklustre, his decision making is slow and most importantly he lacks the pace for the Premiership. He has been punished so many times for this and with the high line we play I am very worried. I would play Djourou there against quick teams or give sagna a game there, even Diarra could fill in. I just think Senderos has never found consistency for 3 years and is still not doing well - could it be time to sell and get in someone more suitable for the pace and speed of the Premiership?

Gilberto is a player that looked like he was missing match practice. That was the worst half of football he has played in a while; he gave the ball away so many times and looked so off the pace. He improved in the second half but his confidence looks battered. Flamini has taken his place and performed ever so well and it has affected Gilberto. He could be on his way come January and he looked like he didnt have his heart in it first half. Diarra has also done ok as another destructive DM and we dont use a Gilberto type player behind Cesc as much anymore. Denilson was ok on the ball but Fabregas was very absent. Hopefully he will be ok for Saturday.

Eboue did have some good moments and showed the skill that made Wenger move him to midfield. He caused major problems for the full back and should have had a penalty in the second half. Eduardo was employed on the other wing and although he showed some good attacking flourishes, he is not a left winger. He did not track back and help the hapless traore when up against alves and navas and clearly wanted to be alongside Bendtner.

Nicklas Bendtner was the only plus point from tonight; he held the ball up very well and was a threat all night. He was unlucky as he had no runners off him and had Eduardo been up top then it might have been a different story.

We missed William Gallas - had he played I think we would not have lost. 3 changes at the back caused too much disruption and we lacked organisation. Sagna was also missed as he is a far better defender than hoyte. Traore was a forced change and he didnt do brilliantly, but he was left hugely exposed. Lets put this behind us, get back the first teamers and move onto Villa on Saturday. It was not the best night - even Wenger was sent to the stands!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Arsenal go 3 points clear under Gallas' guidance

William Gallas had his doubters at the start of the season when he was named skipper of the side ahead of Kolo Toure and last season's stand in Gilberto. People questioned his commitment to this club at times and others questioned why such an outspoken player was made captain. People wondered why he was given the armband after one injury ravaged season following his move from rivals Chelsea. For me the fact he was a winner, the desire he showed to win matches last season and the fact he was not afraid to speak his mind made him the ideal captain. Yes, Toure has been a loyal servant to the club and Gilberto filled in admirably last season but Wenger was spot on in my opinion. He knew Gilberto would not nescessarily be first choice and that Toure already had the job of leading a young back four. A captain must be outspoken and tough - look at Adams, Vieira and Keane.

The last few weeks Gallas has shown what a player he is and why he was such a good choice as skipper. Three events in the last few weeks come to mind:

1. Liverpool vs Arsenal (Anfield): With the scores level at 1-1 Steven Gerrard broke through the midfield and hit a goal bound shot that looked destined for the net. Suddenly Gallas came out of nowhere and showed brilliant determination to block the shot and earn us a point.

2. Arsenal vs Man.Utd (Emirates): In injury time Gallas popped up at the back post with a really great finish to level the scores. Gambling, he showed great desire to get in the box and got his just reward.

3. Arsenal vs Wigan (Emirates): With Arsenal struggling to break Wigan down Gallas again ventured forward to get on the end of Sagna's cross.

These 3 moments in matches summed up the desire to win within Gallas and yesterday his goal was as important as anything he has achieved in an Arsenal shirt. With Man Utd losing to Bolton it was important to put some distance - however small - between us and last years Champions. From the moment Marcus Bent fouled Denilson from behind Gallas was even more pumped up. He had a confrontation with Heskey that led to a booking and this spurred him on. In a way it made him determined to inflict pain on those doing the same to his team mates and the best way for him to do this was to get the winner. As soon as he played the ball to Bendtner and continued his run, it almost seemed like an inevitability he would be on the end of Sagna's fantastic cross. Once the first went in, the game was over - Wigan never looked like breaching the defence.

Aswell as playing a part in the first goal, Nicklas Bendtner had an even bigger role in the second goal as he carried the ball out of our half and turned defence into attack within seconds. He timed the pass to Rosicky perfectly as he fed the Czech midfielder to slot home. It was a typical Arsenal counter attack. For me Bendtner is futher along the line of development than Walcott and he seems to have a far larger impact when it comes to goals. Everything Walcott did was lively but it did not always lead to an end product. He made some good passes and linked well with Adebayor and Eboue at times, he just needs a league goal to gain confidence. I just hope his injury is not serious as he looked in pain.

The interesting thing for me is that Eduardo cannot seem to get a start for Arsenal. I thought that after his performance for Croatia Wenger would give him the 90 minutes to try and get some goals in the League at last. The Croat can finish well and has pace to play alongside Adebayor. The thinking on Wenger's behalf might be that Eduardo will feature more in the second half of the season once he has had the proverbial '6 months to settle'. His ability in front of goal can be crucial for us come the run in to this season.

With Hleb and Fabregas out injured and suspended respectively, we did struggle to create chances. Rosicky was his usual busy self and looked to force the issue like he does so well. He showed directness and purpose and got his goal late on. Lassana Diarra showed why Gilberto may soon move on. Flamini has been brilliant in the destructive role this season and Diarra showed he can do the same. If anything Diarra has better ball control and passing than Flamini, as well as the bite in the tackle of his fellow Frenchman. With some work in training (particularly his shooting) Diarra can push Flamini for the supporting role to Cesc. Eboue showed flashes of brilliance and he has the dribbiling ability to beat players and get to the byline. I partcularly like his partnership with Sagna which was working well yesterday. Denilson showed some good moments but had large boots to fill with Fabregas out and did not do enough to put pressure on the Spaniard. I cant wait to see Cesc back in action at Villa.

Alan Shearer summed it up briefly on MOTD: "Last season Arsenal would have drawn this type of game". Once again we ground out a good result and march on into a difficult December with a smll margin between us and United. Well Done Lads!

Almunia - 6
Sagna - 7 - Toure - 7 - Gallas - 8 - Clichy - 6
Eboue - 6.5 (Eduardo - 6) - Diarra - 7 - Denilson - 6 - Rosicky - 7
Adebayor - 6 - Walcott - 7 (Bendtner - 7.5)

Arsenal vs Wigan

When Eduardo played in Olic for Croatia's second goal I couldnt help but feel a small sense of joy. That pass summed up completely why England is where it is and Arsenal are getting the blame. Before the match I explained my reasons why it is not Wenger's fault and that one pass just backed up my points. The way he carried the ball forward and slipped a perfect pass through three defenders showed why English players cannot get into the Arsenal squad. Only once did I see a pass of such quality and that was from David Beckham. Apart from the cross to set up Crouch I did not once see a pass that opened the Croatia defence up and cause them real problems. The England players did not run with real purpose as Eduardo did. England are not good enough and the first step to improving the dire situation we are in is not caps on foreigners but acceptance. Once this is done then maybe we can get somewhere.

For anyone that hasnt heard enough suggestions for managers I would want someone from this list: Jose Mourinho, Stuart Pearce, Jurgenn Klinsmann

During an international break it is now custom that squads are disrupted. Last time Van Persie was pushed onto the injury table but this time it has increased. Alex Hleb who has been in excellent form isout for 3 weeks and Flamini is out for a week or so. Gilberto is "fatigued" which to me is quite pathetic. The guy wants his place back yet he is too tired to take it when the pportunity arises - it will be his loss. With Fabregas suspended (deliberately?) and Diaby out injured also it only really leaves two options in midfield. Rosicky will start on the left with Denilson and Diarra likely to start in central midfield. On the right Wenger will probably go for Eboue but Walcott deserves a start. He was brilliant in the two England U21 games this week and Eboue has not impressed me that much.

The back four will remain the same as continuity is what has made progress possible this season and Almunia should start again in goal. Wenger has a decision to make up front however with Eduardo and Walcott pushing to start alongside Adebayor. With Van Persie back soon they need to stake their claim now if they want to keep him out of the team. As I said Walcott has been in good form and played up front for the U21s. If he doesnt get selected our wide then he could get chosen up top. I think Eduardo will get the nod.

The team would be


Subs: Lehmann, Bendtner, Eboue, Hoyte, Song??

I think we can win this game but we have to be professional to stay top of the table.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Back Off! Arsenal are helping English Football.

England were on the verge of failing to reach Euro 2008 and guess who is to blame? Yes you guessed it, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal Football Club. No sooner do Arsenal reach the top of the League, personel in Football cannot wait to take a pop. Steve Coppell joined in the argument, Jose Mourinho also gave us a blast from the past with his views. They argue that Wenger has ruined English Football with the introduction of foreign players to the Premier League. The simple fact is that as a country we are over ambitious and as a country we are not that great a team.

Players like Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and John Terry play better for their clubs, why? The reason is because of the team they are playing in. Lampard is not as good a player when not alongside Essien or Makelele. Wayne Rooney is far better when he has players like Ronaldo and Tevez to link up with. John Terry performs better when he has Petr Cesc behind him rather than Robinson. The reason the Premier League is the best in the world is because of the quality players who have been brought in from abroad. They compliment well the English players and there is no coincidence the best footballing side is mainly made up of foreigners. Let me look at the England team a bit more carefully.

GK: Paul Robinson - he plays for Tottenham who are supposed to challenge the top 4.

RB: Micah Richards - He came through the Man City academy and looks a real prospect. He will demand a transfer fee in the region of 20million - that is a lot of money for any club to pay.

CB: John Terry - Again a player that came through the academy and is at one of the best clubs in Europe.

CB: Rio Ferdinand - Bought from Leeds for £30million, shows the cost to take a good player to a topf our club.

LB: Ashley Cole - Brought through Arsenal's academy but greed got the better of him.

RM: David Beckham - A product of the Machester United - been at a top club all his career.

CM: Frank Lampard - Also at Chelsea brought through the West Ham Academy.

CM: Steven Gerrard - At Liverpool all his career, again in a top 4 team and Champions League finalists.

LM: Joe Cole - Like Lampard he came through West Ham's academy to move to a top 4 team.

ST: Wayne Rooney - An Everton graduate who commanded another huge some from Man Utd.

ST: Michael Owen - BEfore his injuries he was at Liverpool and Real Madrid - two brilliant clubs

Other notable players

Shaun Wright Phillips - like Richards a product of the Man City academy but taken for a large sum by Chelsea.

Peter Crouch - at Liverpool aswell but cannot get a game.

If you look at it these players are all at top clubs right now. Most of the players are at Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United with others likely to move to one of the top 4 in the near future. So why can't we step up a level when the pull on the England shirt. It is because they are not that good players. It emphasises again the fact that the foreign players make English players look better than they are. Together they lookc clueless at times. If players were good there would be a larger influx of English players abroad. Only Woodgate, Owen, McMannaman and Beckham have made the move abroad. It is simple that teams do not want our players. They would crave players like Ferdinand and Terry but will never get them as they are at clubs at the highest level already.

A key point there is the fees the top four have paid for certain players. Only Gary Neville and Paul Scholes have come through the ranks at United and that was about 15 years ago. The other English players have cost the club huge amounts: Rooney (£30m) Ferdinand (£30m) Hargreaves (£20m) and Carrick (£18m) all graduated at other clubs. Everton and West Ham have done the work with these players and Man Utd have picked up the product of this hard work. So what about Chelsea? Ill give you one fact here: Chelsea only registered 23 players on their Champions League squad list. Why? They did not have enough players who had come through the academy having arrived before their 17th birthday (3 is the required age). Only John Terry could be counted in this category. Clearly by buying players for vast sums they are helping English football. Shaun Wright Phillips was in the form of his life at Man City with Arsenal rumoured to be huge admirers. He would have got first team football under Wenger but Chelsea had the finacial muscle to get him over the Gunners. Liverpool only have Gerrard and Carragher as English players who came through. Their other english players are Crouch and Pennant, the latter an Arsenal graduate.

David Bentley, Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Upson and Steve Sidwell, what do they all have in common? They all came through the Arsenal academy. For different reasons they moved on. Most of them were not good enough to play for Arsenal but have improved many other Premiership teams. The amount of English players who Arsenal have brought through is far larger than other top clubs, they simply were forced to move on. Only Man City and West Ham have made huge leaps in getting home grown players into their squads. Even now Arsenal has a long line of English talent waiting in the wings. Kieran Gibbs (pictured above) Henri Lansbury and Mark Randall are three of the players who have made a first team appearance. Others include Gavin Hoyte, brother of first teamer Justin, Paul Rodgers, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Rhys Murphy. These players are mainstays in the U19 team which shows the work Wenger IS doing for the future of English football.

The last point I will make on the homegrown issue will highlight two Arsenal graduates. David Bentley and Jermaine Pennant were moved on due to their disciplinary problems. There is no doubt that when young foreigners come over to England they are here to work hard and imrpove. The draw of London nightlife is far greater for those in the academy than players like Cesc Fabregas. Their old friends are all out partying and many cannot resist. The trouble that is caused from this is too much and the club really has no choice but to sell. The attitude of young English players is one of impatience, laziness and petulance. David Bentley for example could have made it at Arsenal but he demanded for first team football before he was ready.

Rant Over!

Other news regarding Arsenal Football Club: Luka Modric is a reported target but with the
quoted price £30million, I am not too sure. With Chelsea around they will surely drive up the price and Wenger is not one to be forced into a rash signing. He is a good player granted but is he worth that sort of money. He is similar to Hleb and Rosicky in playing style but I feel we need an out and out winger to compliment the squad.

Another target is supposedly a young striker from africa called Tresor Mputu. If it is true he has more potential the Eto'o at this age then for the small fee he would command, it is worth a punt. This brings me onto the issue of strikers. With Van Persie returning I hope him and Adebayor can re kindle the form they were in together. However what worries me is that I dont think Hleb is a centre forward and is far better on the left or right of midfield. Eduardo has taken time to settle while showing glimpses of brilliance. Nicklas Bendtner has shown potential but is not yet ready to lead the line. Should the Croation not settle by January I would seriously consider getting another one in. Should Van Persie and/or Adebayor get injured I feel we might struggle for goals come the latter stages of the season. Opinion is split over this issue though.

I pray we get no more injuries this week in the upcoming internationals with England winning 4-3 (Eduardo hat-trick). Van Persie should be back to face Wigan and I hope this is still the case come the end of the week.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

We're on our way! Reading 1-3 Arsenal

Until the 44th minute I had the dreaded feeling that our problem of last season had come back to haunt us. it seemed we had lost the key to unlocking teams who parked the bus. Last year we either spent 80 minutes struggling to break the opposition down after they took a surprise lead. Although the score was still 0-0 we barely looked like scoring. Adebayor's chacne in the 3rd minute aside we did not have anything clear cut at all. We passed the ball comfortably enough but never threatened Hahnemann. That was until the lads showed what they have added to their game this season. With Flamini making a crunching challenge that we saw far too few of last season the ball was worked to Adebayor who in turn unlocked the defence with a great ball to Hleb who duly fed Flamini to leave him to sweep in the opener.

Once this went in there was only going to be one result. Reading would be forced to come out and attack and we all know how good Arsenal are on the counter with the killer goal, our 1000th in the Premiership, coming from exactly this kind of attack. The movement and accurate passing summed up Arsenal at their best and was a fitting way to reach this landmark. However the goal was far more important for a very different reason. Adebayor had gone 8 games without a goal and this strike broke this drought. Having missed an early chance he did not let his head drop like most strikers would. He contiuned to try and fashion chances for himself and the team. His brilliant placed shot was just reward.

Yet again there was the debate about video replays; Adebayor scoring a perfectly good goal only to see it ruled out incorrectly. The 'goal' was something of beauty as we moved from one end of the pitch in a flash, too fast even for the linesman who only had to run from the half way line! This decision could have been costly had Hleb not created such a comfortable margin between the sides. Shorey made it 3-1 but had this made it 2-1 Reading had a good chance of a point. Can you imagine the uproar should this decision have cost us. I would not like to be the linesman had such a thing occured.

Before the game I called on Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas to work the same magic they did last season at the Madejski. They ripped Reading to shreads last season and were at the forefront of anything good Arsenal did last night. They linked up well and seemed to know where they each might be at any time. Hleb made the first goal and scored the third, his goal coming after a wonderful cruyff turn past Hahnemann left the keeper with egg on his face. Rosicky and Cesc made the second and were a threat throughout. If Rosicky can stay fit, Hleb can keep up his impressive form and Fabregas can keep playing the way he is, these three could be crucial to any title challenge we may have. If Van Persie can come back aswell and continue where he left off then the front 5 of 'The Three Musketeers', Adebayor and RVP can be a huge problem for any side.

They have the assurance of Flamini behind them who once again was outstanding. He broke up play when required and showed he has no trouble joining in the passing play with the other midfielders when required. The defence seems solid and the scrap of a goal Reading scored was a small blot on what has been a good season at the back. We need a solid foundation both up front and at the back for any sort of title challenge to materialise. So far so good. We go into the International break on top and I just pray for no more injuries before the wigan match.

To finish off I just wanted to say well done to Cesc for getting the yellow card. If there was a game to miss it was Wigan with 5 difficult fixtures coming up. He clearly was aiming to get the card - deliberately giving the ref no chance but to card him. The kids a smart guy aswell as a great footballer!

Player ratings:

Almunia - 6 - not much to do all evening really
Sagna - 6 - solid once again, didnt get forward as much as maybe he could have
Gallas - 7 - won every ball in the air and looked comfortable
Toure - 7 - assured all night and tried to start attacks from the back
Clichy - 7 - stopped all threat down his flank with his pace and got forward a bit
Eboue - 6 - needs to be more direct and wasted a few shotting opportunities
Flamini - 8 - outstanding once again - got a goal to add to his brilliant defensive work
Fabregas - 7 - sat a bit deeper than usual to dictate play well
Rosicky - 7 - linked well with team mates and contributed to the second goal and other attacking chances
Hleb - 8 - a threat all evening, set up one and scored another after sublime footwork
Adebayor - 8 - he started slowly but got better as the game wore on, scored a great goal

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Three Musketeers - Hleb, Fabregas And Rosicky (Reading Away)

Cast your minds back to this time last season and Arsenal's visit to the Madejski Stadium. Arsenal ripped a Reading side - tipped for Europe - to shreds and it was a 'perfect' game of Football if I ever I saw one. The way we passed the ball was amazing and the Reading fans all stayed till the end and applauded BOTH sets of players. This season we go there with even more confidence and there is no reason why we could not do the same. The Football played this season has been better than last and Reading have found it hard of late. That is not to say the result is in the bag before a ball is kicked - it never is anymore - and the players still have a job to do. However an early goal and the floodgates might open.

The catalyst last season was the midfield trio of Fabregas, Hleb and Rosicky. Together they make a deadly triple team, the three Musketeers if you like (although not French). They seem to know exactly where the other will be and the link up play is wonderful at times. Hleb may be selected to start on the right wing but his tendency to marauder from his flank makes him tough to pick up and his ability to keep the ball while moving forward causes space to open up for his team mates. Rosicky is far more direct than Hleb in the way he attacks defenders at pace, making things happen in a different way to Arsenal's no.13. He carries the ball forward and together they take the pressure off Fabregas as the oppositon have to try and isolate all three players. This is an extremely hard job! It leaves Fabregas much more space to spray the ball around and dictate play while giving him opportunities to get forward and score goals, as he has done this season. He summed it up on the weekend when he said this:

"Alex is the kind of player who makes you play better, he makes you look better, certainly. I swear, if Alex was not in the team I don’t think I’d have scored 11 goals.”
Rosicky is fit for tonight's game and if picked to start we may see this trio in action together in the midfield. I personally would opt for this combination with Flamini acting as the cover once more. Fabregas also mentioned the Frenchman when discussing Arsenal's great form this season:

"It’s true I feel more free to go forward and that’s down to [Mathieu] Flamini. He doesn’t stop running, chasing the opponent. He has amazing energy."

Theo Walcott had a poor game against Slavia in Prague and continued in true Theo fashion: a few good games followed by one or two bad ones. Hopefully this was just a blip and he can continue with the sort of form he showed against the Czechs at home. Tonight could be the perfect opportunity to re-find his feet with Reading shipping goals a plenty recently. If he doesn't go with Walcott I think Eduardo will start alongside Adebayor. Eduardo showed the finishing ability he has against Sheffield United and if he can transform his Croatia form into the Premiership he can be a crucial player for us this season. Adebayor needs a goal after 7 games without one; he looked sluggish against Liverpool and Man Utd but having had a bit of a rest hopefully he can get back to scoring ways.

The back 5 will remain the same as most games this season with the full team as follows:


Subs: Lehmann, Gilberto, Eboue, Eduardo/Walcott, Bendtner

Van Persie is expected back in two weeks and the same applies to Senderos. Barring any fresh injuries during the dreaded international break we will have a fully fit squad and if we can keep this into the new year we can really push on. Tonight we need to keep up the form and get back to winning ways in the Premership after 2 hard fought draws against our rivals.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Boring is being nice to the 0-0 draw against Slavia

We got the point to take us through to the knockout round of the Champions League but this was by no means a classic. Wenger made 8 changes, as expected, from Saturday and the game was tentative to start with and remained pretty boring to say the least throughout. Many expected another thrashing but it was never going to resemble the match at the Emirates between these two sides. Slavia's pride was hurt and they were up for revenge and in a game where Arsenal seemed content to pass the ball for most of it, the Czechs had the best chances. Arsenal only had one shot on target and this was why we failed to score for the first time this season.

Almunia won us our point with two crucial saves; the first a tip over and the second a brilliant save coming out of his goal. After making an error of judgement when leaving his goal against Man Utd he had a big decision to make as the Slvia striker raced clear. This time he made the right one to come and remained big until the last minute as he blocked the shot. This chance came late on and had they gone ahead I was not confident, for once, that we wouldbe able to equalise. I was happy for Almunia as people were calling for him to be dropped. He had been in great form and made some important saves in his run in the side. Yes he made an error, but it was nothing on the level of those made by Jens Lehmann and well done Wenger for sticking with the Spaniard for now at least.

The defence was only troubled in the one instance Almunia was called upon and Song looked very good at the back alongside Gallas. Centre back seems to suit him far more than central midfield where he has struggled to impress in an Arsenal shirt. He was always strong in the tackle and good in the air but he lacked vision, pace and composure to play in the midfield. As Wenger did with Toure I feel he may try to adapt Song to a centre back. We have too many central midfielders as it is anyway along with a shortage at the back. I am all for trying to convert Song, especially if Djourou wants to become a defensive midfielder.

I had called for Diarra to start last night and I got my wish. I would have preferred to see him alongside Denilson or Gilberto but he played right back and did ok. He looked assured on the ball, kept it simple and got forward well. He made on crucial interception when Slavia threatened. Clichy was his usual self as he bombed forward at every opportunity and looked very dangerous whenever he picked up the ball; maybe not when he attempted a shot from 30 yards that was still rising as it sailed over the running track. Gallas added experience to the defence and led the team well, there isn't much more to say about the skipper although I was very impressed when I saw him trying to liven the troops while they warmed up with a good team talk.

The midfield was largely disapointing. Theo Walcott followed true to his pattern of form; as soon as he has a good run of form of a few games, he has a frustrating game and looks extremely far off the player Arsenal fans want him to be. He left the ball behind him at times, seemed to run into cul de sacs and his set pieces were all overhit. We all want Theo to succeed at Arsenal, maybe it is because he is the only Englishman close to the first team, but he needs to shape up and start being far more consistent. Right now he is only good as an impact substitute. Denilson and Gilberto were sloppy with their passing and looked off the pace. They were unable to stamp any authority on the game and this midfield trio was pretty anonymous. Only Diaby showed any life and desire to win this game. From the very off he tried to get the team moving. He dribbled past defenders with ease, used his strength well and looked like he might do something everytime he got it. He was let down by his fellow midfield players and did not seem to have enough options going forward.

Wenger made a mistake in starting Eduardo on the left wing. He looked isolated and out of position. He is a centre forward who deals in goals and he is wasted on the left of midfield. The two goals last week showed what he can do and I did not understand the thinking in this tactic. Diaby did well when he went over to the left and was causing the same problems as when he played in the hole. If Wenger thought Diaby might have more influence behnd Bendtner he was wrong as the Dane was marked out of it and Diaby had nowhere to go. Had Eduardo also been up front some of Diaby's marauding runs might have caused more of a threat. Although Eduardo did not do much when he moved up front, he would have drawn defenders at least and created room for midfield runners.

Nicklas Bendtner got his chance of a start for the first team and did what he could. He held the ball up well at times with his good first touch but seemed to lack support. Players didn't get close enough to him and any hard work he did was wasted. He did himself no harm in trying to prove himself worthy of more first team football and I wouldnt mind seeing him start against Sevilla. It will be a much tougher game and in a team where Wenger will rest less players it will be intersting to see how he fares.

You may wonder why I have only mentioned one sighter of a shot regarding Arsenal and chances but alongside a tame Adebayor header straight to the keeper, that was all there was all night. As I have said the game was boring and I hope we get back to the form we've been in when we face Reading.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Tonight is another chance to see some of our fledging youngsters in action, so who would I like to see play?

Armand Traore - He was missing in the last round of the Carling Cup due to the fact he was away on International Duty. For me Traore is arguably the most exciting talent in the reserve team; his pace is electric and coupled with great skill and and an excellent delivery into the box he is an excellent attacking full back. His defending has certainly improved from last year and I would like to see him have a game in which the weather conditions are difficult, the stakes are quite high and in a game when the home team are out for revenge. Against Newcastle he showed real potential and showed the player he can be. He is rated highly by most Gooners and tonight is a perfect chance for him to gain some further experience in the first team.

Lassana Diarra - Whether he plays right back or in centre midfield I want him to start ahead of any other player in the squad tonight. This may seem strange but for me he was the best player on the park when we hosted Newcastle at the Emirates. He controlled the game with such ease and this was against players who play week in week out in the Premiership. He keeps it simple and plays the easy pass. As well as being assured on the ball he is brilliant in the tackle. Against Sheffield United one crunching tackle simply sticks in my mind and I can see him being the destroyer in our team for years to come. He came to us to get more first team football and now I would like to see it. He could play alongside Gilberto or Denilson tonight or replace Sagna. Either way I want to see him given a starting role.

Theo Walcott - Having played a major part in taking Slavia Prague apart in the home tie I bet he is itching to get another chance to do so. The thing Theo needs to do is be more consistent and lately he has shown he can do this. His two goals were a major confidence boost and whenever he has come on lately he has made a big difference. He has learnt to use his pace to greater effect and his intelligence has shone through a lot more on the pitch. A partnership of Eduardo and Walcott may not work as they are too similar. Therefore he should play right wing
So who would I like to see get a game up front?

Nicklas Bendtner - Against Sheffield United he was brilliant. He showed great ball control, ability in the air, a good range of passing all blended together with hunger and hard work. He has the potential to be a top striker at this club; he is difficult for defenders to deal with and any striker with pace can feed off him easily. He has called for first team football and tonight could be the chacce to give him a confidence boost and let him prove a point. Eduardo and him combined well in their last game together and I would like to see them do this again tonight.

My team therefore would be:


Monday, 5 November 2007

Coming back on the bus today I was reading one match report. I had read quite a few, most of the view, the correct one, that Arsenal were worthy of a point and ferguson was whinging unnescessarily. This match report picked up on an interesting fact and this was that Adebayor has failed to hit the net in the last 7 games in which he has played. With Van Persie out this is slightly worrying. It seems that Eduardo is not yet ready start in Wenger's eyes and with Theo Walcott requiring a little more "natural commitment" as Le Prof called it, Wenger has gone with 5 in midfield in the last two matches with Hleb just behind Adebayor. Hleb is not a natural goalscorer and neither are Rosicky, Eboue or Flamini. Therefore Cesc Fabregas is the only man scoring regularly right now and this will not continue all the time. If Adebayor is going to lead the line he MUST start scoring again. We know he can after seeing his early season form, I just hope the slight dip in form is not a regular thing for Adebayor. It happened last season when he went through two slight dips: one at the very beginning and one towards the end. Coincidently (?) these were when his main partner was out injured or out of form. When Ade was at his best Henry and/or Van Persie were fit and playing well alongside him. He was able to provide them with chances while feeding off them to score himself. He worked best with Van Persie and again this season that combination has bared fruit. As soon as Van Persie is laid out Adebayor's form has dropped. Im not saying it is RVP that makes Ade play well but I am sure there is a link to having a partner up top with him. I know he can lead the line in a 4-5-1 but surely the stats show that in a 4-4-2 he has scored more goals.

This leads on to the debate over a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2. Everyone has their own opinions on it, as do I, and I will relay a few of them. In my opinion it works for us at certain times and this depends on the opposition. Away at Anfield I could understand it. Their defence had been shaky and they normally are able to dominate midfield. To counter this Wenger packed the centre of the park and it worked. We passed them out of the game and had we been less wasteful in front of goal we would have won the game. When opposition are likely to dominate this area it is an understandable tactic, Chelsea being another team where this might be nescessaery. At home to Man Utd however I would not have deemed a 5 man midfield requierd. Wth Paul Scholes out they posed a far smaller threat in this area; I know their front 4 was a major threat but at home I had enough confidence of picking them up. If we wanted to win this game we would need to score goals and to be honest we never looked likely to do that. Our goals were our only real chances. Adebayor was isolated up front and this led to his coming short to find the ball. Unfortunately there was noone in the box now and we had no chance to get forward. There were not enough runs from midfield to support the tall striker. We were not able to play the kind Football normally do as we could not really make any progress forward. Man Utd wanted to soak up pressure and hit us on the counter as being the away team they had nothing to gain by attacking us. Maybe away at Old Trafford the tables will be reversed and we will look for the counter with a 4-5-1. When we face teams with the game plan Man Utd had on Saturday, 2 strikers are needed to break them down.

Therefore who should play alongside Adebayor while Van Persie is out (not for much longer it seems - Nov 24th)? I would play Eduardo alongside him. I know he started slowly and he was hampered by an injury but his goals against Sheffield United showed exactly what he can do when given any sight of goal. He is composed and assured in front of goal, he can be a real handful and will work well with Adebayor, just like Van Persie and Henry did. Theo Walcott can do this aswell as we saw against Slavia Prague. He linked well with the Togo man and his pace will be a real threat playing off the balls Adebayor constantly wins. Bendtner, for me is too similar for Adebayor and should play instead of him should he be given a start. Eduardo and him worked very well together and showed what they can do together. It was also an indication of how Eduardo can play with a tall ball winner.

With both Almunia and Lehmann making errors this season, surely it is time for Fabianski to get a start. I might get slated for panicking and people may say he is too inexperienced. However it seems experience counts for nothing this season, with Lehmann preventing us winning at Ewood Park and Almunia maybe stopping a win on Saturday. They are both erratic and of what I have seen of Fabianski he looks to be confident and solid. Wenger said the no.1 jersey was there for all three of them to fight for. He will stick with Almunia as it is only one mistake he has made, Lehmann was given a second chance. However should he not take this opportunity I would like to see the young Pole given a chance. If not, then could we see Lehmann out in January with a replacement brought in? This is the option I would plump for. Lehmann is now more of a trouble maker than a positive effect and I would sell him in January and get in a world class stopper, from whom Fabianski can learn lots.

So who is out there? With a huge amount of money to spend we are not limited in the financial aspect. We do not definitely need anyone in other positions on the pitch although I would like to see a centre back come in in January. Therefore Wenger could concentrate on a keeper. It must be someone who is not cup-tied in Europe, someone world class as said already and someone any defence would have utter confdence in. One name comes to mind and we have been linked with him before. Gianluigi Buffon stayed loyal to Juventus when they were relegated but they are not in Europe, unlikely to qualify for next year and he may want a bigger challenge. He would be available at between £10-15 million with them oweing us money from the transfer of Patrick Vieira. This is simply a suggestion, we may not buy a goalkeeper at all, but Buffon is my choice should we want to.

As for a centre back - again there is only one choice for me and that is Micah Richards. He is a combination of Toure, Gallas and Senderos. He dominates in the air, has brilliant pace, tackles well and leads the defence brilliantly. He has said it is a "dream" to play for Arsenal and we have the financial firepower to make this happen. He is more suited to the Premiership than Senderos is and could be the perfect replacement eventually for Gallas. He would fill in for Toure while away in Africa and push for a starting spot with Billy and Kolo once all are available. Song does not fill me with confidence, Gilberto and Hoyte are not centre backs, with Djourou on loan developing ideas of a midfield role, we are 1 centre back short in my opinion. Wenger may not feel the need and keep faith with the above mentioned in this position - this is a mistake, especially with the Ivory Coast likely to go for in the African Cup of Nations

One last thing to say: Denilson and Diarra are ready for a Premier/Champions League start in my opinion. Diarra is another ball winner with brilliant ability to control a game. Although I love him as a player and loyal servant to the club I am starting to believe Gilberto may be surplus to requirements come the end of the season. Denilson has come on leaps and bounds and can play the Cesc role should Wenger so need him to. Both have impressed on all counts this season.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

2 points from our last two games is not exactly good, but on the face of it is ok. A draw at Anfield is a good result and drawing to a Manchester United side bang in form is no disgrace. Before the match I was thinking a draw at Anfield and a victory at home to United would be how it would turn out. We gained the first point but were not able to take the other 3 yesterday. As it turned out we deserved and should have won away at liverpool, with yesterday's draw a fair result in my eyes. We had the chances last Sunday, dominated the game throughout and even missed two open goals. Yesterday we had more possesion and shots on target but the opposition had far more of a cutting edge and were worthy of at least a point.

What encouraged me was the defending throughout the game. Gallas and Toure were rocks at the back and won everything in the air, granting no space to Tevez and Rooney. They were brilliant in the tackle and some of their last ditch challenges were spot on during what was a scrappy and tentative first half. The main threat to our defence was going to be the front four of Tevez, Rooney, Giggs and Ronaldo and as Wenger said the "handbrake" was on during the first period. Clichy and Sagna were wary of the threat down their wings and they dealt with their men very well. They knew if they won their individual battles we had a real chance. The problem is that Ronaldo is a world class player, and these footballers only need a little bit of space and they can hurt you, however much you keep them quiet. Unfortunately this is what happened as he delievered the cross for United's opener and later got their second goal. Although Gallas was positioned well once again, the fact Rooney miscued his effort meant the effort went in off the unfortunate Gallas. Any clean contact would have seen a similar block to the one he made against Gerrard last sunday.

The goal coming just before half time could have been a killer blow but as we have seen so many times this season, the current Arsenal squad, as a whole, will never give up. Two minutes into the second half Hleb had the ball deep in his own half and once more showed brilliant close control to weave his way out of a cul de sac and release the ball to Fabregas. The Arsenal no.13 showed from the very off that he could cause the United defence problems with his dribbling. As soon as the match kicked off he ran down field, drifitng past players with ease and had Rosicky and Adebayor not got in a mundle we may have been in business within the first minute. From then on he knew he could keep the ball from the United players and everytime he had the ball looked threatening. Working in the space off Adebayor it was hard for the opposing players to pick him up. One criticism of him at times in the first half was that he held the ball for too long when a pass was on.

This was not the case in the build up to the equaliser as he played the pass to Cesc as soon as he saw it and this was the springboard for a quick counter attack. As the ball reached Eboue, via Adebayor, the red shirts flooded forward and Eboue's cross was met by Adebayor. The chance looked like it had gone as Van Der Saar parried the ball away from goal but the energetic Sagna never gave up the chase and centred the ball to Fabregas with a crunching challenge on Evra. He has been a revelation this season and that tackle in itself opitimised what he has added to this side. If that was typical of Sagna's performances so far, the finish of Cesc Fabregas showed even more what we now expect from the young Spaniard. Most players would try and break the net when 5 yards out with only defenders on the line, not Cesc. He knew Ferdinand had a chance should he attempt to blast it so he calmly slotted the ball in the one place where Ferdinand had no chance of reaching it. It demonstrated the form he has been in when in front of goal and this was his 11th goal of a brilliant season.

Almunia had been in good form of late but yesterday was clearly nervous. His decision making was all over the place and his desire to rush off his line was from was erratic to say the least. There was no need for him to come and meet Evra and it left him with an easy choice to centre the ball for Ronaldo to finish into the empty net. This was not the first time during this one match he had made the same error and I feel this may well cost him the no.1 jersey. Although harsh, when keepers make errors they are punished far more than an outfield player; the question is about who will come in. I have lost all confidence in Lehmann but am happy to be proved wrong by the mad German. For me personally I would want Wenger to give Fabianski at least one chance in the League to prove himself. He has looked solid in the Carling Cup and there is no reason why he should not get a chance after the two senior keepers have both made some blunders.

I mentioned Gallas as being a leader at the back but he was also a threat in the other box. He had been denied a goal when Van Der Saar saved his downward header but he prevailed in the final minute as Arsenal got more and more desperate. Not for the first time in the game Clichy got the better of Ronaldo to deliver a teasing cross that evaded everyone in the box. It was the sort of cross I want to see more of from Clichy; the one thing he can improve hugely is his final ball. The cross was miscued by Walcott but fell to Gallas who still had a lot to do. From a tight angle and the ball sitting up he did brilliantly to: 1. keep the ball down and 2. get the power on the ball to beat Vidic and Van Der Saar who were running back towards their goal. He did both and the Arsenal fans burst into raptures. Gallas showed the spirit in the team as he ran to the bench punching the air. Anyone who questioned his commitment to this team have surely now been silenced. This was a real Captain's performance both at the back, up front and in a motivational sense.

The players were happy with the draw and considering we went behind twice against the reigning Champions I am too. We looked like we would get nothing from the game as the match rolled into injury time but once more the heart of this team shone through and we grabbed the least we deserved. All in all a draw was a fair result, its just a pity we could not win at Anfield last weekend. The game in hand away at Newcastle now takes on added importance if we are to gain any lead ahead of those teams behind us. The title race seems it will go right to the wire, its shaping up to be the best season in a long while.

But right now, as the Arsenal fans sung jubilantly in the final few moments of the match, "We are top of the League", unbeaten this season and long may it continue.

My ratings for this game would be thus:
Almunia - 5 - made error for their second goal, lucky not to be punished for rash decisions more often.
Sagna - 7 - did well against Giggs and made our first equaliser with great commitment and desire.
Gallas - 8 - showed why Wenger made him skipper. Solid on the deck, dominant in the air, clinical in front of goal and a real leader throughout.
Toure - 8 - the real rock of this side. Rooney hardly got a sniff when up against him and some of his tackles were brilliant.
Clichy - 7 - Great cross for our seocnd goal and did admirably well against the best winger in the world.
Eboue - 6 - some good moments but does not have enough directness right now to deserve to start on the right.
Flamini - 6 - over-run by anderson and didnt really stamp much authority on the game.
Fabregas - 7 - quite quiet but still got his goal and always tried to push us forward, well marshalled by Hargreaves.
Rosicky - 6 - another who didnt stamp his authority. Has looked out of sorts last two games as he has not driven at defences nearly enough.
Hleb - 6/7 - some brilliant skill and passing but must get rid of the ball quicker, get stronger and learn to tackle.
Adebayor - 6 - had the hard job of playing up top on his own and was up against a great defensive partership. Worked hard and nearly got his reward with one
shot at goal.

Friday, 2 November 2007

This is it - Come on you Gunners - lets roll over those Mancs

This match is THE match of the season so far. Manchester United and Arsenal are level on points at the top of the table, grnated we have a game in hand, but a win in this game will give the victors a psycholgical edge going into the busiest part of the season. Both teams are playing brilliant attacking football with two slightly different styles; Arsenal's football is all about team play, United's slightly more about individual talent within the team.

Both teams are defending very well right now and look very solid at the back in open play. United will be a bigger threat from set pieces as we lack the dominance in the air they have. Aswell as a solid goalkeeper in Van Der Saar they have defenders who are capable of starting attacks while keeping it tight at the back. United have a perfect blend in Ferdinand and Vidic. The latter can dominate in the air with his partner having the pace to track players on the ground; it is a perfect mix of power and skill. This will be the key for them should they want to dominate Arsenal in the final third. Adebayor will be up against Vidic as he is Arsenal's main ball winner but it depends who lines up alongside him that will make a big difference. Should Hleb play just off the Togo man it may cause the opposition some problems as he will want to play in the hole behind Adebayor. This will give Ferdinand a dilemna as to whether to push out of position to pick him up and leave Vidic one on one, or leave Hleb with some room. We all know the ability Hleb has to pick a pass and dribble past players; when granted any space and he can punish teams. Should Eduardo or Walcott play Ferdinand may have the beating of them as their pace will be matched. Ferdinand is known to have lapses in concentration so any sniff of a chance and Eduardo is the player to get a goal out of nothing.

Their full backs will need to be watched, with Evra in particular a real threat going forward. He will need to be tracked by whoever is chosen on the right of midfield. He will leave space in behind and this can be utilised on the counter should we attack with speed. He does have the pace to recover but we have the pace to get from one end to the other before he has the chance. I would pick Walcott over Eboue as his attitude is better and he will be willing to get back to help the team. His form is very good of late and the boost of being picked is the main thing that can get him up for this game. He can take advantage of space left for him aswell with his blistering pace. Brown is less naturally attacking but joins the play well and does the simple thing. His defending can be suspect and Rosicky must give him a hard time. They will play behind Ronaldo on the right and Giggs on the left most likely. We all know the threat these two pose and our full backs will be in for a tricky afternoon. Clichy did well against Ronaldo last season and hopefully he can do the same. He has been in good form and if he can get Ronaldo running towards his own goal we have a real chance. Sagna has also been in great form and I feel he can win his individual battle with Ryan Giggs. Although he is intelligent still, his pace has gone and Sagna is a hard tackling, speedy full back. I know they have much to deal with in defending our own goal but they must get forward as they did at Anfield on Sunday.

In the centre there will be a real battle. Hargreaves will be there to pick up Cesc and try to stop him playing. He is still a little rusty and probably wishes he had to face the in form Fabregas after a few more matches to gain fitness. It will be a real fight in there but Cesc can really give him the run around if he can re produce the form of this season so far. In all likelihood Flamini will play up against Carrick. Carrick has a great range of passing but if Flamini can get in and around him he can disrupt and unsettle Carrick's game. United will miss Scholes in there and Carrick has big boots to fill. If Wenger opts for Hleb on the right he may add Gilberto to the team and try and stop United completely in midfield. With 3 in the centre we will dominate this area and hopefully prevent the ball reaching the forwards as they are the main threat.

Rooney and Tevez have finally gelled and Gallas and Toure will have a tough 90 minutes on their hands. They will not have much to do in the air and they are very good defenders on the floor. They have the pace and strength to match the forward line of Manchester United. This is the type of game that Toure and Gallas will be up for and should they win their battle at the back we have the basis to go and win this match. Hopefully Almunia will not have much to do; he has done well recently and if he can keep this up we have an opportunity to take the points.

Being the home side I feel we should attack them as much as possible while being wary of leaving ourselves open at the back. We need to work hard both going forward and defending and thats from the strikers all the way back to the keeper. If each player wins his personal battle we can win this game. Should they lose them, we will not. The game will be tense and we must take our chances when they arrive. This let us down against Liverpool. One last thing before I list the line up I would play:


The Team:


Subs: Lehmann, Gilberto, Eboue, Eduardo, Bendtner

Thursday, 1 November 2007

'Kids' to add something to the squad - Sheffield United reaction

One thing I noticed after the Sheffield United match is that we still have something to add to this squad. This is either new players who have finally adapted, old squad players rejuvinated and even first teamers ready to force their way back into the team. The match away begun with controversy hanging over it like a bad smell. Gilberto is a professional and has always given his all to this team, I for one respect the guy and could never see him having a strop over losing his place. He knows Flamini has been in top form and having missed the start of the season Gilberto has no divine right to play alongside Fabregas in central midfield. As Wenger said, the stories come from nowhere and I'm sure they have no truth to them whatsoever. Wenger didnt help the matter with his strange decision to select Fabianski as his captain. I have no reason to suggest as to this selection but I do know that Gilberto was excellent last night and gave this team an old head amongst a squad with the average age of just over 20. 3-0 away at Sheffield United is a good result in itself, but when you go there with a makeshift defence and face a team with a major threat in the air, it is more than just good, its fantastic.

Alexandre Song has taken some stick recently but in the Carling Cup he has shown some true potential. He seems more settled as centre back. He has the strength to play there and has a strong tackle. He can pass the ball well from the back and in each game has looked composed alongside his defensive partner. Hoyte did well alongside him and I would really like him to succeed at Arsenal, he has stuck loyal to the club he loves and I hope he can make it here, maybe in the centre instead of at right back. Lassana Diarra and Kieran Gibbs were selected at right and left back respectively and they deserve special mention.

Many people did not know how good Diarra was when he switched from the blue of Chelsea to the red of Arsenal. Having many Chelsea fans as friends (disgraceful I know!) has given me the chance to see him in action and I was always impressed. He seemed to be a carbon copy of Makelele but with more pace; he was strong in the tackle, had a great reading of the game as well as a great calmness on the ball. Although he is a central midfielder by trade he can cope at right back and last night was excellent. He is a much more of a solid back up to Sagna than Eboue and we may see Diarra become permanent 2nd choice, especially if Hoyte moves inside. Having seen him both at right back and central midfield I think he would definitely be better used in the centre of the park as Gilberto/Flamini's replacement. Diarra could really compliment Fabregas and give the Spaniard the freedom to roam just like Flamini has so far this season. Like Diarra, Kieran Gibbs is naturally a left sided midfield player but was asked to do a job at left back. He was only selected due to Armand Traore's absence and when the Frenchman returns he will come back into the team in this competition. However Gibbs is an exciting talent and can fill the void left in our squad after Reyes left. We have no natural left footed winger and sometimes this is needed to add balance to a team in some matches. Rosicky does a different job out there and sometimes you need a player that will get to the byline and whip in crosses for the strikers to attack. He played well in the Emirates Cup and has impressed in every game I've seen him. His pass for Eduardo's goal showed the great vision and potential he has. They are both new players to the squad who can add something different to the squad in what will be a difficult season.

Theo Walcott looks like a different player now he has come confidence. During his last few games he has shown brilliant pace and has added an end product to his game. Denilson also has more confidence having signed his new contract and is ready to push on and try and oust one of the midfielders. His passing is not far off the level of Fabregas' and despite his build he can put himself about. These players again have a hard battle to get into the team but they have the ability to do so and if they warrant a chance, Wenger is the manager to give it to them. The depth is exciting but it is up front that gives me the most hope.

Eduardo came to this team with a lot of expectation, too much in my eyes. He started quite well and got a few goals in the appearances he made but did not hit the ground running as too many over expectant Arsenal fans wanted. He was then hit with an ankle injury that hindered his adaptation to a new league and a new team. There is a reason Wenger gives players 6 months to settle in before he passes judgement and we as fans must do the same. Last night he finally showed the sort of form he has for Croatia. His first goal was fantastic and showed real strikers' instinct. He knew where the goal was and had his mind made up as soon as he received the ball from Bendtner and sent a shot towards goal with such power that the 'keeper could not react as the ball flew into the top corner. His second goal had less force to it but showed something else Eduardo posseses. Picking up the ball from Gibbs' pass, he took the ball down easily and with great assurance he sent the keeper the wrong way as he slotted the ball into the bottom corner. The ease with which he put the ball away really encouraged me. He never looked like missing and this is why Wenger bought him; he has the ability to score with just a sniff of a chance. Wenger may think about starting him on Saturday after this performance; chances may be scarce against Man Utd and he may be the man to put anything we get away.

Alongside the Croatian striker was Nicklas Bendtner. He has demanded first team football and had something to prove after wasting the chance to win the game on Sunday with his horrendous miss. Last night he went someway towards redeeming himself. The Sheffield United defence couldn't handle him with his pace, strength and close control. He showed great skill and directness to set up Eduardo for his goal and was awkward for the oppositon throughout the game. He adds something different to our team when he comes on. He has great aerial ability mixed with skill on the ground with a decent ability in front of goal. The key thing for him to realise is that he is a rough diamond and under the guidance of Wenger he can become world class. He will get a few chances this season but mainly in the Cups, if he takes them, keeps his head down and works hard he can become an intengral part of this squad.

Once more our 'kids' have done us proud. This was a difficult away game and we came through with flying colours. Although I picked out Diarra, Gibbs, Eduardo and Bendtner for special praise, the whole team was excellent for the 90 minutes. The players who came on to make their debuts also looked decent in the short spell they had on the pitch. Hopefully we get a good draw at home in the next round so we can get another look at the second strong up close.

Next is Manchester United and although most of this team will not start, they showed the confidence and togetherness of the entire squad.