Tag Archives: Arsenal

Arsenal’s fixture list

Arsenals season will turn on four matches, played back to back, staring on Wednesday 27th January and finishing on Wednesday 10th February. They play Aston Villa, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool in a row.

If they come through these matches relatively unscathed then there run in is one of the easiest on record. The only real tests will come against Man City and Spurs and whilst these will be tough games they represent a small percentage of the point on offer after the Liverpool match.

Furthermore, starting the run of games towards the end of the transfer window will given Wenger sufficient time to purchase a striker that will add something different to his current group.

I recall how Arsenal went on a run of winning 10 games in a row to clinch the title in 1998. Their fixture list is primed for a repeat of this. Thursday 11th February will be the date when we can decide whether the title has a chance of returning to Arsenal. If they are within touching distance then I venture to say it will be theirs for the taking.

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Season so far – Part One; Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Blackburn and Bolton

Now that we are a quarter of the way through the league games played I thought that an assessment on how each team is doing, what needs to happen to improve the position and, maybe, what positions need to be filled in January. This will be done in four parts and alphabetically.

 

Arsenal

 

Aside from two blips in Manchester the start of the season has been very impressive. The goals are plentiful and are being scored from a number of different positions, thinking Gallas and Vermaelen really. To put Arsenals start in perspective, had they beaten West Ham and the team with whom they have their game in hand, Arsenal would have gone top.

 

The danger for Arsenal comes from two areas. One is often discussed defence; if Arsenal do not score more than the other team they will more than likely lose. Sounds obvious but I think most fans know what I mean.

 

Secondly was something that Martin Tyler remarked on in commentary during the West Ham match. The psychology of the Arsenal team is that if the opposition does score then they can score two. This might be true after ten or fifteen minutes but like during the AZ or West Ham match if there is not sufficient time then goals will not be readily available. The attacking play Arsenal use cannot be turned on like a tap, unlike the log ball.

 

This could be rectified by employing the services of a more clinical striker in ‘easier’ games. Against West Ham the starting three were van Persie, Arshavin and Eboue. Would replacing one of the three with Eduardo, Vela or Bendtner would have changed the final score?

 

Aston Villa

 

A mixed start of the season for Villa: fantastic results against Chelsea and Liverpool but poor results against Wigan and Wolves. The defence is fantastic with loads of depth and so far James Collins is having a fantastic season.

 

The midfield is strong in the middle and has enough depth to cover what Martin O’Neill wants. No one is particularly creative but O’Neill either wants his players to dwell on the ball or venture into areas which they would not be welcome.

 

Where Villa would struggle is with the depth of their attacking options. Agbonlahor and Carew are a very good striking partnership, although Carew has yet to shine this season. Heskey does not help Villa; he arrived in January and they collapsed, started the first game against Wigan and they lost, was dropped and Villa have climbed the table.

 

If they choose to play a 4-5-1 and one of the wide players that can fit into the system, Milner, Young and Agbonlahor, gets injured then they are perilously close to ‘bare bones’. In addition, if they play a 4-4-2 and Agbonlahor goes down injured then will a pairing of Carew and Heskey provide enough for Villa to win.

 

In January Villa need a winger to fill the void potentially left by an injured Milner or Young.

 

Birmingham

 

Of the ten games played four have been against Man Utd, Spurs, Villa and Arsenal – almost half therefore should be unconsidered unwinnable.

 

However, the games against Bolton, Burnley and Stoke were lost and two of those were at home. I have written previously about where I thought Birminghams difficulty would be and that is in the goal scoring. Only eight goals have been scored in the league this season. Benetiz, who looks lively, has been missing during international duty and therefore a consistency has yet to be found. Once it has they I imagine the goals will come. The midfield has enough creativity to produce chances and goals will come if McLeish allows them to get into a rhythm.

 

The defence has been impressive and Lee Carlsley will become more important as the season progressed.

 

Blackburn

 

I fear for Blackburn this season. The only man that will get Blackburn out of a relegation battle is Sam Allardyce. The question has to be where the goals are going to come from. Di Santo played very well against Burnley and Dunn is having one of his best seasons but one will probably go back to Chelsea in January and the other is alongside Anderton and Redknapp in the injury prone top 100.

 

The wide midfielders, Pederson and Diouf need to start contributing more in terms of end product. However, it has been a difficult start for Blackburn as the first choice centre back partnership of Samba and Nelson has not been readily available.

 

I don’t think Blackburn will go down as there are three teams that will be worse then them…but it’s going to be tough. They need a person that will guarantee them ten goals in the second half of the season.

 

Bolton

 

I like what Gary Megson is doing at Bolton. The defensive signings in the summer were very good (Knight, Ricketts and Robinson) and the midfield looks good. I haven’t really seen enough of Bolton this season to give a more informed opinion but from what I have seen the football looks to be of a decent quality.

 

A common theme is coming out during this review and that is the goals element. Although Bolton have scored goals they have been from all areas of the pitch. That was a good thing for Arsenal, but why not Bolton? Well the reason is that these goals are ‘unexpected’ goals; Cohen was not expected to score three league goals in seven games this season. He may get to six or seven for the season but no more.

 

Bolton, like Blackburn, need a striker that can supplement the unexpected goals that will come Boltons way. Elmandar has not yet justified his price tag but Klasnic has looked lively and could be the man to provide the goals.

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Eduardo’s ban

So UEFA have banned Eduardo for two matches following his dive against Celtic a week and a bit ago. His offence was trying to take an advantage by deceiving the referee (http://www.uefa.com/uefa/keytopics/kind=512/newsid=881429.html).

 

I echo Arsene Wenger’s thoughts on this subject insomuch that UEFA have opened a can of worms with their decision (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/8223917.stm ). The questions I have for UEFA broadly focus around when will they take action; does it need to be a penalty, a foul or would faking an injury suffice (i.e. Blitc or Rivaldo)?

 

Does it need to be in the Champions League or will those in the Europa League get the same treatment – can you image UEFA taking action against a player from Cluj v Kobenhavn?

 

Whether a player has dived or not is a subjective interpretation. Does the dive need to be completely obvious or does mere exaggeration of a situation make the player suitable for a video investigation. Also, if the referee spots the dive but does not caution the player then he has not been punished – can UEFA then step in?

 

Some of these questions can, I’m sure, be answered by UEFA but we might not find the answer until more controversial situations present themselves.

 

How best then to eradicate diving in the beautiful game? The punishment imposed by UEFA needs to be sufficient to curb the behaviour but not excessive in comparison to the yellow card imposed if found guilty.

 

What I would do is give the player a retrospective yellow card, something UEFA have been shy to do. A retrospective yellow card would only be applicable for the offence of deceiving the referee – no need to open the floodgates.

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