Almunia: captain fantastic + last chance to win a free Arsenal home shirt!

Almunia: captain fantastic + last chance to win a free Arsenal home shirt!

Just a short and punchy Thursday blog before I slink off to my room and enjoy a little bit of an afternoon nap.

A host of Arsenal players have been speaking about the 5-2 win over Fenerbache on Tuesday night. First up was stand-in captain for the match, Manuel Almunia, who called the game as crazy and similar to a training match due to the number of chances that both sides created. In his own words:

“It was a crazy game. There were so many chances it seemed like a training match. Personally I had a strange feeling about the match, everything seemed much easier than normal in the Champions League.”

I got the same feeling watching on the TV so I can definitely see where Almunia is coming from. People have criticised the rickety nature of the defence against Fenerbache but I just think it was one of those crazy games where things go a bit mental and both teams put the emphasis on attacking. Fenerbache really came after our boys after we skipped two ahead and the fact that they only pulled two back while we scored a further three suggests that continuing to play an attacking game was the right decision by Arsene Wenger and the team.

On a personal level Almunia put in a fantastic performance as captain. There’s little doubt that once William Gallas returns to the side he will resume the captaincy but the armband seemed to galvanise Almunia and he played particularly well. I still don’t understand when people say he’s not good enough to play for Arsenal, at the moment he’s probably the most consistent goalkeeper of any of the big four sides in England and – for my money – remains hugely underrated.

Another player who has been gabbing since the win in Turkey is the human polariser, Emmanuel Adebayor. The big Togolese striker who opened the scoring against Fenerbache, has been speaking about the differences between last year’s team and this one and come to the conclusion that things are going just fine. Observe:

“What we did last season is behind us now. We have not lost a lot of players. We have only lost Hleb and Flamini but we have changed them. Nasri and Denilson have come in and are both playing good football.”

When he makes those comments it’s clear he’s focusing on the starting eleven and in that regard, he’s not far wrong. However, while I agree that Samir Nasri looks and improvement on Alex Hleb I just don’t agree that Denilson is playing as effectively as Mathieu Flamini. People keep speaking about giving Denilson a chance and quoting statistics relating to his passing percentages and tackling ability but at the end of the day he’s not doing enough to support Cesc Fabregas and he lacks the physical presence of Flamini.

Denilson will usually perform well when supported by an extra-midfielder in a 4-5-1 but I just don’t think he has what it takes to be the defensive half of a two-man midfielder in a 4-4-2. Although Abou Diaby played in quite an attacking role against Fenerbache I firmly believe he is the one who needs to play alongside Fabregas in the middle, even despite the manager’s suggestions that he is a more attacking rather than defensive player.

As such, it will be very interesting to see whether Diaby starts against West Ham this Sunday or whether Denilson holds his spot next to Fabregas. You know what I’ll be hoping for.

Just before I go today I want to give you all a final reminder that if you’re keen on winning the FREE Arsenal home shirt kindly donated to the blog by SoccerPro, you can enter the competition here. As I’ve said time and time again this week you need to be a subscriber of the blog to enter, so if you’re yet to subscribe you can do so here. I’ll be announcing the winner of the shirt in tomorrow’s blog so stay tuned!

In the meantime I’m off to have a nap. Have a good Thursday.

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33 Responses to “Almunia: captain fantastic + last chance to win a free Arsenal home shirt!”

  1. brdgunner
    October 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    I agree about the team. Nasri is a great improvement, however, Flamini is still missing. I think that Song has the natural ability to replace Flamini. I am a big fan of Denilson, just not in that position. West Ham then the spuds. Two wins should put us back in the mix with stoke then Utd. We can beat anyone on our day and if we win these four games its really on again. COME ON THE GUNNERS.

  2. jay
    October 23, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    first to comment :D:D, i agree about Denilson, and I believe not enough people do. He is a good player to have on the bench to come on for Cesc, but Diaby is strong, powerful, he can scare defensives and he can score. He bought out the best in cesc on tuesday and i believe he can do that in a 4-42 aswell. Want to see RvP starting though.

  3. Scooch
    October 23, 2008 at 7:38 pm #

    Good article. I completely agree about Almunia. He seems to have grown a lot (not literally) over last season. He put in a great performance in Turkey. He also seems like a pretty good bloke too. Really hope that Diaby starts alingside Cesc. I’d forgotten how good hhis feet were in his close control.

  4. Renae
    October 23, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    I have to agree that Diaby will be a better partner for Fabregas. Hopefully they will be paired more frequently.

    It´s good to be back to the blog. Enjoyed reading all the previous stuff.

  5. Justin
    October 23, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    I just cant understand why people cant see that Diaby will never be the solution to our midfield woes. Hes a fantastic attacking propect i know that much BUT his tackling is horrible and i mean if people keep going on about how we need someone to support Cesc, thats not gonna work! Diaby would just keep bombing forward and the times he stays back he’d leave the defense horribly exposed. That said, i’d much rather see him in the middle than denilson.

  6. JohnW
    October 23, 2008 at 8:36 pm #

    Actually, a part from Alexander Song, not even Diaby can protect our leaking defence. Diaby’s defensive game is so weak that Denilson is better than him in that regard.
    I’m I the only one sensing that Diaby is going to be competing with Van P or Nasri in their positions this season?
    Finally I think Arsenal can do just fine with Denilson Cesc partnership against weak teams. Against the top four, all we need is to pair Song and Djoruou in the holding midfield, cesc pushes further up and we would come out ok.

  7. Justin
    October 23, 2008 at 8:40 pm #

    Theres no way we should move Djorou outta defense. We need him there. I’d be more than happy to see song in midfield.

  8. ramugunner
    October 23, 2008 at 8:48 pm #

    It was a fabulous attacking display by the team. Cesc, Walcott and Diaby were outstanding. Ade got a goal but was abysmal after he scored. Almunia had one of the best performance in Arsenal shirt. Our defense and midfield had a big hole. A better attacking side with a good striker could have scored many goals. I wonder how Guiza managed to get past our CB’s every single time they attacked us. Winning 5-2 is always positive but we had few deficiencies too.

    Positives:

    1. Diaby: Had his best game in his Arsenal career after first half against Chelsea in the carling cup final. Arsenal fans including Spanshfry used to take him as a Flamini’s replacement. I always disagreed cause he is more attack minded. He can have a solid contribution for this team playing behind strikers not in defensive midfield. Hopefully he can stay fit cause he has a scary injury record.
    2. Walcott and cesc: These two are the only two players who can be world class player one day from our squad. Consistency and injury-record will be important though.

    3. Almunia: Had a big game. Could have conceded 5/6 but saved our day. I am not a big fan of him at all but he showed some glimpses of being a good worldkeeper. Big games waiting for him though. Hopefully his form will continue.

    4.Ramsey: What a finishing? His composure, physical presence and eye for a goal is so good. He has already proved us that why Wenger was so desperate to sign this kid. Vela, Ramsey and Wilshere are new breed of an Arsenal promises.

    Negatives:
    1. Adebayor: Yes, he scored a really good goal but had an abysmal performance and was not convincing at all. I could not find anything good he did for the team after he scored the goal early. Vela/Bentdner should have come on early to replace him.

    2. Defense/CDM: We conceded two goals but it could have been 5/6 without Almunia and Guiza’s poor composure. Striker like Villa/Torres could have scored 5 goals against that defense.

    3. Wenger’s substitute policy: This is one of his shortcoming. A manager’s job is to replace a player who is playing poorly with a better option in the bench. Wenger hardly do this. Ade should have come off for Bentdner after 60 minutes.

    Team against Westham:

    Formaton: 4-5-1

    Song should not be playing at Centerback position anymore. Djourou should come in. If Gallas is available, Gallas/Silly CB pairing and Djourou playing CDM. Djourou said earlier his best position is defensive midfield. With him we will have defensive stability, aerial power and a player who can tackle in the middle. He can be as good as Flamini if he learn to pass wisely and if he stays fit. I would try him at CDM for at least few games. My team:

    Almunia
    Defenders: Sagna(Eboue) Gallas(Djourou) Silly Clichy
    CDM: Djourou(Song)
    Playmaker: Cesc
    Wide: Walcott, Nasri
    CAM: Diaby
    ST: Adebayor

    If adebayor fails to impress again he should be dropped against Fenerbache at home. I don’t know what else Bentder has to prove to get a starting place in this team. If someone say Ade is undroppable that’s totally wrong. He is one of the under-performer of this season despite few goals and assists.

    P.S. As an Arsenal fan if someone is masturbating with one good performance has to understand that game was against one of the shittest defense in Europe and scoring 5 goals means nothing. The season is too long. This team has to face teams who defend whole 90 minutes, team who has solid defense and team who has good attackers. Yesterday, Fenerbahche had nothing at all. Our current team is way too far from being perfect or to challenge for titles. No matter what, this kind of games are fun to watch and give morale boosting. We have a tough November in front of us. If we can manage to come on top with some good performances then we will be right back in the title haunt.

    Come on young guns!!

  9. Nirav
    October 23, 2008 at 8:52 pm #

    I completely agree on using Diaby alongside Cesc in the midfield in ahead of both Denilson or Song. I know many people are not too enamored by his defensive abilities, but for some reason I would feel more secured with him than with Denilson or Song.

    That said, I don’t think Arsene Wenger should be thinking of this as a permanent solution. We definitely need a good signing in January. I just hope we can stay in the game till then…

  10. Bobby Pires
    October 23, 2008 at 11:52 pm #

    Good article. I completely agree about Alumina; apart from looking like the polar bear from the Golden Compass his game has improved all round. It was the first night I actually thought he could, maybe should, play for England in future.

    Just got sent an email from a new site woodhouseclothing.com; sells like Stone Island & Evisu etc … and with the code HOUSE you can get 25% off some nice clobber. Result.

  11. Speedy-Pete
    October 24, 2008 at 3:11 am #

    Ramugunner, I agree with you about Bendtner: what does it take. My theory is that Wenger wants the Ade and RvP combination to work so when we come up against the big teams they can function on their own as a unit. Unfortunately, both function better with Bendtner who I believe understands his role to be the 2nd striker. I think Wenger would have taken Ade off if he was sure Ebou would not need to come-off because of the shoulder injury.

    I am not sure the right person in the DM position will make much of a difference until the defensive line is straighten out. I think Wenger’s experiment with wanting utility CB’s is not working out and that Senderos has been unfairly punished.

  12. jay
    October 24, 2008 at 4:26 am #

    Toure and Gallas are both back for West Ham and it looks like AW will play the pair of them in the centre of defence :(, sagna will be back for Tottenham and Eduardo is 3 weeks away til he can play :D, then it will just be Rosicky out.

  13. Demetrio
    October 24, 2008 at 4:29 am #

    Wenger has said he expects Eduardo to be back mid-November. So forget the RVP-Ade combo. Its gonna have to be RVP/Ade-Eduardo. If when he is healthy he doesn’t start, i will lose further patience with Wenger since Eduardo is our goal scorer. Neither RVP or Ade has a nose for goal like Eduardo.

  14. TayGoon
    October 24, 2008 at 5:14 am #

    @SF: You can definetely say I tried 🙂 I am resting my case.

  15. TayGoon
    October 24, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    @Demetrio: I like the RVP/Eduardo or Adebayor/Eduardo combinations rather than Adebayor/RVP. If Eduardo catches on fire early on, we might see Nasri lose the left wing spot and has to move into the roving role in 4-5-1.

    Although Nasri is considered a replacement for Hleb. He has not yet played in Hleb roles since he signed. It will be Nasri/Diaby/Rosicky for the role, and if Vela olso forces AWs hand, it will be Rosicky/Eduardo/Vela/Diaby/Nasri on the left. If we feel living bloodthirsty, I figure we will have 3 strikers in a 4-5-1(Theo RW,Eduardo/Vela on the left, and Adebayor/Eduardo/Bendtner up top, with Rosicky/Nasri/Diaby in support. In a 4-4-2 Nasri could lose to Eduardo on the left with both RVP and Adebayor in the middle with Theo/Nasri/Eboue and Possibly Diaby on the right. The only players from Midfield up who can not comfortably play more than one position are Cesc and RVP and we need Cesc to be where he is best.AM. With all these possible combinations, Depth is not a matter of squad size, but rather dynamism.

  16. jay
    October 24, 2008 at 5:45 am #

    @ TayGoon – eduardo will not replace nasri on the left. he will go up top, he is our goal scorer, so we need him, Eduardo/Rvp seems good 2 me. Nasri to stay on the left!! He great however he will hav competition when Rosicky is back. Whilst Theo has competition from Eboue (which Theo keeps winning :D)

  17. TayGoon
    October 24, 2008 at 6:07 am #

    @jay – I aggree with you although what I meant was when we feel “Bloodthirsty”. In normal circumstances Nasri might stay on the left, but even on the left wing, Eduardo offers a juicier prospect than Nasri(there I go again, not favouring a fans’ favourite)

  18. jay
    October 24, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    @ TayGoon – I hope he doesn’t replace Nasri on the left wing, Nasri is a great player, and one of my favourite arsenal players! I would think having Nasri on the wing and Eduardo up front would be more juicy.

  19. Spanish Fry
    October 24, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    Some thoughts…

    On Adebayor – Still can’t see why people can’t see the value he brings to the side. Although I can understand he’s in a little bit of a form slump he still works harder than any other striker in the squad and is integral to the way that we play. A team with RVP and Bendtner/Eduardo up front would not have the dynamism of a team with Adebayor, even if he’s a little clumsy and wastes some chances. Just my thoughts.

    Having said that I’m not against Bendtner being given a go and Adebayor being given a rest. I just think Ade-RVP is our best partnership and the one that should play the bulk of the time. If it’s not working mid-match then Wenger should change it and there will be times when Ade-Bendtner would work well but aside from that I’m quite happy with how Wenger is handling the attacking side of things.

  20. Spanish Fry
    October 24, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    @ TayGoon – Sorry, what were you resting your case on? Something from yesterday?

  21. Spanish Fry
    October 24, 2008 at 8:50 am #

    Defensively I would like to see Gallas and Djourou play this weekend but I’m pretty sure Wenger will go with Gallas and Silvestre. I get the feeling Toure is a little bit touch-and-go despite being available and I see no reason risking him when we have other options.

  22. Demetrio
    October 24, 2008 at 9:43 am #

    I kinda agree with Fry. I would prefer a Ade/Eduardo parntership. I think Ade is less skillful then RVp but RVP is VERY wasteful as is Ade BUT Ade is more willing to do like Luca Toni does for us in Italy. He is willing to be a set up man. He can use his size and strength to hold the ball up and get it to Eduardo to finish. RVP i am just done with. All these seasons and he still hasnt learned that you can blast the ball through a goal keeper. Adde may have horrible finishing but at least he has the right idea to go around a goal keeper. Besides I think RVP would be less willing to just play set up man for Eduardo. Being that Eduardo is the only man that can score with only one chance in a game, not only does he score he doesnt mind scoring the ugly gritty goals we sometimes need, he MUST start so Wenger has a decision to make. Good thing is when Eduardo comes back Wenger can experiment with the options, maybe RVP/Eduardo will work, but from last season i think Ade played better with Eduardo there.

    I am very excited about the news he’ll be back in 3 weeks, but i think it is important to remember he might not be the same player he was. Diaby i think changed as a player after the got his ankle broke. Eduardo might need time mentally to recover. Hopefully he is very forgetful and starts where he left off last season scoring goals.

  23. Demetrio
    October 24, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    I would prefer a Silvestre/Djourou. Gallas is rubbish. I think Wenger needed to punish him for his horrible form many weeks ago by sitting him. This is the perfect time to do it.

  24. Spanish Fry
    October 24, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    @ Demetrio – Just be aware that Eduardo is returning to competitive training in three weeks time, so I would suggest it’ll be another month or two from that date before he starts a Premiership game. Having said that, the timing of his return could be perfect given that the season gets a little bit testing after Christmas and we might be lacking some creative spark. Eduardo and Rosicky’s returns could be just what we need to power on.

  25. Demetrio
    October 24, 2008 at 10:50 am #

    Its gonna take more then just those two returns to have enough to power on after Christmas. Wenger will need to invest in a big center back and a defensive midfielder or just another midfielder to create space for Fab, and even tho you like Almunia, i cannot see us winning anything with him as our goal keeper. I think the guys on Sky Sports make a very good point. You say no goals have been his fault when indeed they have. He is not a forceful GK, on at least 2 goals, he should have took control and caught the ball in the air, but he instead cannot get past his own man in front of him. Man u and Chelsea both have goalkeepers that take charge on corners and set pieces and Almunia is just not type of GK. So with the return of Eduardo whom will bring goals, Rosicky that can creat and score. We still a big tall CB, DMF and we need a world class GK. Those three postions is whats holding us back.

  26. Spanish Fry
    October 24, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    I don’t agree sorry mate. I think we have the midfielder (Diaby) and the makings of an acceptable centre-back partnership (Gallas/Toure with Djourou/Silvestre). It’s just that Wenger is not playing those options. As for the GK, I think Almunia has been superb since he took the jersey from Lehmann and there is no reason for anyone else to come in.

  27. TayGoon
    October 24, 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    @SF – I rest my case for trying to convince the fans to be excited about Denilson, or just cut him some slack.

    Before the season started I caught some flak for saying Diaby and Denilson can fill the void and we don’t need to buy, and when Diaby got injured, I said he might have handed the chance to Denilson. Diaby was my first choice before even Flamini, but the fact of the matter is Denilson is the best passer in the EPL right now(if you combine volume and accuracy) and for a team known world over passing, I would be very surprised if AW will drop someone who is the best passer in the league, not just the team. So I think Denilson will keep his place, and Diaby will have to wrestle it from him.

    Most of the misplaced passes from Denilson are not actually missplaced. He pass into space thinking a teammate will run and latch on to it. when they don’t it becomes an un-completed pass and it falls on the passer. The questions is if the others get in tune with him he is sublime.
    The first time I saw Denilson play for Arsenal, he was by far the best passer of anyone I have seen, still is. The only thing Cesc has more than Denilson is game intelligence, which will come with a run of games. It took Cesc a run of games to be what he is, and if we want Denilson to become another gem, we have to afford him the time. I remember when Vieira left, Cesc was not “good enough” for a while according to fans.

    I like Nasri’s anticipation of Denilson’s passes and he is the only other arsenal player who can greatly utilise Denilson’s exquisite passes that others can’t yet latch onto. The other one is…..Eduardo! and mark my words, when the two of them are in full swing … I don’t know what to say!

    One thing I would like to mention is, we look shaky defensively, and ship more goals on corners/set-pieces and long balls, each of which a DMs is not responsible for. For us to have 2 CMs who gives us so much going forward can only be a good thing.

  28. jay
    October 24, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    @ TayGoon – I now see what your saying, as I haven’t seen Denilson do this I will now watch out for this. I would still like to see Diaby start but deni come on as a sub and ill look for his passing.

  29. Speedy Pete
    October 24, 2008 at 11:26 pm #

    TayGoon, I agree with you 100%. I think because Denilson and Bendtner played a lot together in the 2nd team they know each others’ game which is why I wish Wenger would just start either Ade or RvP with Bedtner to get a fluid link-up with mid-field. I think Eboue is getting into sync with Denilson when Eboue attacks the middle.

    While talking about Arsenal’s underdogs: I hope Senderos will be back next year and that his departure has unmasked how shaky the back-line really is.

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