Hello again – good to write to you again on a spectacularly fine and sunny day in Brisbane. There are few things I get more pleasure from than sipping on wine and writing this blog and that’s exactly what I’m up to this afternoon.
The big news overnight for Arsenal fans was that of Aston Villa losing 2-0 at Manchester City. The defeat (one that I predicted in my Arsenal v Villa points assessment after the draw with Fulham) leaves us just 3 points behind Aston Villa with a superior goal difference of +2. The race for fourth is heating up and it’s all of a sudden made me quite cheerful again.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Arsene Wenger say something like “we don’t care about Aston Villa’s performances, we’re only worrying about ourselves” over the next day or so, but I do feel that Villa’s faltering results will serve as a great motivation for our players. They have three tough fixtures against Tottenham at home and both Liverpool and Manchester United and with our comparative fixtures looking much stronger I do feel we’ll be in fourth sooner rather than later.
In between now and our next opportunity to gain ground on Aston Villa, the home game against Blackburn, we do have to play two important knockout matches. First up is the FA Cup clash with Burnley followed by the second leg of our Champions League tie away at Roma. Both are bound to be tough games, but if the boys can come through unscathed then it will see morale at the club lifted to as high as it has been all season.
Indications are that we will be without Kolo Toure for both games. The stand-in captain went off injured with a calf problem against West Brom and the suggestion from the manager is that he will not recover. The good news is that William Gallas will be available and I must say that I’m quite comfortable and confident with the prospect of Gallas and Johan Djourou pairing up again. Djourou has done extremely well this season and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t continue his good form in those games.
The absence of Toure will also mean another change in the captaincy, with Robin van Persie sure to take up the armband against Burnley before handing it on to Manuel Almunia for the Roma game. In truth the manager might as well sit down all his players* in a big circle, flick on some ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ and play a game of Pass-the-Armband.
Moving on and our latest signing, Andrey Arshavin, has commented on the difficulty of the English Premier League. Speaking with the official Arsenal website, Arshavin revealed that he felt the speed and intensity of the league was far beyond what he had expected. In his own words he said:
“I watched the matches that were broadcast in Russia whenever possible. But to tell the truth it seemed less difficult on TV. Only now do I understand how dynamic and hard the football is here.”
Arshavin has put in two hour-long shifts against Sunderland and Fulham and a full 90 minutes against West Brom and has, in my opinion, looked very good. As I mentioned briefly yesterday, although he might be struggling for raw fitness he has shown no indication that English football is too fast or physical for him.
His technical skill is undeniable and his passing has been clean and crisp. From what I saw of him at Zenit St Petersburg and with the Russian national team at Euro 2008, one of Arshavin’s real strengths is his ability to finish and I just feel that once he gets up to 100% fitness he will begin to show that. Although he has shown a happy knack of hitting the target since joining the club I get the feeling that he will start to bury those sort of chances once he reaches his optimum fitness levels.
And that is it for another day. Just another reminder before you go that if you’re a regular reader of the blog you can subscribe to receive daily posts for free by subscribing here. Also, if you’re a Facebook or Twitter user then you can add me as a friend or follower by clicking the respective links.
More tomorrow including a preview of the Burnley game and some other musings. Enjoy your Thursday.
Have your say on the race for fourth, Toure’s injury or the progress of Arshavin by leaving a comment.
* Emmanuel Eboue would of course be excluded.