Villa’s loss is Arsenal’s gain + playing Pass-the-Captaincy once again

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.

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31 Responses to “Villa’s loss is Arsenal’s gain + playing Pass-the-Captaincy once again”

  1. Tony
    March 5, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    Hey. What part of brisbane are you from? I’m irish and i lived in brisbane for about 3 months. I was living out in the redcliffe,strathpine direction somewhere but the city blew me away. just beautiful. would go back in a second. anyway, on here cos i’m hardcore arsenal too. pretty accurate analysis in that article. Djourou is very good in my opinion too but lacks confidence at times. I think we are in a great position to by-pass Villa now. i turned off villa game in disgust on sunday after they got the 2nd. found out later on sunday on the net that it was a draw. so a potential 8 point gap turns into a 3 point gap in 4 days. what luck. But it will be close. No more fuck ups, we have to win the games we should be winning

  2. Spanish Fry
    March 5, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    Wow, it’s super quiet tonight.

  3. kameron
    March 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    I think, as the season draws into the final curve and leads to the home stretch, we Gooners should look back on Sunday afternoon at Stoke’s last-minute equaliser as the catalyst towards lifting our heads up and finally realising that it is simply up to us and us alone to get that fourth spot. As much as I have enjoyed Villa this season and loved the idea of them being in the top four, the lack of squad depth will catch up with them and as the games are played out, the fatigue factor will break in as well. Plus, with all of our players due back within a month, not only do I believe we will get into the top 4, but that we will challenge for both the FA cup and the CL.

    Also, I look very much forward to what may follow the next season. Villa will spend another 40-50 million, Everton another 10-15 million plus all the big payers back from injuries, Chelsea a complete overhaul (hopefully one geared towards the long term), Liverpool bringing in the one or two European-class players that they so desperately need and The Professor taking with grace the warning this season offered, keeping all the big names at the club and reinforcing them with a first-choice European-class DM and one more central defender (Gallas, Toure, Djourou and…). All of this could lead to a genuine title race involving potentially five teams (and a possible 6th if Everton stay injury free).

    So, whilst this season slides into the normal pattern, the joy for next season is already there.

    Arshavin, we love you. Benny, not far off it.

  4. amar
    March 5, 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    Below article is quite interesting for the wenger haters!

    Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas has admitted he would consider his future at the Emirates Stadium if Arsene Wenger ever left the club.

    Wenger’s position has come under scrutiny after another disappointing season for the north Londoners, with their only remaining hopes of silverware lying in the FA Cup and Champions League.

    Reports on Thursday morning suggest the Frenchman could become a target of big-spending Manchester City during the summer, but Spain midfielder Fabregas insists his departure would be a huge blow for the Gunners.

    “I have heard the rumours about Wenger leaving for the past three years,” Fabregas told the Daily Mirror.

    “If he left the club then of course I would consider my own future and whether I would leave the club.

    “I am happy at Arsenal and believe that we and Barcelona play the best football in Europe.

    “But Wenger is a main part of that.”

  5. Ernie
    March 5, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    There have been debates going on about Wenger’s future at Arsenal with the defence mostly pointing out that all teams have their cycles and look what happened when Man Utd stuck with Fergie through his sticky patch. While I certainly don’t think Wenger should be shown the door, I think he should be given a nudge about a re-think to his strategy.

    Chelsea radically changed the football landscape and Wenger has yet to adapt. Before Abramovich all we heard from Arsenal was that Man Utd’s era was over, now it was Arsenal’s time. Chelsea ensured this never happened and Arsene still seems a little in shock. When Roman really got going there was amazement that they could put out two teams that could beat almost all the other clubs. The second string was full of expensive internationals the like that none of the other teams could match in their squad. It allowed Mourinho to treat every game of every competition as must win. Man Utd have reacted to this and now boast a better squad than Chelsea, Arsenal’s is full of kids – very promising kids, but kids all the same.

    Fergie was under pressure as he was doing what Wenger is still doing now. He was hoping that the previous method of a strong first team backed up with home grown/youth team players was strong enough for all fronts as their rivals were in the same boat. Chelsea changed this. Utd and Arsenal both continued with their strategy for a season but it soon became obvious it wouldn’t work against their new rivals.

    Fergie changed his outlook, swallowed his pride shipping out a lot of the players he had hoped would come good and bought in lots of additional talent to really flesh out the squad. That’s how he got away from the pressure, not purely by doing the same thing. Wenger sold his big names and relied on youth. He hasn’t changed and that is why he is still under pressure. Utd have since lost excellent young players in Rossi and Pique as the squad is so strong there have been better options.

    Chelsea raised the bar and in turn created the Utd that are able to fight on multiple fronts. Arsenal are certainly good enough to win something, including the league, sometime in the next few seasons. However, with their current strategy its doubtful they will be consistently strong enough to dominate for years like they had expected pre-Chelsea.

  6. Sean
    March 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm #

    After Villa’s result yesterday i couldn’t help but jump to get some of my joy out. Our season is turning around and we’re getting form at the best time. too late for the league but not for a cup run or two. I usually don’t read the comments made by other readers because they’re usually overly negative so today why don’t we pass around the optomism pipe and get high on our teams potential.

  7. Spanish Fry
    March 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    @ Sean – Agreed. There’s definitely some positive vibes floating around at the moment.

  8. Filipino Dan
    March 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    Sunny in Brisbane – snowing in Scotland! But I’m still a happy bunny anyway. Just the result we were hoping for!

    Three massive games now, and we will be favourites for all of them. Let’s hope that we live up to that tag and take a big step closer to CL qualification and silverware!

  9. cd gooner
    March 5, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    in arsene we trust… with gunners we supports….

  10. Spanish Fry
    March 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm #

    @ Filipino – I’d take some snow over this sunny whether. Just for the variety 🙂

  11. Ezra
    March 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Ernie neither pique nor rossi was a starter at man u so they could afford loosing them, remember the first time it took the trophy in this run fergie based on the fitness of three players ronaldo,rooney,vidic and non of which have sustained an injury going 3 month into the season. I look at Arsenal and just wish for luck why first we loose 2 great players in Hleb and Flamini rosicky becoming a chainman for the injured welcoming comitee, buying Gallas and silvestre who add problems to the team. In the end you find that to clean Arsenal you have to do it by retaining players that are valuable to the club and letting go those who are not and thats when you will know who buy in a less effective position.

  12. Gibbs
    March 5, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

    Love the optimism Gooners. Happy to see us win, hopefully we keep winning. Walcott and Eduardo are fit again and are available for the game on Sunday, Arshavin is almost 100% fit and the rest of the crew will be back by next month. The future is bright folks, i see at least 1 trophy going to the Emirates this season. Up the Arsenal!

  13. Awuor AWuor
    March 5, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Wenger is agooner for life just like my self, am a gooner till death do us a part ,generally we better talk Liverpool ,Chelsea ,and man u but not Aston villa. villa are pace setters

  14. Darragh
    March 5, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    I just watched the highlights of the west brom game, and liked how Bendtner and Arshavin played together.

    Whats with the big guy/small guy combination that works so well. It was happening when adebayor/eduardo were beginning to find form last season as well.

    Arshavin looks like a great signing. I hope he grabs some goals soon!

  15. Fatboy
    March 5, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    A long way to go before the end of the season. It is now vital that we don’t draw games we should win or lose games where we could have picked up a point. We can’t have any more Sunderlands or Fulhams. Thr strikers need to be much more clinical and the midfield need to show a lot more drive. It’s much more in our own hands now, so if we don’t make it, it’ll be our own fault.
    Talking of Wenger- who would we replace him with? There’s no doubt Wenger is one of the most highly regarded coaches on the planet. It’s true we can’t continue the way we have this season, struggling to stay in the top 4. However, AW’s past glories mean he’s earned the right to try and get us out of this rut. If next season’s as dire as this one has been, maybe the subject should be discussed.

  16. Paul
    March 6, 2009 at 12:15 am #

    Yeah we finally DID IT,who says we are a useless TEAM,we are back in form,I wouldn’t be suprised if we won the champions league…GUNNERS FOR LIFE!!!Paul Somwe,Zambia.

  17. Dally
    March 6, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Great result for the arsenal. Now we have to take the bull by the horns and make sure we beat Blackburn in the next game. It looks like both Eduardo and Walcott will be available for the cup game so lets hoping they can both get some game time under their belts. Talking about time has anyone seen that “Cashly Cole” has been arrested for being drunk and disorderly, just because the wife’s away the kids will play.
    All this talk of AW leaving “Man City” being touted now is crazy talk, he has a plan which is just about to come to fruition. The kids are all getting older and gaining a lot of experience and these recent games will give them experience. My only thoughts are say if we win the league next year and start to dominate like AW thinks can happen, when does he get board and start creating another young team. Will we see the age barrier taken down from 30 to say 27, or even 25!!! Well its a thought.

  18. TayGoon
    March 6, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    Easy guys on turning the corner thing. Our performances has been the same all along, as we haven’t had much problems scoring away from the grove but struggle at home. I will consider us breaking the duck when we crucify Blackburn at the Emirates and finally turn our 30,000 + booing fans at the grove to augment the remaining 20,000+ to become our 12th man. So far, they are our oppositions’ 13th man, and it hasn’t helped. Lets hope RVP – Eduardo combination gel quickly as we are about to withness 1 or 2 notable cassualities of the Arshavin purchase. Nasri. As both Arshavin and Rosicky are better players when fully fit. It is undeniable that we need Theo’s pace on the right, something even Eboue offers more than Nasri does, so we may see a spectacular drop down the pecking order for young Nasri. A good thing to come out of it is he will concentrate on being a CM which will further congest the seemingly bare CM. Think of all possibele candidates for CM, Cesc,Denilson,Diaby,Nasri,Rosicky,Arshavin,Song,Merida,Ramsay, Bischoff, just to name a few.

  19. Johno
    March 6, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    Arsene Wenger has often stated that he has never broken a contract. So I for one cannot believe that this most honorable man would consider leaving before the end of his present contract. That said, there is always the most unlikely chance that a suddenly deluded and suicidal board might take the decision to dispense with his services.

    Is Fabregas committed to Arsenal Football Club or to Arsene Wenger? If it is the latter then his often quoted “love” for Arsenal is a spurious as that of Thierry Henry and will present no bar to his leaving for his “dream” move to whichever club is offering the best deal at the time.

    Cynical maybe but realistic none the less.

  20. sa gunnar
    March 6, 2009 at 2:33 am #

    a win no less, but rumours bout man city purchasing wenger is just horses talk,why would wenger leave a team which he does have completed say financial, directors backing and da player’s backin on da pitch.cesc future at emirates always on leaving becoz of wenger leaving is old news, lets remember that cesc knows that he will lose identity if he went back home when playin with da famous names and players at barc neva seem to have a future there to retire with coaches coming and going.

  21. MoMONEY
    March 6, 2009 at 3:05 am #

    Wenger is not going anywhere. All media created. In fact if you look at the goodplaya survey you will see that nearly 90% of fans think he is the right man to lead us into the future. I guess it is just the opinions of a select few, coupled with recent struggles, that have been voiced on here so much…

    And Arsenal is not JUST about results I would say. Its about flair and domination and entertainment while achieving results. Cesc is right in comparing Arsenal to Barca from a football standpoint. The fans demand this now and I am sure some place more emphasis on it then results (to a certain extent obviously)…

  22. Filipino Dan
    March 6, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    I read to day that Hleb is unhappy at Barca and is interested in a move to Germany. http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11827_5008890,00.html.

    That is good news as Cesc has admitted to being best friends with Hleb and could have been another reason for him to go back to Catalonia.

    Personally, I never rated Hleb. I think Nasri is twice the player that Hleb is. Which brings me on to taygoon’s point – I think we are still to see the best from Nasri. Wenger won’t drop his French starlet. I expect Vela and Eboue to face the brunt of our improving choices on the flanks. I just hope that if that happens, Vela will get a chance up front now and again.

  23. nigel
    March 6, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    what’s all this about a minjin sun who we’ve been rumoured to be interested in?

    any info?

  24. TayGoon
    March 6, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    @ Filipino Dan;

    I think Theo will be the preffered RW with Arshavin or Rosicky having the second pick there, I somehow feel Arshavin plays better coming from the left and Rosicky was riding shotgun at LM before he got injured. This all does not bode well for Nasri. We have not seen the best from Nasri yet but if he wants to stamp his authority on the LM berth, he has less than 3 games in which to do it, otherwise it will be a brutal fight for that spot. Eboue and Vela are a given to suffer in the begining, But Vela might get a few surprising nods on the left. It will be nice if we remain in the cup ties to the end that way a rotation could ensure all have their chances. I have not been impressed with Nasri on the right, and I honestly can’t remember a Nasri cross from Wide positions. Walcott, Eboue, Vela, and Arshavin, even Bendtner tend to cross more and with a predator like Eduardo we would be more effective if we give him room to surprise defenders without cutting in and crowd the middle with both our wingers and their wide defenders. Although Eduardo is short compared to Ade,Bendtner and Van Persie, he is a very good reader of the ball flight and a very effective header as a result. Now all of a sudden Nasri’s bag of tricks seems a little short compared to his competitors. Same goes for Adebayor, who might find his extended absence to be very costly.

  25. Darragh
    March 6, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    @Johno Theirry Henry’s spurious loyalty to Arsenal? I disagree. Henry wasn’t playing well in his last season for Arsenal and I think it was wise that he did the move. If I were him, I would have too. Go out with good memories, rather than bad. He’s an Arsenal legend, and it seems cruel to deny him such a status.

    I don’t think its a coincidence that the season after he left was one of Arsenal’s best seasons in years.

  26. Spanish Fry
    March 6, 2009 at 9:25 am #

    @ Johno – I have to agree with Darragh. Henry was as loyal as players come in the modern game and it’s harsh to think of him in anything else than a positive light.

  27. MoMONEY
    March 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    cesc- denilson
    walcott nasri arshavin
    rvp

    I think when rosicky is back walcott loses his spot…

  28. tina
    March 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    Wenger must stay!!!!He’s one of the biggest and most loyal managers to his club.I insist he stays,silverware is coming soon.Things can turn around.Keep the faith gunners!!!

  29. Medeski
    March 6, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    @ MoMoney

    If Rosicky comes back playing like he once did (which is a serious if after such a long layoff) Walcott might start to challenge for a place up top. Especially if he shows he can finish and others continue to waste the plentiful opportunities they’re given.

    And don’t forget Edu will be back shortly too. We wouldn’t want to leave his finishing abilities on the bench either. Any time the Arsenal happen to go down a goal, Wenger now has plenty to choose from to replace Denilson with a more forward thinking player to push for goals. It will be interesting to see who carves out their place in the starting XI once everyone is healthy.

    With all the options; Edu, Ade, RVP, Walcott, Bendy, Cesc, Nasri, Vela, Rosicky, Arshavin. I’ll be surprised, maybe even disappointed, if at least one of them is not sold this summer in order to pick up a legitimate DM, a center half or a keeper.

    I don’t want to sound down for I am nothing but excited and hopeful for the league, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

    Go you GUNNERS!!

  30. Dan
    March 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    its really depressing that right now we have to b efighting for a fourth place. what really happened, that we fell from the winning ways. its not that other clubs are not having injury worries, they do, n we have to be looking at what is really the issue.

    otherwise i hope atleast we get that 4th place.

  31. MoMONEY
    March 6, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    Yes there are surely lots of options. Walcott can play up front, so can Arshavin (probably likelier there) and Vela… So many options to choose from…

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