From January 23rd to February 16th, Arsenal face Aston Villa (a), Man U, Chelsea (a), and Liverpool in the league which is bookended by two FA Cup matches and the first leg of the first Champions League knock out round. There is no more crucial part of the season for me: January 23rd to February 16th could easily decide whether Arsenal are going to win some silverware or go home empty handed again.
There is some speculation that the reason Arsene has gotten rid of Adebayor and Toure (and possibly Eboue) is because they will be out seriving their countries at the African Cup of Nations during this crucial period.
That theory only really makes sense if the club buys someone who will be around during that crucial period. Because, what sense does it make to let someone go for the whole season, just because they won’t be there for a crucial month?
If the ACN plays into it at all it’s more likely as something that will make it easier to swallow these transfers than as the impetus behind them, sort of the “spoon full of sugar.” It’s more likely that Wenger has looked at the schedule and then evaluated each of these player’s desire to play for the club and then took a look at the offers and was all “HOLY CRAP! Arsenal will make how much???” and sold the players. So, I’m reluctant to say that the ACN plays into it too much.
Back to that crucial period, I think it will be entirely possible for Arsenal to get 8-10 points in the league over teams who are our rivals for top honors. The Villa away game was a tricky fixture last year but they have lost Barry and Laursen this year. I’m not saying we’ll roll over them, their manager knows how to score goals on Arsenal (park the bus and punt over the top), but just that they are weakened and this is in our favor.
Similarly, Man U have lost crucial players and not replaced them. Sure, Rooney can be the all action guy that Tevez was and Bobblekopfh is a languidly dangerous threat at all times but they have certainly lost their free kick threat in Ronaldo, and a player with pace and skill to break teams down on his own.
Chelsea? Well… They signed another Jerkoff to their stable and they have added a decent coach and they looked pretty good playing against American teams on psuedo-grass (the grass was layed over a pad and then over the turf). So, again I’m not ruling them out, they are a tough team, however, for that fixture they will be missing Dogbag, Essien, and Mikel to the ACN. I don’t know too many teams that could cope with the loss of three of their best players and hope to win a ton of games.
Still, away at fortress Stamford? Who could dream of ever winning there?
And Liverpool, oh my, I don’t want to give away too much of the season preview that I have been brewing but Liverpool are in serious trouble. This morning’s reports are that Alonso handed in a transfer request which is basically a player’s last move in getting out of their contract — it usually costs them millions of dollars in loyalty payments. At the same time, Mascherano is basically saying that he hates it in England and wants to go to Barcelona. Those two players were absolutely crucial to the modicum of success that Liverpool achieved last year. I don’t see them both being replaced in the transfer market, one guy, sure, but both? So, again it’s not a cake walk, but at this moment, it’s not looking like the battle roayle that it could be.
Unfortunately, the FA Cup and Champions League matches I can’t really make a comment on because we don’t know who we are playing or even where we are playing them. They are “must win” matches though, I can say that!
So, there you have it, that’s why I think the late January to early February period is a crucial period for the club. The way things are shaping up, we have a pretty good opportunity to take points off rivals and place ourselves deeper into other tournaments. I’m sure Wenger’s already on it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the official transfer of Kolo Toure yesterday. Kolo was one of my favorite players at Arsenal and the last of the guys who played with the invincibles. He was a crucial part of Arsenal’s run of clean sheets in the Champions League which saw us through to the final and for that magical run I will always be grateful.
He was a classy player who always did what was asked of him and who I think all Arsenal supporters loved. I will be terribly surprised if he has a negative word to say about Arsenal as he winds his career down at City. Good luck to him, except when we play each other, and here’s to him doling out many lumps to everyone but Arsenal.
Good luck King Kolo.
There’s a funny story circulating about Patrick Vieira returning to the club. Funny because it comes from Ian Wright (who heard from a source who heard from a source), because it involves breaking of one of Arsene’s supposed cardinal rules (never look back), and because, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s past it.
I had the distinct pleasure of getting to watch a ton of Serie A games last year because Fox Soccer Channel plays them before and after EPL games and what the hell else are you going to do at 5am while you’re writing your Arsenal blog? And I can say that definitively, Patrick Vieira is past his prime. Hell, he was past his prime when he went to Serie A in the first place, and now he’s kind of a disaster and hard to watch. I know that’s not the most popular thing to say, and I’m not saying I won’t welcome him back, but maybe what I’m saying is if he signs don’t expect too much.
What I think would be brilliant is to sign him as a sort of player-coach. Who better to turn Song into a world class DM than Patrick Vieira? Who better to bring Diaby along than the guy he’s supposed to be emulating? It’s brilliant in that regard. But on the pitch he could only be used in very limited quantities.
In some ways I’d rather he went to Spurs. I mean come on, he could be our mole! Who better to ruin them from the inside than Patrick Vieira?
Of course, I’m joking about that last bit. In all seriousness, I think all of us would love to have him back and no one will be disappointed to see him, as long as we keep our expectations in line with reality.
And finally, flush with all this cash, the boss is cautioning Arsenal supporters against the notion that “buying means sucess.” Yeah yeah yeah… what else is he going to say? “Now that I have £40m to spend, we are targeting players left and right, anyone want to make an offer???” No, he’s being cautious.
There are reports that Rosicky picked up a knock against Barnet, which would explain his absence since, and the speculation is that he’ll miss the Emirates Cup this weekend. The boss said Rosicky will play this weekend. Add in the absence of Nasri due to injury and it’s starting to look like an already thin midfield is even thinner — at a time when Wenger has said we need to get off to a good start.
I’m not suggesting a panic buy, but a guy like Alonso would only add to the team. Wenger’s aware of that and has stated that they will add if they see the right deal come up. Personally, I’d rather we spent now than waited until January to re-enforce this team, there’s quality out there, go and get it. According to the link abover Wenger is looking at “several possibilities” so it seems he’s well aware of the issue.
Anyway, that’s it for today. I suppose we’ll do this again tomorrow…