Arsenal v. Wigan: time to put it all behind us

It’s been a hell of a week both for me and for the club.

From the low of losing to Manchester City in such dramatic fashion, to the high of a 3-2 comeback victory against Standard Liege, back to the low of Adebayor’s stamp and his club’s insistence that it’s all Arsenal fans’ fault, it’s been one hell of a week. The latter half of which I got to experience with some sort of strep-throat-like illness.

Fortunately, that meant I got to watch the Arsenal v. Liege match, well, let’s be honest: I actually listened to it live on the BBC radio and then watched the match on tape and it was quite a different experience from what most of you had. Live, it would seem that conceding the two early goals Arsenal had the “worst game I have ever seen them play” and even the live announcers were having a go at Arsenal. But watch it again on tape, it wasn’t that poor of a performance. Dudu came out and tried to flick it to Cesc for the give and go, but he missed and the Liege defender elbowed Fabregas in the face to clear room for the shot. Then there was the easy Eboue give away and the ticky-tack foul and a penalty conceded.

If you follow me on twitter you’ll know that despite the highly negative comments of the announcers and the fans in all the forums, I believed in this team and actually predicted a 4-2 win. This team has a lot more to it than a lot of people (especially Arsenal fans, it seems) give them credit.

Yes, it was two momentary lapses of concentration, but watch the match again, knowing that they will win 3-2, with the commentary off. Arsenal played a lot better than a lot of people said, especially players like Song and Diaby. What’s funny is that I thought our worst players were Rosicky, who looked very rusty, and Cesc, who hasn’t seemed the same since the international break, but somehow everyone tore Diaby a new hole and Song was declared man of the match both by me and by the Telegraph.  Roll over Song on that link above to see stats that if he were Paul Scholes would have all of England cooing about how he’s the greatest player since white bread.

Yes, there were defensive lapses, but this is not the end of the world. Yes, there have been defensive lapses over pretty much every match this season, but at least the boss is aware of it and working on it.

I’m very confident that we will learn from what happened to us (the costly mistakes against United, City and nearly Liege), I believe as well that there was a little bit of fatigue physically, mentally.

Many people will point to that and try to say that Wenger is just making excuses, but that is just hand wringing in my book. Arsenal have been missing nine to ten players at various times this week. NINE to TEN: Nasri, Vela, Fabianski, Arshavin, Denilson, Djourou, Rosicky, Walcott, and van Persie, all key players who Wenger could have rotated for these last three clashes but as it stands the only rotations we’ve saw on Wednesday was at keeper, Eboue at right back, and for Rosicky to come back in to the starting lineup (as I predicted). As for the makeup of tomorrow’s squad, Robin van Persie is the only one available from the sick room. The other bit of good news on the injury front, not that he was injured, is that Senderos will be fully fit and match ready for Tuesday’s Carling Cup match against West Brom. The boss said that Sendy will now start to feature for Arsenal and give some of the center backs a chance to rest.

You show me a top team in the league that can lose 10 starters and still put in great performances… Hell, you’ll see what a club like City can do without just one starter when they get eviscerated by United tomorrow.  Think about what United would be like if they were missing 10 players.

Exactly.

We’ve done well, and we are doing well. Let’s all get behind the team and they will produce something special this year.

Of course, the press doesn’t care about any of that, instead, the question which dominated the press conference was about Adebayor. Did we do well for him? Is Arsene ashamed of him? If Cesc, Eboue and Song are all ashamed of him, isn’t Arsene Wenger also ashamed? So on and so on. Wenger to his credit simply repeated “I am focused on beating Wigan tomorrow” and “it is important for this team to make Emirates like a fortress.”

Here here, who cares what Adebaywhore says or does? He showed the world his true colors this week and while they may be a lovely shade of periwinkle at the moment, they will go back to being Adebayor soon enough. Oh, and judging by Arsenal players anger at him kicking lumps into everyone last week, he may want to pack the extra-thick shin-guards on the return trip.

Enough of that, at least until April…

Tomorrow we’ve got a match against Wigan and this isn’t last year’s Wigan that we’ll be playing. Last year, Wigan was managed by Steve “Cabbage Face” Bruce and their entire footballing philosophy was lump and crunch. The old adage “park the bus” was never more appropriately applied to a team than one managed by Steve Bruce, or maybe Sam Allardyce. But this is a new look Wigan, they’ve got a real dangerous man up front in Rodallega, someone who will stretch Arsenal on the wings in N’Zogbia, and a tough defender and threat from set pieces in Paul Sharner. More importantly, Wigan have a new manager this year in Roberto Martinez. His philosophy is to get out and stretch the opponent, play football, make passes, and score goals. And they are especially effective when they score early goals.

That said, their fortunes have been up and down, as would any team which looks to completely change their playing style in just one season: they have played 5, won 2, and lost 3. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with these boys.

I expect a really open, exciting match tomorrow, one which both teams will challenge for 90 minutes, but which Arsenal should win.

The match kicks off at 7am local time and is live on Setanta USA, which, because I am more that 24 hours on antibiotics and no longer contagious, means I will be making a trip to Doyle’s here in Tacoma. Look for me I’ll be the one in the Eduardo strip celebrating the win.

I didn’t do a speculative lineup today because this damn think took me like 4 hours to do as it was so feel free to speculate away below. Also, I won’t do an  early blog tomorrow, but rather will do the Good, Bad, and Ugly right after the match, say noon? For those of you in England, that means right about the time when you’re really pissed!

Cheers, and UP THE ARSE!

28 Comments on Arsenal v. Wigan: time to put it all behind us

  1. Apparently Nigel Reo-Coker went ‘Latrell Sprewell’ on Martin O’Niell and is dropped for this weekend’s game. Nigel maybe coming to a pub team near you in the January transfer window.

    Check out Alex Song’s interview in the Telegraph about his ‘friend’ Adebayor. It’s a very ‘moving’ piece where he calls Adebayor a liar. Forget next April, I’d be watching Togo-Cameroon in December.

    Did anyone see the 2 footed cleats up ‘tackle’ from another ex-Arsenal a**hole Flamini in AC Milan’s CL win? How was that not a red card?

    Most important stat from the Liege game (besides the score)was the number of offsides we did not have 😉

    Clichy had better not do a ‘Nicky Shorey’ against Rolladega.

  2. Tim, hope you’re feeling better. Not sure how the rest of you are feeling, but the last three weeks of Arsenal have been such an emotional drain, I find it hard to even muster up the will or energy to discuss or consider the myriad topics that have been put out there for fodder: Adebayor’s antics, the Eduardo dive and aftermath, our defense, whining after every match about whether or not we should’ve done more in the offseason, the media, etc.

    Looking forward, as, again, looking backwards has been completely exhausting, here’s where I think we’re at:
    1) Almunia – All of the sudden, he’s got a hell of a lot to prove. We all know he’s pretty good, but all of the sudden, this season now seems to have taken on the feeling that this is likely his last full season that Wenger will give him to become what he needs to become.
    2) The Back 4 – I actually am not worried about this, as some might be. Clichy, I pray will be okay, but if he keeps erring, Gibbs is a potential great at left back. Certainly Gibbs seems, at his younger age, to have a great deal of composure.
    3) Cesc and Song – rocks in the middle. With Rosicky back and the prospect of Nasri and Walcott returning one day soon, we have to feel optimistic about our creative abilities. Additionally, can we please give Jack Wilshere more opportunities? Can you not see him coming in some match very soon, making a big difference, and helping kick off Arsenal on a long win streak? I can.
    4) The front – Really, I would like to see Bendtner put in the middle on the 433 before too long. We’ll be fine.

    So despite the tough times over the last few weeks, I’m feeling that, despite our alarming lack of luck and fortune, we are certainly good enough, Arsene is still absolutely the right person for this club, and now is quite simply the time to sit back, stop fretting about things, and watch us rattle off 9 or 10 wins in a row. With that, let’s get on with it then. Up the Arse!

    • @ArseChicago, I totally agree with what you said.

      1. i really wish Fabianski didn’t get hurt because i have always thought on his day, he is better, stronger, and calmer than Almunia. I think he is going to be the Arsenal #1 in the upcoming years.
      2. Clichy has had a couple bad games, and Gibbs is ready to come in and play well (Along with Traore if gibs gets hurt). He did pretty well at the end of last year. Clichy’s crosses have not been very good so why not just worry about defending? The 4-3-3 doesn’t need to full lapping full backs the way 4-2-2-2 does.
      3. I would add Ramsey to that outlook also. I think he played very well v. Standard and he looked good for Wales also. I think he is getting that itch to play the first team football like Cesc had a couple years ago. And with Denilson out, he might get that chances. Once the injuries are sorted out, the core team will be unstoppable.
      4. I totally agree with you wanting Bendtner in the middle. We need a tall striker to be the target then lay off for rvp or dudu. Let him hold it up, then have a quick little pass behind the defenders to either one of them.

      • Fabianski, calm? That guy’s daft as brush! The first time I saw him he even did a bit of dribbling. He’s got potential, though, and I like him because there’s never a dull moment. In a preseason game last year he was so good Casillas and Buffon together in goal couldn’t have made more saves; on the other hand, he’s had quite a few dreadful games.

        Almunia? No, he’s not Buffon or Casillas; he’s not even Reina or Cech. But consider what the top keepers cost – 40-50 million, and they wouldn’t come to us anyway. Almunia cost less than 1 million, which makes him pretty good value for money. He’s had a couple of rocky games recently, the second one when he was ill, but if there’s no one better within our price range – which it seems that there isn’t – we’ll just have to give Almunia some support. I sometimes wish Jens was still with us, however.

    • @ArseChicago, I think everyone’s being too hard on Clichy. Remember he did not have a proper pre season. He’ll be back to his best in no time, he’s just got to have a decent run in.

  3. @Tim, Didn’t know you could listen to BBC Radio in the US. Every time I click on the link (on the BBC web site) it says content not available in the US!!

  4. I agree with Tim that we weren’t as bad against Liege as was made out. The match commentators kept saying we were losing possession all the time but the stats don’t lie – we had 70 percent. Also agree that Song was quite good and that Rosicky and Cesc were way below par. Bendtner was better than normal; Clichy was – as ever – extremely erratic. He costs us games, and has done for a couple of seasons, but he also saves our skins time after time.

    Diaby – I just don’t know. He scores (sometimes) and that’s obviously a God-send since we’re not well endowed with strikers, but he’s also wasteful of chances and has a lot of off days. In addition, defensively he is utterly useless. So what’s his position? He’s not a winger, and he’s the worst tackler in the squad which means he’s definitely not a holding midfielder. He’d like the Cesc position, I guess, but so would practically everyone else: Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, Merida, Ramsey, Wilshere… all them are better passers than Diaby.

  5. Clichy’s so-called poor performance can be credited directly to Mark Hughes tactics. I realized a few years back that the 4-3-3 formation is the best to play against Arsenal as long as your two wide men are disciplined and work hard in defense like Wright-Phillips and Bellamy are. The team loses width.

    I’ll reserve Almunia criticism for later.

    Diaby has been inconsistent but his best is yet to come. I blame him for City’s second last weekend as Richards was his guy and obviously the own goal against Man Utd. but he was fantastic in winning the ball for Bendtner’s goal on Wednesday.

    If we don’t finish in the top 4 and Man City do then Wenger would have learned the hard way why you don’t sell your best players to a rival. Twenty-five million earned against 40 million lost; that doesn’t add up. Wenger’s made City a much better side; perhaps too good.

    We should defeat Wigan simply because we’re better but it doesn’t always work like that. We’ll have to let time tell.

  6. I agree as well. Having watched the game a couple of times, we showed patience , and eventually it turned out fine. SL put 11 men behind the ball and stopped us playing Wegerball. Fair play to them.

    Onto today. I fear another*park the bus* display from Wigan. They lost their best players and will struggle this season – my feeling is that Martinez will be gone by JFebruary. Wigan are not known for their expansive football !

    Nonetheless, this is a must win game for us, and we will win comfortably. We have to score early.

  7. Paradoxically, the two goals conceded in the first four minutes were good for us. We had no option but to battle for all we were worth; and Standard made the classic mistake of trying to defend their lead. It’s a mistake I’ve seen us make time and again. Defending a one-goal lead with ten minutes to go, and what does Wenger do? He sends on Cygan or Senderos or some rarely used defender, who gets in the way and generally causes confusion and … the lead turns into a draw or a loss. Fergie and, strangely, Benitez more often throw on a striker and put the game beyond doubt. Fingers crossed we don’t bring on poor Senderos for this accustomed role today. I’m sure it’s how his confidence, like Cygan’s before him, got shot to bits. Not that we’ve got many options in the attacking department. I see Wenger is saying we may buy Chamakh in Jan. Well, he’ll be cheaper by then, I suppose, but he’ll also be cup-tied for Europe.

    Time to get some points on the board. Time to do something about our not very impressive goal difference. It’s a sunny day; we’re at home; it’s Wigan. Frankly nothing less than 3-0 would be acceptable. Hopefully it will be better than that.

  8. @ Mia
    Your right about costs and certain aspects of Almunia but for me what stands out are his glaring mistakes tactically!
    – Bentley’s goal
    – Pompey goal
    – rarely covers the near post
    – lack of command in the box from high balls
    just “some” examples that worry me. For me they are instinct errors, that you cannot correct in training.

  9. Rosicky is a ‘great’ player. Against Liege you expected him to be rusty.

    Against Liege, to start the 2nd half, I remember Bendtner receiving a long pass and almost having a 1 v 1 on their goalie – only for the defender to break up the play at the last moment.

    The 40 yard ‘on the money’ pass was delivered by Rosicky.

    Rosicky needs to see action today. His experience will offset the loss of Arshavin.

  10. Where are people watching this? You can usually find streams on arsenlnews. Today nothing listed. Must I find a dubious pub or make do with radio 5?

  11. We’re trying to do our thing but credit to Wigan they getting away w/ alot of ‘tactical’ fouls to make play difficult.

    Mannone made a decent reflex save but didn’t control the rebound and that almost cost us.

    Vermaelen header off a CK gives us a 1 goal lead. He really knows how to attack the ball on CKs.

  12. Eduardo for a 3rd. Finally a striker scores.

    I know what Clichy’s problem is w/ crossing: his (L) foot sucks. His (R) foot (weaker?) is actually better.

  13. I have no words for Mannone. Perhaps Vowel-less will play on Tues and have a good enough game to become number 3.

    I thought Gallas was excellent. Vermaelen – is there no kind of goal he can’t score?

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