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.
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!