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Arsenal v A to Z: the teams, the tactics and Billy “The Dog”.

With our regular pre-match pundit being asked (bizarrely) to write an essay by his university (something that never happened when I was a student) we turn this week to Billy “The Dog” McGraw, landlord of the Toppled Bollard, St Thomas’ Rd, for a run down on the match against the London Street Atlas, or A to Z as they are known.

The big news of course is that the official programme has an article by me in it, and really there isn’t much else to say, but since you are here and reading, here is the rest…

In goal: Aluminum. Wenger never changes keepers match on match – when he dropped Lehmann for a while it was for a while, so Aluminum is back in the sticks.

Back four: Gael Clichy has a back strain and is out for a month, so Gael Clichy II plays (K Gibbs) alongside Vermaelen, Gallas, and Sagna.

Midfield three: Now here we have a choice of

  • Nasri
  • Rosicky (Wenger has said he will be involved but won’t start)
  • Vela if recovered (no clear news)
  • Diaby
  • Fabregas
  • Song
  • Ramsey
  • Eboue
  • Merida

So from that I would go for Fabregas, Song, Nasri, with Nasri coming off for Rosicky, and possibly Fabregas coming off for Ramsey.  Unless Nasri is  a forward (see below).

Or maybe Fabregas, Song, Merida.  So now we move on to the forwards

  • Van Basten-Bergkamp also known as Van Persie
  • Eduardo (probably played more than expected on saturday)
  • Arshavin
  • Eboue (or in midfield)
  • Nasri (or in midfield)
  • Merida (or in midfield)
  • Rosicky (as noted above, won’t start)

If you want something remarkable, consider

Arshavin, Van Persie, Merida or perhaps

Arshavin, Van Persie, Nasri

Much depends on how Eduardo reacted to Saturday.  He didn’t look 1000%, but maybe he just needs some time on the pitch, and if so this could be the game to do it, which would give us

  • Fabregas, Song, Merida (with Rosicky on as a sub for Merida)
  • Eduardo, Van Persie, Nasri (with Arshavin coming on as a sub for Nasri)

Now my point in all this is that this is our injury list

  • Goal: Fabianski
  • Back four: Djourou and Clichy
  • Midfield: Walcott, Denilson, Traore, Wilshere
  • Forward: Bendtner, Vela?

That is eight or nine significant players out.   And still we can shuffle around with the team for the AZ game.

So putting my mouth where my money used to be before the bank stole it, I am going for…

  • Aluminum
  • Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Gibbs
  • Fabregas, Song, Merida (sub Ramsey)
  • Eduardo (sub Arshavin or vice versa), Van Basten, Nasri (sub Rosicky)

Of course if we struggle for goals, or if we are four nil up then other changes will be made.

I’ve left out Diaby simply because he has played in most matches, and there is a replacement for him.  I’d do the same for Song if Denilson was fit.  And if Song gets injured at the moment I think Diaby is going to have to play in that position, so a break might not be a bad idea.  Eboue is different – I still find him more impressive as a right back, and am always happy to see him there.

Our tactics will be much the same as before. We attack, then we attack, we attack, and then we attack a bit more.

So what, I hear you ask (as it were) have the A to Z been up to since we last saw them?

  • They lost at home 2-4 to Ajax in the League.
  • Then they beat Spakenburg 5-2 in the Cup
  • And then they beat Groningen away 0-1 in the League.

The largest crowd they have played against all season is 22,000 away to Heerenveen.

After 12 games they lie seventh, with 18 points, scored 21 let in 15.   They are 14 points behind FC Twente which is run by the Umbrella Man.

In the Champs League they are third with two draws and one defeat.

Perhaps the best thing about AZ is that on their web site they have a section called “Old Cheese” (Oude kaas)   (I know, I know, I don’t speak the language, but that is how it appeared to me).

AZ will be without their top scorer Mounir El Hamdaoui– other than that I am going to declare total ignorance.  Sorry.  If you know, please write in.

A year ago we played at home to Fenerbahce, and the team was

  • Fabianski
  • Toure, Djourou, Silvestre, Clichy
  • Ramsey, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri
  • Van Persie, Bendtner

Have we improved?  Yes in that the back four looks much more solid, and the whole shape of the team is better.  We had 63% of possession and drew 0-0.  I don’t see a 0-0 this time.

I have to say it was great having Billy the Dog to give guidance and advice on the team selection (not to mention translation of the AZ web site) in this way.  I did make one or two minor adjustments to his predictions, as when he had Alan Skirton playing on the wing, and Pat Rice at full back, with Bob Dylan slotting in, in midfield, but by and large I took him at his word.

“I had that Herbert Chapman in the saloon bar yesterday,” Billy told me over a gallon of sweet sherry, “and he gave me the low-down, so I think you’ll find this is dead right.”

What part did Winston Churchill have to play in the history of Woolwich Arsenal in 1910?   All is revealed in MAKING THE ARSENAL.  Available now.  It’s awfully good.  And don’t forget to buy the programme.

And do you know I published this page, and forgot to give my all-important and much-in-demand early announcement of the result.  Can you ever forgive me?

Probably not, but anyway, we win 6-1.   Arsene Wenger throws a beachball onto the pitch in the 9th minute.  It hits the ref and floors him.  Cesc clears the ball down the middle and this also hits the ref who is still on the floor, goes up into the sky where it hits a pigeon and bounces back into the goal.

Nasri then scores three before a pass back from Gallas to Aluminum leads to the keeper dribbling up the field, doing a one-two with the pigeon, and scoring.   Bob Dylan then appears as a sub and scores the final goal, exactly as Billy the Dog described.   The AZ goal comes in the 93rd minute as 127 beach balls are thrown onto the pitch by the away support.

Now you know.

(c) Tony Attwood / Billy “The Dog” McGraw, 2009.

23 comments to Arsenal v A to Z: the teams, the tactics and Billy “The Dog”.

  • Cujo

    Hahahahahahahahahaha! Pigeon! Hahahahahahahaaaaaaa! Bravo bravo!

  • karembeu

    don’t think twice its alright. :))

  • ryan

    better bring my beachball

  • Mark

    Its well known that we have a weak squad,
    ansolutely no strength in depth.

    I suspect a midfield of Ramsey Merida Coquelin.
    Combined age – 17, experience – nil.

    I guess Arsene Wenger should have shopped at Morrissons.
    Ching ching.

  • AnonynousGun

    I think Sagna will drop for Eboue to give Sagna a bit rest (but Sagna is on form with assist, but then Eboue is better in raiding forward @.@ ).. but with Clichy out, I’m not sure if AW willing to shuffle the back 4 much.

  • I’d guess at keeping the rest of the back four stable to give Gibbs a chance to settle in – he’ll be there for away game at Wolverhampton and possibly v Sunderland, unless of course he gets cut to shreds in some meaningless England match in between.

    That internat break could be a pain – but at least we shouldn’t lose Theo to it again – surely they can’t just get him ready to play again and then let him play for England?

    Does anyone have news on Vela?

  • I think I have fixed the glitch – it was only a problem on some readers – on Firefox it seemed to be ok – but if you only got part of the article have another look. If it is still a problem let me know.

    Tony

  • walter

    No more problems for me Tony. Hehe good to be back in full.
    The worst thing was to only see half of the article and then you want to read more and nothing to see…
    It was like holding a carrot in front of a donkey 😉 I first only got some A to D peace instead of the A to Z.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if both Sagna and Eboue playing tonight. But then again, what do I know, only Wenger knows.

  • Gunnersgun

    Hope DICEMAN1984 read the follow 2 articles from Arsenal.com dated 04th November 2009

    1) Diaby – I am stronger and more focused now
    2) Wenger – Diaby instincts are hard to curb
    Please use a bit of intelligence to understand it.

    As suggested should try to play Diaby as a forward. If u don’t try, u won’t know. It will not only make u even more STUPID but also damn coward.

    Only True Supporters Moan & Goan when the team is not doing well just as AW (whinger) moan & groan when unjustice is inflicted on the team.

    HEHE!!! HAHA!!!!

  • If I am to be known as anything could I be known as a rather good writer, as opposed to someone who knows how to fix computers?

    Tony

  • Cape Gooner

    Tony, you are a decent writer. That would make you an outstanding blogger.

    Your point about the size of our squad is well taken. Excluding goalkeepers we have 25 players for 10 places. Say that Traore, Ramsey, Merida, Wilshere and Vela are happy with bit roles (but for how long), that still leaves 20 players who expect to play. With Gallas, Vermaelen, Cesc, AA and RvP as apparently automatic starters, that leaves 15 players for 5 places. (I assume that Song will not play all the time when Denilson is fit). Assume 5 injured or suspended and we have 10 players for 5 places. Some substitutions, some rotation and all should get some game time. Perhaps even some play for the 5 youngsters.

    We have no problem this year, but next year the young 5 mentioned above will all want to play. We will also have some returning from loan. Lansbury and Nordtveit are standouts, but JET and the younger Hoyte are also good players. So who do you guess that Wenger will let go in the summer? We have a bucket load of wide forwards/attacking midfielders. With Cesc and AA taking 2 slots, for the remaining 2 we have Rosicky, Nasri, Eduardo, Bendtner, Walcott, Vela, Diaby, Ramsey, Merida, Wilshere and Lansbury. 11 into 2 doesn’t go.

  • Cape Gooner – absolutely spot on. The only solution I see is this…

    1. The number of injuries and withdrawals for internationals (Vela to Mexico, the African Nation Cup) will knock even more players out.

    2. Some players do fall by the wayside – and Wenger is ruthless. Henry, Vieira… they will go before we think they should. Some just don’t make it. Ramsey looks a brilliant buy, but in the end if he just doesn’t make the final leap, then…

    3. There are always Bentley’s who demand a place and prefer Tottenham reserves to us. We will lose some that way. And Diarra types too.

    So add those three and there is a natural wastage. And that is without the tragedy of the career ending injury.

    But if it still doesn’t work, we go out and do a deal with another club somewhere and have loans en masse into some middle of the road team in Spain. In France they see Arsenal as the best French club in the world that just happens to play in England. Why not have an English club playing in Spain?

  • steww

    Tony – when the book arrives I’ll let you know if you are as good a writer as I think you are and as you wish to be thought of. As. Um..
    Better than me anyhow. Good to see the vast unplumbeable depths of ManioU’s squad on display last night wasn’t it? Our only problem is keeping such an array of talent happy.

  • Tony, a totally unrelated query : where is Barazite? he is not in loan, nor does he play in the reserves?

  • Barazite played a reserve game at the start of October this year.

    He then played for his country in the Under 21s and came on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Finland, but suffered an injury went back to London for treatment.

    He also played 21 minutes as a substitute against West Brom in the Carling Cup.

    So the answer is: the internationals done him. Same old story.

  • Jonny

    Don’t forget we also have two players (Rosicky & Merida) who have gotten awfully close to the end of their contracts. Both have said publicly they want to stay but at the end of the day they will get offered more money elsewhere.

    If either go there will be predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth from le grove et al (in fact it’s already started) but we do have the depth in midfield to manage regardless and Rosicky would have been unsaleable just a few months ago anyway. Let’s hope they both do the decent thing and opt to give something back to the club by signing new contracts.

  • LRV

    At last! Since yesterday, I was not able to read the whole of this article.

    Tony: Not to woory, you are a good writer. How good, I cannot say until I read your book.

    migratory coconut: Oh Yes! Barazite plays in the reserves. He is yet another player that we cannot seem to find a position for.

    Personally, I wish that we could just go register a club in Spain or France. That way our players will have the chance to develope properly while playing football the Arsenal way. Problem solved.

  • walter

    I never had it with those internationals and I really don’t care who becomes world champion or european champion or champion of the universe exept that for some strange kind of reason I somewhat hate Italian football. But that aside, the only thing that intrests me in those games is the number of players we lose or the relieve when we don’t lose any players but that is mostly not the case.
    So now even our Carling cup team gets affected by those stupid internationals. sigh…

    And yes Tony: oude kaas = old cheese and it’s my favourite. A good piece of old dutch cheese… I would kill for that… In fact I eat it every day. A day without (dutch) cheese is not a real day for me. In fact it is a part of their website where they speek with former players and tell the fans what happened to them after their carreers. Rather nice thing actually.

  • walter

    LRV if we would register a club it should be done in Belgium. Lets say not to far away from Antwerp if possible. That would fit me well. 😉
    Why not send them to Beveren? Again? We used to have a relation with them (Eboue) and I even can say I sat in the same stand as Arsene Wenger during the Cup final in Belgium some 5 or 6 years back. I’m sure he would remember it. Well not me but the fact that Eboue played well for Beveren and after that game he told him to come to Arsenal.
    Arsenal Beveren… sounds good to me. I bet my wife wouldn’t like it to much. Arsenal first team on tv, then off to Beveren to see our youngsters… No, not a good idea after all.

  • LRV

    Walter: You never know; your wife may grow to like it; especially if you take her along to watch some of the matches. I remember a very old saying that if you wrap a wet soap with a strand of leaf, after a long time, the leaf is absorbed by the soap to become soap or at least soapy. My wife used to ask me what they give me at Arsenal that makes me almost want to die over Arsenal. Now, she shouts Arsenal louder than even I can. She even jokingly told a family friend couple that they may no longer be welcomed at our house if they don’t desist from talking Arsenal down. See!!!

  • steww

    LRV – I know what you mean. My wife and daughters had no interest in football a few years back and now they all yell at the blatant anti Arsenal bias of the commentators. During the Celtic game in the summer my daughter’s jaw was hanging open as the commentator said at half time
    “I think the Celtic manager will be the happier of the two”
    “Dad”, she said, ” We are 1-0 up away from home aren’t we?”.
    You can’t teach a love of Arsenal but you can let it seep in.

  • walter

    Well I must say my wife who didn’t care for football (in her eyes it was the sport that got my in hospital) or even hated it for that incident is moving in the other direction. Thanks to my sons who are supporting the Arsenal with real passion. When we dont win my sons are down (I am to but I try to keeping up appearances) and she hates her sons being down.
    When we went to the Standard game in Liege a few weeks back she has been seeing the whole game with one of my other sons who couldn’t come along and she was miserable when we went 2-0 down and when we came back home she even came out of bed to welcome us and she said: “I thought after 5 minutes ooohhh nooo dont let them lose this game and it was nice that WE came back at the end of the game”.
    Now that may not mean much but the fact that she spokin of Arsenal in “we” terms was really the first time and it made the evening even nicer then it already was.
    So who knows…

  • walter

    Anyway great game once again in the CL and 4-1 is good enough for me. Strange in a way that we still aren’t 100 percent qualified for the next round but one point in 2 games will do.
    Cesc is flying and he really is impressive and to think that he’s only 22 like the duthc commentator said and will get better.
    Arshavin 3 assists well what can you wish more I would say.
    Nasri still looking for game time after his injury but showed his class with the second goal. Good to have him back. He wil improve with more games.
    Eduardo what a clever back heal for our fourth goal. He also will improve with more games.
    And then Diaby, he actually was at the start of the move that brought us our 4th goal and ran almost from our own backarea to the other to score. Great work.
    So stop the moaning and enjoy the ride and the performances I would suggest to you all.