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The Untold Preview – plus the Gibbs debate.

Arsenal travel up to Villa for the first of many games over the traditionally congested Christmas period. We’ll unfortunately be doing so without Kieran Gibbs, who has had a setback and was sent to a specialist yesterday. A quick Google revealed to me that Kieran is 22, which came as a bit of a shock to say the least. Certainly I still had him down as the nineteen year old kid who was excellent in the Carling Cup ties in 2008-09. Unfortunately since then, he’s racked up little game time and has often been injured when the senior left back is out, such as has happened here.

Gibbs showed plenty of promise in his earlier years, but it remains to be seen how much he will have kicked on since then, given his well-documented injuries woes. Young players improve by training and playing games, and since 2008-09, Gibbs has missed many opportunities to do both because of his injuries. Unfortunately for him and us, it remains to be seen whether he will manage to overcome his persistent woes and fulfil his potential.

From Arsenal’s point of view, it is a difficult situation. Our first choice left back is out for another couple of months at least, and even if his understudy does return soon, it is debateable whether he can be relied on to perform week in, week out for a couple of months. Whether Arsenal invest in another leftback to provide additional depth (maybe an Eboue type who could cover both fullback positions, and also be used higher up the pitch to shore up a result as games wind down?) depends on whether Gibbs is intrinsically “injury prone” or whether he is just having a LOT of bad luck.

Onto the game at hand now, however. Villa were dire against a Liverpool side who aren’t fantastic themselves, so a traditionally tricky fixture in the Martin O’Neill games may not pose as much difficulty as history would suggest.  For Villa, Agbonlahor is back in the mix, but Bent and Heskey are out. The big loss for Arsenal is Alex Song, who has a one game ban after accumulating five bookings to date this season. Djourou is also missing, which stretches a defence that was already at breaking point.

Defensively, there are a few options to deal with this latest setback. We could (and probably will) go:

Koscielny            Mertesacker      Vermaelen         Miquel

The problem with that is that it entails moving Koscielny away from the centre, where he has been superb. The flip side is that Vermaelen moves back into the middle, but we lose out at leftback with a rookie centreback playing out of position. To be fair to Miquel, I thought he did OK against City, so with Villa fairly weak offensively he should be ok. I do wonder what has happened to Squillaci, though. If the Frenchman came in at centreback, we could leave Vermaelen at leftback. If Miquel starts in order to put Vermaelen in the middle, it would be a fairly telling statement in regards to Squillaci’s position in the pecking order.

Szcznesy

Koscielny Mertesacker Vermaelen Miquel

Frimpong Arteta

Ramsey

Walcott Van Persie Gervinho

 

Arteta is one booking away from a ban, but with an out of sorts Wolves side due to come to the Emirates next, it wouldn’t be a disaster if Arteta got booked in this tie.

Frimpong comes in for Song in a like for like change. My main concern with this line up is the dependence on the attackers to, well, attack. We’ll have virtually nothing being offered from fullback. While Koscielny is decent on the ball and a good passer, with our forwards often cutting inside we need width from our fullbacks, too. Miquel will be in a similar boat. At least he is a left footer, so can put the crosses in on his strongest foot, but how effectively he can do so I’m not sure. In addition, Song is a cracking player offensively, and while Frimpong will come in and shore us up defensively, our midfield will lack a little bit of offensive bite. Perhaps we’ll shuffle the shape slightly, and give Arteta more leeway to get forward, and use Frimpong as a dedicated holding player. That’s what I’d do.

Given that then, my concern would be if Villa opt to park the bus, we may struggle to break them down. That said, defensive organisation has not been a strong point this season for them, a point which their previous game versus Liverpool drilled home. Instead McLeish will probably have them primed to kick the living hell out of us. Hopefully we respond like that Christmas game away at Birmingham last season and score three. Realistically however, I’d take a 1-0 to the Arsenal. Hopefully Van Persie gets in and can continue his race for the top scorer in a calendar year record, alongside Arsenal’s hunt for the top four.

43 comments to The Untold Preview – plus the Gibbs debate.

  • amos holdsworth

    why would we have to play with ten men?! is it an underrating of AV or an oversight?!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think Phil has overlooked Ramsey.

  • A minor oversight…! Correcting now! (poor Aaron!)

  • WalterBroeckx

    As long as Wenger doesn’t forget to include him 😉

  • We have deliberately played with 10 before – remember when Kolo Toure forgot to come out onto the pitch. Then he rushed on, and got booked by the ref for entering the field of play without the ref’s permission.

  • John Terry may soon not be getting out on a football pitch either

  • Andy Kelly

    Slightly digressing but picking up on the John Terry story (and Suarez).

    It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the Terry case is. The proof is there for all to see. You don’t have to be an expert lip reader to see what Terry said. He said that he didn’t direct it at Ferdinand but he must have directed it at someone as the comment was very specific – it certainly wasn’t intended for Joey Barton! The precedent has been set – 8 game ban.

    As for Suarez, Liverpool are playing up on the decision big time. What doesn’t seem to be catching the headlines is that, although no one else on the pitch heard Suarez’s comments, he actually admitted calling Evra a “negro”. His defence was that it was perfectly acceptable in Uruguay. Stoning women to death appears to be acceptable in some countries but it doesn’t mean it is tolerated in this country.

    Anyway, it looks like two of our rivals will each be without the services of one of their better players for a chunk of the season. And if the CPS and HMRC have got their act together Tottenham could be without their talisman for a while.

    That just leaves the Manchester clubs…

  • Phil Gregory,
    I don’t understand why Terry is going to be tried by CPS while Suarez was tried by a FA panel. Both of guilty of the same crime, right? Or am I missing something?

  • T2T

    What about letting Oxlade-Chamberlain, Benayoun, Park and Miyaichi getting a start?

  • Naren: Suarez offence was reported to the referee, therefore delat with by the FA after the ref mentioned it in his post game report.

    For Terry, there was no mention made in the referees report, so no involvement for the FA. A complaint, however, was made to the police, so they’ve gotten involved.

    T2T – Chamberlain should certainly be coming off the bench if we need a bit more creativity, as should Benayoun. I don’t think anyone in the first eleven will be dropped… perhaps rotated with fatigue in mind though.

  • Shard

    @Phil

    Any idea who made the complaint to the police? I doubt it was Ferdinand himself. I mean, the football authorities and institutions would frown down upon that, and would provide enough of a disincentive for players to not do it. Otherwise, we have seen assaults happen on the field, chants in the stands, all of which would be a police case. However, these remain football matters in practice.

    I’d just like to voice my frustration at the Murdoch empire again. After not showing our 125th anniversary match against Everton live here in India and showing Liverpool-Fulham along with ManU on that day, they now prefer to show Wigan take on Liverpool and ManU take on Fulham.. I guess they think Fulham is popular huh?

  • Shard – an anonymous member of the crowd made the complaint I think.

  • Phil Gregory,
    Is the Police not getting involved in the Suarez case because nobody has made a complaint yet? Then can somebody still make a complaint about Suarez to the Police given that he has already been found guilty by an independent commission?
    I find it very strange that two men are tried by two different authorities and might serve totally different sentences for exactly the same crime.

  • No idea, I’m no lawyer, simply going from what I’ve read in reliable sources. I presume that if Terry is tried and found guilty, the FA will then have to react to that.

    No idea about your Suarez question, but I assume not.

  • HighburyJD

    oops missing Rambo

  • Phil Gregory,
    I was not doubting your statements…not at all. I read it myself in the British press. What I was saying was for the same crime, one man might end up behind the bars while another will be on the stands, behind the bench. Unjust, perhaps.
    By the bye, I think replacing Song by Coquelin might lessen the need for overall change of tactics, which would be advisable were Frimpong to play.
    Or Coquelin might even play right back…as Wenger called him one of the options at full back.

  • Don’t worry, I know you weren’t! It’s a fair point. I suppose Terry is a public order offence, whereas Suarez is a straight out case of racism. It’s just the way it’s worked out if they get dealt with differently – Suarez got reported to his industry, Terry to the police.

  • OFF TOPIC

    No RefWatch tonight chaps – I know you all must be gutted but we have no data on Jonathan Moss for Arsenal and he has only done 1 game for Villa.

    I’m also busy rebuilding my database to use Championship Data as it could be relevant on a manager/ref basis (espesh for these new boys). This has thrown up a few bugs around the booking index that I first noticed in the last RefWatch – these have been fixed now but the whole thing’s a bit of a grind… you wouldn’t believe the amount of spelling mistakes are in the datastreams I have for Referee name – hopefully I can finish testing and get something out for the next fixture.

    DogFace

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Hey Shard…

    The Arsenal Everton match was live on ESPN Star Sports website.. So do not miss it this time and watch it live…

    And the stream quality was awesome… so dont be so sad..

  • Byo

    Rambo might actually do with some rest, he looked quite leggy in the ManC match. That means Benayoun might get a rare start. We will have the luck today, as the great Dowd is missing.

  • rusty

    As to the point Phil spoke about in the article, I think Squillaci vs Miquel is less a “pecking-order” question and more a question of playing style. Mertesacker and Squillaci are both a little, well, lacking in pace, while Kos and Vermaelen are not. While I think playing two ‘fast’ CBs isn’t a problem, it would probably be tricky to play Mertesacker and Squillaci together against any forward faster than Heskey (who’s out for the game anyway).

  • John L

    you know coquelin could play at right back. he has before coming through the youth ranks. and i believe he would provide a little more attacking threat, while being very good in the tackle and his reading of the game.
    that would allow TV to play at left back. he is our best ‘attacking’ center back. and has experience playing left back during his time at ajax.

    im not sure that wenger will do it. but i would vote for:

    coquelin, per, kozzer, TV
    frimpong

    i believe this would provide the best width in attack. and still be solid at the back.

    i would also like to see wenger drop walcott in favor of AOC. walcott was invisible (not in the good brazilian way) during the man city match. dropping him for a match might be good for him. both him and gervinho can be game winners but they are not consistent enough in their performances. sometimes missing a game can make a player reflect on his performances.

  • Shard

    @Abhishek Kumar

    Are you saying that espnstar.com shows live Premier League matches? Really? wow..thanks.. I had never heard about this before.. Are they showing the Villa match tonight? I went over to their site but I don’t see any sign of this. Help!

  • critic

    i think arsene needs to buy either vertonghen or baines in january. For vertonghen he needs to sell for baines he doesn’t. Later when gibbs returns they can be rotated at full back and left AM. Vertonghen can play at LB DM and CB. that’s 3 in 1 player.

    That’s my opinion anyway. Plus i am not a fan of suggesting arsene to buy this, buy that. It’s just an opinion.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Hey Shard

    Actually I saw it for the first time…luckily I was watching the ManU match in frustration and they just showed the link on the tv… Dont know about today but it is probable..

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Its working buddy..

    just check the link

    http://www.espnstar.com/live/

  • Mahdain

    it took me to ask when was the last time we got a penalty to get one today…maybe i should ask when was the last time we scored 6 goals? 😛

  • John L

    a couple thoughts on the match:

    a fantastic three points, from a not so fantastic performance.

    ramsey looks like he could use a little rest.

    walcott was quiet v city, but decent tonight. gervinho was decent v city, but quiet tonight. both of these guys need to be firing right now particularly as our stop gap full backs arent overlapping as much.

    why arent we seeing more of AOC? gervinho didnt beat hutton once, i would like to have seen what AOC could have done.

    the team is far less nervous defending a one goal lead at the end of a match. maybe wenger is right in bringing on the experience of yossi, shava, and rosicky.

    hutton is still a douche even though he doesnt play for spurs anymore.

  • Gord

    It kind of looked like we struggled a bit from what I was reading in the play by play commentary at the BBC. Nice to see Robin get a goal to keep up with his efforts on a scoring record, and Benayoun got us the winner. Apparently, Aston Villa’s goal was the 20,000th for the EPL.

    Other than being carded Coquelin didn’t show in the commentary much. Which to me suggests he did okay.

  • walter

    Or when was the last time we got two penalties?

    But never mind a vital vital win today. Hard working team, a bit unlucky Vermaelen with his header to Mertesacker which was too short. I thought Vermaelen would make up for it and score one at the other end. I just think he will score a goal in our next game. 😉

  • A crucial three points. If we are serious about third place and/or getting above Tottenham, I think we need to win the next four games. All are distinctly winnable, so there is no reason for us not to.

  • walter

    John L, I agree with you on Ramsey. He looks tired. But he always works very hard for the team. Maybe a bit too hard so he misses his chances in front of goal?
    But I would like to remind you of the fact that Ramsey is only doing his first real season in the EPL and that he had to come back from a place where many never returned after such a terrible injury.

    and Hutton… you can get the man out of the spuds but you cant get the spud out of the man… 🙂

  • Tasos

    A hard fought 3 points. Thought the team looked a bit jaded tonight and the absence of Song leaves us too open at times although once again Arteta proves what a great signing he has become. His experience and calmness in the midfield are a great asset to this team.

    Finally, at last we are awarded a penalty although we should probably have had two.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Gord, I don’t think Frimpong or Le Coq had great games today. I have never seen Frimpong play so inhibited. Maybe this is the Olympiacos hang over, which hopefully can now be put behind these two talents.

    @ John L, I agree that Ramsey needs a rest, I would start Rosicky against Wolves. I think we will see Alex OC next game at home. I also commend Le boss for his excellent subs tonight as they were exactly what was needed.

    @ Walter, I think Hutton was trying to impress Mcleish with that silly challenge on Vermaelen. I hope there was no harm done.

    @ Phil, good write up as usual, we just need to keep our heads down and keep grinding out results. There is still everything to play for.

    @ Dogface, your ref write up was missed today. I always have a butchers, even though I don’t always have time to comment.

    @ The FA, (if they happen to come across this blog), the penalty today, does not ‘even things out’!

    All in all, it was a hard fought game and the steel that this particular team has shone through. It was’nt Wengerball today, but it was mission accomplished.

  • Gord

    @Walter (on another thread)

    I was really disappointed to see that The FA could pretty much do what they wanted with the fine money. I was expecting to see it allocated to general revenues.

    @world

    I’m a little undecided on Quest for Well Written News. I had something more or less done to cover the Olympiakos and Everton games, the morning of the Man City game. And I can’t find a darned news article title about Arsenal from a reputed news source that is even neutral on Arsenal. All the articles seem to be about ManCity. I was disappointed, it was supposed to be a good game for both sides as well as for neutrals. Nothing. Is this what 400 million Pounds Stirling buys worldwide?

  • marcus

    Bizarre yellow card against VP…2 goals chalked of on Sat, another today…

    plus the yellow…

    nah…I am being too much a conspiracy theorist now…

  • bjtgooner

    @marcus

    I agree about the RVP yellow, he did not dive, he was floored by a defender, we should have had a penalty, instead RVP was booked. How blatant. Looks like the ref. received some instructions at half time.

  • dan

    Good result, not the best performance. Would love to see the stats from the Wigan/Pool game the ref was a joke.

  • Mahdain

    @shard espn star DOES show live premier league matches….its the channel i have been using to watch them in the last 2 seasons…that along with starsports and AbuDhabi sports channels(especially AbuDhabi 5)..i get all of them here in our country through a receiver and have to say they really are a life saver as the other option i.e supersports and DSTV is bloody expensive

  • WalterBroeckx

    Yes the booking of RVP was unexplainable. For me it was a penalty. And I think nobody can deny that there was clear contact between the defender and RVP with the defender blocking RVP with a hip swing.

    Now the instructions are to hand out a yellow card when THERE IS NO CONTACT AT ALL and the player went down. So there was clear contact. And then as a ref when you think it wasn’t a foul you can not give a penalty but you cannot give a yellow card.

    Makes me wonder if some people are trying to prevent Robin breaking some kind of record? With the wong cancelled goal at City Robin would have been on 35 by now. One away from Shearer.

  • Shard

    @Abhishek Kumar and Mahdain

    Thank you for the information. Great help.

  • John L

    @ walter:

    i was in no way belittling ramsey’s performances this year. he has a fantastic engine, works very hard for the team. but like you said hes snatched at his chances a bit lately. and last night i felt there were a few tired passes and decisions in the second half.

    the reason i say he needs a little rest is that this is is first real season back with the team. i think even sitting out one game would help him regain that little bit of sharpness, particularly in the first five steps against opponents. those are very important as they can provide that extra little space that enables a player to hit a good pass and shot.

    i understand wenger hesitation in dropping him, as he is a key player. but i think he might get the best out of him in feb, which is a huge month for arsenal’s season, if hes able to get a little bit of rest in dec and jan. honestly i dont think arteta or ramsey are going to get much rest until wilshere returns.

  • Gord

    WRT to Albrighton scoring the 20,000th EPL goal (on Vermaelen’s mistake), Albrighton has donated the 20,000 Pounds Stirling to Acorns Children’s Hospice. I don’t think any professional player in the world would disagree with donating money to help sick children.

    Wikipedia has a nice, but short, writeup on the charity:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acorns_Children%27s_Hospice