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August 2021

Looking ahead: the next two games

By Phil Gregory

After three defeats on the trot, it makes sense to have a look at the next few fixtures coming up to see where our season is going to get back on track. After three league defeats on the bounce, the FA Cup offers a little welcome respite provided Alex McLeish’s Aston Villa side don’t kick us to pieces and add to the injury list. With this tie being at home, we’ll probably see a little bit of rotation in order to rest a few of the more jaded legs amongst our first choice squad. The likes of Squillaci, Rosicky and Chamberlain will be likely to see starts.  I’d definitely start Yennaris too – Djourou really struggled with Nani and the youngster came in and did well. This game would be a good opportunity to see how he does over the course of a high pressure, ninety minute game and he could well make the right back slot his own. With Fabianski back fit, he may too be given the nod – while Szcznesy won’t be getting tired, in the event he gets injured it would be better if Fabianski was match ready.

It’s always a bit of a gamble swapping players out, especially with us being in dire need of a win to bring some positivity back to the team. I expect Wenger to take a long term view though, and those players who will benefit from a breather over the course of the season will get one. I really wouldn’t expect more than three outfield changes though: with results as they are recently we can’t afford to gamble excessively. The FA Cup could yet prove to be a piece of silverware for the Arsenal this season.

What will be crucial for this game, given a potentially makeshift starting eleven and a general lack of confidence, will be the home crowd. Villa aren’t the well-oiled, stubborn machine they were under O’Neill, but they will still pose a threat to what is a very injury-hit Arsenal squad. The home supporters will have to get behind the lads out on the pitch and should do so through thick and thin anyway: we all want Arsenal to win games, and booing is only detrimental to that.

A few days after this weekend’s FA Cup game, we’re travelling away to Bolton. The Reebok stadium is never the kind of place you want to go to with a run of three league defeats behind you, but Bolton have really struggled this season and shouldn’t be too much of a struggle, provided we play to the best of our ability. Perhaps our current plight of having zero fullbacks will be of benefit for this tie, with the set piece threat of Bolton negated somewhat by the presence of the possibly two centrebacks in the fullback positions. Three points at Bolton would come in very handy, and with Blackburn at home after that we could start putting this atrocious run behind us.

Ironically, my ticket for the Bolton game has just come through the door. When I ordered it I didn’t expect we’d be struggling as much as we have been on the run-up to this game, so hopefully my trek over to Bolton isn’t in vain. Fortunately my journey isn’t quite as long as some of the other fans who’ll be in the away stand with me: studying at Leeds Uni means I don’t have quite so far to go to for some of these Northern away days.


22 comments to Looking ahead: the next two games

  • FrostyGooner

    Nice writeup Phil, good to see someone looking forward and not backward. I agree with your thoughts on the cup, Wenger will/should rest those players we’re going to be counting on in the upcoming weeks, but we really can’t afford not to take this competition seriously with all the howling from the doomers.

  • Amr

    I doubt we will be seeing old Flappy in an Arsenal shirt again after what happened in Greece…watch the match again, Flappy faked his injury so Arsene could sub him because he was tanking so hard it was unreal. Look at TV5’s reaction when he bashed into Flappy “not impressed” would be the least I would call it..further evidence would be that Almunia was on the bench against UTD even though Flappy is back from “injury”

    I could be totally wide of the mark but that was my initial thought as I watched it live…so far haven’t seen anything goes against it…

  • rusty

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Park get a run-out, as well (now that breaking Chamakh’s duck is his national team’s coach’s problem)…

  • Park is a very good shout – Van Persie is quite clearly our key man, so we have to rest him where we can. He should be on the bench, ready to come on second half if we’re not ahead.

    Amr – interesting stuff on Fabianksi. I always had him down as a huge confidence player. Once he saved that penalty away in Eastern Europe last season (the precise opposition evades me) he turned from being a fairly awful keeper to actually being quite good. Hopefully he hasn’t reverted to pre-penalty form, I might dig out the Arsenal TV highlights of the game you mentioned

  • FrostyGooner

    Agreed, I’m probably wrong but I don’t recall Park even getting a touch on Sunday after he came on. Arsene did say we’d see more of him this side of Christmas so I wouldn’t be surprised if he started (with some insurance on the bench, of course!)

  • The only problem i have is that every single team in England knows how to play us. We have only one strategy, attack, attack, attack! Not minding if we have the players or not, even in war, there are times you’ll have to retreat or defend.

    It must be the same formation in all matches. I’m no coach, but simple logic shows that you cannot fight different battles with the same strategy. It’s a sure recipe for utter defeat.

    I’m not expecting much from those matches, call me a pessimist if you like, no problem. Fact is, we’re gonna struggle again, no fear factor in us again. Everybody comes thinking, it’s only Arsenal, just keep tight at the back and catch them on the counter or they gonna make one mistake at the back at one point or the other. It’s really frustrating.

    I’ve been a fan since ’82 and i’m not about to abandon ship, but as far as i’m concerned, this season is over. We just need to start making plans for the next one. Are we gonna invest in the team? Are we letting go of ‘deadwoods’ in the team?. The answer, my friends, is hanging in the air.

    Come on you gunners!

  • Arun

    @ 9jagunnerdoc, I don’t find anything wrong with the attack,attack and attack strategy used in every arsenal game.The reason behind our poor results is not the strategy but the finishing .Except RVP, every other player has struggled to convert chances into goals and with our injury list, it is difficult to maintain one goal lead.Due to these injuries, our back four has failed to gel together and we have conceded a lot more goals than we should have had.As far as this season is concerned, it’s far from over.There is still 42.1% matches remaining in PL,only one FA Cup round has been played and the CL knockouts are yet to begin.I am sure we can win FA Cup this season if our players remain fit and can go as far as we can in CL untill we meet barca or madrid.But our biggest problem in finishing fourth is that spuds and pool has got no europe to take care of and I am confident that we will finish fourth.
    Most importantly, it is more important to finish strong than having a good run in the middle of the season and poor at the end like last year.

  • Arun
    You take for granted that Chelsea, currently in fourth place, will somehow implode, and we will get the job done. Agreed, our injured players coming back will add more bite to the team, but by the time they come things could have got really beyond redemption.
    That Chelsea team is full of seasoned players who know how to, and have been grinding out results, which we have not managed to do. Or do you think them Spuds are gonna press the self destruct button and drop out of the top four for our sake? Even if all that happens, we still have our own job to do. Simply put, it’s no longer in our hands, that fourth spot and we need a miracle to get it.

  • Arun

    @9jagunnerdoc,all I meant was that if results go our way, recovering a deficit of 5 points during 16 games is not very difficult.I completely agree with you that we can’t afford to drop anymore points but ‘needing a miracle to get it’ is too much pessimistic.

  • Arun

    Adding to the previous comment, if we want to be competitive in all 3 tournaments we badly need our players back.further, dropping anymore points in league is equivalent to committing suicide.

  • Well, i guess we’ll just have to ‘keep the faith’ like the saying goes.

  • Nick

    What about Ryo? Has he returned from injury?

  • GunZ BlaziN


    i think ryo has returned and was thought to be sent on loan during this transfer window.

    in my point of view he showld be played in the FA cup (villa game), ryo on the left with our OXO kid on the right.

    Ryo is a very talented kid and ive been much waiting to see more of him, some people have said that ryo and park have only been signed by wenger to sell shirts in the asian market.

    Arsenal have become a good buisiness rather than a good football club, profits are on the high and the football has gone down the toilet, its such a pity of what has become of our beloved arsenal.

  • Mandy dodd

    We have been through a few worrying matches, maybe we need new players but cannot get them because our money rests in the account of kronkes pet canary? Stranger things have happened in the north London football world.

  • bob

    Mandy Dodd,
    Stan’s pet canary must not become our canary in the coal mine. Can’t you find a way to pry loose some of that money and get it straight to AW who knows and has made known that he knows the difference between utter disaster and a fourth place finish (as opposed to the celestially benumbed Mr. Hill-Wood)

  • Things can only get better !

  • Mandy Dodd

    Just noticed QPR have signed a lb, on loan, Taiwo from Milan who we were reportedly linked to. So we cannot say these players are not out there, whether he is good enough is another matter. For the most part I agree with trying out what we have but at the moment, the stakes are very high and what we have, LB wise is very injury prone, and do not think TV really likes playing there.
    Gibbs and Le Coq, really hope you are back very soon and stay back!

  • The Spartan

    I see us putting 3 past villa`s goalie. I put that on my mother, the only problem is I don’t know how many they will manage to score against us. ARSENAL FC WILL BE THE BEST FOREVER! In my world at least.

  • Gooner Gal

    …..I’ve decided to break cover….is it safe to support the Arsenal again?

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Phil, what’s frustrating is that I thought we had shed most of the booing T*£$pot’s at the begining of the season. But then we went on that great wining streak and they all decided return and people like me started to find it harder to get tickets and not at face value either! I was’nt at the last match but I was told the poor atmosphere was palpable and probably affected the players on the pitch. I can’t work out how the supposed fans don’t understand that they can help the players on the pitch by cheering them on and even motivate players to play better. The reverse is also the case so they had a part to play in loss too.

    Some people should just throw in the towel as they are not cut out to be Arsenal fans. Clearly supporting Arsenal through thick and thin is not for lightweights.

  • Gooner Gal

    Looking forward, I really want to see Yennaris start against Villa. After the CC Bolton game I was impressed with how he managed against a full strength team and with his first team debut. To me he could be the surprise ‘Project Yoof’ player of the season that breaks through and runs with the opportunity AW gives him.

    I would really like to see a fully fit and determined Rosicky start in midfield on Sunday too. His last stand out game for us was the Marseille game away, which he seemed to take ownership and responsiblity for every loose ball, put in tackles kept the ball out of reach from their players. A performance like that again against Villa would totally neutralise them.

    For me it’s been a strange few weeks with regards Sir AW. I have been critical of his decision to play Santos in the dead rubber CL game as it was too big a risk as we did not and still do not have adequate cover at left back to mitigate the gamble. I also wasn’t happy that Alex OC was taken off when he was either last week. That said, I believe that Sir AW is still the amazing manager able to turn our mini slump around. I look confidently ahead, knowing that he is busting a gut to put right what has been going wrong and I hope he gets a massive cheer of support from the fans in appreciation on Sunday.

    The man is mortal flesh and blood, as is the team and it would great if the fans did their bit for the cause too. This team will again show the fight and metal they displayed at the begining of the season and Sir AW will show that he is still bigger, tougher and smarter than most as he steps up and does’nt hide or deflect from criticism levelled at him. But instead show’s why he is the greatest manager in football at the moment.

  • legolas wish list

    1- i wish to see Walcott make some fakes and not being that much easily read by the defenders . 🙁 i always can know ahead his next move which shows he lack creativity.
    2- I wish to see Arshavin running and fighting on the pitch to prove fans wrong. how hard is it to motivate him ?
    3- I wish to see Ramsey more creative he is an engine i admire him but he lack skills in front of goal.
    4- I wish we can get Vertonghen, Hazard, Cissokho,Ben atia.
    5- I wish Wenger stay & Kroenke Leave