At last: football. Arsenal v the men the Sir F-word hates

By Billy the dog McGraw

There was a time when predicting the Arsenal team was a complex affair, with multiple injuries and men swapping positions trying to fill the gaps.

Now that’s not the case, and the manager even helps us a bit by giving out clues.  So here is the line-up


Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs;

Arteta, Wilshere;


Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott,  Podolski

Newcastle don’t have our current fortune on the injury front.   Ben Arfa, S Taylor, Cabaye, Gosling, Tiote,  Gutiérrez, R Taylor, Vuckic, Anita are all injured.  Williamson is suspended.

And not only do we have those XI guys on the pitch both Olivier Giroud and  Tomas Rosicky are available, and will presumably be on the beach.

The Newcastle injury list explains a bit about their fall from grace, but basically they have also lost the momentum that the run of results last year gave them.  They built success on success, and now build failure on failure.  That’s how it goes.

The postponement of the WHU game because of the tube strike was a pain – not least for those of us who had built our day around the game.   I think a win then would have set us up very positively for this match, but now it seems that the three wins in a row was a long way back, and the momentum will have gone.

Arsène Wenger has said that Theo will continue to play as a centre forward in the style of Henry (often out wide, then cutting in) and it was good to see the old boy saying that he is working with Theo and has every confidence in him.

And even Mr Wenger sounds positive.   “I like the signs I have seen.  If you look at my statements I always said that one day he would play through the middle and it grew in his brain. He is now 23. I decided to play Thierry Henry at 23 through the middle because you have to learn a lot before. The fact that you play in other positions as well helps your technique. From 19 to 23, Theo has learnt a lot. Now we will sometimes play him on the flanks, sometimes through the middle. I like what I have seen through the middle.”

“It’s a bit early to compare him to Thierry Henry. Let’s not put him under too much pressure. He has played two games and you have to be open-minded in our job and give people a chance. If they take it it’s good. If they don’t he will still be a fantastic winger, so it puts some more assets in his game. I am confident he will do well.

“Before we had more specialists in midfield. We had Vieira and Gilberto in midfield so you could play with more strikers. Now we have Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Chamberlain and Podolski. It’s difficult to find the balance defensively.”

So what of transfers:  “If you ask me ‘Do we sign Demba Ba?’ I say no.” But he did not rule out having Henry back for a while – and suggested that he could be busy in the transfer window both in terms of buying and selling – with the selling being probably Arshavin and Chamakh.
So let’s hope the trip back to the Empire of Football is a happy occasion.  I expect it to be.

The books…

The sites…

Recent posts

36 Replies to “At last: football. Arsenal v the men the Sir F-word hates”

  1. It is refreshing to see our injury list get smaller and smaller. Over the last 6-7 years any visit to to check out the list of injuries would leave me depressed! Now that particular cupboard seems bare, thankfully.

    Perhaps our much maligned medical team is starting to get things right after the big investment last year?

    I have always believed that a settled team wins games – it is good to be able to name a first 11 easily. They should play every game unless injured as I don’t buy into the tiredness argument.

    Anyway – lets hope for a long period of luck on the injury front. Lord knows we deserve it after the last few years!

  2. Hi Guillaume le chien,
    I don’t envy Giroud and Rosicky being detailed for the beach at this time of the year. Made to search for artefacts at Tower Bridge, no doubt.
    And as for a near injury-free squad, I won’t be entirely happy until Diaby can wear the shirt.

  3. Kos was our best player last year and merts is our best defender this year where does that leave tommie Tomas rosicky on his day will get into any team as with diaby we need cover at left back and stopper and a world class striker the only time you want a settled team that picks it self is when your rated as the best team in the league

  4. There is clearly conditioning work going on behind the scenes to reduce injuries. Allegedly, a few weeks back before the Swansea game -Wenger did not take training due to compassionate leave, he was at a funeral. Apparently, the players were expecting Bould to take training the day before the Swans game , and were dumbfounded when the fitness coach took the session – for conditioning rather than tactics. Stewart Robson and the press made a lot of it, citing a feud between Wenger and Bould. I did even wonder myself at the time. The Swansea result did not help. Like a lot of things reported about Arsenal, I have no idea how true all this was, but assuming there was at least a grain of truth, is extra conditioning work starting pay off for this team? (hopefully not speaking too soon)
    Wenger, unlike City or Utd has lost key players, Chelsea have but can spend unlimited amounts on replacements… but Wenger is building a team to play his way, a complex, well oiled, technical, fluid, passing, team orientated system that would take more time than it would for say Sam or Pulis to build a squad in their images…the end results or Wenger vs Pulis are there for all to see. It is not a quick or easy path to play the way we do, and it can be painful getting there. Any lack of cohesion , understanding or concentration can lead to catastrophic mistakes even against lesser teams. Wenger faces another challenge, he wants a fluid attacking team, who can defend as a team, hence no place for the likes of Arshavin. This is not easy, the model here is Barca, many of that team have been together since they were kids. Arsene has recently had a lot of time on the training pitch with the squad, and a lot of time for conditioning sessions, in contrast to the constant autumn interlulls that seemed to unsettle us so badly. Hopefully, this team will soon really start to really gel, maybe with a couple of reinforcements, a 4th win in a row if it were to happen would be a very important part in that process.

  5. Oh, we are in big crisis, we win 4 in the row, today scores 7.

    Oh, we missed Robin.

    Oh, this is really Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year with style.

    Expensive tickets? Huh, worth it!

  6. Wow! Incredible. Who needs David Villa? Immense display from Theo,that last goal defied the laws of gravity. Giroud came on and was superb, Wilshere completely inspiring. Guess some self flagellationists will point to defensive mistakes, but what a performance and what a confidence booster. Some great pass and move when we got going. Four in a row, superb GD, enjoy the crisis!

  7. We are back!

    Arsenal is back!

    You can not complaint, this is not Reading or another bottom table teams.

    Bring on Bayern!

    Victoria Concordia Crescit!

  8. What a game.. Yaay.. I can now sleep happy (although I still have miles to go before I sleep 🙂 )

    As regards the work behind the scenes regarding injuries that Wenger referred to. It’s no secret that Arsenal spent big (and invited a lot of bloggers to see it) in the new medical centre. Along with the GPS system (which needs a baseline of data to start to be effective), that is one reason we might be seeing lesser injuries. Hopefully that trend will continue, including with Diaby, though I hope we now see him as nothing more than a bonus player.

    Anyway. Back to the game. There were a lot of good goals scored in that game (including by Ba..Are we in for him?) Walcott’s three goals were brilliantly taken, as were Giroud’s two goals (both Walcott assists) Podolski’s was fortuitous but a good build-up. Ox’s finish was good as well, and at an important time in the match. What a game. I really enjoyed it. Will anyone call us boring again, as people were starting to after Swansea? No chance. Evn the commentators had to give credit to a brilliant match. And credit to Newcastle too. Apart from Santon’s hack on Giroud, I thought they played well, played fair, and contributed to a great match.

  9. I nearly broke my TV remote control when Giroud hit the post in the stoppage time.
    A great way to end the year. More importantly, it was a +4 to our goal difference.

  10. Mandy Dodd,
    Today, an emerging Thierry Walcott, n’est-ce pas?
    Will the BeanCounter$ cease and desist?!

  11. I just remember, last year, we need TV5 sprint from our penalty box to score the winning goal.

  12. What a game.That is why we are on TV more than any other team.I went to Reading today v W.Ham.Paid £45.00 for the agony!Both teams were poor,although W.ham were total crap.I at the saw the worse 2 strikers in the premier league.Cole and Progbaank{sorry about the spelling.}.Let NO ONE complain about the cost or the matches at the Arsenal

  13. Agree Bob, Theo has shown a wide audience what he can do. Keep him, we have 3 international forwards, with a couple of kids to come in as backup in the summer. we can then put the money in say another winger or seriosly attacking MF(Lopez? – Holtby?)
    I say, pay Theo – on a sliding scale if needs be. Lets not lose another key player this summer

  14. On the ESPN commentary, the recurring theme was Waddle stating how Newcastle were completely dominating the game.

    I had a different view and thought that Arsenal were not too bad, until the Panel at the end explained that it was all because their Boxing Day game had not taken place.

    So now I realise that the result was entirely due to Newcastle being tired, plus their numerous injuries.

    Grateful for such objective media insights!

  15. That would be the Waddle who said Theo as no football brain??
    Would not pay too much attention to much of the UK media, half of them have gone blind pleasuring themselves over some Spud diver whose name escapes me!

  16. Mandy Dodd,
    The presenters on Arsenal Player reported that Theo was bidding a heartfelt thank you, applauding the fans in a one-man virtual lap of honor. They, like any right thinking supporter, felt a touch of sadness that it might be a heartfelt adieu, and prayed otherwise. We cannot afford not to “bust” the sacred budget when doing so for him is completely affordable. What a show of loyalty that would be to one of our own development products (so to speak) – an a great aspirational message to the youngsters who are seeing us as mere stepping stones to their next and most significant future career move. It would build loyalty, exactly what has been in short supply. And it would “risk” that we do well by actually acting like a big club instead of a top pretender to the throne. There’s so much upside to keeping him, no matter what, from a football and, one could well argue, from a business perspective. He, with Jack, would be the faces of the franchise – both young and emerging world-class talents. Why is there even a question at this point? Don’t the bean counters understand – even in their own term$ – that they could win the victory (cash in at 20-25m) and lose the bloody war! (It would sicken, utterly sicken many fans and let loose a host of dire consequences (except for those who are badge fetishists) 🙂

  17. @Mandy

    Agree with your comment – Waddle does talk a lot of waffle! (sorry couldn’t resist that one).

  18. At the risk of being a bit of a nitpicker, I must say that our defence (so good on paper) was positively sieve-like for two of their goals. As for the other, Wilshere must accept the blame for not standing tall.
    On the bright side, the score at 5-3 (i.e. the vital two goal advantage) seemed to elevate Arsenal into tremendous attacking confidence and the additional two goals were no surprise.
    Giroud’s two goals were well taken and should boost his confidence no end.
    Walcott is in a purple patch at the moment and is only emphasising how important he is as an out and out striker a la Henry.
    However, we mustn’t get too carried away with our performance. Newcastle, in playing a very open and honest
    game, contributed greatly to the entertainment (only one yellow card)but it won’t always be like that.
    Whatever the future holds though, we are entitled to look forward with greater confidence to our next match at Swansea in the FA Cup on the 6th of January.

  19. we would look so stupid if we lost him now, if it were only down to something we could actually afford…I did pick up on what looked like a lap of honour…or something the like….rvp @ West Brom? The fans would not like it either, not sure how the bean counters would explain that…unless there is some kind of swap deal with someone on a par with Villa – and even then, I would take Theo on current form.
    We really have to stop losing these players, would be so great to start anew with keeping Theo…but just cannot see it in the long term. Can we afford to pay him , or can we afford to lose him? I just hope whatever is going on, the club really have pulled out all stops, and of that, I am unsure

  20. OK OK the truth now, Gibbs went on his new years jolly up a bit too early, God knows where he went?

    Wilshere, take it in the face son, you aint that pretty so don’t worry about it.

    Must admit to throwing my dummy out the pram on numerous occasions during the match, so much so that my 3 year old thought it was a game.

  21. bob, Mandy,

    There is a problem with that scenario regarding Walcott and ‘bean counters’, in that Arsenal can only do so much to keep him. If it needs stretching the wages to 90-100k, then I say we should do it. But the problem is, that if Walcott wants to leave, then he’ll find plenty of suitors, and those who will pay him much more than we can. There’s no bean counting going on when we refuse to pay any player 200k a week. And with Theo on a bosman, he can demand a huge signing on fee AND get something like 150k in wages. There is no way Arsenal can compete with that, nor any reason that we should. Basically, we rely on Walcott to want to stay, and on a reasonable wage. If it is about the money, he WILL get more elsewhere. I think he’s gone. He would have signed by now otherwise. All I hope is that we keep him till season’s end, and that he stays professional and keeps playing well. Beyond that. I’d be delighted if he stayed, but I think it’s unlikely.

  22. @Shard,
    You may be right but Walcott would be well advised to consider the example of Nasri who thought the grass was greener. OK he went for more money but the info is he is likely to be transferred as a failure at the end of this season. Be warned Theo.

  23. Representation rules dictate that a player can only sign with an agent for a set period, (without looking it up I think it is 2-3 years).
    Theo is/was represented by Key sports management

    They are the ones in talks with Arenal, their job is to get the best deal for Theo, and if that means playing the waiting game and using this transfer window as leverage then I think they will do just that. We can only hope that Theo will sign a new improved offer from the powers that be.

    However if Theo has signed with another agent or is being represented by someone else on Key sports behalf then yet again Arsenal find themselves being held to ransom by a player and his representation.

    Key sports have a history with Arsenal through representing many players on Arsenal’s books. Most notably Fabrice Muamba.
    (England International) Theo Walcott
    “Warwick Horton from Key Sports Management has been a major influence on my career and a good friend. I know there are a lot of stories about bad agents, corrupt agents, unscrupulous agents and greedy agents, and no doubt a lot of them are true. But there are some good ones out there too, and mine is one of them. I trust Warwick and Key Sports completely to do what is best for me.”

    (Father) Don Walcott
    “One of the most important attributes of any relationship to me, be it personal or professional, is trust. I have been associated with KeySports as a father to one of their players for a number of years now and I trust them. They will always do their best for the players they represent. The player comes first and I trust them to do things the right way.”

    (the above was taken directly from key sports web-site)

  24. Great post at 1:26pm, Mandy Dodd.

    @ Shard at December 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm
    Absolutely correct.

    It’s up to Theo, really, to decide what is most important to him.

  25. @ Billy the dog- Newcastle -“They built success on success,
    and now build failure on failure.” That brought tears to me eyes !
    Reminded me of an old quote by Alfred E.Neuman – Adversity prepares you ….for more adversity !
    Well they do say that great minds think alike , but then they also say that fools seldom differ !
    Hmmm !

Comments are closed.