Vermaelen returns, other stuff + Arsecast 306

Vermaelen returns, other stuff + Arsecast 306

I’m now becoming expert at turning my alarm off rather than making it snooze, then drifting off and having mad dreams.

I was trying to get on a flight to Edinburgh but Belle and Sebastian had waged war on the world and outside was a post-apocalyptic wasteland and their tunes were playing from the crudely hung Tannoy systems that stretched across the road. The pilot was sitting there weeping and doing damp cocaine from the back of a credit card so I decided I’d go home instead.

Once there we had to fight off scavengers who had been made aware that we had sandwiches and we were bashing them around the head with golf clubs. In the end we kept the sandwiches but when I went to eat one it was all mouldy and the meat inside was gone off guinea pig or something. Then I woke up wondering why I didn’t just get out of bed the first time my alarm went off. And I have a Belle and Sebastian song stuck in my head.

An inauspicious start to a Friday morning you have to say. On the plus side there’s some good news ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Stoke in that Mesut Ozil is back (expected), while Thomas Vermaelen returns to the squad for the first time since the Southampton game at the end of January.

There are doubts over Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal but the whispers are that the former could be involved, and that would be good. I’d have some doubts over Vermaelen at left back because a) it’s a position he really doesn’t like and b) after being injured and having played so little this season, I wonder if it might just be overwhelmingly knackering.

Still, it’s a positive to have him back with all the games we have to play and given his personal circumstances I wonder if he might be super-motivated during this run-in. The likelihood of Vermaelen being happy to play second fiddle again to Mertesacker and Koscielny for another full season is very slim indeed, so we might be looking at his final months in an Arsenal shirt.

Meanwhile, the boss praised the performance of Joel Campbell in midweek but said he’s yet to make up his mind about the young forward’s future with us. Asked about him in yesterday’s press conference, he said:

I will decide that later. Why not? We bought him to bring him here, He looks like he has adapted a bit better to the physical side of the European game. We always knew that he had the talent to create something special. He did rely a bit too much on that. He has learned the toughness of the European leagues.

A couple of goals at Old Trafford in the return leg, a crunching tackle that ruptures the spleen of the little boy inside the Dutch Skunk, and I reckon he’ll be all set.

Meanwhile, interesting thoughts from Arsene Wenger on the Premier League being the best league. He says it’s the best because:

… it is the most level league. There is not the difference of quality – for example, between Bayern Munich and the rest of the German league.

So, if the marker for ‘best’ is ‘most competitive’ then he’s probably right. It is a league where anyone call pull off a shock result, unlike the Bundesliga where Bayern haven’t been beaten for who knows how long at this stage? Spain is a bit more competitive than usual this season but that’s, perhaps, because Barcelona aren’t quite as good as they were and Real Madrid are a bit better than they were, and Atletico Madrid have the new Julio Baptista scoring goals so it’s quite even.

But are the best teams in Europe from the Premier League? That’s another question and I think we’d have to admit that they’re not. Bayern, Madrid, Barcelona, they’re still the teams to beat. The Premier League might have effective teams, teams that can grind out results, but I don’t think there’s any team you could say is the best in Europe (or even close to being that).

It’s not long ago the Premier League used to be a two-horse race as well. First between United and Arsenal, then United and Chelsea. Now you have City in there, Liverpool are having a great season, the battle for the top four involves more clubs than ever, so with all the money that’s been pumped into the game from broadcasters, perhaps there’s something to be said for the Premier League as a ‘product’ (sad, I know), that other leagues just don’t provide.

Finally, have a read of Tim Stillman’s latest column – it is good. And I celebrated afterwards by running the length of the blog before sliding on knees in front of a stand full of Adebayors and van Persies.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and I’m joined by Julian H from Gingers4Limpar to discuss Ozil, Giroud, player rest and more. There’s some TalkShite radio and the usual waffle.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 27mb MP3).

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

And that, my friends, is about that. I’m going to try find a better sandwich. Till tomorrow.

Arsecast Extra – Episode 5

Arsecast Extra – Episode 5

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra: I’m joined as always by James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show we discuss the 4-1 win over Sunderland, Olivier Giroud’s return, Tomas Rosicky and Yaya Sanogo – as well as answering your questions about Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sanga’s future and more.

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast Extra directly – click here 21mb MP3).

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

On Mesut + Arsecast 305

On Mesut + Arsecast 305

I don’t know about you but this week has flown by, but it feels as if I was the plane and had to do the actual flying. And somebody overloaded the plane with weighty cargo and then a person who was so big they had to take up three seats got on and they had really bad BO and nits.

But really, where does the time go? Who knows where the time goes, even? One minute you’re enjoying the fact we’ve signed a £42.5m Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, the next it’s almost March and the football season is heading into its final stages. What’s happening? Am I just getting old? Older.

Poor old Mesut though, he’s been getting it in the ear from all manner of people. I have decided that anyone who tries to engage me in conversation online and uses the unqualified phrase ‘Ozil is shit’ is a really good way of categorising people. It’s simple, there are two choices: people who should be pushed off a very high cliff onto jagged rocks, and those who should not.

If, however, you were to say to me “Ozil is shit at Battleships”, I would think about that for a bit because who knows, you might have personal experience of playing against Ozil in the addictive pad and pencil game that later became a board game, and he may have an uncanny ability to sink your patrol boat with his opening moves.

You could say “Ozil is shit at growing facial hair”, and I’d probably have to agree with you to an extent but I’d think you were being harsh because what can he do about that? It’s his sallow complexion and he’s hardly to go out and buy a load of pubes off Scott Tenorman, is he? As we know, that only leads to a world of chilli flavoured hurt.

But if you say “Ozil is shit” and you mean to tell me that he’s shit at football … Cliff. Rocks. Cheerio, pal. May the sea take your corpse, may a shark eat your body, and then poo it out which  feeds the barracuda that eats the rest of your family as they take your life insurance money and go on a holiday to help them cope with their ‘grief’.

I say ‘grief’ because undoubtedly you held other similarly daft opinions which deserved the old cliff/rocks solution. But they’re not to be spared in my world and it’s all your fault, think about that as you’re falling.

Mesut got himself an earful off Flamini too after failing to track a run or not running fast enough after failing to track a run. Some people have suggested this is a sign that things are not well in the camp, that there’s dissent between the players and it won’t be long before sides are taken, Lord of the Flies style.

Here’s the thing: Flamini is perfectly within his rights to shout at Ozil, but then you have to remember that Flamini is the type of man who also shouts at clouds. If Ozil is unhappy at Flamini’s attention, it’s more likely that he’s well aware he’s struggling and doesn’t need an angry man telling him what he already knows.

It’s the heat of battle, stuff happens on the pitch and in training but it’s not a big deal. Look at Lukasz Fabianski wander past the two of them to take a goal kick without batting an eyelid, he doesn’t pay either player the slightest bit of attention. You know why? Because it’s not worth worrying about. This kind of stuff happens all the time in games, at every level of football. It’s rarely a sign of anything other than heat of the moment stuff.

Also, you might notice that when Flamini failed to track Muller’s run which allowed Bayern to score their second Ozil wasn’t in his face shouting and pointing at him. Of course some might tell you it’s because he lacks passion and doesn’t care, and those people could probably have a good career writing for the Daily Mail and/or appearing on Sunday Supplement wearing some kind of hair clip before going to work on their secret psychic chatline because if they know what footballers and fans are thinking then why not broaden their horizons to people desperate enough to pay for such insight.

My basic thought is this: for years we’ve had people complaining that Arsenal don’t make world class signings. When we do make one – and make no mistake he’s a world class player – some of those people are willing to write him off at just a few months at a time when he’s definitely struggling for form and may need … oh, I dunno … some support.

To quote Lukas Podolski, “Trust in Mesut, he will give it back twice in return and make all of us happy. Friends stand together. Let’s go AFC!”

For the rest … cliff. Rocks. Barracuda. QED.

Anyway, as there’s little else going on this morning we might as well crack on with this week’s Arsecast, and joining me to discuss Ozil, Sanogo, Bayern Munich and more is our old friend Paolo Bandini. There’s also a trip to an unnamed live sports studio and the usual mindless waffle.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 25mb MP3).

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

We’ll have all the latest team news and so on from the press conference over on Arseblog News. In the meantime, have a good Friday.

Back here tomorrow with a full preview of the Sunderland game. Until then.

Arsecast Extra – Episode 4

Arsecast Extra – Episode 4

Here’s this week’s Arsecast Extra: I’m joined as always by James from @Gunnerblog.

On this week’s show reaction the FA Cup win over Liverpool, a look ahead to Champions League action against Bayern and readers questions about Fabianski, Bendtner, Sanogo, Vermaelen as a defensive midfielder and more. There are some minor sound quality issues due to the fact James is broadcasting from his Hank Scorpio-esque lair deep beneath the earth

Remember, you can send us questions via which we’ll try and get to each week. Send them to either @arseblog or @Gunnerblog (or both) using the hashtag #arsecastextra. Best to send them Monday morning so they get noticed more easily.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast Extra on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast Extra directly – click here 21mb MP3).

The Arsecast Extra is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

Killer puppies, cup changes and Arsecast 304

Killer puppies, cup changes and Arsecast 304

Morning all. It can’t be just for me that the weeks are flying by ridiculously fast, can it? How the hell is it Friday already?

We don’t play until Sunday when we’ve got the chance for some FA Cup redemption against the ‘smashers, and already there’s talk of rotation in terms of the team. It’s a tricky one in some respects. The last two games would suggest that some changes need to be made. You can’t on one hand bemoan the performance of a particular player, and then gripe if the manager thinks about changing him.

I thought the team selection for United was probably the best XI we could have started with, based on everything we’ve seen this season so far. That the manager was so cautious about making changes as the game wore on is another thing entirely.

For Sunday, there’s talk of Fabianski and Jenkinson and Bendtner and Podolski and Gnabry and I understand the need to try something that might spark a bit of life back into the team. But that must be weighed up with our need to play our very best team possible. If Jenkinson is playing because Sagna is carrying a bit of a knock and we want to ensure he doesn’t break down, fine. But if Sagna is fully fit, I think he should play because he’s better.

With no midweek distractions for the Mugsmashers, they’re not going to do anything but play their best team, and we got served by their best team last weekend. We got served, and now it’s on. It’s very much on.

The complaints about Giroud are all well and good – and the bloke looks knackered – but do you play Podolski, unconvincing as a centre-forward every single time he’s played there? Or Bendtner, this season’s Eboue-style clownish, guilt-powered cult hero (and I say this as somebody who thinks he’s a decent player really)? Or Yaya Sanogo, fresh from Ligue 2 and a 5 month injury?

If those options don’t give you pause for thought, whichever one you choose, then you’re a better man than I am (or woman, equal opportunity blogging and all that. I’m not a good woman at all. Legs are way too hairy and I just can’t do heels).

On today’s Arsecast we discuss the need to inject something new into the team and the name of Serge Gnabry is one that cropped up. The young German is inexperienced but highly talented. He’s a round peg for the round hole, and without Walcott all our other pegs are a bit square.

But then you wonder is trying to fillet the team after a bad week an overreaction when they’ve done well consistently this season? We have got good results most weeks. This week feels particularly flat because of what happened at Anfield twinned with the fact we couldn’t beat a United side that are, essentially, like the school bully who is now confined to a wheelchair yet still able to fend you off with his walking stick.

Wojciech Szczesny has been trying to add some measure to the last few days, aware of the frustration felt by fans after two results which have left the team open to questioning. He says:

We are in a good position in the league, and we are still in the FA Cup and the Champions League, so I don’t know what kind of frustration we should have. The frustration should have been a year or two ago when we were struggling. We’re still there at the top of the table. We are going to push for the title. We are still confident.

It’s good to hear and it’s hard not to see his point. 12 months ago things felt a lot, lot worse. Mostly because they were. We’d gone out of the Capital One Cup to Bradford (no thanks to Gervinho, this season’s ‘perhaps we shouldn’t have sold him’ ex-girlfriend that’s looking good going out with another guy but still has all the annoying tics you’ve allowed yourself to forget); an FA Cup exit to Blackburn was just about to happen followed by a painful Bayern rogering at home; and in the Premier League Sp*rs were motoring towards a top four spot at our expense.

Arsenal’s reaction since then has been to win 25 league games, draw 7 and lose just 5. So we can’t ignore there’s been a response and a consistency to the way we’ve played and performed. Yet it’s hard to shake the ‘Once bitten’ feeling, and given the schedule, we could be sitting here next week out of the FA Cup and facing a trip to Munich which is nigh on pointless.

Of course that’s the absolute worst case scenario, but when you’re lying in the dark and you hear a noise you don’t think ‘Oh, that must be a cute puppy trying to inveigle it’s way into my life for super-awesome cuddles and slurps’. It’s a monster who drools acid saliva, has fearsome talons and a blood curdling screech which sounds like Sussudio which he lets rip to ensure you know that he wants to eat your heart. Slowly.

The good thing is that the way we look our situation, and the way the players do, is very different. We might worry and stress and over-analyse a scrappy 1-0 over relegation fodder; they think ‘Clean sheet, win, next game.’

After the draw in midweek they’ll feel like they’ll have put the Anfield Atrocity behind them and, I’m sure, will be out for some measure of revenge because it is embarrassing to get turned over like that by a team you’d previous beaten quite comfortably this season. Let’s hope so. Anyway, there’s plenty more to say about this game, and how we might approach it over the next couple of days.

Now though, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by Goonerholic and the Man from East Lower to discuss Liverpool, Man Utd, the fear of collapse, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and if there’s room for Serge Gnabry. Andrei Arshavin reads some mean Tweets and there’s the usual waffle.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 29mb MP3).

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

And that, my friends, is about that for this morning. Have yourselves a splendid Friday, more here from me tomorrow.