Wigan preview + Saturday round-up

Morning all,

back to league action today and it’s Wigan at home. It’s just a few weeks since we played them away, the game when Arsene made all those changes and we allowed them to equalise late on with just 10 men. I expect changes again today but instead of looking to ‘fringe’ players to come in and do the job it’ll be the big guns returning.

My guess is: Wojscez┬ę┬« – Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy – Song – Cesc – Wilshere – Nasri – van Persie – Walcott

I’d be surprised if there were any deviation from that and the way the other fixtures have fallen this weekend I don’t expect any of the teams around us to drop points. So it’s crucial we don’t allow ourselves to slip into any kind of comfort zone after a couple of good performances. Our biggest problem this season has been consistency of performance but over the next few games we’ve got a real chance to build momentum.

Wigan won’t come and just defend. I suspect they’ll get men behind the ball quickly when we have it but they won’t be afraid to have a go. Having drawn with us a couple of weeks ago why would they be? They know our weaknesses as well as anyone and will try to exploit them. They’ve got some dangerous players and shackling N’Zogbia will be important.

That said, Arsenal have Cesc, Nasri, Walcott and van Persie all in good form and in goal scoring form too. Nasri continues to draw plaudits, the manager likening him to Zinedine Kilbane Zidane. He spoke about his style of play and his improvement this season:

He is a player who has a little bit a guy who likes to run with the ball. Cesc Fabregas is a passer of the ball, Nasri is a guy who is more half winger, a wing midfielder. He has his own style but he is quick and tricky and very flexible. Nasri has 14 goals, last year he got three, so there is a massive improvement there.

From pre-season it was clear there was added focus and determination from him, Arsene reckons not going to the World Cup was a big benefit. And I would agree. Hanging around with a cunt like Patrice Evra for two months wouldn’t do anybody any good. Aside from that there are times when footballers get a kick up the arse and perhaps that’s what missing out on the World Cup was for Nasri. In the end, considering what went on in the French camp, it was probably for the best, but he’s responded to the initial set-back incredibly well.

The manager is also convinced he’ll stay despite only having 18 months left on his contract. Let’s hope that’s the case because if he continues to progress we’re going to have one hell of a player on our hands. I think people assume he’s older, he’s just 23 and has so much time to get even better.

So he’s going to be an important part of today’s game but it’s got to be a team effort. The application and commitment shown against Leeds and West Ham can’t be faulted in any way and that’s got to continue. Even those who didn’t play particularly well against Leeds couldn’t be faulted for effort. Three points are absolutely vital and let’s hope we see the same Arsenal we have done in the last few games.

In other news the centre-half issue rumbles on. Squillaci will be back next week apparently but there’s still nothing stirring in terms of a signing. Arsene was asked about Gary Cahill and said:

At the moment, I cannot come out with any name. I think Gary Cahill is a very good player but I cannot tell you more. We like to keep our transfer negotiations very secret. It puts more pressure on when you go public so you understand we don’t want to speak publicly about that.

To be honest I doubt there’s anything to it. We know he likes to keep things secret but that’s also a brilliant way of not having to do anything. In the same article he suggests moving Song back there because Diaby is coming back soon. Baffling, really. He then talks about how English players are too expensive (and while I definitely agree with him that’s not something that’s going to change) and there was a story on the official site earlier in which he questioned the January transfer market. I’m sure it was there, I know I read it, but I can’t find it now.

Anyway, paraphrasing he said he questioned the value of the January window because it might affect team spirit. I just checked it out on the press conference video and he said:

This is the period when I question a little bit the transfer window. You want everybody to be connected and you cannot be half. You cannot be half in and half out. That’s why I don’t want to talk about anybody leaving. I want everybody to be focussed on our targets.

To be fair, that was in response to a question about Manuel Almunia leaving, but odd comments all the same. I think I know what he means but Arsene has done some of his most expensive business in Januarys past. He brought in Reyes, Adebayor and Arshavin mid-season. What could possibly be putting him off spending again?!

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes, I just can’t see him spending on Cahill. Or anyone. As for stories linking us with Jonathan Woodgate, well the only reason I can think of is that the medical staff are bored and need somebody to look after. We might as well go out and sign Cripply Joe and Paraplegic Pete. They’ve got a better chance of playing for us than that zombie looking gobshite.

Away from that it looks as if some loan deals are going through. Aaron Ramsey has rejoined Cardiff on loan for a month. Seems a bit odd to me, to be honest, but I can understand the need for him to play games. I just thought that with the amount of games we have he might get chances. However, none of us know his physical condition, how far away from really being match fit etc he is, and if a loan allows him the chance to get more action than with us, and come back ready to play, then fair enough. I assume there’s a clause in which we can recall him if needs be.

He’ll join Jay Emmanuel-Thomas at Cardiff and it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on until the end of the season. There’s pressure on him to perform. This isn’t just part of his development, it’s essentially a trial to show he’s got what it takes to become part of the first team squad next season. For me there’s no doubting his talent but is he one of those young players who think it all comes too easily? We’ll see.

Henri Lansbury is off to Norwich for a month while there are still plenty of teams interested in Carlos Vela. You can speculate all you want about why nothing has happened yet. We know Bolton wanted him weeks ago so suggestions there’s some dealing going on re: Cahill are inevitable. I just bet it’s because he doesn’t want to go to Bolton. Hopefully something happens because at the moment he’s about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Right, not much else happening. Back a bit later on with live blogging of the Wigan game. Here’s to a proper Arsenal performance later on.

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