Arsenal and defending – two words that don’t go in tandem with each other.
Arsene Wenger has built his football on free-flowing attacking football and times without number, his team has been caught out at the back and there are even times when the Gunners shoot themselves in the foot as they become plotters of their own downfall.
As expected, injuries, suspensions and decline of form took its toll on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard and Arsene Wenger managed to use almost all the defenders in the club’s payroll at some point in the season.
While the big guns featured regularly in the Premier League and the Champions League, the Capital One Cup served as a breeding ground for some young guns and fringe players, and the dead-rubber game against Olympiakos also saw deadwood like Sebastien Squillaci get a run-out as well.
While Per Mertesacker cemented his status as Arsene Wenger’s first choice defender, Thomas Vermaelen partnered the gentle giant by the mere fact that he was the skipper, because his form painted a different picture. When the manager realized how appalling his skipper had become, he made the bold move to axe the Belgian in place of a resurgent Laurent Koscielny.
While Wenger shuffled between his defensive trio of Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny, there was no room for Johan Djourou that was shipped out to Hannover 96 and the defender has reiterated his desire to remain in Germany. As for Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel, they are living on borrowed time.
In the fullback positions, Bacary Sagna’s second leg fracture last season paved the way for Carl Jenkinson to get some first-team action under his belt. On Sagna’s return, he was drafted into the team and failed to replicate that the form of the yesteryear. On the left, Kieran Gibbs was an automatic starter but his fitness was a thorn in his flesh allowing Andre Santos to put up his calamitous outings on a consistent basis.
With Andre Santos failing to impress and Gibbs suffering one of his trademark injuries, Wenger wasted no time in delving into the transfer window to acquire Nacho Monreal’s services.
This is the second installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already shared my views on the performances of the goalkeepers but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard.
Feel free to share your comments.
Thomas Vermaelen – 39 Apps, One Goal
With club captain, Robin van Persie, departing to join Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was forced with a decision to make regarding the man that was going to lead his team in the 2012/13 campaign. I was looking forward to a new era under the reins of a captain that signed a new deal without thinking twice, stating his love for Arsenal was his primary reason.
He has the aggression of Nemanja Vidic, leaped off the ground easily like a kangaroo, has a gung-ho attitude, good technique on the ball and offered a threat in the opposition’s goal.
The Verm was part of the Arsenal side that kept three clean sheets on the trot but an illness prevented him from playing in his team’s crucial visit to the Etihad Stadium, and his able replacement, Laurent Koscielny, scored the goal that earned Arsenal a share of the spoils. Koscielny and Per Mertesacker played very well that day but Wenger inexplicably chose to bench the “slow” German against Chelsea, as he was probably scared of the pace of the Blues’ attack.
Playing Vermaelen and Koscielny together was like a time-bomb and the captain was culpable for two schoolboy errors that led to both goals scored by Chelsea. They struggled again as a pair when Olympiakos visited the Emirates and despite the fact that the Verm was the weaker link of the two, Koscielny was sacrificed for Mertesacker when the Gunners visited Upton Park to play West Ham.
When Arsenal visited Old Trafford in a game marred by the escapades of Robin van Persie, it took only three minutes for the Red Devils to take the lead when Vermaelen handed RVP a nice assist on a platter. Fast forward to the Capital One Cup quarterfinal clash with Bradford City and despite scoring Arsenal’s late equalizer, Vermaelen missed the penalty that saw his team crash out of the competition.
More appalling performances particularly against Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home) followed but the last straw was undoubtedly his atrocious outing against Tottenham (away). Wenger axed him from the squad from that moment on and he could only manage a game against Norwich (home) because Mertesacker was suspended.
I must truly say that the Verminator has been a big disappointment in his first season as captain of Arsenal Football Club.
Rating – 4/10
Per Mertesacker – 44 Apps, Three Goals
After playing 27 games in his first season with Arsenal, Per Mertesacker’s season reached an abrupt end when Arsenal visited Sunderland in that pitch good enough to raise cattle. He recovered in time for Euro 2012 but he failed to make any appearance with Holger Badstuber and Matts Hummels playing every game for Germany in the tournament.
Mertesacker began the campaign alongside Thomas Vermaelen and they worked in tandem to get three clean sheets on the bounce at the start of the season. If you thought Mertesacker’s performance against Liverpool (away) was superb, his outing against Manchester City (away) was one of his best in Arsenal colors, as he made so many Per-fect Merte-ceptions in the course of the game.
He proved his worth to the squad when he wasn’t on the pitch as Arsenal struggled in his absence with Vermaelen and Koscielny failing to click with each other. When they played with each other, they lacked the calmness, coordination, composure and positional discipline the BFG had.
He also added goals to his game with three headers against Tottenham (twice) as well as the match winner in the crucial game against Fulham (away). This season, Mertesacker became a mainstay in the team and he has excelled admirably in his defensive duties.
He’s known for being a very clean defender but he got his hands dirty with his first red card in Arsenal colors. However, that game will be forever remembered for the innovative tackle he attempted with his back. It was a truly remarkable season for the big friendly giant and I hope he builds on it.
Rating – 9/10
Laurent Koscielny – 34 Apps, Four Goals
Laurent Koscielny was Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile last season and he had grown from strength to strength since that his horrendous error in Wembley against Birmingham City. After signing a long-term deal with the club, he didn’t begin the campaign well as an injury hindered his progress.
He marked his return to first-team action with a late equalizer against Manchester City (away), forging a formidable partnership with Mertesacker. His inspired performance at the Etihad coupled with Vermaelen’s return to the team saw the manager sacrifice Mertesacker in the home clash against Chelsea. Despite the fact that Vermaelen was at fault for the set pieces that led to the goals, Koscielny also had a hand in both goals as he failed to mark Fernando Torres probably for the first and the ball deflected off his shin into the net for the second.
This led to the Frenchman spending a lot of time in the dugout but he featured and scored a vital goal in that pulsating encounter against Reading (away) in the Capital One Cup. When he was recalled back into the first team following Vermaelen’s dip in form, he grabbed the bull by the horns and took his chance against Bayern Munich (away) with an outstanding performance capped by a headed goal late on.
Since then, Koscielny became an ever-present figure and he contributed immensely to Arsenal’s cause with that assist for his defensive partner, Per Mertesacker, against Fulham as well as a plethora of vital interceptions in defense. To crown a great season for the Frenchman, he scored the goal that secured Champions League football for his team for the season in a row.
Rating – 8/10
Bacary Sagna – 30 Apps, No Goal
In recent times, Bacary Sagna has been marred by long-term injuries that has taken its toll on his career. Suffering two fractures on the same leg must have been a horrific experience but as we all know, football isn’t really a forgiving sport.
With Carl Jenkinson deputizing admirably in Sagna’s absence, many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. After a couple of Under-21 fixtures under his belt, Sagna made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful.
Sagna’s continued run of games dented Jenkinson’s progress but unlike the young Englishman that swung crosses into the box with consummate ease, Sagna’s distribution was downright erratic with the ball ending up as a throw-in most times. Then came the torrid run of performances, as Sagna was consistently caught out against Chelsea (away), made Gabby Obertan look like Ronaldinho when Newcastle came to town and his poor clearance led to Gaston Ramirez’ goal when the Gunners visited St. Mary’s.
Amidst the horrible vein of form, Sagna got his moment of redemption when an injury to Koscielny forced Arsene Wenger to play him in an unorthodox center back role with Jenkinson drafted to the right. The fullback’s naivety played a role in him being sent off for two bookable offenses and with Aaron Ramsey becoming a make-shift right back, Sagna was a colossus in defense alongside Mertesacker.
As he continued to struggle with form, Sagna got on every Gooner’s bad books when he foolishly squandered possession to Robin van Persie before hacking him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot. This has been a season Sagna couldn’t wait to come to an end.
Rating – 4/10
Carl Jenkinson – 21 Apps, No Goal
Despite the fact that Carl Jenkinson hasn’t had as much game time as he would have wanted, this has certainly been one hell of a campaign for this young lad.
While Sagna nursed his leg injury, Jenkinson deputized in his stead, putting up committed performances that endeared him to the Arsenal faithful. His work rate was exemplary and he covered every blade of grass like his life depended on it.
His fairy tale campaign reached its zenith when he was called up by Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson for his maiden international appearance and he featured in the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired performances in Sweden’s 4-2 win over England. I still can’t get over Ibrahimovic’s incredible 30-yard overhead bicycle kick goal, and it gets better with each passing replay.
Jenkinson also signed a long-term deal with the club but his performances against Swansea (home) and Sunderland (away) showed that even if youthful exuberance is the order of the day, there’s no substitute for experience.
What I can take from this season is that Arsene Wenger can rely on this young lad to put in a great shift when the need arises. With Jenko in our ranks, the future is very bright.
Rating – 7/10
Kieran Gibbs – 34 Apps, One Goal
For those that don’t know, this was the first season Kieran Gibbs had over 30 games for Arsenal in an entire campaign. He’s a player that has become synonymous with injuries and he showed that yet again this season, forcing his manager to delve into the transfer market when he nursed a thigh strain for six weeks.
Gibbs has been highly impressive this season and his output on the final third has drastically improved as well, with the Englishman having five assists to his name this season. For a considerable chunk of the campaign, Gibbs was a mainstay in the team but when he suffered a lengthy lay off, the manager signed an experienced Spanish left back, that has brought stiff competition between both players, which also brought about stellar performances from both players, for the good of the team.
Gibbs also scored a screamer against Swansea in the FA Cup and it looked like a goal worth winning a football match but Arsenal’s lax defending brought Swansea back into the contest. With Monreal bracing himself for his first full season in England, Gibbs will be in for a challenge and I’m sure he’s relishing it.
Rating – 7/10
Nacho Monreal – 11 Apps, One Goal
January 30, 2013.
Arsenal host Liverpool in a Premier League encounter of huge significance to both sides. The visitors open the scoring with a deflected shot from Luiz Suarez then Kieran Gibbs suffers an injury forcing the manager to make a tactical change. With the only defensive options on the bench being Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos, many Gooners (me included) rightly believed that the Frenchman would be summoned, thereby making Vermaelen play the left back.
The fourth official raises his board up and Andre Santos comes into the pitch much to the fury of some fans that haven’t forgiving him for his antics in Old Trafford. Within moments of his introduction, Jordan Henderson skips past him with ease and instead of trying to win the ball back he doesn’t even make a decent challenge. With a stroke of luck, Liverpool is two up.
Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott save the day but Wenger has seen enough from the atrocious Brazilian and he delves into the transfer market to buy Nacho Monreal. Just two days after his arrival, he makes his debut in a baptism of fire against Stoke (home). He was part of that defense that held the fort against Sunderland (away) but he couldn’t play against Bayern (home) because he was cup-tied.
After making the match-winning assist against Aston Villa (home), he becomes part of that defense that struggled badly against Tottenham. Following Arsenal’s Champions League exit, Monreal scores the first goal against Swansea the first of many goals Arsenal scored in its surge for fourth place.
With Gibbs returning to fitness, he and Monreal battled for the right to become Arsenal’s No. 1 left back and this competition brought the best in both players. While Monreal offers a keen sense of security and stability at the back, I feel he should improve in his distribution on the final third. The battle with Gibbs continues next season.
Rating – 7/10
Andre Santos – 12 Apps, No Goal
To be honest, Andre Santos is one of the most lovable characters in Arsenal.
His lovely smile, his hilarious tweets and nice attitude off the pitch. I still have fresh memories of all three goals he scored last season – the match winner against Olympiakos (home), the vital equalizer in that RVP-inspired win over Chelsea (away) and the equalizer before half time against West Brom (away) on the final day.
This season, things have gone awry for the Brazilian and his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of appalling. His poor positional awareness and dismal defending has cost his team times without number with his performances in the games against Schalke (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (home) and Brighton (away) bringing him to the bad books of Arsenal fans.
His performance against Manchester United was so putrid yet he couldn’t even wait for the game to be over before requesting for RVP’s jersey, as that probably meant more to him than the game.
After another bad showing against Liverpool, the manager went to the transfer window when Gibbs suffered an injury, clearly indicating that he had no further plans in his team.
In his touching goodbye message to the club and the fans, Andre Santos thanked everyone for their support and hopes to come back soon. For the good of everyone concerned with Arsenal, I hope that Gremio signs him on a permanent basis.
Rating – 2/10
Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou – Collective total of Six Apps
Ah! The deadwood.
Arsenal bought Sebastien Squillaci with the hope that would use his “experience” to guide the younger defenders in the team as well as putting up a good shift when the need arose. Squillaci was so poor that his only appearance this season coming up in a dead rubber fixture against Olympiakos. Thank Heavens his contract is expiring soon.
Rating – 0/10
Ignasi Miquel is a youngster tipped for great things but I still don’t know when he’s going to realize that potential. All he can boast of this season was a start against Coventry (home) in the Capital One Cup and a late substitute appearance against Sunderland (away) when the Gunners wanted to preserve their priceless 1-0 lead. Not good enough.
Rating – 2/10
Johan Djourou was Arsenal’s most consistent defender in the 2010/11 season. When he got injured in the tail end of that campaign, his team struggled which highlighted his importance to the side. Last season, he struggled in make-shift positions as a fullback and wasn’t even convincing enough when he played as a center back, earning an unwarranted red card against Fulham (away) that put his team under intense pressure.
This season, Djourou could only make two appearances in the Capital One Cup before he was shipped out to Germany. Shame.
Rating – 1/10
So there you have it, the second of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the midfield comes up next.
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The 2010/11 season was a season to forget in Arsenal Football Club. A season that promised so much ended in shambles and the panic button was pressed so hard that it sprang out of the remote control. The club won the 2011 Emirates Cup following a draw with 7-time Champions League winners AC Milan and a 3-2 victory over Celtic. At the start of the New Year, Arsenal was the only club that was still eligible to win every competition football as a port had to offer but disaster struck as the season progressed.
The Gunners had another clear shot of silverware on the 27th of February when they took on Birmingham in Wembley but the game will be remembered for the error that won Birmingham the game after a mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal was shown the exit door in the Champions League by Barcelona and Manchester United drove the nail in the club’s FA Cup coffin despite starting the tie with 7 recognized defenders. The Premier League offered the Gunners a chance to end the 6-year trophy drought as well as the 7-year Premier League drought.
The last Arsenal team that won the Premier League did it in grand style as they went to an entire season unbeaten so Wenger’s class of 2011 had it all to do when they were told that victories in their last nine games would have been enough to put their names in history. The last nine games that included: Blackburn (home), Blackpool (Away), Liverpool (Home), Tottenham (Away), Bolton (Away), Manchester United (Home), Stoke Rugby FC (Away), Aston Villa (Home) and Fulham (Away).
With Manchester United competing on three fronts (League, FA Cup and Champions League), Arsenal was expected to have the fresher legs and had the chance to rest because every game was played on Sunday but it wasn’t still enough for the Gunners as they decided to put up a dismal run of form that can be compared with the likes of Wigan, Sunderland and Wolves.
The run started with a bore draw at the Emirates against a Blackburn side that has a goalie that opens the floodgates anytime he plays against Arsenal. Mad Jens Lehmann came back from retirement to be the custodian between the sticks in the 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road against the relegated Blackpool so Arsenal was faced with the “week of destiny” with games coming up against Liverpool, Tottenham and Bolton. With Manchester United making steady progress at the summit of the table, there was no room for error but Farmer Emmanuel Eboue inspired an amazing comeback for Liverpool in the 101st minute after Arsenal had gone ahead in the 98th minute. The spoils were also shared in the North London Derby after an intense battle so Arsenal required a win against Bolton to stay in touch with the leaders.
After conceding a headed goal to loanee Danny Sturridge, Wojciech Szczesny spared Arsenal’s blushes by making a good penalty save before Robin van Persie brought Arsenal back into the game after a neat one-two with Francesc Fabregas. Nasri and Chamakh had the chances to kill the game off but it was Tamir Cohen’s header in the 90th minute that inflicted the final blow in Arsenal’s title aspirations.
The fact that Arsenal lost to a side that was pummeled 5-0 by Stoke Rugby FC wasn’t enough, the defeat also meant that Chelsea had usurped Arsenal to second place as the new challengers for the title and where really close but Manchester United’s character shone through when they needed it the most. I’m very certain if Manchester United or Chelsea were behind Arsenal with 3 points, the match would have ended in a draw or a win for Arsenal’s rivals because the squad’s mentality is very low.
The remaining fixtures were mere formalities so no eyebrows were raised when Manchester City leapfrogged Arsenal to take the final Champions League automatic slot. At the end of the Premier League campaign, Arsenal scored 72 goals and conceded 43 with a final league position of 4th place after amassing 68 points. Some players like Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on 10 Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up or face the axe.
Here’s my take on the infamous ten.
10. Manuel Almunia
After doing so well to render mad Jens Lehmann out of business, Manuel Almunia became a shadow of the blonde haired player that took the Premier League by storm and saved a million and one penalties at the Emirates. Anytime the name West Brom will be mentioned while he’s asleep, I’m pretty sure that he’ll scream and start having nightmares because West Brom was the club that sent Almunia’s Arsenal career into oblivion both home and away. Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone are clearly above the Spaniard and he has been heavily linked with a move to Spain or Turkey. I just hope that Arsenal can do its best to get at least £1m for the aging goalie.
9. Denilson Perreira Neves
Even though he has been packaged in a box and has been sent across the Atlantic to his previous employers, Denilson was a false clone of the player that featured in over 50 games for Arsenal in the 2008/09 season. It’s true that Wilshere’s emergence last season limited him to a meager appearances but Denilson was an absolute stinker in 90% of the games he played for Arsenal last season. So bad that he couldn’t even play well against the lowly sides Arsenal faced in the Cup competitions. He was the first player to wave the white flag shortly after the Fulham game and I’m pretty sure that he won’t wear the Red and White ever again.
8. Abou Vassiriki Diaby
In the summer of the 2008/09 season, Abou Diaby was the reason Samir Nasri suffered a broken leg in Austria but he probably got himself acquainted with a female physio working at Arsenal because he spent more times on the treatment table than on the pitch. His appearances were so low than 21 players in the 25-man squad list had more minutes than him. Diaby is a man that plays with a loose nut in his brain and he can be very frustrating to watch at times. So frustrating that a gooner threw his footwear at the television in a public viewing centre in my days at Owerri; a television that did not belong to him.
If Diaby continues in this mold, his Arsenal days will definitely be numbered and he has already started the season with a 10-week layoff thanks to the demons of injury.
7. Tomas Rosicky
“Little Mozart” as he is fondly called in some parts of the World suffered an injury that was more than enough to make him announce his retirement from the beautiful game but he has done really well to fight his ‘enemies’ to stay fit. However, his injury has taken its toll on his football and Rosicky was a fringe player that offered nothing to the club last season. He was afraid to go into any tackle and the goal he missed against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final was more than enough to shatter someone’s confidence. TR7 has been okay from the preseason games I’ve watched so far so he’ll have to step his game up because the attacking midfield position is suddenly up for grabs again with the imminent departure of Fabregas and Nasri.
6. Farmer Emmanuel Eboue
Farmer Emmanuel Eboue has had his moments at Arsenal football club. Starting from when he usurped Lauren to become Arsenal’s No. 1 right back to when he scored his first Arsenal goal against Hamburg in the 2006/07 season. From when he scored that belter in the same season against Reading in the Carling Cup till when we was promoted to the position of a right winger after the acquisition of Bacary Sagna. There were times where he turned into a diving specialist to win set pieces for Arsenal, there was also a game where he turned into a pantomime villain against Wigan and he was substituted despite coming on as a sub. Last season, Farmer Eboue was a major disappointment and he dug his own Arsenal grave when the Gunners hosted Liverpool on the 16th of April, 2011 after conceding that penalty thanks to a push on Lucas Leiva. Farmer Eboue has been linked with a move to Galatasaray and it seems as if he’s odds on to complete the move.
5. Sebastien Squillaci
The Squisha (as I prefer to call him) arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre. He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut. To be frank, I don’t even want Squillaci to step up his game; I want him to enter the nearest train through the English Channel to play for any French outfit available. Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make.
4. Kieran Gibbs
Kieran Gibbs spent a long while out injured two seasons ago when he damaged his metatarsal in the Champions League match against Standard Liege but he wasn’t too impressive when he deputized for Clichy last season with his most glaring mistakes present in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final. His positioning was questionable and he offered no threat going forward but Clichy’s exit has given him the chance to shine this upcoming season so I hope that he’ll do well to grab the bull by the horns and balls.
3. Nicklas Bendtner
Bendtner scored nine goals for Arsenal last season but the bulk of his goals were scored against lowly sides in the Cup competitions because of his limited chances. He banged in a hattrick against Leyton Orient and he scored a peach of a goal when Arsenal played Ipswich in the Carling Cup semis but Bendtner has decided to call it quits in his fledgling Arsenal career because he feels that he’s good enough to start every game in an Arsenal side that has a Robin van Persie. Many clubs have placed their radars on Bendtner but he still remains an Arsenal player so he’ll have to step his game up if no team decides to buy him again because he has a contract to fulfill.
2. Marouane Chamakh
Last season, Arsenal’s new boy deputized for the injured rVp and B52 and he was in a hot streak with 10 goals in his first 21 appearances but the goals dried up faster than the wells in the Sahara, Kalahari and the Atacama deserts put together with one goal in his remaining matches for Arsenal. He hasn’t impressed yet this preseason but I truly hope that he’ll step his game up because we can’t bank on van Persie to stay fit for an entire season.
1. Andrei Arshavin
With 10 goals and 17 assists to his name last season, people will still ask,
“Why on Earth is Arshavin’s name doing in the same list with Manuel Almunia?”
But the truth is that Arshavin was quite disappointing even if he delivered. He was so disappointing that he lost his place in the starting lineup to Theo Walcott and he didn’t win it back till the season ended. With Nasri going out the way very soon, Arshavin will only have the threat of Gervinho to contend with even though Carlos Vela, Ryo Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox are somewhere in the mix.
I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.
Going trophyless again after selling key players like Fabregas and Nasri will definitely backfire on Wenger.
I picked up where my Irish folks left off and extended my own St. Patrick’s day yesterday night. After a few amber bottles of ice cold Guinness, I went straight to bed without thinking twice. Besides it was 0238hrs. When I entered the dreamWorld, I saw more bottles of Guinness but I decided to channel my dreams to something Arsenal-ish in nature. I then saw myself in Highbury with a few friends talking about the game about to be played. Arsenal vs Liverpool. Count Houllier’s Reds wore white jerseys with black shorts while their goalie wore an orange jersey that made him look like marmalade. The dream seemed real though. We scored 4 goals and my best player of all time scored a hattrick.
That wasn’t a fucking dream….it actually happened in 2004. I guess that I dreamt only about Guinness then….Bleeeh.
Arsenal visit the Hawthorns today knowing that there’s only one target in mind. 3 vital fucking points. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Hawthorns has been a happy hunting ground for us in recent times. In our last 16 visits to this ground, the home side has managed to get 1 win. Our last visit here saw us run out as 3-1 winners. Wald Bezt B52 scored a brace.
Manchester United host Mad Man Coyle’s Bolton but I feel that no upset might be on the cards so maintaining the 3 points gap at the end of the day will do our World a lot good. Our last league win was in February and besides that routine thumping of minnows Leyton Orient we haven’t managed any win this month. The form guide of the last 5 games we have played is L-W-X-L-L. All we would love to see in the form table should be W-W-W-W-W-∞. You got that right….to infinity.
For team news, we would be without the usual suspects. Vermaelen, Fabregas, Song, Walcott, Szczesny, @enigma106, @dkingpin Tomasz, @Chuckbass, @davicky1 and Fabianski.
Today’s game will be a game of atonement for present goalie Manuel Almunia. It was his horror outing against WBA that cost him his place in the squad. If AW the Alchemist doesn’t think that his psyche is strong enough he could bring on Mad Jens…..
Who I’m I kidding?
Almunia will do just fine. He was blameless against Barca. He made a good save from Chicharito’s header but Koscielny was going to lose the battle with evil Twin Fabio if he was going to contest with him for pace. For the header scored by the rich RooThug, I could point a finger at Almunia but I won’t point my index finger. I’ll probably use the middle one or the thumb upside down. I can also remember that he invoked the 2007/08 season’s spirit to make some good saves towards the end of the game.
Sagna will continue at his right back position. Clichy should return for Gibbsy.
Then there’s the heart of our defense.
Koscielny and the Squisha.
They have been our worst defensive pairing so far but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in one fucking day”. I believe that Koscielny would want a Premier League winner’s medal. In his days in French Ligue 2 outfit Tours and Ligue 1 side FC Lorient I’m pretty sure that he didn’t win anything. Squillaci on the other hand has a nice cabinet filled up with medals he won from his previous employers. In his junior days at Ajaccio in 2002, he won the French Ligue 2. A year later, he won the Coupe de la Ligue with Monaco. He was also part of the formidable Monaco side that got into the Champions League final in 2004. He played with Evra, Maicon, Rothen, Giuly, Morientes, Prso and……Greedybayor. He won 4 trophies with French Juggernauts Olympique Lyonnais. The French Champions trophy in 2006, the French Cup in 2008 and two Ligue 1s in 2007 and 2008. His last trophy was last season’s Spanish Cup with Sevilla.
That’s means that our Squisha has 7 winner’s medals. That’s more medals than Almunia, Fabregas, van Persie and Clichy put together. These 4 players are the only ones that have won anything wearing the Red and White in this present crop of players.
Even if he has been our “worst” defender in all accounts, I expect his trophy winning experience to rub on his younger partner Koscielny. I wrote in a previous post that “you can’t get addicted to smoking until you’ve had your first cigarette”. Squillaci can be classified as a good smoker in this category while Hugh Giggs Hefner will be an “addict”….too many fucking medals.
For the midfield, I expect Jack Wilshere to play in the holding role. I’ve gotten tired of watching Diaby start matches so I pray that AW the Alchemist heeds to me and play Denilson or Ramsey. I will take the deep blue sea to the Devil any day, anytime.
I would also prefer Nasri to play the attacking midfield role today. TR7 hasn’t stepped up to the challenge this year. This will mean that the attacking triumvirate would be AA23 on the left, B52 on the right and rVp as the lone striker.
It’s high time we start giving more games to Nick. His height will help us at both ends of the pitch. If he started against Birmingham he would have been the person to mark Beanpole Zigic during corners. There’s no need to open sealed wounds.
My expected lineup should be
My lineup might not be the same with AW the Alchemist. All I care is that we get all 3 points today.
The surge begins now!