Posts Tagged ‘Eduardo’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal



Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.



Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd



Live Report – Arsenal vs Aston Villa 27/12/09


I was personally quite apprehensive going into the Christmas fixture against Aston Villa. They were unbeaten at the Emirates and possessed qualities which would no doubt cause Arsenal problems such as good crossing, organisation and pace on the break. With Fabregas doubtful I thought we would struggle a little. In the event my fears proved unfounded.

arsenal aston villa

Nervous excitement and a nice view from the upper tier.

Arsenal lined up in the now usual 4-3-3/4-5-1 with Eduardo Nasri and Arshavin as the front three and Diaby and Denilson in midfield with Song. In defence Armand Traore returned to offer some pace down the left flank. A bright opening saw Eduardo hit a tame shot (a passback really) straight at Brad Friedel when essentially one on one.

Vermaelen and Song were putting in some strong tackles that gained crowd approval while a few set pieces caused danger in the Aston Villa box (though none of the chances were clear-cut). Villa meanwhile looked to Agbonlahor to stretch the Arsenal defence through his pace and Heskey to challenge it with his strength. Almunia looked indecisive, and was constantly lumping it long to Arshavin which was pointless as Richard Dunne would win the header everytime.

Arsenal Aston Villa Fabregas

Two free kicks in two weeks? Not this time, but later.

Half-time saw the teams level at 0-0. An intriguing contest and an entertaining one, but one you felt had only a goal in it which was worrying given Villa’s result against Man Utd a few weeks back. The crowd was fairly subdued I thought and inklings of frustration were beginning to creep in as the misplaced pass count began to increase.

Denilson, though not playing badly, had once or twice failed to find the final pass and it was no surprise to see him come off for Fabregas on the hour. The impact was immediate. The pace of Arsenal’s play increased and balls began to find their way to Arshavin more often (he was often in space yet no one was giving him the ball).

Not long after Fabregas won himself a free kick, dusted himself down and curled a beauty into the top corner with Friedel flailing. The American’s positioning didn’t look set but I don’t think he would have saved it even if it was. With a 1-0 lead, the game opened up and was brought on to expose Villa on the break.

15 minutes later exactly that happened. Traore found Walcott on the right who went surging towards goal. Following him was Fabregas who was busting a gut (and a hamstring) to meet a through ball. Walcott’s pass was perfectly weighted and Cesc simply slotted past Friedel into the back of the net. His celebrations consisted of some stretching which was somewhat worrying, but this was tempered by the fact the game was won.

fabregas denilson arsenal aston villa

Denilson hadn't played badly but Fabregas offered much more attacking threat.

A huge cheer greeted his replacement by Ramsey. Fabregas had been the difference and this was our hardest game for a while so was perhaps worth the risk of his injury. A few minutes later, Diaby capped off a fine performance with a nice solo goal, as he just ran past the dejected Aston Villa midfield and curled it round Friedel from about 20 yards. He has been very good the past few games and you just wonder whether he can finally make his undoubted talent stick.

So a fantastic win coupled with probably our best half of the season. Aston Villa can count themselves slightly unlucky to come away with a 3-0 defeat but ultimately they didn’t have someone who could make the difference like Fabregas. Ashley Young was very quiet while Agbonlahor was marshalled well by Gallas and Vermaelen. Cesc looks like he’ll be out for a couple of weeks but with the next games against Portsmouth and Bolton he should hopefully not be missed too much.


Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 13 Preview


After what’s seemed like an age since the last Premier League matches, we return to domestic action after the international break. Plenty to consider this gameweek as four teams play twice and a host of stars are injured. More on that later.

Last time round saw an above average score of 52 for myself but this was still quite far off the high score of 107. I was not helped by Drogba and Rooney predictably doing nothing in the big clash between Chelsea and Man Utd; while I also had 13 points marooned on the bench via Joe Hart and Scott Dann, who I hadn’t thought would do much vs Liverpool.

Our captain choices did well, with Fabregas having another big week while RVP and Adebayor also had fair contributions. If you had gone with the suggested transfer of Clint Dempsey, he would have scored you seven points too.

Gameweek 12 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

John Terry Tom Cruise Top Gun

Maverick thinks John Terry is a fool, but his fantasy score last week was good.

Yep, John Terry was Gameweek 12’s Top Gun with the now ubiquitous defender’s score of 15 points for winning goal, clean sheet and three bonus points. The number of times this has happened is ridiculous but fair play if you’ve reaped the benefit.

But wait I hear you cry, there was someone else who also scored 15 points last week. Yes dear readers, for the first time this season we had a tie for highest score of the week. John Carew almost double his season’s score with a goal, two assists and three bonus points in Aston Villa’s 5-1 destruction of Bolton. This means Maverick needs some help in approving so what better person to have than his co-pilot Goose:

Goose Top Gun John Carew

Goose approves of being involved in such silliness.

It was a struggle bringing him back from the dead, but through the powers of Google search and Photoshop I managed to do it. Maybe next time Iceman will muscle his way in on the show… Elsewhere Gomes saved a penalty to score 14 for Spurs while Wright-Phillips and Fabregas both got 13, the latter getting his fifth straight man of the match award.

On to this week.

Three Captain Choices:

With Torres and Drogba very doubtful and Van Persie and Lampard definitely out, the usual field of captain choices is substantially narrowed. In addition to that Hull, Blackburn, Fulham and Everton all play twice so it might be time for some leftfield thinking in terms of captain this week.

1. Bullard/Hull – Feeling brave? Quite the gamble this one but it could well pay off. Bullard is a good player but has been injured pretty much the whole time he’s been at Hull. He made a belated home debut last week and was the key figure in a win over Stoke scoring an assist and three bonus. Now one whole game isn’t much to go on but with Hull having two games at the KC Stadium, one against lowly West Ham you’d assume he would play a part in anything good Hull may do.

2. Anelka/Chelsea – With Drogba doubtful after Jonny Evans’ kung-fu kick to his ribs, and Fat Frank injured after attempting to sprint in England training, it leaves Nicolas Anelka as the most likely source of points for Chelsea this weekend. They face a home tie against Wolves which is as near to a gimme as you can get. I fully expect a comfortable home win with a goal or two from the Frenchman.

3. Fabregas/Arsenal – Fabregas is fast becoming the new Ronaldo of fantasy football. If in doubt for a captain choice, go with him. Sunderland away is the not the easiest place to go this season, but Arsenal have a good record there in recent years and should have enough to win, even without Robin van Persie.

Gets a Captain's tick.

Gets a Captain's tick.


Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Eduardo/Arsenal – Now that Van Persie is out for several weeks, joining the already injured Bendtner, the onus falls on Eduardo to lead the line for the leading scorers in the team. He has had a very stop start season so far but has still got two goals and two assists in just over 300 minutes of action, which isn’t bad at all. With full fitness and a new contract in the back of his pocket, he should do well over the next couple of months.

2. Etherington/Stoke – He’s kind of slipped beneath my radar but is one of the form players of the last few weeks. In his last five games he has three assists and two goals as well as a few bonus points. Over the next four weeks, only Arsenal is a game which you would class as tough for Stoke.

3. Alexander/Burnley – His price has gone right up now but as long as Burnley keep getting penalties, he’s still worth it I’d say.

Eduardo Arsenal

Might be worth a pick.

Three To Avoid:

1. Van Persie/Arsenal – Out for a couple of months in case it wasn’t already clear. Let’s hope he doesn’t rush back from injury like he has done in the past.

2. Benayoun/Liverpool – Has been in great from this season but has tweaked his hamstring. Also, knowing Rafa he’ll probably find a way to drop the Israeli now that Aquilani is approaching full fitness.

3. Bolton players – Bottom of the team stats with just 345 points between them.

Robin van Persie

Are you taking the mick?!


Weekly Photoshop – Eduardo


Jermaine Defoe was not worthy of my efforts last week but it’s back to normal with everyone’s current public enemy number 1 Eduardo. After he ‘won’ a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers, everyone got their knickers in a twist and he ended up with a two match ban. I await UEFA doing the same to every other diver this season. Hmm, somehow that won’t happen will it. Anyway, diving is always a topic with lots of options so I did a couple of attempts, the latter of which got into this week’s gallery.


The expert judges felt Eduardo could have done more to ensure contact was obvious.

The expert judges felt Eduardo could have done more to ensure contact was obvious.


English players don't dive huh? Eduardo has an idea...

English players don't dive huh? Eduardo has an idea...


As usual the rest of this week’s entries can be found here.




And the old ones can be found here.

Season Previews 09/10 – Arsenal



Last Season: 4th after a mid-season scare plus FA Cup/Champions League semi final defeats.

Say hello to your new teammates: At the time of writing it’s only Thomas Vermaelen. A central midfielder has still not been signed, though the Vieira rumours were fun. Expect two more players at 11.59pm on August 31st.

Close the door on your way out: Last of the Invincibles Kolo Toure and last of the self aware Emmanuel Adebayor.

Predicted star: Andrey Arshavin’s twelve game cameo at the back end of last season should translate into being Arsenal’s top goalscorer this time round. Fabregas should bounce back too.

Needs a big year: If no central midfielder is signed (which knowing Wenger is likely), then Diaby and Denilson must prove they can step up and show the decision isn’t shortsighted. Arsenal fans were saying the exact same thing this time last season though. Nicklas Bendtner needs to show that Adebayor won’t be missed (glimpses were shown last year).

One to watch: The hype surrounding Jack Wilshere has begun. He’ll show it’s justified.

The real deal.

The real deal.

What they want to happen: A first trophy in five seasons. Preferably League or Champions League (Wenger no longer values the FA Cup you see).

Nightmare scenario: 5th, no trophies again.

Plan A: Pass, pass, pass, pass, shoot once the perfect opportunity presents itself. Expect the usual intricate build-up play between the numerous small, technically gifted, creative midfielders. Arsenal don’t do shots outside the box.

Plan B, just in case: Plan B? Ha, ha, ha, as if. Lump it to Bendtner I suppose.

Predicted finish: 2nd

Why? Arsenal were in a league of their own last season (11 pts from 3rd, 9 pts from 5th) but this was partly due to their shocking start in which they lost five of their first 14 games. A 21 game unbeaten run followed which showed the potential (as ever) of the young squad and over the course of the season only one game of six was lost against the rest of the Big Four. New signing Vermaelen should provide the leadership and organisation at the back and will more than ably replace Toure, who hasn’t been the same since contracting malaria in 2007/08. Adebayor will be a big loss but he’d stopped trying for much of last season (though still scored ten league goals).

The key to a title challenge.

The key to a title challenge.

As ever injuries will come into play. Fabregas missed a large chunk of last season and Eduardo and Rosicky played zero league games between them. Arshavin was only signed in January. The latter’s four goals at Anfield showed what he’s capable and after leading his team to 4th last season, he’ll be even more important this time round. If (and that’s a big if) the first choice XI can all play around 30 games+ then the Gunners could have their best season in ages.



The Sixth Rounder – Beach Football, Long Journeys & more…


An FA Cup edition of The Six Pointer.


1. The weekend saw some great goals scored, particularly by Man Utd and Fulham. I think the best of the lot has to be Eduardo’s goal against Burnley. The reasoning for this is that it’s something I haven’t seen before. Anyone can do a hit and hope from 30 yards (see Bentley, David) while Carlos Vela had already scored two similar (but equally good) chips earlier in the season in the Carling Cup (here and here). Eduardo’s was a placed volley with the outside of his boot – Wenger called it a ‘beach goal‘. Have a look here if you haven’t see it – brilliant. 

Meant it.

Meant it.


2. Man Utd produced another masterclass in finishing teams off with the 4-0 victory over Fulham, and Alex Ferguson now has the luxury of a squad of players where pretty much any combo can play and produce a good, determined performance. The likes of Park (who has been excellent recently and should start against Inter) and Tevez may not play every game but when they do, ensure they make the most of it. During their record run of not conceding, the number of different central defensive partnerships must have reached double figure, yet there was no apparent loss of quality. 


3. Chelsea have rediscovered their form under Guus Hiddink, and you get the impression he is not the kind of manager who rotates too much. Despite a huge game in Turin tomorrow, he chose to play his best available eleven against Coventry. It was the ultimate case of get an early goal, keep possession but don’t waste too much energy and get the second on the break. Bread and butter stuff. Perhaps most importantly, Michael Essien finally returned from his long term injury. If Chelsea are to win either of the two cups they’re still in, he will be even more important than a rejuvenated Drogba. 

Typical Chelsea performance.

Typical Chelsea performance.


4. It’s probably good for David Moyes that Everton are going quite far in the cup. Whilst he has done a great job in the league for the past couple of years, winning trophies is what makes a reputation. He has the chance to bask in the limelight a little, even more so if he leads the Toffees to Wembley. They are pretty comfortable in sixth spot in the Premier League so can have a good go at Man Utd in April, at a time when Fergie may have bigger fish to fry. I’m sure Louis Saha would love to put one over his old club, as indeed would the Neviller (Phil edition).


5. The semi final draw raises an interesting point about the grounds used. I’ve always wondered why the semi’s are at Wembley – in my opinion it cheapens the appeal of playing the final there. The whole idea of having a day out at Wembley is tied in to reaching the final, not the rounds before. Besides, whilst it may make sense to have Arsenal v Chelsea (potentially) there, it seems a little unfair to make fans of Everton and Man Utd travel 200 miles south when a neutral ground further north like Villa Park is perfectly capable of hosting it.


6. Having said that, the draw for the semi’s is pretty good I would say. Man Utd will be pleased to get the weakest team left in the competition (assuming Hull lose to Arsenal), while there is the potential for a great London derby at Wembley between Chelsea and Arsenal. If United and the Gunners both go all the way, I’m sure there will be lots of talk about it being the 30th anniversary of the classic final in 1979, in which Arsenal prevailed 3-2 in the last minute having conceded twice in the previous five. Of course there’s a long way to go yet, but it could make a great final.



Fantasy Football – Gameweek 26


Double gameweeks are great but it’s not so fun when just a few teams play twice and those extra games are up to ten days after the first set. It felt like an age having to wait for the Man Utd v Fulham match. In that time we found out England aren’t as good at Spain in football, England aren’t as good as Wales in rugby and England aren’t that good at cricket any more full stop. 

Anyway, I digress. The top point scorers last week were Ginger Ninja Paul Scholes and The Herminator – Hermann Hreidarsson. Both scored 17 points, Hermann on account of scoring two goals. Solid points for United defenders as usual and Jo tripled his goal tally for the season with a double against Bolton.

Hermann. Sort of.

Hermann. Sort of.

This week see some winnable home games for three of the top five while the other two (Villa and Chelsea) face each other at Villa Park. Arsenal seem to have rediscovered their scoring touch and should hand a debut of some sort to Arshavin. They might well put a few past Sunderland. Meanwhile, I expect the highest scoring game at the weekend to come at the KC Stadium where the mighty Hull defence takes on the Spurs and their comedy keeper.


Three alternatives to Ronaldo as captain:

1. Van Persie/Arsenal – The best player at Arsenal this season (not that much of an honour) and I don’t think Sunderland will pose too much of a challenge on Saturday. He’ll be fully rested after just a brief run out on Monday night and the Gunners will look to get the job done early so they can focus on Roma midweek. With Chelsea and Villa playing each other, a win is imperative to close the gap on the top four. 

2. Torres/Liverpool – Assuming he’s fit (and you can never be too sure these days), you’d think he might score at home against a Man City side who are toothless away from home. Based on this season’s form I worry how Dunne and Richards will cope. 

3. Man Utd defenders – Pretty much a guaranteed six points every week.




Three suggested transfers in:

1. Man Utd squad players – The Champions League restarts next week and United also have a Carling Cup final coming up. With the lead they have in the Premier League, expect Fergie to give the likes of Park/Welbeck/Nani etc a bit more playing time as he keeps his squad fresh for the big games.

2. Cahill or Arteta/Everton – The Australian is suspended this week but Everton have a nice set of fixtures coming up and usual those two will be behind any attacking play on the Toffees’ part.

3. Eduardo/Arsenal – I know he’sout for a couple of weeks with a hamstring strain but he should be on your radar regardless. He offers something different to all the other Arsenal strikers and once fit again I’d back him to get a few goals and assists before the season’s end.




Three to avoid:

1. Chelsea players – Just until Guus works things out. Let’s hope it’s quick, they have some easy games coming up.

2. Fulham defenders – No longer as solid as they were, even disregarding the Man Utd game. They have another doubel gameweek coming up soon but for now I’d probably keep them on the bench.

3. Bullard/Hull – Their major January signing is out for the season after knee surgery.





The Six Pointer – Ronaldo’s Tetchiness, Adriano’s Handball & more…


That was the weekend that was. In six quick points.


1. Swansea were a delight to watch against Fulham on Saturday and I was surprised to find they had only lost five league games this season. Too many draws (15) means they’re still battling to make the playoffs but given how tight the Championship is every year, it is by no means too late to make a move into the top six. It’s pleasing to see a young manager like Martinez trying to play flowing, passing football to get out of the Championship. Too often sides in the second tier play an unskillful, direct/long style and are then surprised when they struggle once promoted to the Premier League. Most of the successful promoted teams in recent years have tended to be pleasing on the eye. It’s the unskillful grafters with no technique that tend to go straight back down.

Will hopefully get promoted

Will hopefully get Swansea promoted.


2. Following Sunday’s FA Cup quarter final draw, Arsenal really have no excuse for not reaching the semi finals. Even though they only play their fourth round replay against Cardiff this evening, home ties against Burnley and then Hull or Sheffield United would follow. Given the last four years have been trophyless, the way the draw has played out makes the FA Cup there for the taking.


3. Continuing with Arsenal, this has to be the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while… Not a hint of irony either. I imagine Mr Bendtner will soon find Arshavin is keeping him out of the side. As is Eduardo, and Vela, and Walcott…


4. A good win for Man Utd yesterday but just why is Ronaldo so irritable this season? He’s getting dragged into petty squabbles rather than showing why he’s a better player than his opponent through the skill and determination which got him 42 goals last year. As annoying as Robbie Savage is, you probably shouldn’t be spitting at him. Ronaldo is quite lucky that Mr Armani Tattoo didn’t make more of itThere have been quite a few other incidents this season as Fooball365 point out.

He was just clearing his throat...

He was just clearing his throat...


5. How much will Villa miss Martin Laursen whilst he is out until late March? They were well beaten by Everton and whilst Martin O’Neill is probably glad his small squad can now concentrate on the league, he will be slightly concerned as to whether they can maintain their push until Laursen returns. Next weekend’s game against Chelsea will be intriguing. The Blues will have Hiddink properly in charge for the first time and you’d think there would be the standard improvement that comes with any new manager. Chelsea have been better away from home this year (as have Villa funnily enough) and may well show that they still have relevance in the business end of this season. 


6. David Beckham may have lost a derby game for the first time in his career but quite how Adriano’s opener for Inter was allowed I’ll never know. As clear a handball as I’ve seen this season.



FA Cup Preview & Betting


Well mainly betting actually, there are still too many nothing matches for me to get excited. We haven’t even finished the fourth round yet.

Talking of the fourth round, the remaining replay between Arsenal and Cardiff takes place on Monday night. I expect Arsenal to win fairly comfortably even though they may rest Van Persie. Perhaps an Arsenal clean sheet @ evens might be worth a few quid. Vela and Bendtner have a good understanding so one of them might be a good bet to score anytime. Also in the frame is the returning Eduardo who assisted the winner for Croatia in midweek. I reckon he’ll start on the bench but could be worth a shout for last goalscorer @ 5.5.



I fancied Kettering to knock out Fulham in the last round but the boys from Craven Cottage won relatively comfortably in the end. They are still without an away win in the league this year and face a much tougher proposition in Swansea this time around. Roberto Martinez has been getting a lot of good press for the work he’s doing in South Wales and Swansea are a great bet to win @ 7/4.

Elsewhere there are interesting stories with Clough facing Fergie and Brendan Rodgers’ Watford taking on Chelsea. I don’t forsee any shocks in either match but in the Derby vs Man Utd game there may be some value in backing some of United’s fringe players to score. Maybe Tevez or Welbeck @ 6/1 to score first.

A chip off the old block. Sort of.

A chip off the old block. Sort of.

I’m avoiding the all-Premier League clashes but at a push I’d go for West Ham to beat Boro and maybe a draw in the Everton Villa game.



Champions League Preview – Arsenal vs AS Roma



When Arsenal drew Roma last week in the Champions League, the general consensus amongst the British media was that the Gunners would be favourites, or at least that things could have been worse. After all, the in-form and classy Barcelona were still in the hat with only a few teams left to draw.

Arsenal fans will also remember the sumptuous Thierry Henry hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico against Fabio Capello’s Roma team back in 2002. However, a week on and Arsenal not only find themselves outside of the Champions League places, three points behind Aston Villa, but without their talismanic captain, Cesc Fabregas, who will be injured for the next four months.


You won't be seing me for a while

You won't be seeing me for a while

Roma are not without their own problems, languishing down in sixteenth position in Serie A and Totti is injured again, out for two months. The Giallorossi should have him back in action in time for the tie with Arsenal but their dependency on a talented, yet injury-prone player continues to raise questions about Roma’s long-term plans.

Despite their differing league positions, Arsenal and Roma share a similar tendency to be inconsistent. Arsenal have notched up impressive wins against Manchester United, Chelsea and Fenerbahce away in the Champions League; yet followed them up with defeats at home to Aston Villa and Hull. Meanwhile, Roma managed to destroy Chelsea 3-0 but were completely outclassed 0-4 at home to Inter Milan back in October.

Arsene Wenger and Luciano Spaletti have both built teams that play quick and fluid football with the movement of their midfield key to their attacking style. Furthermore, both managers are committed to developing young talent and allowing them to express themselves in the way only a football purist would allow. Considering injuries to key personnel, Wenger and Spalletti will have to pin their hopes on other players at their disposal. So it is on these players that I will focus the rest of this preview.


Roma’s options

While Totti has spent time on the surgery table, Roma’s talented Montenegrin, Mirko Vucinic, has supplied both the creativity and goals. Arsenal fans will be hoping that he isn’t on his game, otherwise they might get to see more of Vucinic then they would have hoped for.

The young Frenchman, Jeremy Menez, has shown glimpses of his acclaimed potential since arriving in the summer, making the loss of Mancini to Mourinho’s Inter more bearable. However, it is a certain Brazilian built like a brick house who could prove their undoing.

Yes, it is Julio Baptista, or “The Beast” as he is affectionately named by adoring fans. Poor old Julio didn’t really manage to impress while on loan at Arsenal two years ago but he will always be fondly remembered for his Carling Cup hat-trick against Liverpool at Anfield.

Likewise at Roma, Baptista has found his opportunities limited with only 6 appearances. The Beast has nevertheless managed to score an impressive 5 goals when given the chance. Julio’s crowning moment so far this season was a winner against Lazio in the Eternal derby. This would of course win the hearts and minds of any Roma fan, shown by this ever-so-slightly OTT Youtube tribute.

Baps could provide the deep-lying forward role mixed with a physical presence that could unsettle Arsenal’s disorganised and fragile backline…..probably not though.


Arsenal’s options

Read through any Arsenal fan blog and you will come away with no doubt about what Arsene needs to do when the January transfer circus / sales open – BUY, BUY, BUY. It is unlikely that Wenger will try to single-handedly revive the British economy with excessive consumption, so Gooners may have to settle with the options available inside the current squad.

The long-awaited return of Eduardo Da Silva should excite football fans across Europe. The Crozillian is a lethal finisher with the tactical nous and intelligence to link up well with his team mates. He certainly brought out the best of Emmanuel Adebayor this time last year. The big question is whether he will be the same player. My feeling is that he will be after a few run outs against the likes of Blackburn and Bolton (or back on the injury-table). Provided he gets back into the team, Dudu could make the difference against Roma. Arsenal create chances against the best of sides but all too often wastefulness in front of goal has marked their downfall.

Tomas Rosicky’s return in the new year will give Arsenal the width and creativity they have been lacking with his and Walcott’s absence, as well as Samir Nasri’s battle to stay fit.

Bollocks to that, I am not convinced that Tomas Rosicky even exists anymore.

With Fabregas certain to miss the games against Roma, it appears that one of either Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere will have to step up to the mantle of providing creativity from central midfield. Wilshere is 16 and Ramsey was described as having average technique by Wenger when he signed from Cardiff. Arsene clearly isn’t sure about deploying either of these undoubtedly talented youngsters but I believe they may well be needed against a tight Roma midfield.

The likes of Perrotta and deRossi are tough and unforgiving midfielders, making it more imperative that Wenger add a defensive midfielder to his squad. However, the ability to keep possession and distribute accurately will be paramount qualities in this encounter.


Predicted Outcome

My intelligent, yet biased mind tells me Arsenal will have the quality to see off the Italians. The Gunners usually thrive against teams that like to play football. However, this tie will be a very tight affair, especially with the second leg in Rome. Arsenal cannot afford to waste their chances at home.

If it remains level after the two legs, I suggest an alternative way to settle the tie – a dance off/ sing off. If my recommendation is taken up, these next few Youtube clips might give us an idea as to who the winners might be:

The dance / sing off

It's a dance off

It's a dance off


First up is Emmanuel Adebayor, known for his ridiculous fashion sense and intimate boogie downs with Thierry Henry. But this time round, Ade decides to go for the singing option.

Result: Miss – that was awful, what is he trying to do? (side-note for Amer, at least Arsenal4Arabs is good for a laugh)


Now for Roma is captain fantastic, Francesco Totti, known for his ridiculous Italian fashion sense and funnyman antics. But he too goes for a sing-song.

Result: Miss – what was that? Oh wait, here he goes again (1.55 minutes in). Even worse.


It’s Arsenal’s final chance to score and it’s Adebayor again but this time joined by his team mate Emmanual Eboue in a dance routine.

Result: Miss – Good timing to the moves but Adebayor couldn’t leave his funny noises (singing?) behind and it comes crashing down.


So can Roma win the contest? Up steps ex-Arsenal player, Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista (known in some circles as ‘lead boots’) with a song and a bit of banjo playing.

Result: Score – As former Arsenal team-mates Denilson and Gilberto look on, ‘The Beast’ steals the show. Gooners should have known he would come back to haunt them!


Who da man? Who da man?

Who da man? Who da man?



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