Midweek Premier League Football is back, and it’s the time of the year again, when games go faster than weeks. Arsenal slowly move into the quagmire of the fixtures calendar, as games come right, left and center.
Now with the 0-0 draw against Aston Villa, dissected and analysed over thoroughly over the internet, it is time to focus our attentions towards another tough encounter with Everton waiting at Goodison Park. However, there still are a few leftovers from the Villa game, especially with the “You don’t know what you are doing”, and the heated interview Arsene Wenger gave later on. The dropped points means Arsenal have opened up a massive gap between toppers Manchester United. Mikel Arteta came to the manager’s help by calming down media and fans alike.
They can say whatever they want,If they feel that way it has to be respected. Even when they say something to one of us.He is always trying to do the best, you know. And some of the decisions he takes are very unpopular. But if he takes them it’s because he’s got a reason.I think he has got experience and he has been here for 15 years. He is someone who knows the club better than anyone.He knows the players really well and he knows what he can get from each of us.So when he puts the team out, obviously it’s because he wants to win it and he’s picked the best team – that day – to win that game.He is always trying to do the best, you know. And some of the decisions he takes are very unpopular. But if he takes them it’s because he’s got a reason.If he does it once then maybe it’s a mistake but if he does it four or five times then there is a reason why and he’ll explain that better than anyone
The manager has come under a lot of scrutiny as a result of the, er, result. This is probably one of the most testing phases in the manager’s career, since the humiliating 8-2 crushing suffered at Old Trafford last season, and he has had to defend his record in recent years.
People forget we built a new stadium, that we had to go through limited resources, that we maintained the club at the top and we didn’t have the money available.I accepted to stay and to do that. And I went through it. We maintained the club at the top and we are now going toward a period where we will be able to compete again financially with other clubs. It was an exciting period but a difficult one and you needed to be strong.We just qualified for 13 consecutive years in the last 16 of the Champions League and, even with all the financial resources we have now, it is not sure we will achieve that in the next 13 years.We are in a position where we can compete with the clubs for the transfer period. If you look at the recent years, we have lost players and not small players.
What we often forget among all the madness of the “Wenger Out” brigade, is that the club has had to make-do with a very stringent budget, and has yet managed to remain competitive. Of course, competitive doesn’t mean we have been challenging for titles per se, but by keeping the club in the Champions League consecutively, the manager has ensured that the club can remain financially stable, despite having made a massive stadium move.
The new deals, with Emirates, as well, as the numerous sponsorship deals, which will be up for renegotiation in coming months, will help bolster transfer funds, and help us in getting more quality personnel, as well as hold on to the existing ones by offering better deals.
First, on the agenda will be to get back to winning ways. While the team notched up two important wins over Sp*rs and Montpellier, the previous week, Aston Villa provided a tough challenge. The team looked jaded, against a fully committed Villa side, and Arsenal failed to come out effectively.
One of the few positives, is of course, that we have now managed to keep two clean sheets, in a row, something which we haven’t managed to do since the start of the season. The return of Wojciech Szczesny has introduced some freshness and renewed confidence in the backline. The Polish stopper spoke about the need to get back to winning ways.
It will be a six-pointer,It will be a very good game for us to win. We managed to get three points last year and it was a really tough match.We are outside the top four so our first target is to reach that top four. But our ambitions are much higher than that.We have managed to get a couple of good results recently. It would have been good if we had won on Saturday but we shall take it game by game and hope for the best. We need to climb the table and hopefully do well in the other competitions as well.I think the last two matches against Tottenham and Montpellier, offensively we have played really well. We have had a few disappointing performances before that, so it’s important we get back to that level and I think we are in a good position to do so.
Meanwhile, contract talks have ruled recent days at the club, with the manager hopeful that Bacary Sagna would sign a new deal. Arsenal’s second longest serving player, having joined in 2007, the right-back has notched over 200 appearances, and has been a model of consistency at the back. The current contract runs out in 2014, and with Inter keeping an eye on the defender, it is time to act early, having had some stern lessons in the past.
The manager has also urged local boy Jack Wilshere to sign a contract extension. The England international has over 2 years left, but the manager believes he is the future of the club, and wants to tie him down on a long term basis. The deal is rumored to be around £50,000 a week.
Another player in the contract mesh is Theo Walcott and while the turn of the year is the supposed deadline, both parties are yet to reach an agreement, and the absence of not only Walcott, but also Sagna in the 2013 Arsenal calendar has added fuel to the fire of speculation!
The manager spoke about his pride in the host of English talent coming through at the club. With academy graduates Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere already integrated into the first team, childhood Arsenal fan Carl Jenkinson, and the pace merchants from the South Coast Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the club now has 5 internationals.
It is not by coincidence,It is down to the work that we have done that we have more good English players.We look first at quality. If the quality is local, it is of course even better because it gives you more guarantee of stability because the players who are English who play for Arsenal are more likely to stay for a longer term than foreign players.But we look first at quality, that is the most important thing.
The manager has also urged patience for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who by the looks of it, is having a harder second season, post the whirlwind start he made last season. His pace seems to be a matter of concern, and he looks slower than last season, but surely he lacks full match fitness.
And, speaking of fitness, Tomas Rosicky made his return to first team training after being out for almost 6 months, because of an injury he suffered during the Euro’s. The Czech Republic captain, who drew praise from the manager, is expected to make a few appearances for the Reserves to allow his slow transition into first team action.
Finally, Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen revealed, how he believes that captaincy is a shared responsibility.
A captain should always give 100 per cent for his club on the pitch, that’s the first thing,He needs to give a good example and be disciplined. But everyone does the role differently – some people talk a lot in the dressing room, some don’t, some talk to individual players and perhaps try to help the youngsters.I just try to do as well as I can, setting a good example on the pitch and off it.I try to be disciplined, to live by the rules, and to make sure the whole team is doing the same.There are a few of us who work together on that, though – Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker as well, they’re really good and help me a lot.We’re like a small team, making sure everyone is doing the right things and trying to assist them when they need it.
The Belgian defender hasn’t enjoyed his football as much as he would have liked, since being appointed as captain. The added burden of balancing expectations and teammates have taken a visible toll on his own performances.
But, knowing his character, and his willingness to fight, as well as his commitment (Everyone should remember he signed a contract extension with minimum fuss, when the club was experiencing some bad times), will surely make him a fine captain.
Right, team news then. Theo Walcott is available for selection again, having recovered from his shoulder injury. Tomas Rosicky, Abou Diaby, Andre Santos and Lukasz Fabianski remain on the physio’s table.
It will be another case of rotation tonight. With Vermaelen being rested the previous game, I expect him to start tonight. Per Mertesacker has featured in almost all of Arsenal’s games this season, and I feel he will get much deserved rest over the weekend against Swansea. Kieran Gibbs should start, according to me. Why waste a first choice left back. Bacary Sagna will take his place at right-back.
Fatigue has been a primary concern in the centre of the park, and Jack Wilshere returning to the midfield, in place of Aaron Ramsey will be a boost. Ramsey had a decent game, against Villa, despite what you may get to hear all over. With oppositions looking to close down on Arteta and Cazorla, it is often Wilshere or Ramsey who have dictated Arsenal’s tempo in recent games. Up front, I expect Walcott to return to the right wing, in place of Chamberlain.
David Moyes will pleased to have Marrouane Fellaini back. The Moroccan born Belgian international completes a one match suspension, and will be a major threat from Everton’s point of view. He has been consistently good for the Merseyside club with his performances. His height, physique and ability provide Everton a different dimension in midfield.
Tony Hibbert, Kevin Mirallas, Victor Anichebe and Tony Hibbert are all back, and will boost Everton’s options on the bench. This is how I can see the two teams lining up.
Everton set up very attack minded. With Phil Neville out, Moyes has had to rely on German veteran Thomas Hitzlspberger in defensive midfield recently. Everton have a robust central defensive partnership of Holland international John Heitinga and England international Phil Jagielka.
Leighton Baines has proven his quality, by being one of the most consistent left-backs in the league. He has even created over 50 chances, in just 12 appearances, and is the top chance creator in Europe. And, this from a left-back. Walcott will have to be at his best today.
Up front, Everton have a host of options. Fellaini will cause Arsenal’s defence a load of problems with his height and movement, while Jelavic will be a tricky customer, too. Kevin Mirallas, so close to joining Arsenal, and Steven Pienaar are quality wingers.
Arsenal could go above Everton with a win, while any other result will just heap more pressure over the players and the manager, in what already seems to be a title race lost for the Gunners. It promises to be an exciting clash, between two clubs, who have had financial restraints, but have always met the minimum expectations, in recent seasons.
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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