Weekend Roundup: Off the Skids & Arsene's Walking Wounded

Willkommen, bienvenue and Welcome to yet another Weekend Roundup. For the for the first time in seemingly ages we have a bit of positive news to balance out the shitstorm of negativity that has been blowing full-storm in Arsenal's general direction.

Arsenal took on Stoke City at home and got the type of result one would generally expect from such a contest, a 2-0 victory. The scoreline certainly flatters the Potters as they were never truly in it; indeed, it seems that I've been writing this type of sentence on an almost weekly basis, but Arsenal should have scored more than those two goals if they could just have taken their chances. But such is the norm in Arsenal-land these days, when even winning a penalty does not necessarily mean a goal scored.

Yes, even that occurred. Andrei Arshavin, strangely enough starting in the central striker role, had already wasted a brilliant chance when Cesc's perfect through-ball set him one-on-one with Sorensen, who played it perfectly while Dr. Drei's touch took him too wide. This time the diminutive Russian's control of and movement on the ball won a penalty by forcing Rory Delap into a bad challenge in the box, referee Mark Clattenburg pointing to the spot. Captain Cesc strode up and took what amounted to a rather poor penalty. Sorensen, who really did have quite a good match overall, was leaning to his left and seemed to move early in that direction before the shot. Cesc unwisely shot in that direction, with little elevation and no pace, making for a fairly easy save for the Stoke 'keeper.

The match remained scoreless, although Arsenal controlled the match outside of about the 5th to 10th minutes, when Stoke controlled the ball and bombarded our box with long balls and Delap throws. While no goals were allowed, Almunia didn't exactly cover himself in glory, looking gunshy and bewildered for most of these. I've made the point before, but I'll do so once more: I don't find that any of the three options at 'keeper right now inspire a great deal of confidence.

Despite a few more chances for the Gunners, the deadlock wasn't broken until Arshavin was put through into the box by Fabregas again, but this time controlled well and used his strength to position himself for a brilliant finish across goal to the bottom right corner. After a number of chances had gone begging, Arshavin and Arsenal were finally on the scoresheet.

But bad luck wouldn't entirely desert us, as a few minutes later, a cross from Traore (who really had a fantastic game, his best match yet in an Arsenal shirt) was deflected by (I believe) Faye, hit the far post, and ricocheted to Cesc's feet for the captain to finish from close range. Or he would have done, if Eboue hadn't picked the worst possible place to be standing at that particular moment. The Ivorian unintentionally cleared the chance off the line and our Catalan was snakebitten yet again. I do my best to give Eboue the benefit of the doubt, largely because he tries his ass off and seems like a fun guy, and his songs are simply the most fun to sing, but he had a pretty poor match this time out. He performed brilliantly the last few times he'd gotten on, which I put down to being played at fullback, where his best performances have always seemed to have come. Arsenal were 1-0 up going into halftime, but probably should have been been 4-0 up but for poor finishing and rotten luck.

The second half began as the first left off, Arshavin taking a short pass from Eboue into the box, his sliding shot parried wide of the right post by Sorensen. Shortly afterward, Stoke's best chance of the match went unscored, as Lawrence's long ball found Tuncay all alone headed for the Arsenal goal. I don't know how he managed to blow it, but the Turk was caught from behind by Gallas, who interfered with the shot enough so that it dribbled to Almunia. The clean sheet remained intact, while the chances were coming fast and thick for Arsenal, the brilliant Arshavin being denied a few times more. Eboue seemed to pick up a knock (surprise! Another injury for Arsenal), and was subbed off for Aaron Ramsey, and it didn't take long for the young Welshman to make his mark on the match, a brilliant run ending with a lovely shot from the edge of the box that Sorensen just couldn't handle.

So 2-0 to the Arsenal, and while there were several more chances on the day, Lady Luck had already rationed out our share for the day. A 2-0 win over the 9th place team in the league, who had been on a run of several consecutive clean sheets, is nothing to sneeze at. There were a number of positives to take from this one, even apart from a win after three big losses to English teams (the Liege win thrown in to break up the monotony, I suppose). Denilson looked effective in the holding role (Song missing out due to accumulation of yellows), Arshavin seems to have gotten his shit together after going temporarily insane following Russia's elimination from the World Cup, Nasri put in a good shift, and we finally kept another clean sheet, which should do the defense's confidence a world of good. While it should've been a more comfortable margin of victory, with the form we've been on, I'll take 2-0 every time.

So we're off the schnide, but more injury news continues to pile up. Eduardo will be out for another week it seems, Rosicky (who I hadn't known at the time was hurt) will be out until some point in January. We've also got short-term injuries to Traore and Gallas, Theo and Diaby, and won't get back Bendtner or Clichy til around Christmas. And all of this is in addition to the long-term injuries to van Persie, Gibbs, and Djourou, the forgotten man in Arsenal's defense who isn't Philippe Senderos. Arsene commented on our extensive injury list this season (like every other it seems), saying:

"It is true [that we pick up more injuries than the other big teams], you cannot deny that. We cannot say there is no reason for that but we have not found it."
Well what is it? Are we feeding our players magic injury pills? Is there something in our players' diets that causes them to be as brittle as uncooked pasta? Is everyone else on steroids? If that's the case, I think I speak for all Gooners when I say start shooting 'em up!

We've long known that Arsenal always seem to have more injuries than EVERY other team, so much so that I have removed the phrase "if we stay healthy" from my vocabulary. There's not enough wood to knock to keep our players healthy. That Arsene has acknowledged this is both disturbing and comforting. At least he's trying to find the answer; godspeed, Monsieur Wenger.

Now we get to have a look at how the rest of the league panned out...

Portsmouth v Burnley
Pompey finally find an opponent they can handle. All the best to you both in the Championship next season.
PREDICTION: Portsmouth 1-1 Burnley; REALITY: Portsmouth 2-0 Burnley

Aston Villa v Hull City
Villa put Phil Orange/Brown's charges to the sword, ending a run of good form. It appears that even a team uniting against their shit manager isn't enough to overcome a team full of actually good players.
PREDICTION: Villa 2-1 Hull; REALITY: Villa 3-0 Hull

Blackburn v Liverpool
Jesus H Christ, how bad are Liverpool? Don't answer that... Arsenal play them on Sunday, when I'm sure they briefly find their best form.
PREDICTION: Rovers 2-3 Scousers; REALITY: Rovers 0-0 Scousers

West Ham v Man Utd
The Hammers are no match for a United team playing some fantastic football lately. Why doesn't Wayne Rooney ever get a massive injury like everyone on Arsenal? His secret is having sex with grannies.
PREDICTION: Irons 0-2 United; REALITY: Irons 0-4 United

Wigan v Birmingham
Well, at least there were goals. When these two teams face off, it's almost a waste that one of them has to get points when so many other teams could put them to some use.
PREDICTION: Wigan 0-0 Birmingham; REALITY: Wigan 2-3 Birmingham

Wolves v Bolton
Wolves ain't dead yet! Put them against a team outside the top-10 and watch them perform!
PREDICTION: Wolves 1-2 Bolton; REALITY: Wolves 2-1 Bolton

Man City v Chelsea
I would've bet you anything you liked before this weekend that Chelsea would curb-stomp the Billionaire Boys Club, but that's why they play the games. Ade was in the Christmas spirit and even gifted the Chavs a goal, but the rentboys couldn't salvage a point even when given a penalty in the dying moments. City do themselves, United and Arsenal a favor by knocking the Blues back down to earth, making them look like unorganized, grabasstic pieces of amphibian shit.
PREDICTION: City 1-3 Chavs; REALITY: City 2-1 Chavs

Fulham v Sunderland
Fulham pull off a sensational home win, picking off a very good Sunderland team at Craven Cottage. Tim Howard saves another penalty given in the 95th minute to seal victory for the English-Slang-For-Closeted-Homosexual-s.
PREDICTION: Fulham 0-1 Sunderland; REALITY: Fulham 1-0 Sunderland

Everton v Tottenham
I said: "Everton are just god-awful this season, and I just can't see why. Apart from a handful of injuries, their squad is largely the same as last season's, and I don't think David Moyes has forgotten how to manage all of a sudden (although there's something wrong with that guy's mouth... it's just creepy). If Spuds can't beat this team, they're as sorry as we all think they are."
Turns out I was right and Tottenham are a sorry sack of shit. Everton are still lousy, and in a match where sp*rs were clearly the better side and which they dominated for long stretches, they took a 2-0 lead and couldn't finish it off. I assume we won't hear a peep from the lilywhites' fans for another 3 weeks, just like after Arsenal crushed them at the Grove.
PREDICTION: Everton 1-1 Tottenham; REALITY: Everton 2-2 Tottenham

Arsene will most likely take a Carling Cup side to Greece to face Olympiakos, having clinched the group already and considering the mounting number of injuries the side already have. We may see a few senior squad players make the trip to supplement the youngsters, but unless Philippe Senderos recently murdered a member of Wenger's family, he has no reason NOT to play him, considering Silvestre may have to start at left fullback. Also, Alex Song should not play this match under any circumstances.

I would have to think Wenger will be sensible and take a reserve side to Piraeus (and you thought they played in Athens, didn't you? Come on, admit it) considering the large numbers of injuries to the squad and a vital match against Liverpool on Sunday. It will still be good to see the kids get another run-out, after the disappointment to Man City last week. One also has to keep in mind that there will be no further cup matches until mid-January, so this will be the last time we see most of the youngsters until then, while others will likely go out on loan. That is, of course, unless the injuries continue to mount, in which case Mark Randall may finally find his place in the first team, much to my chagrin.

That's all I have for now, Gooners and Goonerettes. We have more football on Wed. and Sun., so the schedule's chock full right now. If we can string a few more league victories together and hope United and Chelsea drop a few, we're right back in it. Although I'm going to keep on doubting, as it seems to make us play better. Also, if you have no expectations, you'll never be disappointed.

- B, a Gooner.