Weekend Preview: Sol's Back, Philippe's Out & Cesc Is Still The Man

Whatup playas? We're on the eve of a big week for the football, plenty of matches important to the title race, which is as close at this point in the season as any in recent memory. Lot's to talk about from an Arsenal standpoint, so I'll not dick around but just dive right in.

First, the return of the prodigal son Sol Campbell. I discussed my feelings on the signing in detail on Wednesday's post, so I'll try not to repeat myself. I'm inclined to look on this as favorable. No, it's not a big signing, Sol is no longer in his prime; we saw his prime, and he was dynamite (nsfw). But frankly, was anyone expecting Arsene to splash the cash on a backup central defender? For the role which I anticipate Sol to play, he should fit the bill.

His experience includes winning plenty of silverware with us, as well as the FA Cup with pompey just two seasons ago, and Sol himself mentioned "dragging us over the line," the type of calm, Been-Here-Before attitude that seemed missing in our failed title bid in 2007-08. Much has been made about his fitness after he played in the reserves for just 46 minutes, but it was his first live match in ages. He has been training with the Arsenal squad for about three months however, and if there is a manager who knows about players' physical fitness, it's Arsene Wenger.

For me, what it boils down to is what you want more: big signings, or Arsene Wenger as manager. The reality is, the manager is frugal (to put it mildly) about transfers in general, and we've all heard him many times talk about not wanting to make signings to "kill" the younger players. So from a Wenger standpoint, this is an ideal signing. Cheap (free), short-term, older player (who won't kill/murder/slaughter/beat to death any younger players, presumably), experienced. Plus, we all know Sol is a big fucker as well; I almost hope he gets into the Bolton match and Kevin Davies tries throwing one of those sneaky little elbows on him, but I digress. My point is, Arsene has taken us from being a club in decline when he started to being one of the top clubs in England and in Europe, as well as making sure that the club will be in fantastic financial shape for the future, so you know he cares about the club. Which is more than one can say for Sir Spendalot in Manchester.

As I mentioned above, it is Bolton that we play this weekend, a Sunday match with kickoff at 4pm in London and 11am in New York; and then we play them again on Wed., as if they won't kick us enough on Sunday. But there are plenty of matches this weekend (and week), especially due to the cancellations last week due to snow. Let's have a look at my generally incorrect prognostications:

Stoke City v Liverpool
Liverpool are not only bad, but boring. This will be compounded by playing at Stoke, who are notoriously stingy, especially at home, and who don't do much offensively. An early match not worth getting up for.
Prediction: Stoke 1-1 Scousers

Chelsea v Sunderland
This could be a decent match... Chelsea have seen their form dip a bit, and are still without Drogba, Essien and Kalou who haven't yet been shot at in Africa. Sunderland went into Old Trafford earlier in the season and drew with United but really should have won. They're a tough, physical team, so Chelsea should have their hands full.
Prediction: Chavs 1-0 Sunderland

Man Utd v Burnley
United get their revenge since A) this time they're at Old Trafford, and B) Burnley have just been abandoned by their manager, which will have done wonders for their collective confidence. This is gonna be messy.
Prediction: Utd 3-0 Burnley

Portsmouth v Birmingham
Pompey are a big damned mess both on the pitch and off, and it's hard to tell in which area they're worse-off. They can't win, and their financials are so bad they're reportedly looking to loan out David James to be relieved of his salary. Brum have been better at home than on the road, but should have no problem walking into Fratton Park and taking the points.
Prediction: Pompey 0-2 Birmingham

Tottenham v Hull City
Sp*rs ought to walk through this one, but then, according to their supporters, they should be playing in Europe every year, so take it with copious amounts of salt. But then, Hull are god-awful as well.
Prediction: Sp*rs 2-1 Hull

Wolves v Wigan
They shouldn't even play this match, just award them each a point and a pat on the head like the kid who finishes last in kindergarten.
Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Wigan

Everton v Man City
Definitely intriguing. Everton have got to be feeling better after a hard-fought draw at the Emirates, and City finally have an opponent who can play a bit (on their good days). Should be worth watching.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Manciti

Aston Villa v West Ham
Hammers just can't buy luck, can they? Needing points badly, and they have to play at Villa, who are just a better team. Good news may be on the horizon though, as it appears that some Asian big-shot is about to buy the team and saddle the club with debt. Wait, that's not good news, is it... Forget I said anything. Who knows, maybe Gianfranco Zola will have a little transfer kitty to blow on more of his cumpari.
Prediction: Villa 2-0 Hammers

Blackburn v Fulham
Two defensive-minded teams square off, one managed by a fat walrus-looking cunt, the other managed by a grammar school teacher with a speech impediment. Something's got to give.
Prediction: Rovers 1-1 Fool-ham

Liverpool v Tottenham
Liverpool get their chance at revenge for a loss to Sp*rs on Match Day One: The Quickening. Unfortunately, they're still Liverpool. Oh yeah, and that two-man team thing is working really well.
Prediction: Scousers 1-2 Spuds

Man Utd v Hull City
United get another fairly cake match at Old Trafford. Hull's main weapon is playing like a bunch of dirty bastards, but since they're in Manchester I think we can expect them to dial that down and still have 2 or more players sent off.
United 2-0 Hull

So we have to play Bolton under new manager Owen Coyle, who defected from Burnley, which will be odd enough as they might actually try to play a bit of football. Not only that, they'll still be dirty and will certainly be working their socks off to impress the new boss, making them doubly dangerous. I urge my fellow Gooners, do NOT go into this match expecting a win. It will take all of our skill, determination and physical well-being to get a result at the Reebok, and lest we forget Coyle was with Burnley when they held us to a disappointing draw at Turf Moor a few weeks back. The positive news for Arsenal is that Cesc is back and raring to go, and we will need him to be sharp from the first whistle, which may be a difficult task. Also, Gael Clichy (remember him?) "may" be available having returned to training after a lengthy injury layoff. I wouldn't expect him to start, but it's encouraging all the same.

Conversely, some more recent injury woes (and we've had so few of them this season) are forcing Arsene's hand a bit in team selection. Denilson's mysterious collapse remains, well, mysterious, and according to Arsene he's out with a muscle problem. I've had plenty of muscle problems in my life, but none of them caused me to drop to the ground holding my side. Watching Denilson on Saturday, I half-expected an alien to burst out of his chest and perform a little of the old soft-shoe. So with Song still on rain-blessing duties, it would appear that Diaby will be forced into the holding role. I have more faith in Diaby now than I did, and he did volunteer for the job, but he will need to fight his more natural inclination to go forward and perform the less flashy tasks that Song does so well. We'll need to see how he does. That also means we'll see either Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky slotted in with Cesc in midfield. I think we're more creative with Tomas, but 1) he is working his way back from injury; 2) Ramsey seems a bit stronger and more durable; and 3) Bolton play like a bunch of god-damned gorillas. If I were in Arsene's shoes, I'd start Rambo (Rimbaud, for our French readers) and try to preserve Tommy. He'll still be available as a sub, anyway.

I won't try to preview our return match at the Emirates yet, as team news will no doubt be different after Sunday. Cross your fingers that our boys can come through unscathed and with a vital three points.

Finally, I'm reprinting a message from Kurtis to the NYC Arsenal Supporters asking for our help in aiding the victims of the earthquake disaster because it bears repeating:

The earthquakes that have shaken the country of Haiti have caused death and destruction on a massive scale. The need is dire for medical supplies, food, and water. I wanted to provide each of you the opportunity to donate your dollars in collaboration with other Arsenal America branches to help those in need.

Our fellow Gooners in San Francisco in Baltimore are leading the way right now with a charity footie match. All of their proceeds gathered will go to the Haitian Relief Fund via The Red Cross.

I wanted to follow in their lead by pooling together our Gooners in NYC to offer our support.

I will actually be giving any donations we get to this organization that gives 100% of the donations to the relief effort in Haiti.


Remember as we are freely drinking as many pints as we can enjoy, there are people in Haiti who are not even able to eat or clean themselves. If that isn't enough, remember there are fellow Gooners with family there, including one of our fellow NYC Gooners. So please dig in your bank accounts, pockets and couch cushions and help out on Sunday.



I won't be at Nevada's personally on Sunday, but I have donated myself and I urge any of you that are to give as generously as your wallet allows. People are suffering, and we can certainly spare the cost of a pint or two to aid those who are desperately in need. It's a small price to pay, and every little bit could help to save lives. Thank you all.

That's it for now, brothers and sisters in Arsenal. Keep the faith and, as always, you stay classy.

- B, a Gooner.