Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Manchester United

Times have been rough. Gunnersaurus needs a hug.

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, May 1
9:05 a.m. EDT, 2:05 p.m. BST
  • Match Officials:
    • Referee: Chris Foy
    • Assistants: John Flynn and Andy Garratt
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 3 Man United
  • Reverse Fixture: Man United 1 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 78 Arsenal wins, 88 Manchester United wins, 46 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-W-D-D-L
  • Man United's League Form: L-W-W-W-D-W
Arsenal Squad News

Injured: Diaby (calf), Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)
Doubtful: Rosicky (illness)

Wenger's new plan for success? MAGIC!
Photo: ESPN.
Injuries really aren't all there is to talk about in terms of squad news these days; attention from the blogosphere is pointing more and more towards Arsene Wenger's selection and substitution decisions in addition to the worth of the players in the side.

But you probably know that already, so we'll start with injury news anyway: Abou Diaby has not passed fit again with a calf problem, Thomas Vermaelen actually played again in an Arsenal jersey, albeit for the reserves, but remains short for Sunday, and Lukasz Fabianski's season remains as over as it was in January. So, that's that.

What's really worrying about the way Arsenal played last weekend is that this was the same starting XI that was tearing up the league in late December / January. The same eleven that played Chelsea off the pitch just after Boxing Day. The same eleven that rightfully dominated sides like Birmingham, West Ham, and Wigan throughout January. Essentially, it's the top choice eleven, with the exception of the injured Vermaelen.

I'm of the opinion that it wasn't the Carling Cup loss that exactly started the downfall. Blowing a 4-0 lead at Newcastle slipped the knife in, the loss at Wembley just twisted it. By the end of February, for all of the talent this Arsenal squad has, empirical evidence suggested that this team just couldn't finish the job. And from there, that snowballed, and the season was lost.

Let's be honest, when this team is in form and healthy, they can beat anybody; just ask Barcelona after their trip to the Emirates. Sometimes it's impossible to see that when you're so horrendously out of form that you seem to find new and interesting ways to drop points on a weekly basis. Now that the pressure is off, I wouldn't put it past the talent on this team to go out on Sunday and win, even given their most recent results. Get one win and it can snowball back in the other direction, which would be the most heartening way for this season to end from an Arsenal perspective.

Predicted squad: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, van Persie.

Manchester United Squad News

Injured: Fletcher (virus), Hargreaves (shoulder)
Suspended: Scholes (third of three, violent conduct)

Dimitar Berbatov will return to the side from a groin strain he suffered in United's FA Cup loss to Manchester City two weeks ago; he missed three matches, including this week's Champions League win in Germany, though he has been in training all week. Darren Fletcher played 45 minutes for the reserves this week, but will not return to the first team yet; he's missed six weeks with a virus.

Paul Scholes will complete his three match ban for the red card he picked up at Wembley. I'm not really sure why at the time I thought he would have completed that ban before this match. Ryan Giggs will be rested ahead of the second leg of United's Champions League semi-final coming up next week.

Current Form

In their last seven league games (i.e. the seven since the Carling Cup Final,) Arsenal have won once, lost once, and drawn five. At the Emirates, Arsenal have not lost since November, but have drawn their last three, the first two of which were 0-0. The latter of the three was 0-0 for 98 minutes. Then some good things happened and then some bad things happened. In the ten matches since the Carling Cup Final across all competitions, Arsenal have won twice, lost three, and drawn those same five.

On the other side, United have kept clean sheets in their three matches played since losing the FA Cup semi-final, and they completely played Schalke off the pitch on Tuesday. The good news from an Arsenal perspective, as has been well documented this season, is that United's away form in the league has been horrible for a league leader. The last team to win the league in a year they won fewer than eight games away from home was Liverpool in 1977 (who won five.) United right now has only won five away from home. They have lost three and drawn nine in the league away from Old Trafford.

Match Facts

Samir Nasri had a brace in Arsenal's last win over United.
Doesn't Howard Webb look pissed off in the background?
It's like he's given him a death stare for beating United.
Photo: Guardian.
Including this season and last, Manchester United have won all four of their meetings with Arsenal (United have not won five straight against the Gunners since the mid-'80s.) This year, United outscored the Gunners 3-0 in two meetings, both played at Old Trafford. In both matches, Arsenal failed to create chances despite dominating much of the possession, and it was United's killer instinct in making their few chances count that sank the Gunners.

In this match last year, Arsenal was never really in contention, as United built up a 3-0 lead by the hour mark. The Gunners played about five solid minutes (between about the 78th and 83rd minutes) during which Tom Vermaelen headed in a consolation goal. Arsenal nearly got a second in that time frame, which would have made the end interesting, but did not. At Old Trafford last year, Andrei Arshavin gave Arsenal a 1-0 lead at halftime, but a Wayne Rooney penalty and some ridiculousness from Abou Diaby handed United the 2-1 win.

Arsenal's last result against United was a 0-0 draw that incidentally was enough for the Red Devils to win the title that day. Arsenal's last win against Manchester United was 2-1 in November of 2008, thanks to a brace from Samir Nasri. United are unbeaten in their last seven against Arsenal across all competitions, winning six of them.

The Referee

The referee is Merseyside-based Chris Foy, who also took charge of Arsenal's meeting with Manchester United in the FA Cup last month. He has not worked another match for either side since then, so much of what I said about him in that preview remains true.

For Arsenal this season, Foy has worked a 2-1 win at Blackburn, a 2-1 win over Fulham, and the 2-0 home win over Wolves in addition to the 2-0 loss at Old Trafford. For United this season in addition to the FA Cup win, Foy has worked a 3-0 win over Newcastle, a 0-0 draw at Sunderland, a 0-0 draw at Eastlands, a 2-1 win at West Brom, and a 3-1 win over Aston Villa that I seem to have missed in the aforementioned last preview.

Foy is from Liverpool and has stated that he is an Everton supporter. As such, Foy does not take charge of matches involving either Merseyside team.

Around the League

Monday is a bank holiday in England, and yet, there are no matches scheduled to be played (you may recall Arsenal played Blackburn Rovers on this bank holiday last year.) There's no early match on Saturday either (Sky Sports is showing Leeds v. Burnley in that slot,) but there are two super-early matches on Sunday. These are the reverse fixtures of those played December 11-13.

Gomes conceded, then saved, a penalty to keep Spurs v.
Chelsea 1-1 in December. Photo: Guardian.
Five matches kick-off the weekend at the standard time slot of 3:00 p.m. in England. Blackburn hosts Bolton in a North-West derby, Blackpool hosts Stoke, Fulham heads north to play Sunderland, West Brom hosts Aston Villa in a West Midlands derby, and Everton plays at Wigan. The late game Saturday sees a high profile London derby as Chelsea hosts Spurs. Can they both lose, please?

Before Arsenal's kick-off on Saturday, there are two matches slated for 7:00 a.m. Eastern time. There's another West Midlands derby, as Birmingham hosts relegation likely Wolves and Liverpool hosts Newcastle. In Sunday's late match, Manchester City hosts also relegation likely West Ham.

Looking at next year's league for a second, Queens Park Rangers are a single point away from securing automatic promotion from the Championship; they play Watford on Saturday. Watford is the only team to win at Loftus Road this season. QPR's last year in the top flight was 1995/96.


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Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Arsenal - That Just Happened

I have no anger left with this team.

I'm not the only one either - the two typical defensive lapses on set pieces (sandwiched around a brilliant equalizing goal from Robin van Persie) elicited "oh, that just happened" reactions where once outrage would reign. In fact, the only legitimate rage I felt during that match at all occurred when Mike Jones contrived to whistle Johan Djourou for a penalty. I understand that referees have a difficult job, and if someone dives convincingly's a dishonorable skill but a skill nonetheless. This one may have been the worst penalty decision of the entire season though, and boy oh boy does that cover some ground.

So, I won't be spending a lot of time talking about the match itself. Suffice to say that Arsenal, like any great band at the end of their time, played all of their greatest hits. Sitters missed, slack marking, over-elaboration, conceding early, moments of breathtaking skill - it was all there. The encore was the same as well - the destined-to-fall-short rally at the end (though as ludicrous show-ending rallies go, I much prefer AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock We Salute You").

Since this season's patient is terminal (and frankly, was a dead man walking for several weeks), let's talk about the next of kin. The thing is, love us or hate us, there is so much about Arsenal that over the last decade or so has been so undeniably certain. The epicenter of that solidity was, of course, in the professorial manager patrolling the touchline. For most of his reign, we have played a very specific way, with very specific players. We have arguably had the most consistent identity of any major club in world football.

Now, what once was cast in stone feels far more malleable. I hate to say that we're at a crossroads as my god that is such a cliche, but damn it, we're at a crossroads. Things are getting tense in Arsenal Land, and something is going to give at some point.

You have the manager - for so long he wore a veneer of stoicism and detachment. Now, the illusion is gone. Was this always the storm raging inside of him, or is he finally losing patience with the men who personify his goals? I don't want to double back over old feelings on the subject are well known. However, whether you want him to stay or go, some of the vitriol out there towards the man (and I should know better than to read comments on Facebook, and yet...) is just beyond the pale. It's one thing to think that perhaps his time is up, it's quite another to describe him in words you'd normally hear from Chelsea or United supporters (you know, the pond life that would hang out in the front of Nevada Smiths, allowing an easy escape route when they lost, and a gauntlet of jeering neanderthals to navigate when they won).

Either way, it is obvious that he will not be sacked...I don't know what circumstances would have to occur for that to ever happen, and I don't want to find out. Regardless, we'll come back to him shortly.

What of the playing squad, then? Surely, the 25 who finish this season will not be the 25 who begin anew in August. Of course, major upgrades are unlikely. Whether that's down to our financials or the manager's decision, we're probably never going to know. But, there are some who have decisions to make this summer. Gael Clichy has a year left on his contract, and rumor has it that he wants out. Normally I'd bite your hand off for 5-6 million for him (perhaps a shade less given his contract situation), but can Kieran Gibbs go three games without a major injury? If not, the options are either recall Armand Traore (meh) or buy a replacement. Gibbs would be the best choice in my view, but also the least plausible. The left-back situation is one to watch, to say the least.

And, what of Samir Nasri? He too is coming up on one year left on his deal, and no extension has been inked. He has taken a major leap forward as a player this term, to the point where his case has become a mission-critical decision. Can we convince him to stay in these troubled times? Will his wage demands exceed what we should pay for what is a wonderful-at-times player who has largely failed to make an imprint on the truly momentous occasions of a season?

The midfield engine room is cast into further doubt when you consider the Catalan elephant in the room. If the usual protracted transfer sagas - the template penned by yet another wantaway captain in Patrick Vieira - hold true, then Cesc Fabregas is almost certain to finally depart for the Nou Camp this summer. Personally, I think he's as gone as gone can be, and I can't say I'd blame him. He's a brilliant player miscast in the captain's role, a desperately hungry player caught in a revolving door of near-misses. He has been a wonderful servant to the club, and I hope we Gooners don't unfairly take out our frustrations on him when he goes...he has not wronged us in any way.

Then, there is our diminutive Russian. So frustrating. He's been MIA for months now, and has given no outward expression to what is going on in his head. I can't help but wonder if this isn't a case of a fantastic player in certain conditions, who happens to not be in a club that meets those conditions.

Conversely, there are the ones we'd like to see go. Denilson heads most of those lists, and rightfully bloody so. Emmanuel Eboue may be another whose expiration date has passed (a sad development only for the sheer range of songs he's inspired - as a player, he's far too inconsistent). Others are not so obvious. The relative merits of Nicklas Bendtner, Abou Diaby, Marouane Chamakh and Alex Song have been vociferously debated on forums and conversations alike. If you want my opinion, my patience with Diaby has long run out, but the other three are salvageable. Still, why are these guys underperforming (you can add our central defense to that as well - Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou are better than they've been showing)? Why are players with this much talent showing such little return?

One argument is that sometimes, losing begets losing...especially when it's been in the ways that we've managed it. I'm no sports psychologist, but I can't help but feel that games like Newcastle stay with you. If you're not careful, an entire squad can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom that can be impossible to fully shake. Now, maybe that's not the case. I could certainly be reading far too much into things. Isn't it at least plausible, though? And if so, major surgery and fresh recruits may be required - which won't happen of course, bringing this circle back to the beginning.

That beginning, of course, is the manager. He's come out in the Guardian saying that he should be blamed for this season's derailment, and I'm not arguing the point. It is up to him to put together the team, train them, decide the tactics and to keep the squad's mental state on track. He has completely, utterly, spectacularly failed on all of those fronts for the last six seasons. I'm not saying the requirement is to win everything every season. We're not Real Madrid, and I'm glad we're not. But, the rate of return has been far short of what should be expected for this club and I believe it's on him far more than the players.

The thing is, I haven't mentioned it much but I do believe he's on the right track. When he says he wants us to play the right way, I'm on board with that. You don't have to be Barcelona to succeed with attacking thrust - just look at Schalke '04 this season. His particular version of this philosophy has been found wanting, and the more damnable thing is that not only is there no Plan B, he insists that one is not required.

I believe that guys like Chamakh, Song and Bendtner can be important cogs of a team that wins things. I think we've got a stellar goalkeeper right now in Wociech Szezcsny, who can be our keeper for the next 10-15 years. I think we've got guys who already fight the good fight and give everything of themselves, guys like Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie who can hold their heads up no matter what happens the rest of the way. The core is there. This strikes me as a job for a scalpel rather than a hatchet.

But, something has to bloody change. The mentality, the tactics, the coaching. Hell, probably all of it in some combination. If Arsene Wenger can finally admit that adjustments need to be made, then by all means, I will follow to the gates of hell. If he makes changes but six seasons become seven, I'm fine with that. It'd be progress. What I don't want to see is another in an endless and soul-destroying series of Groundhog Day seasons that all begin and end the same way. We deserve better than that.

Preview by Numbers: Bolton Wanderers v. Arsenal

Fran Merida celebrates scoring in this match last year.
Remember him? Photo: Guardian

Reebok Stadium, Bolton
Sunday, April 24
11:00 a.m. EDT, 4:00 p.m. BST

Check below for our Classic Football Shirts competition winner!
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Dave Bryan and Patrick Keane
    • 4th Official: Chris Foy
  • This Match, Last Year: Bolton 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 4 - 1 Bolton
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 56 Arsenal wins, 38 Bolton wins, 35 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-D-D-W-D-D
  • Bolton's League Form: W-D-W-L-L-W
Arsenal Squad News

Injured: Diaby (calf), Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)

In terms of how the squad looks (aside from the mental questions,) there's very little in terms of injuries to discuss, which as I keep saying, is a breath of fresh air. Arsenal lost Abou Diaby on Wednesday to a calf injury, which means Denilson will return to the bench; that means Alex Song and Jack Wilshere are pretty much guaranteed to both start in the midfield.

Wojciech Szczesny, who saved the point at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, will continue in goal with the same ever-so-porous defense in front of him. You would have to think that the front will continue much in the same way as well. The problem for Arsenal lately has not been the starting side, but rather tactics and substitutions in the later stages (in addition to panicking at the back.) I'd like it if Arsene Wenger would stop bringing Nicklas Bendtner on, then sticking him on the wing; he's useless there.

Predicted squad: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, van Persie.

Bolton Squad News

Injured: Davis (knee), Holden (knee), Ricketts (Achilles)

Matt Taylor and Mark Davies have overcome recent injuries and will return to the side, while Daniel Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, will be re-inserted into the line-up, after being cup-tied in the FA Cup Semi-Final last weekend. The three will likely replace any number of Bolton players who have been showing signs of fatigue lately, which could possibly Johan Elmander, Martin Petrov, or Ivan Klasnic.

The returns of Taylor and Davies leaves three Trotters players out with injuries. American international Stuart Holden's season is over after a knee injury suffered at Old Trafford a few weeks back after a harsh tackle from Jonny Evans. Sean Davis and Sam Ricketts are also long-term absentees for the side.

Current Form

So much of the past few months of Arsenal's season in the league reminds me of The Simpsons' commentary on the sport: "fast kickin', low scorin', and ties? You bet!" The Gunners may be unbeaten in their last 16 league fixtures, but drawing eight of them has meant a collapse from contention for the league title. And the draws since the start of March have been the worst. A 0-0 against Sunderland that should have been a 1-0 win. A dreadful 0-0 with Blackburn. The past week debacles against Liverpool and Spurs. Sure, this team has not lost a league fixture since December, but that doesn't tell the entire story.

Bolton got crushed by Stoke in the FA Cup Sunday.
That makes me extremely sad. Photo: Guardian.
Last week, Bolton went to Wembley to take on Stoke City in a chance to qualify for the FA Cup Final and were thrashed out of the competition by a 5-0 scoreline. There is a stark contrast between how Bolton has performed at home compared to how they have performed on the road. Away from the Reebok, the Trotters have only beaten the league's two last placed teams, West Ham and Wolves. They have lost on the road against the top six placed teams at the moment. However, at home, Bolton have only lost twice: 4-0 to Chelsea and 1-0 to Liverpool. They've won nine home fixtures and have also drawn five at home, including a 2-2 draw with United. The 4-0 loss to Chelsea on January 24 was the last time they dropped points at the Reebok; Bolton has won four straight at home since.

Match Facts

Laurent Koscielny scored his first Arsenal goal in the reverse fixture, but a defensive break-down (I've never heard of such a thing!) led to the match being 1-1 at the half. Arsenal dominated the second with goals from Marouane Chamakh, Alex Song, and Carlos Vela, the latter's goal coming after a string of over twenty passes. Cesc Fabregas had three assists.

Arsenal won both fixtures last year, which were played over the span of four days after the meeting at the Emirates was postponed twice. At the Reebok, Arsenal got goals from Cesc Fabregas and Fran Merida (yeah...) in a 2-0 win. Then, midweek in London, Arsenal fell behind 2-0 before storming back, equalizing controversially, and then coasting. Arsenal's goals came from Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen, and Andrei Arshavin. The two goal win put Arsenal (momentarily) top of the league, thanks to goal difference.

Arsenal has won their last eight league fixtures against Bolton. The Trotters last win was a 3-1 win at the Reebok in November of 2006. Nicolas Anelka had a brace.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Mike Jones. In three matches Jones has taken charge of this year involving Arsenal, the Gunners have not conceded a goal. This includes two wins and a draw (6-0 over Blackpool, 1-0 over West Ham, and 0-0 with Man City.) All three were played at the Emirates. Those matches involved three red cards, but only one to Arsenal, for Bacary Sagna's head-butting incident at the end of the City draw.

The clean sheet theme continues for the only match Jones has worked for Bolton Wanderers this year; the Trotters lost that match 1-0 at Chelsea.

Around the League

United blew a 3-1 lead at Everton in September.
Wow, blowing a 3-1 lead. Where have I heard that recently?
Photo: Guardian.
These are the reverse fixtures of those played on the weekend of September 11-12. Manchester United, who now are even more odds-on favorites to run away with the title, kick the weekend off at Old Trafford against Everton. United blew a late lead, allowing two goals in added time, to draw with the Toffees 3-3 at Goodison Park int he reverse.

Six matches take place during the usual 10 a.m. Saturday, 3:00 p.m. in England, start time: Aston Villa hosts Stoke City, Blackpool hosts Newcastle, Birmingham City heads to Anfield to take on Liverpool, Sunderland hosts Wigan, Wolves host Fulham, and Spurs host West Brom. The late Saturday match is a London derby, as Chelsea hosts West Ham at the Bridge.

On Monday, the weekend comes to a close as Blackburn Rovers host Manchester City at Ewood Park. Arsenal's match is the only Sunday fixture.

Competition winner!

We've checked the entries and powered up our random number generator to see just who would win a £100 ($163) credit to Classic Football Shirts. The results are in and congratulations are in order for our winner, Jeffrey Breton!!

Jeffrey wins the credit to Classic Football Shirts, purveyors of excellent retro, vintage football shirts from throughout history for nearly as many teams as there are out there (and some that don’t even exist anymore, like Wimbledon). There are, of course, lots of sweet Arsenal tops if you look around the site

And, in case you're curious, the correct answer to the trivia question, Arsenal's home matches in the 1998-99 Champions League season (and the next year as well) were significant because they were played at Wembley Stadium.


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The Scum 3-3 The Arsenal: Fuck It...

What a load of bollocks. Another 2 points squandered. I don't care if it was the most entertaining game to watch this season (as North London Derbies usually are), it's yet another major disappointment for Arsenal fans and Man U haters alike.


What makes this kick in the nuts particularly sickening is the fact that Chelsea now occupy our 2nd spot, it just seems to be our destiny this season. How can you expect to be positive towards the next game, knowing that we will probably (probably as in the 'probability factor' based on previous results, not 'lack of hope' or 'abandonment') just ship points off? FUCK IT. I don't care any more. And my heart can't take the CONSTANT fucking savage beating that our inconsistent football is dishing out at it. At this rate, myself and countless other die-hard Gooners are going to need bypass surgery or mortician appointments before the season is through.

5 games left, 6 points off, 7 years without a league title. Not good.

The game itself was a cracker, especially from a neutral point of view. It's a shame Stevie McManaman is a complete tool, blatantly kissing the backside of the scum whilst commentating on ESPN. As far from neutral as you can get I think you'll agree. Jog on back to the land of crack-whore mothers and cars on bricks.

And I'm not neutral. I'm Red Army.

Anyway, Walcott got us underway in the early moments of the game, latching onto a through-ball and finishing calmly in the 5th minute. The rowdy Shite Hart Lane crowd were silenced. But, before I had a chance to wipe the spilled beverage off my shirt Van der Fart had leveled and we were back to square one. At this point I already thought "Fuck It". 83 minutes to go, 1-1, and I knew where this was heading. This wasn't to be our day, like most this season.

Foolishly, with little control my Rum and Coke was all over the place again, my couch, my face. This time it was thanks to Samir Nasri's thunderbolt through Dawson's legs from just outside the area.

Expecting the tables to turn once again, I was surprised to see RvP find the net with a ruthless thwack into the roof of the net. Credit goes to Walcott for setting that one up, and also to Gomes for palming RvP's initial headed attempt onto an irresistible ball-shaped plate.

At this point, staring at the rum and coke stain on the ceiling, I was questioning destiny's intentions to fuck with me. 3-1 up, five minutes left plus stoppage for Gareth Bale being a pussy, you would have expected to see the first half run its course. But that would be terribly un-Arsenal like. Within 3 minutes Huddlestone brought Spud's deficit back to 1 goal again. Fuck.

Yeah, it's a ball, you fucking ape

After the restart, I had attempted to appreciate what was a great end-to-end game of football. But I knew an equalizer was looming somehow. In the 70th minute Szczesny brought down Aaron Lennon in the box and it was 3-3, Van der Fart adding to his tally by converting the spot kick. Fuck.

At this point, it's simply part and parcel of Arsenal that you lose all hope of anything decent happening for the remainder of the game. There were few chances left, we threw on BarnDoor and Arshavin in lieu of Nasri and Walcott, but nothing really happened. For some reason it actually looked like we were playing for a draw.

We nearly came back with nothing of course. Wojciech helped us keep our point thanks to a great save with his feet from some Sp*rs player from pretty much the six yard area. I can't remember the player as I was drinking myself under the table.

So, once again we failed to take advantage of Yernited's slipup. Once again we gave away a lead. Once again I'm left with little faith.

And once again... aw Fuck It. Roll on 2011/2012.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny 8
Bacary Sagna 6
Johan Djourou 7
Laurent Koscielny 7
Gael Clichy 6
Samir Nasri 7
Abou Diaby 6
Cesc Fabregas 7
Theo Walcott 8 (MOTM)
Alex Song 6
Robin van Persie 7
Jack Wilshere 7
Andrey Arshavin 5
Nicklas Bendtner 4

Preview by Numbers: Tottenham Hotspur v. Arsenal

Arsenal's last match at the Shithole saw three goals in extra time.
That was awesome. I miss that day. Photo: Guardian.

White Hart Lane, London
Wednesday, April 20
2:45 p.m. EDT, 7:45 p.m. BST

Check the bottom of the post for your chance
to win a £100 credit at Classic Football Shirts!
This is the last post of the competition; the drawing is Friday!

  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Martin Atkinson
    • Assistants: John Flynn and Peter Kirkup
    • 4th Official: Stuart Attwell
  • This Match, Last Year: Tottenham 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 3 Tottenham
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 69 Arsenal wins, 52 Tottenham wins, 44 draws
  • Arsenal's Recent Form: W-D-D-D-W-D
  • Tottenham's Recent Form: W-L-D-D-D-W

Arsenal Squad News

Injured: Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)

Arsenal will get a huge boost with the
return of Not Eboue. Photo: Arsenal.
Surprisingly good news on the injury front, which is pretty much the only place where Arsenal has had good news lately. And that's just shocking, isn't it? Seriously, when has that ever been the case?

This week, the best news is that Bacary Sagna will return from his knee injury, meaning Emmanuel Eboue, fresh off being called for the penalty which led to Arsenal's 1-1 draw Sunday, will drop back to the bench.

Alex Song is fully fit and is likely to start, though Jack Wilshere may drop to the bench in the name of rotation. Arsene Wenger said yesterday, "We have now three midfielders - Wilshere played many games, Diaby and Song - so we will rotate a little bit from game to game." Denilson returns from his toe injury, but you'll notice that he's apparently not one of the three midfielders Arsenal has right now. That's probably good news.

Manuel Almunia returns from his knee injury, but he'll only get as far as the bench, as Wojciech Szczesny has regained the starting job. Thomas Vermaelen is back in training, but not match fit yet. Only Lukasz Fabianski is still completely out.

Predicted squad: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, van Persie.

Tottenham Squad News

Injured: King (groin), Woodgate (calf), Palacios (knee), Hutton (knee)
Doubtful: Kranjcar (foot), Pienaar (groin)

January acquisition Steven Pienaar is a question with a groin injury, but Peter Crouch should be well rested, having been suspended for Tottenham's crash out of the Champions League. Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate have both returned to light training but are expected to be short for the rest of the season. I believe Winston Palacios may be close to a return, but Alan Hutton's season is over with cartilage damage in his knee.

I'd write more, but I try not to pay attention to Spurs; it makes me ill.

Current Form

Arsene Wenger argues on Sunday, during the 817th
time my soul was crushed this season. Photo: Guardian.
Arsenal have been drawing so much lately that it seems like they've sunk their chances at winning the league without actually losing a match. Over their last 26 matches, Arsenal have lost four times: twice in the Carling Cup, once in Europe, and once in the FA Cup. That means the Gunners are unbeaten in 15 league matches. Seven of those 15 matches were draws. Arsenal have the league's best record away from home.

Spurs had the weekend off to recover from their crash out of Europe, since their scheduled opponent, Manchester City, had an FA Cup Semi-Final to play. Arsenal entered this exact fixture in that exact same situation last season: after crashing out of Europe to Barcelona, Arsenal had the weekend off as Spurs played (and lost) an FA Cup Semi. Tottenham have lost once in their last ten league fixtures; that came at Blackpool. Like Arsenal, they've drawn a lot lately too, drawing five of those ten league fixtures just mentioned. Spurs have lost just once at home in their last 26 league fixtures at White Hart Lane. That came against Wigan in August. Their prior loss in the league at home came to Wolves in December 2009.

Match Facts

We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham. We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham. We hate Tottenham and we hate Tottenham. We are the Tottenham haters.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire based Martin Atkinson, who was recently named the referee for this year's FA Cup Final in May. Atkinson leads the league in red cards awarded with 12 (though 10 were in the top flight, one was in the Championship, and one was in Europe.)

For Arsenal, Atkinson has taken charge of the season opening 1-1 draw at Anfield (when Laurent Koscielny was sent off), the 2-1 win over Birmingham (when Jack Wilshere was sent off), the 2-0 win over Wigan in the Carling Cup, and the abysmal 1-0 loss at Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup.

For Tottenham, he worked their 1-0 loss at Upton Park, a 2-1 win over Liverpool, and a 2-1 win at Aston Villa that saw Spurs on ten men for an hour.

Around the League

United dropped points again. Because that's just the thing
you do this season. All the cool kids are doing it.
Photo: Guardian.
This round of midweek fixtures is brought to you by previous match postponements. Yesterday, Arsenal got a good amount of help (yet again) in the form of Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Newcastle. Arsenal plays their game in hand today and can move within four points of the top spot. I'm not really sure if anybody wants to win the league this year, given all of the evidence at hand.

Today, the other match sees Chelsea host Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge. Both this match and the North London derby were postponed because of the Carling Cup Final in February.

Your last chance to enter our trivia competition!

The Modern Gooner is running a competition sponsored by Classic Football Shirts, purveyors of excellent retro, vintage football shirts from throughout history for nearly as many teams as there are out there (and some that don’t even exist anymore, like Wimbledon). There are of course lots of sweet Arsenal tops if you look around the site.

All you have to do is provide the correct answer to the following question:

In the 1998-1999 season, Arsenal played in the Champions League for the first time. What was significant about their home matches?

Email your response to

The name of the winner will be drawn at random on Friday, the 22nd of April, and posted on the site, and that lucky Gooner will receive a £100 ($163) credit to Classic Football Shirts, which in this market is equivalent to something like $4000, so get your entries in (limit one per person). And of course, whether you win or not, check out their site, their gear is really first-rate. Good luck, and may Dennis be with you.


If you don't already, you can click here to subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog. You can also click here to follow us on Twitter, and click here to follow us on Facebook. This way you'll always be alerted when a new post is up.

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool: Deeper Problems than One Idiot Ivorian Fullback

Fact # 1: Emmanuel Eboue is an idiot, a moron, a total fucking mong.
Fact # 2: Emmanuel Eboue is, at times, a footballer capable of brilliant things.
Fact # 3: Emmanuel Eboue embodies Fact # 1 a FUCK of a lot more than he does Fact # 2.
Fact # 4: This result was not just Emmanuel Eboue's fault.

All of that said, is there not a single person in this world who encapsulates the many vagaries of Arsenal Football Club than the aforementioned Idiot Ivorian Fullback? Many times during this match, his direct running and all-too-rare-on-this-team drive to actually DO SOMETHING gave the Liverpool defense all sorts of problems. Then, he turns around and theatrically falls to feign an injury, giving the opposition acres of space to rampage down the flank in. Last week, he cuts inside and lashes a rasping shot into the top of the net. This week, he concedes one of the most brain-dead penalties in Arsenal history to drive the last nail into the coffin of the club's sixth season without a trophy.

If your blood pressure isn't already launched into orbit like the fucking Voyager, then consider that we were seconds away from being four points behind United instead of six. Beat them, and we're one point away...they draw one game, all of a sudden they're in a world of trouble. Now, we're six behind. Beat them, and they can still afford a draw and be quite comfortable.

In light of that, I suppose it'd be a dick move to mention Sunderland, Blackburn, Newcastle, West Brom, West Brom again, the League Cup Final, all three piss-poor results against lower league sides in the FA Cup, Braga, Shaktar, Tottenham and the season opener at Anfield, eh?

If you had told any Arsenal fan, anyone involved with the club, that our main rivals would be United on 69 measly points at this stage of the season...if you told them that we'd get into the League Cup final against BIRMINGHAM FUCKING CITY, they would tell you that the Double would be the only acceptable outcome in those circumstances. Never mind getting jobbed out the Champions League - that was a FIFA directive and you can't tell me otherwise. Never mind losing in the FA Cup at Old Trafford - there's no shame in a reverse when you travel there. But the League...the League Cup...this season is going to haunt my dreams for fucking years.

And in the midst of all this, we have our manager making a spectacle of himself, berating Kenny Dalglish for...err...I'm not sure what, exactly. We have our manager blaming the referee, Lucas diving and god knows what else when a much more suitable target can be seen in any reflective surface.

What a fucking miserable season.

Make no mistake - this game should have been killed off long before anyone took a shot from 12 yards. We were faced with a team with not much to play for, starting a fetus at right back (and another at left back when Fabio Aurelio was taken off injured), who later lost a key defender to a horrible injury (best of luck to Jamie Carragher for a speedy recovery) and who furthermore didn't have their captain and talisman.

All that, and we didn't beat this lot. At home. Are you fucking kidding me?

To their credit, Liverpool defended well when they had to. It's not like the Arsenal stretched them that often, though. Either it was the same old tippy-tappy crap that gave Liverpool time to pack the defenders in that ended with a badly-struck through-ball, or it was crosses for the smallish Robin van Persie that were easily repelled by the giant Scouser center-halves. Still, Laurent Koscielny was unlucky to hit the bar with a fabulous open header, and RVP absolutely should have scored towards the end of normal time when he was one-on-one with Jose Reina.

As for our opponents, they offered nothing going forward. A point would do them just fine, and in their shoes I would sit back and hope that Andy Carroll or Luis Suarez could nick something as well. Unfortunately for them, our center-halves corralled the former and the latter was absolute gash on the afternoon.

So the game ambled on, and once again the substitutions were cause for concern. Theo Walcott was below-par once again, but Wenger did not pull the trigger on the substitution until 72 minutes had elapsed. Why wait so long? Why give the substitute so little time to make an impact, and why waste precious minutes keeping the below-par player on the field? That was the sort of performance where he should have been off at halftime, although I suppose Andrei Arshavin's ephemeral afternoon makes it all a moot point. Next, Abou Diaby was taken off for Alex Song, which I didn't get at all. By this point, Carroll had been taken off the field for the anonymous Jonjo Shelvey, meaning their entire attack was an out-of-form Suarez on his own. What the fuck do we need a holding midfielder for in this scenario? Oh, and lest we forget, the perfectly OK Jack Wilshere was taken off at the same time as Walcott, with Nicklas Bendtner on in his place. At first, I thought: "Great, we're going 4-4-2 and we're going for it!". Instead, he was out on the wing (say it with me: NOT A FUCKING WINGER!), with crosses continuing to come in for the guy who isn't a tall center-forward. I just don't understand it.

It looked like 0-0 was nailed on, but the extra time from Carragher's injury saw Arsenal win what I frankly thought was a fairly dubious penalty. I don't think Fabregas dived, and I do think Spearing made some contact. I just don't think there was that much in it, but you can file it under "seen them given". Anyway, RVP stepped up and absolutely hammered an unstoppable spot-kick into the lower corner of the net, kicking off wild celebrations in the Pig. Surely, all three points were Arsenal's.

But, as ever, this team can find a way to drop points in unique and increasingly-soul-destroying ways. We all know what happened - some time was added on for the goal and RVP's celebration, and in that time Song committed a needless foul on the edge of our area. It took ages to get the wall back, and then once the kick was taken the danger was initially cleared. Lucas had his back to goal and was running away from it. Literally, the only thing Eboue had to do in this situation was NOTHING. Just don't move. Fucking stand there.

The fact of the matter was that Andre Marriner was gagging to give Liverpool a makeup call, and while Lucas' dive was risible and disgraceful, while there wasn't much in the way of contact at all, Eboue gave Marriner the excuse he needed. That was ALWAYS going to be called.

Credit to Dirk Kuyt - his penalty was well-taken. Credit also to Liverpool for showing the kind of fight and spirit that is just a rumor in the N5 these days...a sepia-toned museum piece that for some reason doesn't fit into this iteration of the club.

But, as I mentioned, this could have been done and dusted long before. Shit, the title should have been done and dusted by now. A few positives to end with, though. Wojciech Szezcsny made a successful return to the side, and is showing the kind of attitude that is sorely needed around these parts. Koscielny did well partnered with the returning Johan Djourou. And...umm...Wilshere was OK. That's what I've got.

The downsides: Everything else. Fabregas looked like he had Catalonia on his mind. Clichy was toilet once again. Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin were invisible. Our tall bloke was shunted off to the wing again.

Fuck this season. Hammering our overrated neighbors wouldn't make up for everything, but it'd be a bloody brilliant start.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szezcsny 7, Clichy 5, Djourou 7, Koscielny 7 (MOTM), Eboue 5, Nasri 6, Wilshere 7 (Bendtner 6), Diaby 6 (Song 5), Fabregas 6, Walcott 5 (Arshavin 6), van Persie 6

On a lighter note, The Modern Gooner competition is still going on through Wednesday.

The Modern Gooner is running a competition sponsored by Classic Football Shirts, purveyors of excellent retro, vintage football shirts from throughout history for nearly as many teams as there are out there (and some that don’t even exist anymore, like Wimbledon). There are of course lots of sweet Arsenal tops if you look around the site.

All you have to do is provide the correct answer to the following question:

In the 1998-1999 season, Arsenal played in the Champions League for the first time. What was significant about their home matches?

Email your response to

The name of the winner will be drawn at random on Friday, the 22nd of April, and posted on the site, and that lucky Gooner will receive a £100 ($163) credit to Classic Football Shirts, which in this market is equivalent to something like $4000, so get your entries in (limit one per person). And of course, whether you win or not check out their site, their gear is really first-rate. Good luck, and may Dennis be with you.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Liverpool (And a Trivia Competition!)

He's five-foot this many. Photo: Daily Mail.
Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, April 17
11:00 a.m. EDT, 4:00 p.m. BST

Check the bottom of the post for your chance
to win a £100 credit at Classic Football Shirts!
  • Match Officials:
    • Referee: Andre Marriner
    • Assistants: Ron Ganfield and Adam Watts
    • 4th Official: Peter Walton
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 1 - 0 Liverpool
  • Reverse Fixture: Liverpool 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 74 Arsenal wins, 81 Liverpool wins, 54 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-D-D-W
  • Liverpool's League Form: D-L-W-W-L-W
Arsenal Squad News

Injured: Almunia (knee), Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)
Doubtful: Sagna (knee), Ramsey (groin), Rosicky

Szczesny may return from his finger injury, in an attempt
to prove he's more insane than Jens Lehmann.
Photo: Metro.
With Arsenal on the verge of yet another run of matches that will define their season (Liverpool, Spurs, Bolton, and United,) it is extraordinarily encouraging that players seem to be getting back to fitness at the right time. Cue this week's news that Wojciech Szczesny has returned to the squad from his finger injury and is available. And the news that Johan Djourou is in the squad, having recovered from a shoulder injury that was not as serious as first feared. Given Arsenal's track record, I think we had all safely assumed that both crucial parts of our defense were done for the season. Consider me pleasantly surprised.

On top of that, Alex Song will return from the knee injury that has hampered him since the Carling Cup Final, and, in less critical news, Denilson is also returning from a toe injury. Unfortunately, Bacary Sagna remains a large doubt with the knee knock he picked up before the trip to Blackpool. Manuel Almunia is back in training, but won't make the bench, so it'll be Szczesny if he passes fit or Jens Lehmann in goal. Aaron Ramsey remains a doubt with a groin injury and Tomas Rosicky is a doubt as well, though with what, I don't know.

Predicted squad: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Fabregas, Nasri, Walcott, van Persie.

Liverpool Squad News

Injured: Gerrard (groin), Johnson (hamstring), Agger (knee), Kelly (hamstring)

Liverpool are without some big names in their squad, but you wouldn't know it based on the result they got last "weekend," thrashing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield on Monday night. Captain Steven Gerrard's season is over; he underwent surgery to repair his injured groin in March and returned to training, but at that point realized the situation had not been resolved.

Liverpool are without three defenders as well, with Daniel Agger suffering a knee tendon injury in their loss to West Bromwich Albion two weeks ago and Glen Johnson nursing a hamstring problem that should see him out until at least next week. Full back Martin Kelly is also recovering from a hamstring injury.

They have, however, been boosted by the continued strong play of January acquisitions Andy Carroll and Luiz Suarez, both of whom are performing a lot better than the man they sold to Chelsea. Throw into the mix the fact that Dirk Kuyt is in form as well and Liverpool are a dangerous team once again. Since Kenny Dalglish took over in January, only Manchester United have picked up more points in league play.

Current Form

Arsenal had gone five matches without a win before last week's 3-1 victory at Blackpool, marking their first win away from the Emirates since mid-January as well. The Gunners are, however, unbeaten in 16 matches at the Emirates, during which they have won 12 and drawn four. They've also drawn their last two home matches 0-0, with Sunderland and Blackburn. Arsenal are also unbeaten in 14 straight league fixtures, but the run of three straight draws that was snapped last week is what has truly dented their title hopes. That being said, Arsenal can close the gap with Manchester United to four points with a win on Sunday.

As mentioned earlier, only Manchester United have picked up more points in league play than Liverpool has since Kenny Dalglish returned to take over the manager's role. In their last 11 league matches, the Reds have lost just twice; both were on the road and both were surprising, to West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion. Unfortunately, it's not West Arsenal, so we won't see if that's the reason for the trend on Sunday. Liverpool has gone from 13th in the table to 6th in the new Dalglish era. Also, note that 7th place will not be good enough for European football next year, as Birmingham City snatched a Europa League spot as they snatched a trophy from Arsenal.

Match Facts

Everyone, shush! A short Russian has something to say.
Photo: Telegraph.
The reverse fixture was the opening match of the year and the match at Anfield was 0-0 at halftime, with Liverpool reduced to ten men after Joe Cole's lunging attempt to block a clearance nearly broke the leg of Laurent Koscielny. Still, it was Liverpool who struck first, with David N'Gog beating Manuel Almunia near post. Arsenal salvaged a point thanks to Pepe Reina's blunder just before extra time. Koscielny then managed to pick up two quick yellow cards in stoppage time to earn his first Arsenal red card.

Arsenal beat Liverpool three times last year. In this fixture, it was a header from Abou Diaby in the 72nd minute that gave Arsenal the 1-0 win. A Glen Johnson own goal and a beautiful strike from Andrei Arshavin gave Arsenal a 2-1 win at Anfield last December and Arsenal had also beaten Liverpool in the Carling Cup 2-1 last October.

Liverpool have not beaten Arsenal in league play in seven tries, though that streak includes five draws. Liverpool's last win at Arsenal in league play came on February 13, 2000. There have been more hat tricks in this fixture than any other in the Premier League, which includes Arshavin's four goal performance at Anfield in 2009.

The Referee

The referee is West Midlands-based Andre Marriner, who I personally think sounds like some sort of soap opera character's name. In a bout of uncreativity, he'd probably be a sea captain, too. This will be Marriner's third Arsenal match this season; both prior matches were clean sheets kept by Wojciech Szczesny away from home. They were the 4-0 win over Newcastle in the Carling Cup in October and the 3-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park in January.

For Liverpool, Marriner took charge of their dreadful 3-1 loss at Ewood Park to Blackburn Rovers in early January, but by contrast, also took charge of their 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge over Chelsea in February.

Around the League

Arsenal makes up their game in hand over Manchester United this week, albeit under unfortunate circumstances. United will play Manchester City in the FA Cup Semi-Finals at Wembley on Saturday. The other FA Cup Semi-Final will see Bolton Wanderers take on Stoke City, in a match-up I'm sure everybody saw coming. With these four sides playing outside of the league, that means four other teams must be off this weekend. They are Tottenham, Newcastle, Wolves, and Fulham.

That means there are only five other league matches being played this weekend, and they're all on Saturday and they're all at the same time (10 a.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. in England.) Birmingham will host Sunderland, Blackpool hosts Wigan, Everton hosts Blackburn, Chelsea visits West Brom, and Aston Villa heads to East London to play West Ham.

These are the reverse fixtures of the season's opening weekend.

Gooners, it's competition time!

The Modern Gooner is running a competition sponsored by Classic Football Shirts, purveyors of excellent retro, vintage football shirts from throughout history for nearly as many teams as there are out there (and some that don’t even exist anymore, like Wimbledon). There are of course lots of sweet Arsenal tops if you look around the site.

All you have to do is provide the correct answer to the following question:

In the 1998-1999 season, Arsenal played in the Champions League for the first time. What was significant about their home matches?

Email your response to

The name of the winner will be drawn at random on Friday, the 22nd of April, and posted on the site, and that lucky Gooner will receive a £100 ($163) credit to Classic Football Shirts, which in this market is equivalent to something like $4000, so get your entries in (limit one per person). And of course, whether you win or not check out their site, their gear is really first-rate. Good luck, and may Dennis be with you.


If you don't already, you can click here to subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog. You can also click here to follow us on Twitter, and click here to follow us on Facebook. This way you'll always be alerted when a new post is up.

London N5 Calling...So Long Danny...

As every fan will be well aware of by now, Wednesday brought the sad news that Danny Fiszman had lost his long term battle against throat cancer. He was 66 years old. Having watched my own grandfather change immeasurably whilst battling the same illness 3 years ago, I’m sure I would not be alone in hoping Danny passed away in as little pain as possible.

Courtesy of

There have been many glowing recollections of Danny from senior figures at the club and journalists across the world press. All speak of a man who was dedicated to his family, his friends and his football club...our football club that we shared a common affection for (even when they can’t beat Blackburn at home). Danny worked tirelessly to ensure his cub was in good hands until the end, with Sunday’s news of Stan’s takeover making absolute sense now. Danny knew what was coming, and he didn’t want anything to happen to his club...our club.

The club renaming both bridges in recognition of his work, along with the work of Ken Friar, on Thursday will no doubt be one of many fitting tributes to come for a man many have described as a gentleman. Many will be surprised to hear that Danny was one of us, a fan that grew up watching the club from the stands. He stood on the old clock end back at Highbury as a kid, made a success of his diamond business in adult life and bought into the club he loved in the early 1990s. He later sold his business to focus solely on Arsenal. From that point on he was able to help transform the club so much. Just look at the ground we play in now, that many have rightly pointed out is his legacy.

That is how I will remember him too, as a fan who wanted the best for his club and his fellow supporters. I remember being horrified at the thought of playing at Kings Cross / Wembley. As news emerged that a site had been found closer to Highbury, my familiarity grew with who Danny was. The TV / news paper interviews came rapidly and he was the face of the mammoth project that has been realised as our new home.

I remember the night when Islington council granted planning permission to build the stadium. Outside whatever building held the hearing Danny conducted a TV interview with such massive pride and elation on his face, it was clear to see this was not just another body in a suit looking forward to swelled match day revenues. This was a fan who had just achieved something magical for his club, for our club. Before every home game I would stare through the wire fence as our new stadium rose. Updates would come from Danny via the media and he, like us, shared in the excitement.

I remember him at Highbury on the last game day, waving from the director’s box with one of those I WAS THERE t-shirts on, and wearing it with pride.

Courtesy of

I remember him flying all of our French players on international duty back from Slovenia on his private jet so they could be back in London ASAP for the next game.
You can see it now:

-Danny “Thierry, hurry up, Arsene will kill me if you’re not home soon”
-Thierry “Sorry..I just needed to pick something up in duty free. Let’s va va voom”
-Bobby Pires shakes head....

From what I’ve been able to find on the web too Danny paid the transfer fee of £7.5 million for some Dutch guy called Dennis Bergkamp as well in 1996. I guess in hindsight you could say thanks to him for that too.

We’ve lost one of us this week, but hopefully we’ve gained the next visionary in Stan K. Danny was part of the group that pulled this club to the top table of world football in the 20th century. Hopefully the new team that Ivan Gazidis and Stan will build will help us take that next step again in the 21st century to the head of that table.

I’ll be at the Liverpool game on Sunday, ready to show my appreciation. Those of us going have talked about leaving scarves at the plaque erected by the bridge that now bears Danny’s name. We all want to pay our respects and I hope a minute’s applause will be held in celebration of Danny and the life he led. I expect a chorus of singing to break out in the stadium...

One Danny Fiszman... There’s only one Danny Fiszman...

Keep the faith Gooners, Arsene knows.

Is Stan the Man?

So. We're American. Another foreign-owned club in the Premiership. It is most definitely the end of an era as far as heritage goes, which is a shame by any stretch of the imagination. But, to be perfectly honest, if we want to compete with the biggest clubs, and we're talking about the Man Utds and the Barcas, we're going to need somebody with some serious financial clout to help us out.

Our New Hero (in the shape of a seventies pornstar)

With that being said, I think "Mr Kroenke" is the right guy for the job based on his past successes with American franchises and his silent role in the running of these teams. He's a nice guy who just happens to have crap loads of cash (his missus is even MORE loaded, being a Wal-Mart heiress) and sees a significant investment opportunity that can't be ignored. He doesn't see Arsenal as a sandbox to throw billions into like Abramobitch or Sheikh Manshitty Zaboul or whatever his name is. I don't think we'll see a huge difference in the feel and shape of the club, at least compared to the aforementioned Chelsea and City which have really been transformed at the hands of their respective owners.

I'm sure the new guy will give us a little bit more in the way of transfer funds and wages, but don't expect Arsene to go out and buy Messi, Ronaldo and Torres (OK the last one was a joke, NOBODY would buy him). That's not the way it will work I'm afraid, it's not the Wenger way.

Instead, I see it as added financial comfort for the club as a whole and probably more ways to market the club in other geographies, particularly here in America where (as most Modern Gooners know) representation of the club is really starting to kick off. More representation means more supporters, which means more merchandise sales which means more self-sustainable money to pay for Alex Songs' new designer haircuts and a new car for Cesc.

I also think this change will give us more hope of keeping promising/top players - now that Kroenke is in charge he might just be able to keep Fabregas from going back to Barcelona.

I'm Arsenal through and through. I want trophies but I also fell in love with the club for its heritage and its philosophy, I wouldn't want to trade that for anything. If I was persuaded that easily I'd go and support whatever team was 1st in the league. We still play the most attractive football in the Premiership and that in it's own right is priceless, at least to me. Having said that, I am getting impatient with our lack of silverware and I'd be curious to know whether structural changes are going to put added pressure (maybe much-needed?) on Wenger.

One thing that simply has to be done though, is the rehiring of David Dein. Why, may all you uneducated Goonerites ask? Here's why - Bergkamp, Wright, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Henry, Pires, Campbell, Gilberto, Toure, Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, Clichy and (save the best til last) Davor Sukur. Dein was responsible for signing all of them. You'll notice that the majority of those mentioned above were part of The Invincibles. This man had a big part to play in a may-never-ever-ever-be-broken 49-game unbeaten record, and on that note alone it would be foolish not to get him back on the board. I just hope he wants to come back.

David Dein - Hopefully our first signing of the Kroenke saga

We're now in a new era, and it should give doubting fans (of which I assume there are many) excitement and confidence at the tail-end of what has been yet another bitterly disappointing season (though the fat lady aint singin' yet!). I still firmly believe, Kroenke or not, that we have a lot to look forward to in the seasons to come. Our new billionaire will no doubt aid in future-proofing those beliefs.

And now for the weekend!


Blackpool FC 1-3 Arsenal: Three Certain Points in Uncertain Times

Bloody's all happening now, isn't it?

Before we get to off-field events (I imagine we'll have something in mid-week or so once we have a little more information to go on), I don't want to overlook a game in which three crucial points were obtained. I am on record on multiple occasions as saying that I don't think we have much of a chance of catching Manchester United, and I stand by that. However, should United falter at any point over the next few weeks, then a win here was the minimum requirement for such a blip in form to have any relevance for us. Blackpool gave the league leaders all they could handle last time they played, so this wasn't ever going to be the same kind of walkover that the reverse fixture was early on in the season.

The big news was in between the sticks, as Manuel Almunia fell "ill", paving the way for the unlikeliest of returns. Yes, that was Jens Lehmann back in the Arsenal goal, with detours in Stuttgart and in retirement. Somehow, I get the sense that this illness is somehow related to the "shoulder injury" that led to Lukasz Fabianski donning the gloves earlier in the campaign. His influence was immediately felt, with mostly positive results. For one thing, the defense of Gael Clichy, Sebastien Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny and Emmanuel Eboue (in for the injured Bacary Sagna) on the whole performed better than they have in the past. There were still some shaky moments (and the Blackpool goal was absolutely farcical), but there is no question in my mind that the crazy German screaming instructions at them was a contributor to that improvement.

Oddly, the match didn't follow the usual script in the first 10 minutes. As the hardcores who trekked to the Blind Pig at 8:30 on a Sunday morning ordered their first pints through our bleary hungover eyes, Blackpool seized momentum with the immediacy of a club that is two things: Perilously close to the relegation zone, and absolutely committed to a philosophy of swashbuckling, cavalier attack. Arsenal could barely get hold of the ball, and the men in tangerine created several half-chances to put the shaky Gunner defense on the back foot.

Still, it was Arsenal who almost hit first off the counter. For once, it wasn't us who had the dodgiest keeper on the pitch. Richard Kingson is an international only because Africa as a continent is not one that is known for a production line of goalkeepers (go ahead - name one good one other than Egypt's Essam El-Hardary...and he's 38 and almost retired). The Ghanaian came haring off his line to collect a long ball over the top, and made a total hash of it. The ball came to the resurgent Andrei Arshavin with the goal at his mercy, but his finish was every bit as awful as Kingson's goalkeeping.

Up the other end, the old Lehmann was in full effect as he angrily reacted to Luke Varney crashing into him as he caught a high ball. I have missed the Jens Lehmann Angry Wagging Finger more than you can possibly imagine, especially when the alternative is the Manuel Almunia Droopy Dog Face of Despair and Self-Loathing.

After the initial period of possession from their opponents, Arsenal got more into the game and even adapted tactics a bit to take advantage of Blackpool's woeful back line. Not only are they disorganized and playing in front of a manic keeper, but they are also especially lead-footed. Arsenal exploited that with simple long balls (not exactly a typical staple of ours, but effective here) which caused no shortage of havoc in the penalty area. Robin van Persie had a half-chance from one, with Kingson again absolutely nowhere.

How easily it could have been 1-0 to the home side, though. Koscielny, who has perhaps conceded the most number of unfair penalty kicks in any Premier League season, finally got the rub of the green on this occasion. Gary Taylor-Fletcher was in the area and definitely fouled by the Frenchman, but referee Lee Mason waved play on. Remember that one if we by some trick of fortune win the title.

If that had raised Blackpool manager Ian Holloway's ire, imagine how angry he was when Arsenal were up 2-0 inside of seven minutes after the penalty shout. For the first goal, the wonderful Abou Diaby (when was the last time one could say that?) started and finished the move. He won the ball in midfield, and laid it off to Cesc Fabregas. The captain picked out van Persie with a long ball, leaving the Blackpool defense for dead. He probably could have taken the shot himself, but he saw Diaby making the run to the back post, and found him for the easy tap-in. I don't mind saying what a blessed relief that goal was, too.

Photo: The Guardian

A few minutes later, the Gunners doubled the lead. There are several aspects of life in the Premier League that can be difficult for newly-promoted sides, and one them is unquestionably the gut-punch feeling that comes with dominating a favored team and going down 1-0 against the run of play. Teams like this tend to be vulnerable just after they've conceded (and incidentally right after they've scored), and sure enough they paid for it here. This time, Super Jack Wilshere played creator, threading a fine pass through the Blackpool rearguard to the onrushing Eboue. Our fullbacks are not noted goal machines, but you would be forgiven for believing otherwise as the Ivorian cut inside and scorched one past Kingson (who by the way might have had a shot at it if he hadn't been caught guessing the wrong way) and into the corner for a 2-0 lead.

I don't do ratings for opponents as long-time readers know, but their keeper would have been in the 3-4 range on the day if I did.

Photo: The Guardian

Much of the starch went out of the Tangerines after the goals, and the possession stats settled into the normal 60-40 rhythm that Arsenal normally enjoys against lower-end clubs. Still, I hate to say it, but this one should have been killed off before the interval. van Persie fired a tame shot right at Kingson after another long pass over the top, and another long ball resulted in Samir Nasri hitting the post. A third promising one went astray when RVP got the ball tangled up after rounding Kingson, and a fourth was in the net before the Dutchman was called offside.

The win is nice and I don't mean to be That Guy who finds something to complain about on a happy occasion, but Blackpool were asking to be torn to pieces and once again, we didn't do it.

The home side almost pinged one back right before halftime, which would have made things entirely too interesting. They were thwarted only by a combination of Lehmann and a little luck. Taylor-Fletcher was again in the center of things, as it was his pass that found its way to Varney. The former Norwich man's shot was deflected by DJ Campbell, and then again off of Squillaci. Lehmann had already begun his dive and was going the wrong way, but managed to keep the ball off the line with his trailing leg. That was a fantastic save and frankly one that I could never see Almunia making.

The break came at the perfect time for Blackpool, as they were able to stop the bleeding somewhat. Arsenal seemed to take their foot off the pedal a bit, and were duly warned when Varney missed an absolute sitter. The warning went unheeded though, and a minute or so later the home side were back within one. In fact, on another day it could have been an absolute disaster for Arsenal.

Jason Puncheon (oddly, on loan from Southampton) rampaged down the center with no obvious resistance. His through-ball eviscerated the Arsenal central defense, and Campbell did his part by rounding Lehmann. For all of his good play on the day, Mad Jens was slow coming off his line and clipped Campbell, sending him down. It was shades of 2006 all over again, as it very easily could have been a penalty kick and a red card. Instead, the ball came out to Taylor-Fletcher, who rolled the ball into the vacated net. While it was unfortunate to give away a goal so cheaply, what any Gunner would give for the abominable Terje Hauge to have shown the same level of discretion and common sense as a guy in Mason who is arguably in the lower half of Premiership referees.

Photo: The Guardian

It didn't end there, though. Koscielny again escaped conceding a penalty when one probably should have been called, and George Southern missed a wide-open header. I know I said that Lehmann had probably helped improve the Arsenal defense in this game...and what an indictment it is on them that I stand by that even with a promoted team having all these chances.

Blackpool couldn't find the equalizer though, and eventually their resistance faded. Arshavin came off for Theo Walcott, which helped keep them honest with a counter-attacking threat. In fact, he played a part in the goal that killed the Tangerines off, but not before Squillaci had to make a fantastic saving tackle to prevent Campbell from having a free look at goal. Eboue won the ball off the restart and found Fabregas, who in turn got it out to Walcott. He turned on the afterburners and left the Easter Island statues in the Blackpool defense in the dust, and dished it to van Persie on the back post for a tap-in much like the first goal of the afternoon.

Game, set and match...right?

Almost, although typically shoddy defending from the rapidly-decaying Clichy gifted Blackpool with a chance to immediately hit back. Once again, Lehmann was there to mop up, saving again with his legs.

That done, it was game set and match this time.

So then, a win that could potentially be big, or could potentially mean absolutely nothing. In reality, the sum total of the day's work is that the window is still open a tiny, tiny crack. If we go ahead and beat Liverpool, perhaps it will give our friends oop norf something to think about.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Lehmann 6, Clichy 5, Squillaci 7, Koscielny 5, Eboue 7, Nasri 7 (Gibbs N/A), Diaby 8 (MOTM), Fabregas 8 (Ramsey N/A), Wilshere 7, Arshavin 6 (Walcott 7), van Persie 7

Preview by Numbers: Blackpool v. Arsenal

Blackpool did not have an enjoyable trip to the Emirates in August.
Photo: Daily Mail.

Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
Sunday, April 10
8:30 a.m. EDT, 1:30 p.m. BST
  • Match Officials:
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Andy Halliday and Mick McDonough
    • 4th Official: Mark Halsey
  • This Match, Last Time: Blackpool 0 - 1 Arsenal (November 7, 1970)
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 6 - 0 Blackpool
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 43 Arsenal wins, 15 Blackpool wins, 24 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-D-D-D
  • Blackpool's League Form: D-W-L-L-D-L
Arsenal Squad News

Injured: Djourou (shoulder), Szczesny (finger), Fabianski (shoulder), Vermaelen (Achilles)
Doubtful: Walcott (ankle), Song (knee), Denilson (toe), Ramsey (groin)

Cesc Fabregas was in a minor car accident! But, he's fine. The bad news this week is not all that surprising; we all saw Alex Song re-injure his knee against Blackburn last week. The fact that Arsenal had already used all three substitutes meant that Song had to limp around the pitch for the rest of the match. So, it's not a surprise that Song is highly doubtful to make the trip to Blackpool. Also a doubt is Theo Walcott, who suffered a relapse of the ankle injury he first suffered against Stoke.

So, how will the line-up look? Not all that different; the back will have to remain the same again: Manuel Almunia in goal and a back four of Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Laurent Koscielny, and Sebastian Squillaci. Song's injury will more than likely mark the return of Abou Diaby alongside Jack Wilshere. Cesc Fabregas will start in the middle, I would hope. Samir Nasri will start on one wing and with Walcott out, Andrei Arshavin should start on the other, with Robin van Persie up top.

Blackpool Squad News

Injured: Basham (broken leg), Clarke (knee)
Doubtful: Gilks (knee)

Blackpool has three injuries to deal with; midfielder Chris Basham is out for the year with a broken leg, Billy Clarke has a knee injury (having suffered an ACL rupture in the summer) and was not included on the 25-man squad as of January so is ineligible, even if he is close to returning, and Matthew Gilks, the goalkeeper, has just returned to action following an injury to his knee-cap in December.

Gilks was in net when Arsenal beat Blackpool 6-0 at the Emirates in August; he played his first reserve match this week, but Richard Kingson of Ghana should continue in net for the Tangerines. D. J. Campbell returns to the side from suspension.

Current Form

Across all competitions, Arsenal are winless in five matches, dating back to the 5-0 win over Leyton Orient. So, yeah, it's been a while since Arsenal have tasted a solid victory. In addition, Arsenal are winless away from Emirates Stadium over five straight matches at well. They have not won away from home since knocking Leeds out of the FA Cup in January. In the league, though, they are still unbeaten in 13 straight matches, dating back to the loss at Old Trafford in December.

Since beating Liverpool at home in January, Blackpool have only won once in 11 league matches. You'll be happy to know that win came against Tottenham Hotspur. Blackpool lost five straight after beating Liverpool. At the time of that win, the Tangerines were 9th in the Premier League table. They now sit in 17th, just a point ahead of relegation. This match against Arsenal marks the first of four straight home fixtures for the Seasiders.

Match Facts

A red card to Ian Evatt for a last man foul meant Blackpool had to deal with Arsenal with only ten men for an hour when the sides met at the Emirates in August. The resulting penalty goal from Andrei Arshavin gave the Gunners a 2-0 lead at that point; thanks to a Theo Walcott hat trick, the only goal Abou Diaby has scored all season, and the first Arsenal goal for Marouane Chamakh, Arsenal won 6-0 that day.

Blackpool's most recent season in the top flight before this year was Arsenal's Double winning season of 1970/71; that's also the last time Arsenal played at Bloomfield Road (all cup ties in between were in London.) Arsenal won both fixtures with Blackpool that year 1-0. Blackpool's last win over Arsenal came in the FA Cup in January of 1970: a 3-2 Gunners' loss at Bloomfield Road. The last time Blackpool beat Arsenal in the league was in 1965, a 5-3 win for the Tangerines.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason, best known to Arsenal fans for totally making a mess of their 2-1 win over Everton in February, in which Louis Saha was eight miles offside when scoring the opening goal, or something. He has, more recently for the Gunners, also taken charge of the 5-0 FA Cup replay win over Leyton Orient. Mason would have worked Arsenal's home match against Stoke in December, but he called that off due to snow. For Blackpool, Mason has taken charge of their 2-0 win at Newcastle and 2-1 loss to Sunderland.

Around the League

Arsenal's title hopes are fading after losing ground to Manchester United last weekend and Arsene Wenger is less than thrilled that the fixture list makers have the Gunners playing on Sundays for the rest of the season, playing after United has played almost half of the time (frankly, I don't see the problem with knowing what results you need, which are pretty much all wins now, anyway.)

Manchester United plays in one of the six matches scheduled at the normal start time of 10:00 a.m. Eastern / 3:00 p.m. in England as they play host to Fulham. Chelsea plays at the same time as they host Wigan Athletic. Blackburn Rovers host Birmingham City while Bolton Wanderers host West Ham United, West Brom travels to Sunderland, and Stoke travels to Tottenham. Wolves host Everton in Saturday's early match.

On Sunday, after Arsenal and Blackpool, Aston Villa hosts Newcastle United while Monday's match of the week sees Manchester City travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool.


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