Arsenal 1-0 Queens Park Rangers: Opportunity Seized

This was, for me, a clash between what is and what might have been (but thankfully wasn't). When I first started following football back in the early 1990s, I watched the Premier League Review Show for several weeks before picking a team. Today's visitors were, in essence, the losing finalists in that competition. Thankfully, I picked the red pill instead of the blue. I mean, if I ended up having to support Joey Barton at any point in time, I might have given up on this sport entirely.

That said, the early news trickled in before kickoff that Manchester United had contrived, rather like us, to lose in hideous fashion to Blackburn Rovers. They are in a bit of an injury crisis of their own at present, but losing at home to that lot is mind-blowing. Still, three points for us today combined with favorable results elsewhere would see us in the top four to close out 2011. There are points this season where the bottom four looked more likely, so it's quite the remarkable accomplishment.

Many Gooners would likely have reckoned that there would be some rotation in the starting XI given the holiday fixture congestion, but the only surprise was Andrei Arshavin at left wing in place of Gervinho. QPR of course had our old friend Barton in midfield, to go along with Neil Warnock out on the touchline. We remember you from the Sheffield United FA Cup replay debacle, you fucker. If nothing else, I wanted us to sort out this lot today just to give him a nice little sad face for the holidays.

I missed the first 7 or 8 minutes, but once I got in, it looked like QPR had the better of the opening exchanges. Given the rash of upsets going on in the last few rounds of matches, they must have fancied their chances against an Arsenal side forced to cope with a makeshift backline.

Ten minutes into the match, they could have had a shock lead. Adel Taraabt was left with the run of the touchline, and his diagonal ball to Shaun Wright-Phillips was perfectly weighted. The winger was in alone, but Wojciech Szczesny was off his line in a flash to block at his feet. Poor old Per Mertesacker was absolutely torched by Wright-Phillips' pace on that play, and he'd have his troubles with Jay Bothroyd on the day as well. It wasn't the German's best effort, to be sure.

Arsenal weren't entirely on the back foot though, and there was an air of frantic desperation around the QPR defense every time Robin van Persie had the ball. There was one incident in the 16th minute where he must have beaten their left back two or three separate times in the penalty area before working enough space to get a half-cross/half-shot away. Radek Cerny was alert and got his body behind it, though.

Speaking of Cerny, one frustration I had on the day was that while Arsenal did shoot from distance on a few occasions, I don't feel they did enough to take advantage of the fact that the visitors were fielding a 37-year old career backup in goal. Later on in the second half, there was one long-range shot from the excellent Aaron Ramsey (who clearly benefited from his short rest) that Cerny could only awkwardly fist away. If a few more shots had found the frame of the net like that, he probably would have gifted us a second somewhere along the way.

That aside, referee Martin Atkinson must have looked at the recent horror shows by Phil Dowd, Stuart Atwell et al and responded with a hearty "Challenge Accepted!". His first mystifying decision of the day was to not even caution Taraabt (the overrated ponce that he is) when he elbowed Arshavin in the face. To be fair, I don't think it was malicious or that there was intent to injure, but it was reckless and the rules state that you have to be in control of your body. It was a definite yellow and a talking to for me, and Atkinson bottled it. Sadly, it would only get worse from there.

The men in red recovered from that shaky start though to dominate possession, and van Persie was slightly unlucky that his header off of a gorgeous long ball from Ramsey flashed wide of the post. He was on his back foot a bit, and the fact that it was even that close shows what kind of form he's in at present. A few minutes later he again had a chance off of a long ball (this time from Thomas Vermaelen), but he fired over the crossbar. Still, you felt like something was coming from the Dutch hitman, though.

Atkinson struck again before halftime, though I don't remember all of the particulars. Long story short, there was a nailed-on handball in the penalty area from one of the QPR defenders, which somehow was not called by the dolt in black. The standard of refereeing this season defies belief at times. He wasn't nearly done though - Act III was booking Vermaelen for a foul on Laurent Koscielny. I mean, I know they have a hard job and all, but is basic competence too much to ask?

QPR managed to hang on until the interval, but I honestly felt like a goal was inevitable. There was yet another misfortune for our defense early in the second half, however, as Vermaelen limped off to be replaced by Francis Coquelin. Thankfully, the young Frenchman had a good game in relief of the Belgian, but the last thing we needed was yet another injury to our already-decimated defense.

The Gunners responded well though, and by all rights should have opened the scoring in the 56th minute. Arsenal had success in the first half mixing in some long balls to the usual short-passing game, and on this occasion they caught the QPR line pinching up far too high. Theo Walcott had an up-and-down game - he miscontrolled some passes and had a few poor touches, but also worked his bollocks off and did well to force some corner kicks. Here though, he turned on the afterburners and left his marker 6 postal codes away. There was nothing between him and a goal other than the shaky Cerny, but nerves got the better of him and he shanked a weak shot far wide of the post.

Walcott has been far better this season than many of his detractors would have you believe, but he simply must do better in those situations.

Thankfully, a few short ticks of the clock later saw Arsenal get the lead they deserved.

Wright-Phillips was a threat going forward all day, but he started the play by gifting Arshavin with possession thanks to a brain-dead backpass. The little Russian had suffered through a dreadful first half, but was at least working harder than usual...and that effort led to a better performance in the second half. Here, he took the ball, ran at the QPR defense, and released RVP with an inch-perfect slide-rule pass. Left alone with Cerny, RVP showed young Theo how it's done by casually rolling the ball into the far corner. No muss, no fuss, one-nil to the Arsenal.

It honestly should have been two at some point in the second half, as ANOTHER obvious handball went unpunished by the esteemed Mr. Atkinson. The benefit of hindsight allows us to be thankful that all of this occurred in a match where three points were won - but if QPR had equalized at some point it would have been Atkinson that cost us the game.

They did indeed have a few half-chances, but Szczesny did extremely well to palm away a long-range drive from Taraabt. The young keeper also calmly dealt with several crosses and high balls into his area.

Normally the Boss doesn't make substitutions until late in the game - often too late for my liking. Today, however, the two tactical subs were made before the 75th minute had passed. Shortly after the goal, Tomas Rosicky came on for Arshavin to shore us up defensively. Gervinho then got a 15-minute run-out in place of Walcott, and he was another who looked like he had benefited from a rest. He was lively and caused several problems for the QPR backline, and in fact should have scored after great work down low from RVP.

For some reason, there were four minutes of injury time. But, Arsenal calmly saw it out and locked the game down like good teams do. Whatever criticisms I have had (and do have) with this team, they are at least winning these games that they wouldn't have won in seasons past, and they're doing it by not making the same mistakes that they would have made previously. Now, they will take it to the corner flag to kill some time. Szczesny will milk every second with the ball on the deck before picking it up, a veteran move from the 21-year old. It's heartening to see, whatever I may think of our transfer policy or the efforts of a few individual players.

Even better, the news trickled in that Chelsea had lost at home to Aston Villa, and our nearest and dearest conceded a late equalizer to Swansea City. That leaves us in 4th place, two points ahead of Chelsea, three points behind Tottenham (though they do have a game in hand at home to West Bromwich Albion).

Not a bad way to end the year, eh?

To all of you who do us the honor of reading this blog, I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year - and here's to success for Arsenal in 2012!

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Vermaelen 7 (Coquelin 7), Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 6, Djourou 7, Arshavin 7 (Rosicky 7), Song 7, Arteta 7, Ramsey 8, Walcott 7 (Gervinho 7), van Persie 8

Man of the Match: Arteta had a pretty good game in the middle of the park, Koscielny was quietly excellent in the back and Robin of course got the goal. But, for me it's unquestionably Aaron Ramsey for his fantastic range of passing and movement. He was the engine that made us go today.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Queens Park Rangers

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, December 31
10:00 a.m. EST, 3:00 p.m. GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Martin Atkinson
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Steve Child
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 3 - 0 QPR (December 26, 1995)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 20 Arsenal wins, 14 QPR wins, 14 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-L-W-D
  • QPR's League Form: L-D-L-L-L-D
Apparently, this New Year's Eve, we're celebrating a
return to 2004. Actually, that'd be nice. Photo: Guardian.
I'm not going to say much about Tuesday's game, because it still bothers me quite a bit. Yes, the offense had chances. Yes, they controlled possession for most of the match. Yes, Wayne Hennessey was heroic in goal. But I firmly feel that if you want to be playing Champions League football next year, you can't drop two points at home to Wolves. Disappointing, yes, but you have to move on all the same. There are still more points to be won here.

There are reports floating around that Arsene Wenger will sign 2011 Emirates Cup champion (he's won some other things, too) Thierry Henry to a short-term loan, which has caused much division between supporters. Long story short, this is a problem if this is the only move Wenger makes. If it's a deal in addition to bringing in someone else, then it's not bad at all. If it's the only move that's made, then it's not enough. But, I can't fault it in theory. Just wait and see, there's really no use arguing about it now (that won't stop people, I know.)

It's two quiet London derbies in three days for Arsenal, as they host QPR on Saturday, then travel to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Monday. That means there'll be plenty of squad rotation, as I mention in the news section, but I have no idea where that rotation may occur, and have no intention of trying to randomly guess. That's for Wenger to decide. What would be nice is six points out of six, especially after leaving two behind on Tuesday.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sagna (leg), Gibbs (groin), Jenkinson (back), Diaby (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Santos (ankle)

RVP needs a hat trick to break Alan Shearer's Premier
League record for goals in a calendar year. My prediction:
seven goals. Guaranteed. Photo: Daily Mail.

Johan Djourou's return was a pleasant surprise, given the dearth of options on the back line right now, but the fact of the matter is all of the team's fullbacks remain out. Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, and Andre Santos are all still on the sidelines, which still means a back four of all center backs moving forward. Sagna is ahead of schedule and training lightly, but Arsene Wenger has said "end of January" as his goal. It's likely the end of January for Gibbs as well, while Santos is out until March. Jenkinson I'm not so sure about (in terms of weeks,) but he's almost certainly not ready yet. I thought that about Djourou before Tuesday, though...

Since Arsenal plays on Saturday and Monday, there is going to be rotation. The options for the back line include: Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miquel, Francis Coquelin, and yes, even Sebastien Squillaci. That's only seven names, so somebody is going to have to play twice, even at maximum rotation.

In the midfield, Arsenal are still without Jack Wilshere (likely a February return) and Abou Diaby. In terms of Diaby, Wenger called his injury "10 days" on November 28. Lord knows when he'll be back. Theo Walcott missed Tuesday's game with a stomach illness, but according to Arsene Wenger on Wednesday, he is feeling better and should be available again.

I know I normally predict a starting XI in this space, but there are so many spots in the squad where there could be rotation in either this match of Fulham away on Monday that it's probably not worth it to just play such a guessing game.

QPR Squad News

Kieron Dyer's season lasted all of seven minutes.
Photo: Guardian.
Out: Dyer (foot)
Doubts: Ferdinand (hamstring), Hulse (knee), Murphy (calf)

QPR's only long term injury is Kieron Dyer, whose season very well might be over. The midfielder made his debut for the team in the season opening match against Bolton Wanderers, but was stretchered off the pitch after just seven minutes and has not featured since. Dyer was close to returning from his foot injury, but he was re-injured in a reserves match against Tottenham Hotspur, and needed surgery. He is likely to be left off Neil Warnock's 25-man squad once the transfer window closes in January, meaning Dyer is not likely to feature for the Hoops again this season.

John Terry's dear friend Anton Ferdinand is a doubt with a hamstring injury. He returned to light training this time last week, but did not make the trip to Wales to face Swansea the day after Boxing Day, and is slated to return, according to Warnock, for the Norwich match on January 2.

QPR have signed 34-year-old striker Heidar Helguson to a new long-term deal, as of yesterday. He has scored seven goals in 12 league games for the Hoops this year. Meanwhile, captain Joey Barton is now a father, after Cassius Joseph Barton was born on Tuesday night (his girlfriend was in labor while he played against Swansea.) You may recall that Cassius was one of the lead conspirators in the assassination Julius Caesar. Do with that information what you will. The Daily Mail mentions that Cassius, in Latin, means "empty, vain, hollow, poor, or robbed." He's actually most likely named after Cassius Clay, as Barton is a big fan of boxing.

Current Form

Here's a photo of Arsenal reject Armand Traore getting
away with what could have been a penalty against
Swansea on Tuesday. Photo: Daily Mail.
The draw with Wolves means it's just three wins from eight matches across all competitions for Arsenal, which came after a stretch of eight wins from nine, and 11 wins from 13. The Gunners have not won back to back games since defeating Norwich City and Borussia Dortmund over a month ago. That Dortmund match also marked the last time Arsenal won consecutive matches at home. Since then, they've drawn Fulham, lost to City in the Carling Cup, beaten Everton, and drawn Wolves at the Emirates. The good news is that Arsenal have only twice this year dropped points in consecutive matches (across all competitions.) Even the season opening three league matches without a win were split apart my Champions League wins over Udinese. That stat bodes well for Arsenal. Arsenal have six point from six against recently promoted sides (Swansea and Norwich) so far this season. Last year, Arsenal only picked up eight points from 18 against sides that had been in the Championship the prior season.

QPR have four wins in the league this season, but surprisingly, three of those wins have come away from home, at Everton, at Wolves, and at Stoke. The win against Stoke was the last time QPR picked up all three points in a league game; it was November 19. Since then, just two draws and four losses. QPR have played the league's top sides well this season. Well, at home, at least. They've beaten Chelsea 1-0 (benefiting from Chelsea playing the second half on nine men) and should have nicked a point from Manchester City before losing 3-2. They've also had some head scratching results, like losing 4-0 to Bolton opening week, then losing 6-0 to Fulham on October 2. Overall, QPR's 18th in the league in terms of home form and 10th in the league on the road.

Match Facts

Arsenal smashed QPR for six in the FA Cup in 2001, and
all I can think about in this photo is how much I hate it
when Arsenal wears their away kit when the opposition
isn't in red. Photo: Arsenal.
In their last ten league meetings, Arsenal has beaten QPR only once, 3-0 at Highbury, on Boxing Day in 1995. Paul Merson had a second half brace after Ian Wright opened the scoring just before halftime. 1995/96 was QPR's last season in the top flight before this year; the Hoops earned a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road in the reverse fixture, when Dennis Bergkamp canceled out Kevin Gallen's opener. Prior to that, QPR won both meetings in 1994/95; QPR's 3-1 win at Highbury that year is their largest ever at Arsenal. That came after both sides had drawn six consecutive league fixtures, four straight of those were goalless.

The most recent meeting between the two sides, however, was a thumping 6-0 Arsenal win in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 2001. Chris Plummer opened the scoring for Arsenal, which was not good news, considering he played for QPR. That came a minute after Arsenal cleared a header from a giraffe on ice skates Peter Crouch off the line. Sylvain Wiltord added the second before another own goal, this time from Matthew Rose, made it 3-0 for the Gunners. Wiltord added his second to make it 4-0 in the second half, before the scoring was extended by Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp.

QPR have only won two league meetings in North London; the most recent was also on New Year's Eve, in 1994. The other was in February of 1984. Arsenal have won 12 of the 20 league meetings at home.

The Referee

Atkinson has sent off four Arsenal players over the last
two years or so. I took this photo from a Bleacher Report
article that asks "who is Arsenal's dirtiest player?"
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Martin Atkinson, working his second Arsenal match of the season. The first was Arsenal's 2-0 loss at home to Liverpool back in August. He has shown Arsenal three red cards over this season and last, over seven matches. The first was to Laurent Koscielny for two quick succession yellow cards in the season opener at Anfield, the second was to Jack Wilshere for a reckless challenge against Birmingham City in a win at the Emirates last October, and the third was to Emmanuel Frimpong for two yellows this August (the first yellow was ridiculous for "time wasting" when Frimpong thought a throw-in was his, but at the time, I had the sense that the challenge for which he got the second yellow could have been worthy of a red card and the referee was being somewhat lenient since it would result in a sending off anyway.) The year before last, Atkinson showed Arsenal the only red card they received all year, to Thomas Vermaelen, for a last man foul. Arsenal have not won a match with Atkinson in the middle in three tries: that includes the loss to Liverpool, a Carling Cup semi-final first leg loss at Ipswich last January, and a 3-3 draw at White Hart Lane in April.

For QPR, Atkinson has worked three matches this year; all three were at Loftus Road. QPR's first Premier League match in 16 years had Atkinson as the referee; Bolton won 4-0 and QPR had defender Clint Hill sent off late. In early November, QPR lost 3-2 to Manchester City with Atkinson in the middle, a match where the home side truly deserved a point. In early December, Atkinson took charge of QPR's 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.

In 21 matches across all competitions, Atkinson has shown 8 red cards this year, more than another other Select Group referee.

Around the League

Liverpool gets a bit of a reprieve regarding fixture congestion by playing tonight instead of over the weekend. It's Friday Night Football on Sky Sports! The Reds host free-falling Newcastle United at Anfield at 2:45 here in New York. In the USA, it's on Fox Soccer Channel.

Sky/ESPN2 (in the U.K./U.S.) carries the early game, as usual, on Saturday morning, as Manchester United welcomes Blackburn Rovers to Old Trafford. Mike Dean is the referee in that one, in case you want to know who to blame if United gets decisions called in their favor again.

Arsenal v. QPR is one of six matches to kick off at 10:00 a.m. on the East Coast; there's no late game on New Year's Eve afterward. The other five include Chelsea hosting Aston Villa at the Bridge, Bolton welcomes Wolves to the Reebok, Norwich hosts Fulham at Carrow Road (Howard Webb works that one,) Stoke hosts Wigan (enthralling...,) and Phil Dowd has the pleasure of working Tottenham's trip to Swansea.

There are two games on Sunday, as West Brom hosts Everton at the Hawthorns (where Stuart Attwell will attempt to not repeat the shocker he had at the Emirates this week) and Sunderland will try to become the second straight team to nick a point from Manchester City, as the Baggies did on Boxing Day.

Let's Leave the Past in the Past

There is nothing wrong with nostalgia in its proper time and place. Barely a month goes by that I don't take a night to chill out with a cold one and watch great moments on YouTube - Landon Donovan's winner against Algeria, a Dennis Bergkamp (praise be his name) highlight package, the Montreal Canadiens' 1993 Stanley Cup run, and so on.

Great moments and personalities are there to be re-lived. Reliving something from a safe distance of time and reflection is healthy...but attempting to raise it from the dead and expecting it to be as you remembered it is a good way to ruin your old memories as well as frustrate your current and future plans. Necromancy never ends well.

All of this is my characteristically long-winded way of saying "For the love of Dennis, please do NOT re-sign Thierry Henry."

Believe me, I am as frustrated at our non-Dutch striking options as anyone else is. We badly need to ring the doorbell of some random Ligue 1 club, leave Marouane Chamakh in a picnic basket on their doorstep and high-tail it out of there before they know it's us. While not technically a striker, Andrei Arshavin needs a high-speed rail ticket back to St. Petersburg with our thanks for that one magic night at Anfield.

Park-Ju Young? I'm increasingly coming around to the idea that he was signed entirely to flog replica shirts in the lucrative Asian market - a Junichi Inamoto for the new millennium.

So, it is beyond debate that attacking reinforcements are badly needed in the January sales. It's also beyond debate that purchases made in this window are a) ridiculously overpriced, b) a bit shit or c) all of the above. Arsene Wenger has my sympathies for what is undoubtedly a difficult decision, with little in the way of seriously viable options.

You know what, though? That's why he makes the big bucks.

Henry recently received the richly-deserved honor of having a statue bearing his likeness placed outside Ashburton Grove. Other than perhaps Tony Adams or Dennis himself, no other player in Arsenal's storied history deserves it more than he does. From 1999 to 2007, there was no striker more fearsome than he. I don't give a flying one what the brain surgeons at UEFA say, he should have been Player of the Year on numerous occasions.

I mean, that back-heel against Charlton Athletic alone...

But, before we succumb to misty-eyed paeans to the past, let's be realistic here. Thierry Henry is 34 years old. He is coming off a 14-goal, 4-assist season for the New York Red Bulls of MLS. That was good enough to lead the team, and he was only two off of Dwayne De Rosario's Golden Boot-winning tally of 16. When you further factor in that MLS has a shocking degree of parity (thus meaning far fewer weak sisters to hit 2 or 3 against each time), it's a solid figure taken in a vacuum.

The problem is - have you seen an MLS game? I'm glad it exists, it's great for the American national side, but it is unwatchable at times. It's a league where up-and-coming talents dominate on their way to European contracts, and where aging veterans go to have a safe landing on their way down. Defenses are average ranging to shocking, goalkeepers are...old. Really, really, really, really old.

It is a league played at a slower pace, where he does not nearly have as many defensive responsibilities as he would in the English Premier League. It is a league where he can take the PATH train to work and is largely left alone (outside special cases like when we NYC Arsenal Supporters crashed the party, that is). It is a league that seemingly has a new expansion team every other season (Montreal's coming next season, if memory serves).

Really? This fills you with confidence? This is the guy you want to rescue our season if Robin gets hurt?

Again, I adore Thierry Henry as a player and am thankful for the multitude of accomplishments he produced in an Arsenal shirt. His status as a legend of the sport is unassailable.

But, we are now on the precipice of 2012. There has to be better options out there, right?

Not according to Per Mertesacker, apparently. I'm hoping that this is just a fluff piece or a misdirection ploy from Le Boss, but there are two other things in here that immediately set my internal rage meter to "Jules Winfield".

Wenger suggested last week that short-term deals in January would suit him best, as he not only had a "big squad"

OK, seriously, you can stick that "big squad" shit directly up your ass.

When your second-best option is a guy who is already dreaming of playing against St. Etienne and Montpellier every week again (oh, and who is going to the African Cup of Nations anyway), and your third-best option is someone who the same article mentions has been told to "step up" and couldn't be found in Premier League play by Sherlock Holmes if you spotted him two clues and a six-week headstart, you categorically do not have a big squad.

J'ai peut-être né pendant la journée, M. Wenger, mais ce n'était pas hier.

but there was the need "to see how we can balance our books as well."

While you're at it, this can join the big squad excuse where the sun don't shine.

We have made a profit in every transfer window since Eddie Hapgood's day, so unless Arsenal Football Club is secretly a money-laundering front sending cash to the Mafia, the Illuminati or space aliens, I am so far beyond wanting to hear this, it's left Earth orbit and is somewhere on the way to Alpha Centauri.

Honestly, the combination of this and the Wayne Bridge rumor has left me wondering whether anger or resignation is the proper response. My question to the powers that be with Arsenal is simply this - are we a big club or not?

If the answer is no, then fine! I'd honestly be OK with that...the game changes, power shifts and then shifts again, and every so often every club finds itself in the wilderness without a compass for a while. If we have to wait out this rash of oligarchs using the Premier League as their latest plaything, that's reality and we have to accept it. Just be honest, and manage our expectations appropriately. Are we still supposed to be challenging the Manchester clubs for supremacy? Great! But, please oh please tell me then why we are simultaneously dumpster-diving in Manchester City's dustbin and the attic of our own history?

You can't have it both ways.

I think we would all agree that ideally, we'd bring someone with an actual name tag in from one of the other big leagues. Lukas Podolski would be the absolute least among that number for my money (tell me he wouldn't mope like Dimitar Berbatov at the end of his Scum days the second anything went wrong), but at least it would be a positive step. I just don't see this manager making the leap and spending the money, though.

In my heart, I don't think it's a matter of available capital. After Sylvain Wiltord, Francis Jeffers and Andrei Arshavin, I think he's simply paralyzed by the fear of failing in the high-stakes transfer market again.

Look, if we have to go trawling in every dollar store and flea market for a bargain, I would much rather see us get a young kid from the lower leagues and see if he pans out rather than lower ourselves to go to our rivals with hat in hand begging for whatever bits of flotsam they can deign to grant to us. I'll even stick my neck out and give a name - Jordan Rhodes, from Huddersfield Town. Yes, I am painfully aware that this is a kid from the third tier who, at best, would have a harsh adjustment period to the Premier League. That said, he has 18 league goals already on the season, is only 21, and there's already some young guy on our roster that is absolutely killing it after having played at that level.

Would it in all probability fail? Sure! But, I'd much rather roll the dice by spending 8M or 10M on him rather than, for example, whatever we'd have to pony up for this Johnny Big Britches. Seriously, need your agent to slow his roll before you end up getting found out in your own league. The funny thing is that Newcastle would be perfect for this guy - they'd doubtless overpay him by a factor if 10 while giving him a guaranteed platform for a bigger-money move if he somehow was able to hack it in the Premier League. But, given our recent track record of mining Ligue 1...well...I think this well's dry, Arsene.

This season has felt like it's been one crossroads moment after another, and yet this transfer window may be the most crucial of the lot. Our identity, our place in the hierarchy of the league, our cachet with future transfer targets...all of it is at stake. If the manager's big idea is a left back whose last encounter with us saw him responsible for three goals conceded and a striker who with all due respect is a museum piece at this point, then I fear we may find ourselves bringing a knife to a gunfight as the season approaches the serious bit.

Over to you, Arsene.

Arsenal 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers: The Big Clubs are All in the Giving Mood This Holiday

I was never destined to watch this match today.

Perhaps there are those out there that can watch a whole 90 minutes of a game that they already know the result to. I, on the other hand, categorically cannot. For me, the greatest single aspect of this sport is its equal capacity for drama and for surprise. I do not consume football like a museum piece - I need that adrenaline coursing in the background.

So, the break room TV at work happens to be on ESPN as I'm getting a nice cup of tea, and wouldn't you just know it, the ticker at the bottom shows that it's 1-1. I recognize the pall of inevitability when I see it, so I wasn't shocked that the one time I logged onto Facebook, a friend had posted a status about the same scoreline being the final.

Oh, well.

Thankfully, there is the fantastic and irreplaceable 101 Great Goals. As you might imagine, this report will essentially be my running thoughts as I watch the long-form highlights of the match. Also, I wouldn't normally do ratings, but a reader has helpfully answered my call for submissions on that front, so we'll have guest scores this time around.

Anyway, the starting lineup seems like it was decent enough on paper - Johan Djourou made an early return from injury to slot into the doomed right-back role, while Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky came into the side in place of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Walcott wasn't so much as on the bench, though I'm not sure if it was due to injury or ill-advised rotation.

The rest of the starting XI consisted of the usual suspects. In a vacuum, this is a side that should have beaten Wolverhampton at home.

That outcome must have seemed likely as early as the eighth minute, when the Gunners took the lead after a fine passage of team play. Rosicky started the move with a flying run down the right, and he cut it into the middle of Benayoun. The Israeli picked out an inch-perfect through-ball to the onrushing Gervinho, who beat what was frankly an awful attempt at an offside trap. Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey came out, then hesitated. Gervinho easily went around him and slid the ball into the empty net.

Sadly, that would be the only questionable decision Hennessey made on the afternoon.

Half an hour later, the visitors would be level. A long, looping ball into the area was poorly dealt with by Mertesacker, who stood off of it for some reason. Nenad Milijas took the opportunity to play the ball off of him for a corner. The corner was cleared fairly easily, but then a Rube Goldberg series of bounces led to the ball nestling in the far corner of Wojceich Szczesny's net. The clearance came to Stephen Hunt at the edge of the penalty area, and Rosicky risibly and shamefully turned away from him instead of challenging for it. Hunt fired it into the area, but the shot was charged down by three onrushing Arsenal midfielders.

Ninety times out of a hundred, the ball ricochets forward and out of play, and Rosicky would be out of jail for his cowardice. This time, the ball looped backwards into the six-yard box, and the Arsenal center-halves were caught ball-watching. It looked like they may have been trying to play Steven Fletcher offside, but Djourou was about 3-4 yards behind them, and he was level with them anyway. It was an unwelcome return to 2010 Arsenal Defending, and with Mertesacker for some reason drifting yards away, Fletcher was left with a disgracefully uncontested finish.

The Gunners have given up some bad goals this season, but this may have been the stupidest and one of the most preventable. Rosicky and Mertesacker in particular should be ashamed of themselves.

I suppose it could have been worse, and the team could have collapsed from there. Instead, the Gunners apparently bossed the lion's share of the possession and fired a barrage of shots at Hennessey's goal. The highlights don't show any of it though, as they skip right ahead to Milijas getting sent off for a tackle from behind.

In real time, it looked like a hideous challenge...the sort that needs to be stamped out of the game. Having viewed it on the replay though, it looked like it was towards the more vicious end of what should be a yellow card. To me, a booking and a stern word of caution regarding future conduct is all that challenge merited...but honestly, is anyone stunned that the man I've dubbed "Phil Dowd Jr." got it wrong?

Speaking of which, an alternative set of highlights shows Laurent Koscielny trying to play a cross into the penalty area in the 58th minute. The Wolves defender has his arm perpendicular to his body (picture the way the Mexican national side stands at attention for their anthem), and the ball hits him. That is, according to the letter of the law, as stonewall a penalty as you'll ever want to see. I'm sure you're as stunned as I though that Stuart Atwell merely called for the corner kick.

Ten minutes later, Hennessey made a sharp save on Robin van Persie's free kick attempt, doing spectacularly well to tip it over the bar. A minute later, Rosicky's fine cross was met with a thumping header by Mertesacker. The Welsh stopper's positioning and reflexes were impeccable though, and he saved brilliantly with his foot. With eight minutes to go, RVP tested that man again, but this time the save was a tad more routine. There was one more effort from the Dutchman at Hennessey's near post, but he was able to corral it in despite diving the wrong way (an element of luck there, to be sure).

Before I get to the bright side, I find that I once again have to express complete bafflement at Arsene Wenger's substitutions. Benayoun came off in the 63rd, which makes sense given his lack of minutes so far this season. But, that precious half-hour was given to Andrei "Gaping Chest Wound in the Arsenal Attack" Arshavin. WHY? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY? He has done the square root of fuck all for months now, and this was a game that was crying out for the energy of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ramsey on for Song in the 71st was more adventurous, so credit where it's due. But, the last change was not made until the 85th, with Marouane Chamakh coming on for Djourou. He hasn't been any better than Arshavin to be fair, but at least he'd be another body in the penalty area for their defense to pay attention to, which may have opened some space for someone in form.

The mind, it boggles.

Anyway, as promised, there is a bright side to all of this. Yeah, it's winnable points that have been dropped at home. But, Wolves have been far friskier and far tougher of an out than they have been previously, and, well, this:

8/13/11 - Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland
8/14/11 - Stoke City 0-0 Chelsea
9/10/11 - Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool
9/14/11 - Benfica 1-1 Manchester United
9/15/11 - PAOK Salonika 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
9/18/11 - Fulham 2-2 Manchester City
9/20/11 - Stoke City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
9/21/11 - Chelsea 0-0 Fulham
9/24/11 - Stoke City 1-1 Manchester United
9/27/11 - Manchester United 3-3 FC Basel
10/5/11 - Liverpool 0-0 Swansea City
10/22/11 - Liverpool 1-1 Norwich City
10/23/11 - Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Chelsea
11/1/11 - Racing Club Genk 1-1 Chelsea
11/22/11 - Manchester United 2-2 Benfica
11/26/11 - Manchester United 1-1 Newcastle United
11/30/11 - Crystal Palace 2-1 Manchester United
11/30/11 - Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 PAOK Salonika
12/5/11 - Fulham 1-0 Liverpool
12/7/11 - FC Basel 2-1 Manchester United
12/11/11 - Stoke City 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
12/17/11 - Wigan Athletic 1-1 Chelsea
12/21/11 - Wigan Athletic 0-0 Liverpool
12/26/11 - Chelsea 1-1 Fulham
12/26/11 - Liverpool 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
12/26/11 - West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Manchester City

Two things I especially note here:

1. Look at 12/26/11 was a bloodbath of dropped points for the big sides. It's not just us - the Boxing Day fixture program is rough sailing for everyone.

2. Look at how many dropped points Stoke account for on this list...and remember who comfortably beat them 3-1 (at the Emirates though, in fairness).

So, onwards and upwards, friends. The Champions League places are still very much in our sights.

The Modern Gooner (Guest) Player Ratings:

I had requested on the Facebook page some assistance with this section, having not seen the match. However, since only one of you got it in on time, these ratings are entirely the playground of Amy Williamson this week. Thank you again, Amy!

Szczesny 7, Vermaelen 7, Mertesacker 8, Koscielny 7, Djourou 7 (Chamakh N/A), Song 6 (Ramsey N/A), Arteta 7, Gervinho 9, Benayoun 9 (Arshavin 4), Rosicky 8, van Persie 6

Man of the Match: Yossi Benayoun (Sean's note: It WAS a wonderful pass for the assist...)

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, December 27
10:00 a.m. EDT, 3:00 p.m. GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Stuart Attwell
    • Assistants: Peter Kirkup and Ceri Richards
    • 4th Official: Lee Probert
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 0 Wolves
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 56 Arsenal wins, 28 Wolves wins, 25 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-L-W
  • Wolves' League Form: L-L-W-L-L-D
Yossi Benayoun headed home Arsenal's winner on
Wednesday, the second night of Hanukkah.
Photo: Guardian.
They always say that winning games ugly is the mark of a championship team. Now, let's not get carried away, I'm not saying this team is going to challenge for the title this season; they're probably not. The point is, to challenge for a Champions League spot, Arsenal needs to keep racking up three points against the teams they should be beating. In the end, no matter how you win them, it's still three points. It's important to win ugly sometimes, and that's exactly what happened in Birmingham on Wednesday.

Speaking of teams Arsenal should be picking up three points against, Wolverhampton Wanderers visit the Emirates tomorrow. Wolves sit precariously above the drop zone, one point clear of Wigan. Arsenal plays three times in seven days, with this being the first of them, so one wonders where and when there will be squad rotation. The back four is still in shambles due to injuries, so it does not sound like there's room to rest anybody there. Ultimately, we'll see what Wenger decides to do, but with QPR and Fulham up ahead in quick succession, this is no time to get too comfortable.

Last year during the festive period, Arsenal played three times in six days and walked away with seven points. It should have been nine, but a rotated squad gave away a late equalizer in Wigan (thanks, Squillaci!) Would seven be satisfying this year? With points so precious in the battle for the top four, I wouldn't think so.

Anyway, due to the holiday festivities, this is going to be a bit of a short preview. Apologies.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Djourou (groin), Fabianski (knee), Sagna (leg), Gibbs (groin), Jenkinson (back), Diaby (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Santos (ankle)

There's some good news regarding those who are out, and I suppose, bad news too. The good news is that players like Bacary Sagna and Jack Wilshere are back in light training. The bad news it that Kieran Gibbs has had another set back and will miss another month. Johan Djourou is still about two weeks away, at best.

So, the back four is still a bit of a mess. You can bet that Tom Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, and Per Mertesacker will all start and you can be sure that Mertesacker will be in the middle. The question is, who plays as fullbacks... do you put Koscielny on the right and start Ignasi Miquel on the left, or do you start Vermaelen on the left and start Francis Coquelin again on the right? I'm going to blindly put my money on the former option.

The Guardian's squad sheet article lists the former option as well, but also, interestingly, starts Yossi Benayoun over Aaron Ramsey. Food for thought, as Benayoun deserves a start, and Ramsey was a bit poor at Aston Villa. Benayoun should get a start at some point soon, due to the necessary squad rotation during fixture congestion. Tomas Rosicky will probably get a start soon, too. It's just a question of when and that's a question that only Wenger can answer.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Miquel, Song, Ramsey, Arteta, Gervinho, Walcott, van Persie.

Wolves Squad News

Our or Doubtful: Edwards (groin), Craddock (hamstring), Foley (match fitness)

There's a chance that Welsh international Dave Edwards will be traveling with the side after going through training on Saturday. He's been out for three weeks with a groin strain he picked up against Manchester United. It's my understanding that Joey Craddock and Kevin Foley are both still unavailable with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. Jamie O'Hara has a groin injury, but the Guardian suspects he's available.

Current Form

Arsenal's win at Aston Villa was their third win in their last seven matches across all competitions, though there's only so much you can read into the three losses in that time period, like the valiant display at Eastlands, or the losses by the second string at Olympiacos and in the Carling Cup. Arsenal's form over their last six league fixtures (which includes one loss and a draw) is equivalent to that of Manchester City's and Tottenham Hotspur's. Only Manchester United (who have five wins and a draw over their last six) have better form in the league. Arsenal's win over Everton in their last home game snapped a short two match streak without a win at the Emirates across all competitions (they had drawn Fulham, then lost to City in the Carling Cup.)

Wolves this season have not beaten anybody above 13th place (which was their home win against Fulham.) They have a record of four wins, one loss, and one draw against the seven other teams in the bottom eight with them. Against the top 12, they have two draws and nine losses. Wolves opened the season on the road with a 2-1 win at Blackburn, but since then, have not won away from Molineux in the league. Their only other point away from home came in a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa, also in August.

Match Facts

Wolves have never beaten Arsenal in the Premier League era; they have lost all six meetings thus far. Wolves have not scored a goal at Arsenal in the three matches played at Highbury/Emirates Stadium in the Premier League. Arsenal have come away with 3-0, 1-0, and 2-0 victories. Last year's 2-0 victory came from a Robin van Persie brace, just days before Arsenal's best win of the season, against Barcelona in the Champions League. In last year's reverse fixture at Molineux, the brace came from Marouane Chamakh in another 2-0 win. Wolves' last win at Arsenal came at Highbury in 1979, by a 3-2 scoreline. In the meeting the following season, in 1980, Wolves earned a 1-1 draw. Arsenal have won the last five league meetings at home with Wolves since then. All-time, Wolves have eight wins at Arsenal in 48 league matches.

The Referee

The referee is Warwickshire-based Stuart Attwell, working the fourth Arsenal match of his career and second of this season. In September, Attwell took charge of Arsenal's 1-0 win over Swansea, the first match the Gunners played after that which shall not be named. I don't remember much of the specifics, but Sean, our recap writer, stated that he had a "shocker" and that he's "caught a case of Phil Dowd disease," so I think everybody should panic. Last year, Attwell took charge of Arsenal's 4-1 home win over Bolton (I do remember him being a mess that day, too) and the 2-2 draw at West Brom (I remember Arsenal and Manuel Almunia being a mess that day.)

Attwell has worked only one Wolves match this season, the 3-1 loss at Manchester City. A red card to Vincent Kompany made that match interesting, as Stephen Hunt's penalty brought Wolves within 2-1 with 15 minutes to play, but City closed the match off at the end.

Around the League

Arsenal's movement of this match from Monday to Tuesday leaves seven matches to be played on Boxing Day, with three more scheduled for tomorrow.

The early match sees Chelsea host Fulham at Stamford Bridge, which is going ahead in spite of the industrial action in London. Five games kick-off in the usual 10:00 a.m. Eastern time slot, as Manchester United hosts Wigan at Old Trafford, Liverpool hosts Steve Kean Out Rovers at Anfield, Manchester City travels to the Hawthorns to face West Brom, Bolton hosts Newcastle, and Sunderland hosts Everton. The nightcap is indeed just that; it's at 7:45 p.m. in England, as Stoke hosts Aston Villa at the Britannia.

On Tuesday, after Arsenal v. Wolves at 10, Swansea hosts QPR at noon, and Norwich hosts Spurs at 2:30.

2011 in Retrospect: Just Another Boring Year, Then! (Part 2 - games from this season)

8/1/11 - Sean's Season Preview: 2011-12

  • Some say the jury is out on Wojciech Szezcsny, but for me the case is emphatically closed...In an age where the list of truly world-class goalkeepers probably reads: "Iker Casillas. End text", Szezcsny is in the top 5-6 keepers in the division..which is more than good enough for our purposes.
  • For all my bitching and moaning about the state of the club, there is a serious argument that could be made where a fit TV5 for the whole season plus going with Szezcsny from the beginning would have put us in with a serious shot for the league title.
  • With a fit TV5 as his partner and a bit more consistency, he (Koscielny) could be part of a solid defensive unit that should go a long way towards addressing some of our issues.
  • Let's say we're away to United or Chelsea and we have to play with Jenkinson and, say, Armand Traore. Does that fill you with confidence?
  • I would love to see a signing in the center-mid position, but I doubt it's going to happen. Still, things aren't all negative. We managed to flog the useless Denilson off to Sao Paulo. Do us a favor, Denny, and lose our address.
  • With the status of want-away Nicklas Bendtner still up in the air, this is absolutely going to be the Robin van Persie show. As he goes, we'll go. There was no better Arsenal player in the second half of last season than the Dutchman, which of course was closely aligned to the fact that it was his most consistent campaign on the fitness front. If he can repeat that in this term, there's no reason why he can't have anywhere between 20-25 goals. The hope is that with Gervinho and either a revitalized Arshavin or a more consistent Walcott behind him, he may even get to 30. That's a lot of ifs though.

8/14/11 - Newcastle United 0-0 Arsenal: Positive Aspects to a Dull Match

  • It makes an incalculable difference to a defense when they know that they can rely on their goalkeeper, and it showed today.
  • The talking points continued shortly thereafter, with Alex Song guilty of a sly stamp on the leg of the odious Joey Barton - who has clearly missed his calling. He's the best heel that pro wrestling never had. Still, Song absolutely should have walked for that transgression, and the fact that he didn't was a huge reason that Arsenal walked away with a point today.
  • Gervinho steamed into the penalty area, and went down remarkably easy on a challenge from Chieck Tiote. Fair's was a dive and a risible one at that. Barton came barreling over, grabbed Gervinho by the shirt, lifted him up and then had his hands at the man's face/throat area. For his part, the Ivorian stupidly raised his hands towards Barton's face. The fucking piece of shit went down clutching his noggin like a sniper took him out from the rooftop, and our Incompetent Match Official Du Jour Peter Walton completely bought it. How on earth his linesmen didn't see the whole incident, I'll never know. The end result was red for Gervinho, and only a yellow for the guy that started the fracas in the first place for no reason. The mind boggles. Seriously, I would LOVE to hear the explanation of this from the esteemed Mr. Walton. Perhaps, at 51, this game just may be passing him by.
  • This is a team at a crossroads, and what I don't think Mr. Wenger understands is that the only thing harder than becoming a big club is getting back there once you've lost it. We are in clear and present danger of losing that status, which in turn would make it even more difficult to attract players of any real quality to the club. We don't pay them the sums that other clubs do, so all we really have to offer is pretty football and the chance of winning things. Take away the chance of winning things, and all we're left with is pretty football. Well, Blackpool plays pretty football too, but they aren't signing Juan Manuel Mata anytime soon.

(For the second time, if you are squeamish or have a pre-existing heart condition, you may want to skip down a bit)

8/28/11 - Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal: An Absolute and Utter Disgrace

  • Early on in the match, I wrote in my notes: "This looks like an early-round FA Cup game, right down to our hideous shirts." You know what, though? I cannot think of a single team in the lower divisions who would defend this shambolically, that would have so little pride and determination that they would essentially stop playing and let the champions do whatever they wanted.
  • But, fuck's sake, look at that defense. Carl Jenkinson, with all of 8 games for a third-tier side. Armand Traore, who anyone with a functioning brain stem can pick out as not being a Premier League player. Johan Djourou, who is capable 30% of the time, a liability 60% of the time, and worse than Helen Keller 10% of the time. If you include the holding midfielder, Francis Coquelin, making his first-team debut and largely considered to be not good enough as well. This is who we went to battle with. This is who we asked to march into Old Trafford and take on the champions.
  • For a team with pretensions towards greatness, that perhaps (Chamakh aside) would be the bench for the reserve team. Look again at United - waiting in the wings they had names like Berbatov, Chicharito, Ferdinand, Park and Da Silva - quality players all. Take another long stare at the gulf in quality between the lineups and the benches. I would not pick the team put out today to beat QPR, who are easily the worst team on show in the Premiership so far. I really mean that.
  • But, this was the first time Arsenal have shipped 8 in the league since 1896. Arguably, this is the worst loss in Arsenal's history...any sort of big-club mystique left over from the Henry/Bergkamp days is irrevocably lost.
  • Djourou had one of his 10% games, and Coquelin wasn't providing any help in midfield. So, what you had was the largely blameless Laurent Koscielny and the completely blameless keeper frantically trying to repel attacks with only four flailing, bumbling Keystone Kops for assistance.
  • Right after, Jonny Evans fouled Walcott in the area, and up stepped RVP. It's funny - normally I am somewhat of an optimist about this team, but I looked over at my roommate and said: "He's going to miss." Sure enough, he hit the worst penalty I've seen since the Women's World Cup Final, and De Gea had the easiest of saves.
  • Jenkinson completes his afternoon by getting sent off. This is what happens when you take someone from a kiddie pool and put them in the Mariana Trench.
  • I don't know what we do or where we go from here. I don't know who we buy to improve our situation. I don't know...I just fucking don't know. See you next can't be worse.

9/1/11 - Grading the Transfer Window

  • However, I would emphatically file this transfer window as a whole under "Minimum Acceptable". because at the end of the day we are still light years behind the two Manchester sides and even Chelsea as far as challenging for any significant honors. What happened tonight brought us back from the precipice of a free-fall into the UEFA places or worse (10th place was not out of the question on the back of the drubbing at Old Trafford), but we still have a hell of a fight on our hands just to finish in 4th place again.
  • However, given the despondent state of Arsenal Nation and especially coming off the back of the worst defeat in over A HUNDRED YEARS (yes, I'm harping on deserves to be harped on), a marquee signing...a true feeling of actual reinforcements...would have gone a long way towards revitalizing our faith...I don't think that was ever realistic though, whatever the reason why. Compounding the frustration is that Arsenal FC these days is as open and transparent as the Soviet Politburo circa 1945, so who the hell knows who is responsible for what these days?
  • Santos looks to be a decent shout, with over 20 caps for Brazil and 10 goals last season...The problem is that if he gets hurt, what are we left with?
  • The good news here is that an epic Rube Goldberg machine of events has to happen before young Miquel finds his way to the bench or in a game again, and only slightly less has to happen to see the execrable Squillaci.
  • It's not that I have a problem with us getting Jenkinson, per se. He's an OK prospect and having him in the reserves for a year before sending him out on loan somewhere, to return ready to play in year 3? That makes sense to me. Having him and all 8 games of his third-tier experience playing at Old Trafford because one guy got sick? Institutional lunacy of the worst order. Absolute clown shoes.
  • Anyway, that wasn't to be. We have Arteta now, and I freely admit that there will be games where he just DESTROYS teams. He can still pick out a pass, and if memory serves he'll bomb them in from long range every now and again. Great. But, he's coming up on 30, injury-prone, and has never been one to relish the big occasions or the blood-and-thunder epics that the Premier League throws at you from time to time. He's extremely light-weight, in other words.
  • Look, I'm not saying Yossi is anywhere near as painfully terrible as the Frenchman was, but it comes down to one basic principle for me: If one of your direct competitors is willing to give you one of their current first-team players, the odds are overwhelming that there is a reason why they're letting you have them.
  • Now, we come to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and this is where I want to go Jules Winfield on the nearest person...Riddle me this, Batman...why is it that we're willing to spend TWELVE TO FIFTEEN MILLION EUROS on an 18-year old from the third tier who has accomplished the square root of fuck all, but we let a reserve clause of only perhaps 5 million more slip away for Juan Manuel Mata...who is not only a top-level talent, but we let him get away to bloody Chelski on top of it?
  • Park Chu-Young, on the other hand, is at least a slightly better gamble.
  • Again, this is a position that was crying out for some established, veteran help...and is another position where what we have is essentially a roll of quarters and a bus ticket to Atlantic City (when Robin misses games, that is).

9/12/11 - Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City: Recovery, One Step at a Time

  • Swansea marries Blackpool's attacking intent with a slightly less suicidal defensive strategy, and Arsenal didn't make things difficult for them either. Once again, the build-up play was fine, but the lack of a final killer ball was telling. Primarily, Kieran Gibbs and Emmanuel Frimpong were careless with their passing and continually lost possession.
  • Mertesacker contributed with one excellent interception that I remember, as well as some blocked shots. With Thomas Vermelaen out with a long-term injury, this developing Mert-ielny partnership is one to keep an eye on.
  • He held for a second, and then looked to release his right-back Angel Rangel with a rolled pass. However, Rangel was not expecting it, and it hit the back of his legs...As I said to Brett after the celebrations: "It's about time we got a little good luck, isn't it?"
  • The funny thing is, Vorm is an excellent goalkeeper. He acquitted himself well for FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie, and has been capped by the Netherlands 5 times. Getting him was something of a coup for a club like Swansea...but it just goes to show that even a solid player can make a horrific mistake in any given game.
  • The match wore on, and Attwell booked a few more Gunners for breathing and/or continued cardio-vascular activity. I was honestly stunned that the streak of red cards was finally halted by the end of 90 minutes.

9/14/11 - Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Arsenal: Massive Defensive Performance

  • Despite the somewhat ropey start, the Arsenal backline came into the game after that opening quarter-hour, and were absolutely immense for the rest of the match. Per Mertesacker's size, ability to read the game and first-hand knowledge of these opponents was obviously a big factor. Laurent Koscielny was fantastic yet again in his role of sweeping up ahead of the big German, and made some critical blocks and tackles throughout the match. Sagna helped lock down the right wing, and was once again quietly brilliant.
  • A few minutes later, Theo Walcott made his one contribution to the match by picking out a lovely through-ball to the Dutch master. Weidenfeller came out, but had no answer for van Persie's ferocious shot (chocolate leg, to boot!).
  • But still, the Arsenal held. Really, how old-school was this? On and on they attacked, on and on Arsenal repelled them. If the defense failed, the colossal Szczesny was there to sweep up after them.
  • Just as it looked like the Arsenal would somehow escape with all three points, the home side got an equalizer that they probably deserved...albeit in sickening circumstances...No one on earth was saving that, and honestly, that guy can hit that shot 50 times and 49 of them would go over the bar and into low Earth orbit.

9/19/11 - Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Arsenal: Suicidal Defending Costs Us Again

  • Blackburn could easily have folded given their current dire straits and the multitude of knives out towards their embattled manager Steve Kean. Instead, they redoubled their efforts and fought their way back into the game (I wonder what that's like?).
  • The Spaniard opened his account for the club by absolutely thundering an unstoppable shot just underneath the crossbar. As well as the Blackburn keeper played on the day, he wouldn't have stopped that with a stepladder and two days' notice.
  • Really, it'd be kind of funny if it weren't happening to us. What wasn't funny was Sagna limping off, to be replaced by Johan Djourou. Yes, you read that right...Djourou, who can't even play his own position these days, was coming in to play right back. I don't know about anyone else, but I saw foreboding clouds on the horizon when that particular personnel change was made.
  • Seriously, if Djourou were a dog we'd be readying the shotgun behind the barn after this performance
  • At this stage, Arsenal decided that playing football might be somewhat of a notion. OH, WHAT A CAPITAL IDEA.
  • Now, we sit in 17th place with four measly points (3 less than QPR, 1 less than Norwich and Swansea) and a -8 goal differential, the worst in the division. We go from a ferociously battling performance away to the German champions, to meekly surrendering two leads against one of the worst teams in our domestic league. It's ugly reading, but that's where we are. If I had to guess, I'd say that once again, we turned up to a winnable game assuming the three points were already in the bank.
  • I hope I'm wrong...but I increasingly doubt it. Things change in football - imagine what you could tell a Liverpool supporter circa 1984, a Spuds supporter circa the late 1960s, etc. Maybe our time is just up. If it is, I am at least comforted by the thought that the same faces will still be at the Pig no matter where we finish. Arsenal 'til I die, bitches.

9/26/11 - Arsenal 3-0 Bolton Wanderers: A Functional, Drama-Free Win

  • Once again, Szczesny has proven to be one of the key pieces of this squad.
  • Gervinho was in alone and frankly should have scored. Sadly, his second touch had the grace and delicacy of a ballet-dancing elephant, and it bobbled into the grateful arms of Jussi Jaaskelainen.
  • RVP got two goals, as you know taking him up to 100 with the club. I was actually kind of stunned to read that he's not that far away from tying the great Dennis Bergkamp's figure with the club. Wikipedia tells me it's 120, but I always figured it was something around 11,542.

10/3/11 - Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal: The Fail Parade Continues

  • As painful as it is to say, we well and truly deserved to get stuffed at the hands of our nearest and fiercest rivals, and only the individual brilliance of our goalkeeper kept the scoreline in the realm of respectability.
  • Song's giveaway was bad, but the worst perpetrator on the day was Ramsey.
  • RVP led the charge, rampaging down the left wing. His cutback to Gervinho was perfect, and with as much time and space as he had, a top level player absolutely must score from there in any circumstance short of a wonder-save from the opposing keeper. Brad Friedel's intervention was not required though, as the Ivorian risibly fired the shot high and wide. It was an absolutely shocking miss, given the circumstances.
  • Now, there are those saying van der Vaart should have been sent off for running into the crowd to celebrate, since he was on a yellow already...What I mean is that if you score a goal, you should be able to celebrate it without some Mr. Fussy waving a yellow bit of cardboard at you for expressing joy or taking your shirt off or whatever...Long story short - let's not take ALL of the joy out of this game, shall we?
  • Oh, and where Gervinho missed, Ramsey absolutely hammered an unstoppable shot right underneath the crossbar and in. The pub went mental, and at that stage I thought we might go on and win it.
  • It did swerve a little at the end, but Szczesny saw it the whole way. You know, sometimes you just lose the flight of the ball...sometimes you think "I got this", and relax a bit and thus take your eye off of it at the last. Keepers are human, these things happen. Unfortunately, this happened at 1-1 in a North London Derby, but what can you do? Again, if it weren't for Szczesny, Spurs would have been home and dry long before this point.
  • As our FOURTH loss of the season in just seven games loomed ever closer, we still played the same glacially-slow tippy-tappy crap that we've all had more than our fill of over the last three or four seasons.
  • You want the truth? Arsene Wenger should have been handed his P45 on his way down the tunnel after the match. Any other club in the world would have sacked any other manager in the world with this track record long before now.
  • Wake-up call, people. We are in 15th place with around one-sixth of the season gone. FIFTEENTH. There's still plenty of time to turn it around, but what evidence is there that we will?
  • Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, but I don't see why it isn't warranted.

10/17/11 - Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland: A Tale of Two Heroes

  • When you're not playing well as a team and are struggling to find form, oftentimes the only way you're going to get a result is if your best players perform better than the other lot's best. Today, Arsenal got twin Man of the Match performances from Robin van Persie and Wojciech Szczesny to ensure a vital three points.
  • The young Pole came haring out of his goal box and was a good 5 yards outside when Sessegnon got around him. Thankfully, we had enough bodies back where he didn't have a clear sight of goal, and Alex Song was able to clear the danger. Fuck me, that had my heart in my throat for a moment there. I love you Wojceich, but don't ever do that again.
  • Honestly? If that went in, I am beyond sure that we would have gone on to lose the game...They didn't score though, did they? Szczesny came across the face of his goal in a flash, flinging his body far enough to just get a hand to Cattermole's header. Wojceich Szczesny refused to let us lose today...end of story. We would truly be adrift without him this season, that's for sure. At the end of the campaign, we may be calling this one The Save that Saved the Season.
  • Song was fine when defending, but he continues to show the passing range of Helen Keller with motor-neurone disease.
  • In fact, this is about where Sunderland switched tactics from "soak up pressure and get one piece of ridiculous skill" to "Gears of War 3". Honestly, it was like the Battle of the Somme out there for a while...
  • I didn't think much of it at the time, as Arteta, RVP and Walcott had contrived to make a pig's ear out of several free kicks before that. Not this time.

10/29/11 - Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal: There's Only One Team in London

  • "You are very adamant that your lot are winning this week," my roommate said to me yesterday. He's right - I was (and you can look at the comments of the post before this if you need proof). I suppose part of it was the recent winning streak, the form of Robin van Persie, the excellence of our young goalkeeper. Sure, all of those things came into it. But, at the end of the day, I know a sick wildebeest when I see one, and Chelsea look like they're on the bad end of the nature documentary.
  • More importantly, I feel like Arsenal won back a large part of its soul on this day. Call it hyperbole if you wish, but this club was peering into the heart of darkness not that long ago - 17th place, losing to Blackburn, no end in sight. This team was one or two more bad results away from the precipice. Will history remember that?
  • Instead, we were treated (if by "treated" you mean "taking 5 years off your life") to a madcap, helter-skelter defensive shitshow from both sides.
  • Not for the first time on the day, Arsenal could have pulled the all-too-common collapsing act. Not for the first time today, they didn't.
  • Those goals scored at the beginning or end of a half are absolute killers...even playing at my own humble level, I can tell you that they're a real gut punch to the whole team. Again, Arsenal could have folded. Again, they didn't. Whatever the boss said at halftime worked, as the Gunners looked like a much more dangerous and complete team after the interval.
  • The Czech stopper definitely wants that one back - and it wasn't the only bad one he'd give up, either. Truth be told, he had a right old mare on the day.
  • Szczesny had another rush of blood, coming way out of his area and clipping Cole along the way. There was no need for it, especially with referee Andre Marriner seemingly giving the home side the benefit of the doubt on every close decision. Marriner reached towards his shorts pocket, and my heart leapt into my throat - that's usually where the red one lives. Thankfully, the cardboard square was a different color.
  • Among other things, one of the great beauties of this game is the symmetry it often provides. The first half saw us miss two glorious chances, only for Chelsea to score right after. The second half saw Szczesny both give and take away a chance just as glorious, only for Arsenal to take the lead within minutes. What a goal it was, too...Walcott - who played with far more purpose and vitality than he has in the recent past - once again had time and space down the right flank...It was a hell of a strike, but it was at Cech's near post and frankly at a comfortable height to save. I'm not complaining, but that was the keeper's second gift to us on the day.
  • The funny thing, though? I STILL wasn't worried. I still honestly believed we'd win the, Mr. Pessimism! Santos at least got his back a minute later, blocking away Lukaku from a ball and getting away with it. Swings and roundabouts, you fucker.
  • Then, the magic happened. There will be those who say that Arsenal's fourth goal was just one of those things...a crazy, fluky mistake from the defender that could happen to anyone. Indeed, it was a harmless backpass towards Terry, where the racist twat inexplicably and under no pressure whatsoever fell over and let RVP in alone. Cech came way too far out, taking away the dive at the shooter's foot from himself. The Dutchman, cool as you like, simply went around him and slotted the ball into the vacated net. It was pandemonium in the Blind Pig - a jumpy, beery, huggy, cathartic celebration. So yeah, many will say it was just bad luck for Terry. Personally, I think Karma swept the leg like Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
  • There are so many heroes today, but let's start with Koscielny. The defense as a whole didn't cover itself with glory on the day (though the second half was much better and we did preserve a lead this time), but he was immense. He made quite a few saving tackles and blocks, and in general would have had a great shout for Man of the Match on any other day.
  • Santos rebounded from an appropriate-for-the-holiday first half to give us a serious threat down the left-hand side in the second. Oddly, I don't think we could have done it without him.
  • Ramsey wasn't flashy today, but his passing was sharp and incisive, and he did his bit off the ball as well.
  • Enjoy this, friends. Tonight, we feast in Valhalla.

11/6/11 - Arsenal 3-0 West Bromwich Albion: Efficient and Drama-Free

  • That said, I think we can all agree that this was a professional, composed performance against a side that took four points off of us last term (albeit all at the hands of Manuel Almunia). West Brom never seriously threatened at any point in this contest, and while they gave an honest effort and even defended well at times, Arsenal took their chances when it counted and took all three points on the day.
  • Mikael Arteta took the free, sending it up to Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman hit a brilliant diagonal through-ball to catch the run of Theo Walcott, who was in alone. Walcott had room on either side of Ben Foster, but opted to go for the nutmeg. The former England keeper made a decent save to keep it out, but the predatory instincts of our captain kicked in from there. When you're in a purple patch like Robin is, everything just seems to fall your way...and sure enough, the rebound came right out to him. He was left with the simplest of finishes into an open net, and Arsenal were off and running.
  • Thankfully, Foster opted for the interesting technique of "diving out of the way of the shot", which in turn whistled through the location recently vacated by the keeper.
  • van Persie was quickly closed down by two striped-shirted defenders, but he intelligently spied the late run of Arteta just outside the penalty area. The Spaniard took one touch and rocketed a low shot past Foster's dive and into the corner of the net.

11/20/11 - Norwich City 1-2 Arsenal: The Run Continues

  • "Arsenal right back" is quickly becoming like "Spinal Tap drummer" with Bacary Sagna's broken leg and Carl Jenkinson's back strain. This meant that Per Mertesacker would partner Thomas Vermaelen in central defense, giving us what I still consider to be our strongest back line in Sagna's absence.
  • Recent matches have seen Arsenal slowly begin to abandon the third-rate tiki-taka approach for something more of a hybrid approach - Wengerball with a splash of blunt directness.
  • However, it seems that Mertesacker isn't quite used to English center-forwards yet: I doubt there is anywhere on Earth that preaches mindless exertion towards lost causes than in England, and this was one of those rare cases where it reaps the benefits. Morison closed in, muscled Mertesacker off the ball entirely too easily, and was left with a simple low finish past the advancing Wojceich Szczesny.
  • However, Martin was perfectly positioned to clear off the line, giving him his second vital block of the game. Not one minute later...Martin came out of nowhere to hack it clear from the line. Seriously, this man was royally getting on my tits at this point.
  • In the 26th minute though, Martin ran out of tricks and Arsenal were level. Once again, that man Walcott destroyed the fullback and drew Ruddy out as he cut inside. His low cross to RVP met with no resistance this time, and the Dutch wizard was able to sidefoot home from a few yards out.
  • Arsenal should have been ahead. RVP's through-ball eviscerated the static Norwich backline, and Gervinho was in alone on Ruddy. He rounded the keeper and had the entire net at his mercy. Sadly, the Ivorian was far too casual with his finish, allowing Ruddy to recover and make a fabulous save to block at his feet.
  • The Cameroonian's diagonal pass found the run of RVP, who somehow found the millimeter of space available over the advancing Ruddy to hook it over him and into the net. That was a finish that defies superlatives - the captain just gets better and better.
  • You know what, though? I'm actually kind of hopeful at this point. Perhaps this team will, once again, take the football away at the last second like a Charlie Brown comic. Then again, maybe they won't. Come on, Arsenal...let's really kick on from here and salvage something from the shit-show that was the first two months of the season.

11/24/11 - Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Group Stage Mission Accomplished

  • Unfortunately for the visitors, there was a freak 10-minute passage of play in which Sven Bender and Mario Gotze both had to be substituted due to injury after fairly innocuous challenges. Given the intensity of their pressing game, Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp was left with the choice of either abandoning that gameplan to keep his guys as fresh as possible for the latter stages, or keep going with it and hope they got the lead before they tired. They stayed with it, but without their main playmaker and their holding midfielder, they were on a hiding to nothing from that point. That, more than anything Arsenal did, changed the complexion of the match as the second half began.
  • Gervinho, full of inventiveness early in a move, continued his putrid form when it came to the decisive moment. Seriously, the man's first touch makes Nicklas Bendtner look like Leo Messi. On the other wing, Theo Walcott kept his opposing winger and fullback honest without ever threatening the Dortmund goal.
  • Reaching the outside of the penalty area by the end-line, he was closed down by Sebastian Kehl and Lukasz Piszczek. Beyond uncharacteristically, Song shredded both defenders with an impossibly-deft dribble involving at least three feints before plowing right through the middle - almost like an NFL running back hammering his way through the defensive line. His cross was a little high for van Persie, but the Dutch maestro arched his head back enough to get under the ball, sending his header downward...Arsenal now had the momentum, and the visitors were left with tiring legs and one substitution remaining.
  • I wonder why it is that we have so many attacking players completely bereft of confidence - Gervinho, Chamakh, Arshavin - when ostensibly the pressure should be off with RVP scoring for fun. Answers on a postcard, please (or in the comments below - we do encourage that sort of thing, you know).
  • The last substitution was made with five minutes left, and hang onto your hats because apparently Abou Diaby is still alive! Somehow, he made it out onto the pitch without shattering a bone or tearing a hamstring. Well done, Abou! Well done!
  • It should have been Easy Street from there, but the Gunners still had to fulfill their Stupid Goal Conceded quota before De Bleeckere blew the final whistle. Incidentally, this happened during the "Arsene Wenger's Red and White Army" song - in the past I had given our own Brett some stick for how he bristled at us singing it too soon. I admit defeat there now, sir...the evidence is overwhelming.

11/26/11 - Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Could Be Worse

  • And yet, I find myself palpably less frustrated than most of my Gooner brethren. I keep coming back to the fact that Fulham played a fantastic road match, took advantage of the one mistake Arsenal's defense made all day (look on the bright side - how often is it only one?) and most importantly that the team came back from a losing position once again.
  • This is around where Fulham seized the momentum, often aided and abetted by the wayward passing of young Ramsey.
  • Still, a positive from Arsenal's point of view is that the midfield and fullbacks were all effective in quickly winning the ball back after possession was lost. I distinctly remember Djourou, Andre Santos and Alex Song all making key interventions to prevent Fulham from getting anything going. Djourou in particular was fantastic on the day, showing the kind of confidence he had previous to last season's epic collapse.
  • I had just gotten finished thinking to myself "Hey, Mike Dean hasn't had a bad game!", when he missed Riise's obvious handball as he tried to chest the ball down...Song was far too casual in his closing down of Murphy, giving him plenty of time and space to make the cross. Djourou was caught ball-watching in the middle of the area, and ended up taking himself out of the play. Thomas Vermaelen got beaten in the air by Riise, and then for an encore hooked the ball past a surprised Szczesny and into his own net.
  • Walcott provided the cross after yet another excellent run down the right, and the Verminator was inexplicably left in acres by the Cottagers' defense. TV5 made no mistake, planting a perfect downwards header into the bottom corner.
  • Hey, we could have lost to Queens Park Rangers like some OTHER London side, you know?

12/3/11 - Wigan Athletic 0-4 Arsenal: Killer Instinct

  • Wait, let me get this straight - we scored a goal from long range, scored off of a corner kick, kept a clean sheet and easily saw off Wigan at their ground, which has been a house of horrors for us in recent seasons? Who are you lot, and what did you do with Arsenal? Actually, on second thought, I don't care...I like you better.
  • Anyway, Wigan's early contribution to the match seems odd to me, because all I saw once I walked in was Arsenal curbstomping this helpless rabble.
  • Yes, Arsenal player took a shot from distance. It even went in, too! How about that?
  • The other center-half had shaded over towards RVP, I'm guessing to help out if the other two guys got torched (that's how good our Robin is - three defenders shitting themselves against him at once), and the right back was nowhere to be found. Inexplicably, Gervinho could not possibly be more open, and his joy was palpable as he bundled the rebound in.
  • Frankly, I am kind of annoyed with Le Boss for not making substitutions sooner.
  • Let me repeat, for emphasis: The defender got muscled off the ball by 87-pound Theo Walcott. It's nice to see from Feo, but man alive, can we just relegate these poor bastards now?

12/11/11 - Arsenal 1-0 Everton: Happy 125th, Gunners!

  • It just had to be one-nil on our 125th birthday, right?
  • Some of the faithful were convinced that this would be one of those matches that we out-chance the opponent by hatfuls and lose 1-0. There was one problem with that theory though, and that's that Everton couldn't score in a women's prison with a fistful of pardons.
  • Seriously, are you kidding me? What a goal...what a MAGICAL goal. When the cameras showed Thierry Henry applauding it in the crowd, you just knew that this day would belong to Arsenal. What a birthday present from the Dutchman.
  • Wouldn't you just know it, but it was their young lad who almost tied the game. A long ball caused some bother in the Arsenal defense, and McAleny was left all alone just outside the area. His half-volley was sweetly struck, and for a second I thought "Oh, not again". I mean, how many times over the last few seasons have we been victimized by no-names and fetuses, whose one moment of glory always happens to be a goal against us?
  • Me? I won a Theo Walcott away jersey. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a Boys Large, so I may be able to wear it without scandal if I can somehow cut, say, 40 pounds or so. Bloody hell.

12/18/11: Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal: Valiant Effort

  • If nothing else, Arsenal have proven beyond all question that they are not the same ragtag outfit that shipped a cricket score the last time they visited the greater Manchester area. For long stretches, the men in red defended resolutely against a squad put together with the GDP of South America. It was a ferociously-contested dogfight that left the Arabian Petro-Dollar All-Stars no room to breathe until Professional Shithead Phil Dowd blew the final whistle.
  • The Welshman fired a shot through the forest of bodies in between him and the goal. Somehow, the young English keeper saw it early enough to get down and make a fantastic diving save.
  • Szczesny read the danger perfectly though, and swooped out of his net to block. One eventually runs out of superlatives for the man - he is already one of the best in the league.
  • Ostensibly, Miquel moved to LB, Vermaelen into the center and Koscielny out right. It looked like there was some confusion with those assignments though, and that was the mistake that cost us a point...That said, it was a little frustrating that with Djourou apparently in danger of not being able to continue, that everyone involved on the backline did not know exactly what they needed to do in case of Djourou being withdrawn. Honestly? I blame Arsene for that - he had the entire halftime interval to make absolutely sure that the eventuality was covered, and clearly it didn't happen.
  • That was just about the only contribution to the match from The Incredible Disappearing Samir Nasri, by the way. His Man of the Match award was clearly a troll move from a side that for some reason has a bug up their collective ass about us (Why Always Us?). He frankly sucked, and once again showed that last season's early good form aside, he was not nearly as big a loss as the whole world said he was going to be.
  • If ever anyone needed to be sold in the January window, it's this man (Arshavin). I give Arsene a lot of credit for finally realizing who the deadwood is and getting them out of the club, but the two bits of flotsam left on the roster are of course the guys who were brought on to try and save the game.
  • For, for DECADES, you lot were Manchester United's inbred cousins. If you had had anyone that another team could possibly have wanted, they would have been signed away quicker than you can say "Shaun Goater and Paul Dickov used to be our strike partnership". Since you seem to have faulty long-term memories, let me remind you of the shite that used to suit up in sky blue. So, now, here you are with your nouveau riche oil money, and it's like the last 50 years never happened. The problem is, the last 50 years DID happen. You're still a club with no history and no tradition of winning. At fucking BEST, you're going to be like the galactico-era Real Madrid: Shit-tons of money spent, once in a while winning something on sheer talent alone but always folding the second anyone significantly fights back. Yes, you had a tough Champions' League group, but you'd have gotten through it if your team was anywhere near as good as you think they are.

12/22/11: Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal: Scram Before the Cops Get Here

  • Nah, you just saw this a few days ago!

2011: The Cumulative Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

(Again, keep in mind this only accounts for the matches where I assigned ratings.)


Wojceich Szczesny - Apps: 27 MOTM: 3 Average Rating: 7.26
Manuel Almunia - Apps: 5 (1) MOTM: 2 Average Rating: 6.00
Lukasz Fabianski- Apps: 1 Average Rating: 7.00
Jens Lehmann - Apps: 1 Average Rating: 6.00


Laurent Koscielny - Apps: 26 MOTM: 4 Average Rating: 6.69

Johan Djourou - Apps: 16 (4) MOTM: 3 Average Rating: 6.06 (2 N/A ratings)

Bacary Sagna - Apps: 17 Average Rating: 6.82

Per Mertesacker - Apps: 14 Average Rating: 6.79

Kieran Gibbs - Apps: 12 (2) Average Rating: 6.75 (2 N/A ratings)

Gael Clichy - Apps: 10 (1) Average Rating: 6.40 (1 N/A rating)

Thomas Vermaelen - Apps: 9 (1) Average Rating: 7.22 (1 N/A rating)

Andre Santos - Apps: 6 (2) Average Rating: 6.57 (1 N/A rating)

Sebastien Squillaci - Apps: 7 Average Rating: 6.57

Francis Coquelin - Apps: 4 (2) Average Rating: 5.60 (1 N/A rating)

Emmanuel Eboue - Apps: 4 Average Rating: 6.00

Carl Jenkinson - Apps: 2 (2) Average Rating: 5.00

Ignasi Miquel - Apps: 1 (2) Average Rating: 5.50 (1 N/A rating)

Armand Traore - Apps: 1 Average Rating: 4.00


Andrei Arshavin - Apps: 15 (11) MOTM: 2 Average Rating: 6.04 (3 N/A ratings)

Alex Song - Apps: 22 (1) MOTM: 2 Average Rating: 6.65

Theo Walcott - Apps: 20 (2) MOTM: 3 Average Rating: 6.64

Aaron Ramsey - Apps: 16 (2) Average Rating: 6.24 (1 N/A rating)

Mikael Arteta - Apps: 14 MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 6.86

Tomas Rosicky - Apps: 7 (7) MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 6.18 (3 N/A ratings)

Gervinho - Apps: 12 (1) Average Rating: 6.00

Jack Wilshere - Apps: 12 Average Rating: 6.83

Samir Nasri - Apps: 12 MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 7.00

Cesc Fabregas - Apps: 7 (3) MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 6.67 (1 N/A rating)

Denilson - Apps: 6 (2) Average Rating: 5.29 (1 N/A rating)

Yossi Benayoun - Apps: 1 (7) Average Rating: 6.67 (2 N/A ratings)
Abou Diaby - Apps: 5 (2) MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 5.83 (1 N/A rating)

Emmanuel Frimpong - Apps: 2 (3) Average Rating: 6.00 (2 N/A ratings)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Apps: 0 (2) Average Rating: N/A (2 N/A ratings)

Henri Lansbury - Apps: 0 (2) Average Rating: N/A (2 N/A ratings)


Robin van Persie - Apps: 26 (1) MOTM: 6 Average Rating: 7.00

Marouane Chamakh - Apps: 3 (15) Average Rating: 6.20 (8 N/A ratings)
Nicklas Bendtner - Apps: 5 (7) MOTM: 1 Average Rating: 5.83

Carlos Vela - Apps: 0 (1) Average Rating: N/A (1 N/A rating)