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Arsenal News


Could Wenger's stubbornness actually prove to be justified?

By Avenell Dave

Let's not get too carried away.

We beat a tired Swansea side in the last five minutes after spurning a load of chances and finally getting through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Whoohoo.

We should be beating Swansea every time we play them, right? We have a big stadium and expensive tickets and the low attendance underlines the troubles the club is facing from its fans.

Listening to some Addicts and other football fans in the gym this morning, that's the sort of thing I had to listen to.

I think if I'd spoken out, there may have been more than just words exchanged.

Regardless of their standing as minnows on the world stage, Swansea are a decent team at the moment. 

That's why they beat us in the Premier League and why they beat Ch*vski by the same scoreline in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.

And yet last night we battered them.

Ten of our team put in superb performances.

There was a steel, a resolve and a determination that is too often lacking at Arsenal and I'm sure Arsene Wenger must wonder why the team doesn't exhibit it at all times. It's his job to motivate the team after all, but you could argue that the players should be motivated enough themselves. Maybe that comes down to who Wenger buys but every player should have that winning determination within them.

Look at Barca. For all their effort, they suffocate the life out of everyone when they don't have the ball and while good teams like Swansea find ways to retain possesion, putting them under pressure means they're so much more likely to make mistakes.

We looked so much more of a team last night.

All the plaudits will go to Jack Wilshere for his superb goal and all-round excellent performance.

I understand why Michael Laudrup tried to play down how good Jack is, but we all know he is one of the greatest midfield talents seen in the Premier League Fabregas!

But while Jack benefited from playing in the advanced midfield role, everyone else played their part.

Abou Diaby looked solid and won a lot of balls in the air in midfield. It underlines why we need height and power in midfield, something Mikel Arteta for all his talents does not give us.

Francis Coquelin has long been touted as the missing link in midfield, the grit we need, a driving ball-winner who doesn't just pass sideways. He kept running for 90 minutes, his positional sense was superb and while there is plenty of room for improvement, could he be the general we've been missing?

I've been saying for a while that we need a bully to protect Santi Cazorla and Jack in midfield and Coquelin could be that man. Time will tell.

It would certainly prove Wenger right not to buy M'Vila or others we have been linked with in that position.

The defence also did a far better job than they have done for a long time. Kieran Gibbs married his attacking verve with greater defensive positional sense and Thomas Vermaelen dived into challenges in a way we haven't really seen since he first arrived. Captain-eqsue.

I thought Olivier Giroud did well leading the line, winning the ball, holding it up, chasing defenders and providing flicks and openings that suggest while not world class, he could be a real asset. he just needs games to polish his finishing but he's not doing badly for a first season.

If there was one disappointment, it was Theo Walcott.

The boy looks lost, arrogant and I'm not sure he can be bothered. He looks as if he's morphing into C@$hley Cole, someone who loves himself more than he should.

We know he can be a match winner and that his pace is vital but the resentment over his contract drama is turning many against him and he isn't regularly doing enough to justify his demands.

Let's hope he sees what an example Jack is to the team.

We have to build now. We can go to the Ch*vs and win, I now believe that, but we have to show the same level of performance we had last night. We should show that every game.

We still need some more trickery and firepower to supplement the squad, but for now, I'm just delighted to watch Arsenal and really enjoy the spectacle from start to finish.


Should Wenger focus on the FA Cup at the expense of top four?

By Avenell Dave

When Arsenal were doing well (and even in the so-called heady days, we had some seasons where we were as far behind M*nure as we are now) Arsene Wenger used to speak about the Premier league being the best way of gauging how good a team was.

That we finish season after season way behind the champions tends to suggest we have gone backwards and that we are a long way from being the great side moving to the Emirates was supposed to make us.

Playing Swansea in a replay has messed up all Wenger's planning.

It means that we have an extra game that we can ill afford because our squad is exhausted and stretched. You only have to lok at how performance levels have dropped to see that.

What we should have been doing this week is resting and looking forward to a trip to Brighton's snazzy new stadium.

But bad defending and a lack of character mean we have to replay against a side who have twice beaten us since being promoted just over a year ago and who, in Michu, have a striker who would walk into our team.

The sad fact is that Wenger cannot dismiss the FA CUp as he may have done in previous seasons when the title was there for the taking.

While seven seasons is nothing in the big scheme of things, we need to get the monkey off our backs if only to shut up the naysyaers and media critics who continually remind us of it.

And this young generation of players we are grooming need to know what it's like to win things - and gain the belief that they can do so that comes with lifting a trophy, something no one currently at the club has done in Arsenal colours.

But if we play our strongest side against Swansea, regardless of whether we win or lose, we have only a few days before we go to the Bridge and a game we simply cannot lose if we're to stay in touch for fourth place.

Defeat against the Ch*vs would leave us with just one point against the mighty Soton from three Premier League matches and the worrying thing is that it's very feasible.

We've made things more dificult for ourselves with lamentable results against teams we should be beating - including Swansea at home last month - and tomorrow night's selection will confirm how seriously Wenger is taking the Cup this season.

He may well judge that he has the players and the time to recover to field his strongest team but I'd like to see some wholeseale changes -to give some players a rest and give others a chance to get their form or fitness back.

If Abou Diaby can be thrust into the City game after four months out, others shold be given the chance to prove themselves as well.

The natives are getting more and more restless and heaven knows what will happen if we lose tomorrow. I think the internet will combust.

Addict XI


Jenkinson Mertesacker Vermaelen Santos

Ramsey Coquelin Diaby

Walcott Giroud Oxlade Chamberlain


Don't blame the ref - Arsenal are simply not good enough anymore

By Avenell Dave

It would be easy and convenient to blame Mike Dean for Sunday's defeat against Manchester City.

I've long believed that for a simple foul in the box, unless it is violent, a caution and a penalty are punishment enough, but the letter of the law says that a player must be sent off if they are the last man and deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Dean is an unpleasant figure, a referee who basks in the limelight, who wants to be the main man when he should be anonymous. I read reports in The Times that he was impeccable but when so many decisions are inconsistent, it becomes a huge source of frustration.

We were being overrun way before Laurent Koscielny was sent off and I don't think we'd have even scraped a draw with 11v11.

We've shown too often this season that we can be pedestrian, that we don't pick up runners and for a sloth like James Milner to ghost in and have a free shot at goal was unforgiveable.

Our shape seems all wrong and while I'd love us to revert to 4-4-2, as someone said to me this morning, how do we accommodate Jack and Cazorla in that formation if we also have a ball winner?

It's a worry.

More of a worry, though, is how frustrated everyone is getting and how few of the team seem ready to fight.

If I was having a bad day and I had a colleague like Jack working his butt off, I'd want to follow suit.

It says much about the character of those around him that he shone so brightly. We know Jack is a star and we know he is supremely talented.

But how must he feel seeing others not showing the same fighting spirit? Much as he loves Arsenal, we can't take him for granted - look where that has got us in the past.

Typical of the malaise is Theo Walcott.

There's a lot of animosity twoards him because of the time it's taken for him to sign a new deal, the rumours that his latest deal is only for three years and that there are demands that he must play in the centre.

Virtually everyone around me wants him gone and while I think selling him or losing him would send out the wrong signals, there's a fine balance between retaining your best players and being held to ransom.

Can you imagine Thierry Henry or Ian Wright wandering around aimlessly as Theo did?

They'd have been chasing hard, running themselves into the ground to put the City defence under pressure and making a nuisance of themselves. Theo had fewer touches than Olivier Giroud had in a third of the time and that says it all.

Apart from against the very weakest teams, Walcott is simply not adept at playing as a single striker - he needs someone like Giroud beside him to feed off and if it was good enough for Henry to score most of his goals from out wide, why isn't that good enough for Theo?

But the malaise runs deeper than one player.

We're going backwards and while we have some decent players, we probably only have two world class performers (Jack and Santi) and regardless of Arsene Wenger saying that we will only buy special players, the sd truth is that too few of the current squad would be tapped up by our rivals and that says it all.

There is no sign of investment. We seem to limp from rehabilitating Abou Diaby to losing him and then being told he is like a new signing again and again. He is not a bad player but we simply cannot rely on him.

Yes, we made a bit of a stab at things in the second half on Sunday and if Giroud's header had gone in with a few minutes left, it would have been interesting to see how City coped.

For the first time I don't believe we will get a top four finish.

The squad is stretched and exhausted and we don't have good enough personnel to come in and rotate.

I'd love to see wholesale changes for the Swansea game because defeat against the Ch*vs at the weekend is unthinkable.

But can we afford to let the FA Cup go with so much rpessure on the team and indeed the club?

Even the optimists are now fed up. We've been patient for so long.

We can all see what's wrong.

If those in charge at the club cannot see that we need improvements and take the necessary action, move aside and let those who can make a difference have a chance to save the club before it limps into permanent mediocrity.