Apologies to my readers. A couple of binge filled one nights had left me very disoriented. Hence, my inability to keep you informed. GN will resume again shortly.

Hope everyone had fun during their break

Happy New Year.

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Match Preview: Portsmouth

Venue: Fratton Park

With, Chelsea dropping further points the week past, Arsenal are in a prime position to capitalize. The visit to Fratton Park against bottom club Portsmouth may seem like an away banker, but in truth it is anything but. Liverpool having found out recently being on the receiving end of a 2-0 reverse. Therefore Arsenal will have to be at the top of their game in order to get maximum points. Last season’s corresponding fixture saw Arsenal run out comfortable winners at 3-0. A win will put Arsenal in a strong position to continue their pursuit of leaders Chelsea and end the decade with a win.

Team News

Talking about the performance Cesc Fabregas put in against Villa, Arsene Wenger had the following to say,

I have not seen many performances like that, no, I believe Cesc got up for it from the outside. He saw that we did dominate the game but we couldn’t score. You feel he was super-focused when he came on.

I didn’t say anything to him, I just told him to warm up straight after half-time because I knew we needed a long warm-up. I had in my mind already after the first-half that I might be in a position where I have to play him.”

However, that cameo came at the price of aggravating his hamstring injury, meaning he will definitely sit out this encounter. With Denilson also taken off due to a recurrence of his back injury, this fixture is going to give young Welshman Aaron Ramsey the chance to impress.

The back four of Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, and Armand Traore plus Manuel Almunia is likely to be retained at the back. Midfield is likely to be Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey.

Up front, the gaffer is likely to face a selection headache. Arshavin will be reprising his central role and Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott may join him in the flanks. With Eduardo’s confidence at an all time low, Wenger might opt to give the English winger a rare start in an injury hit season.

Player to Watch: Arsenal

Abou Diaby has grown in spades this season and has put in stellar performances so far this season, justifying the faith Wenger had shown in sticking with him even when he was not having the best of games. The gaffer said of Diaby,

“He has played many games since the beginning of the season. He looks to grow in stature and now he is dominant in the fight and he scores goals.

What is very interesting in this shape [4-3-3] is that Diaby and Fabregas can both score goals. We have not one but two players who come out from deep and are good runners as well.

They can come from deep positions and score goals.”

Another strong performance is exactly what Diaby needs to cement his position in the midfield trio and he will definitely be the Gunner to watch at Fratton Park today.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, First Team News, Portsmouth, Premier League, Rivals

Dimitar Berbatov Proves His Intelligence to be that of a Cockrel

Speaking to the tabloids, Berbatov decided to enlighten us with his intelligence,

“Obviously it will be difficult because there are a lot of games left, but it will be decided between us and Chelsea. In the end, we will be on top because we have great players. We’re in a great position. We have a great squad. We had a difficult time with injuries but players are coming back.”

What the former Spurs player forgets to take into account is that Arsenal is behind the Manchester club courtesy of having played a game less, one at the Emirates against Bolton. Writing off Arsenal seems to be a every player and pundits favourite pass time. No matter, this will only ensure that victory is even sweeter.

Lazy comments such as these goes to prove that playing for the smaller North London football club only goes to diminish your intelligence.

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Filed under Man Utd, Press Box, Rivals, Tottenham

Rivals View: Portsmouth

With the Gunners due to visit bottom club Portsmouth, in what will be Arsenal’s last game of the decade, Gunner Nation catches up with Vital Portsmouth to bring you the rival views.

Gunner Nation (GN): Pompey has been in free fall this season. It should be credited to the boardroom problems and there is little fans can do about that. What is the feeling amongst Pompey fans regarding this matter?

Vital Portsmouth (VP): Speaking for myself of course, I do not have much faith in those behind the scenes. I have not ‘completely’ lost confidence in those ‘running us’ but the next 3-4-weeks will determine if this is lost, by which time it could be too late to change anything? Years of wild overspending and owners ‘fleecing’ the club for all they could, making sure their ‘investment’ saw them come out of thing sitting pretty has pushed the club to the edge.

Asked recently if there was ‘light at the end of this tunnel’ I said hand on heart I could not say…Although of course this hand on a heart that loves Pompey clearly hopes so!

GN: Since Harry Redknapp left, results have gone awry. Paul Hart did not have the best of tenures. Is there a cause for optimism with Avram Grant’s appointment?

VP: Paul Hart, and other before, have paid for the reigns of Harry Redknapp. Hart was screwed over as you show me another manager that would have worked under the conditions that Hart did and I would be surprised. Inexperienced managers would have cracked, I suspect they would be in the nut house by now – and experience guys would have walked almost instantly, one of our previous managers twitched all the way to London at the first sign of trouble! Then again I doubt they, experienced managers, would have taken the job anyway!

The minute Avram Grant walked through the door it was only a matter if ‘when’ and not ‘if’ he took over. Hart had a lot of tactical shortcomings that is for sure, but he got a team together, he got them playing for the club, the shirt and the fans – and despite defeat after defeat we played bloody well, and in spite of these defeats I did ‘enjoy it!’ It was just frustrating as hell to keep seeing us spurn chances.

So, all in all I did feel sorry for him but I guess it is a ‘results based business’ at the end of the day, and I am not sure he would have got them – then again, who would have?

Under Grant, to begin with, we were playing bloody awful yet we got a few results, and as said it is a results based business at the end of the day, right?

Against West Ham he seemed to ‘bottle it’ a little, this was the first game – even if we have not always played well – that I thought his tinkering, and incorrect tactical moves really cost us. ‘If’ this keeps happening against the ‘lesser sides’ that we need to get points from then he will not have what it takes, again time will tell.

GN: Being the bottom club is something any fan would not want to see. What would be a realistic expectation for this year?

VP: To still have a club at the end of 2010 would be nice, an ‘if’ we cannot avoid the drop then I would have serious concerns about this happening – ok, maybe we would by the end of 2010 but I feel we would spiral out of control and the lack of premier league income could kill us as ‘parachute payment’ alone would not be enough.

We need to keep the togetherness and unity that the squad has, if we do this we can do stay up – this wavered a little after Hart went but seemed to return, I guess a lot depends on how we react to the West Ham defeat.

We can either let the heads drop and throw in the towel, or keep them high and keep fighting.

GN: Finally what is the match prediction for the game at Fratton Park?

VP: Considering we have not beaten you in the premier league yet I think a number would be surprised if we did – although I am an optimist so I say we will break this duck and end 2009 with something to cheer!

Well, thank you Vital Portsmouth for your time and goodluck with the game on Wednesday. And goodluck in tackling your off the field problems too. It is a sad day for any club to enter administration and everyone certainly hopes that is not the case with Portsmouth.

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Filed under Portsmouth, Rivals

Gunner Nation Reads:

Studs-Up takes a piss at Mark Hughes. When will it end?

The Times does an interview with the best teenage footballer in Europe.

Myles Palmer slates Martin O’Neill. Talks about taking morphine.

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Filed under Arsenal, Press Box

Time to Grow Up!

Every time this current batch of the Arsenal team goes on to lose or draw a game from a winning position, pundits are quick to jump on the case citing a lack of maturity. How these players are not experienced enough to hold on to the lead. How their tender years have allowed the game to slip their grasp. The Arsenal fans are more than gullible enough to buy the hype up from these pundits whose only job it seems is to wind up the fans. With the January transfer window approaching, it is no doubt the likes of Alan Hansen, Gary Linekar, Martin Samuel etc will once again be paid overtime to churn out articles on why Arsenal will not win the Premier League due to their lack of depth. That Arsenal needs to buy in order for them to compete and other nonsense that they can come up with. It is high time Arsenal fans stop buying up the inflated hype covered materials from these doom merchants and trust their manager, Arsene Wenger. In short, it is high time Arsenal fans stopped crying and grew up.

For the best part of the twelve years that I have followed Arsenal, I have witnessed incredible highs (The Invincibles, The Third Double) and stupendous lows (Champions League Final, UEFA Cup Final). My earliest and to date most grievous disappointment would be the loss on penalties to Galatasary in the UEFA Cup Final. It was the first time I had truly felt a huge sense of loss due to my chosen football team. Seeing my disappointment, a much experienced Gooner taught me three golden rules. I do appreciate what he had taught me and every time since I always let the moments I share with Arsenal pass with a cause for optimism. I would always look forward to what the next year will bring instead of reflecting on the year that was. The golden rules were:

  1. It is ultimately the manager who will decide what is best for the team, not You.
  2. There will be many teams competing for the same trophy, and there are 101 factors that ultimately decide who wins.
  3. Come next season, the previous season will be nothing but a statistic.

Those three rules have allowed me to develop an intense passion for Arsenal Football Club but it had also, over the years, given me perspective on all things Arsenal and sometimes let me analyse the situation from an outsider view. When I see some blogs whining about why Arsene Wenger should spent money, why Arsene Wenger should buy this or that player, I privately cannot help but laugh out loud. The reason, see rule 1. When we I also see the pundits giving their “verdict” on a club’s stature, I cannot help but privately laugh out loud. The reason, see rule 2. I also enjoy a good private laugh when I see fans of clubs dwell on old glories, some fans stuck forever in 1961. The reason, see rule 3.

I, however, am deeply frustrated by the ignorance of some people who refuse to analyse my beloved club from a critical perspective and thinks that their opinions are the ones to end all opinions. Their attitude is questionable. I, as a fan, cannot do more than hope for the best of my chosen club, Arsenal FC. I cannot say Arsene Wenger sign up David Villa or Lionel Messi or Lorik Cana, in some people’s cases. I understand my place, and it is definitely not to tell the club what to do. I know that even if I did, it would certainly fall on deaf ears. That is something, a majority of the Arsenal fans do not understand.

The current batch of the Arsenal squad has been labeled inexperienced and immature, even babies by some. However at such a young age to perform at such a level in front of tens of thousands of people week in week out, you need maturity that belies your tender years. Therefore maturity is something that this squad has shown in abundance. No, it is the fans that are lacking maturity. The fans are the ones that need to back the squad, back the club. Not tell it what to do, how to run itself. It is high time, the fans of this football club let go of the cradle that is the English media and Grow Up!

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Filed under Arsenal, Rants

Cesc Fabregas, Unleashed!

Arsenal 3 – 0 Aston Villa

Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, showed once again why he is the best central midfielder in the world. Putting in only a 27th minute shift due to lack of match fitness, he still managed to score two goals that changed a game poised to end in a stalemate. The starting line-up resembled the one predicted in the match preview, with Denilson finishing off the midfield trio. Cesc Fabregas was fit, but on the substitutes bench as Arsene Wenger was cautious with his captain.

The game itself started off in a high tempo. An early free kick from Samir Nasri into the Villa box saw a Thomas Vermaelen test Brad Friedel and the ball went beyond the far post. Seconds later Abou Diaby spun past his marker on the edge of the box and squared for Eduardo. The Croatian turned his own man expertly but his shot was tame and went straight into the hands of the American goalkeeper. Villa had their chances with an Ashley Young shot deflected off Bacary Sanga and looping wide. Denilson had a chance from dangerous free kick postion. His confidence high after that goal against Hull City. On this occasion, however, his shot hit the wall with a Sanga rebound that flew inches high. Half-time came with the scores level at 0-0 with neither side being clinical despite carving out few chances.

11 minutes into the second-half, Arsene Wenger brought on captain Cesc Fabregas for the efficient but ineffective Denilson. Wenger revealing in the post-match interview that Denilson had suffered a knock on his back. Fabregas breathed life in the game linking up well with Andrey Arshavin. The latter set Eduardo away on the left and, as Luke Young waited for Friedel to claim, Fabregas nipped in. He slipped the ball to Eduardo but the Croatian’s goal-bound shot was hacked clear by Cuellar. The deadlock was broken 25 minutes from time. A  surging Fabregas run drew a foul 22 yards outs. He picked himself up to take the resulting free kick. An exquisite curling effort that beat the wall and Friedel’s hand. 1-0 to Arsenal!

Villa began to press, and this led to Arsenal’s second goal. Armarnd Traore intercepting a Villa pass deep inside his own half and launching a diagonal ball into the Villa half. Walcott latched onto the ball and ran down the right flank. Sliding the ball into the path of Fabregas, who had charged through the centre at full pelt. He barely broke stride to slam the shot past Friedel and double Arsenal’s lead2-0 to the Arsenal!

Running at full stretch to score the second goal had aggravated his hamstring injury and Fabregas has to be replaced by Aaron Ramsey in the 84th minute. He spent only 27th minutes on the pitch, and yet that was enough to turn the tide of the game.

Arsenal was not done yet as Abou Diaby, with another impressive shift, received the ball in the halfway line before jinking his way past the Villa players and putting in a sumptuous curling effort in the left hand corner. 3-0 to Arsenal! It was game over by then for Aston Villa. Arsenal had established their title credentials at the end of this game and Villa’s Top 4 status will depend on how they respond to this defeat.

Man of the Match – Abou Diaby

Match Referee – Phil Dowd

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Filed under Arsenal, Aston Villa, Premier League