Saturday, 20 February 2010

Slowly But Surely.

Saturday, 20 February 10

It's back to the bread and butter of the league today as Sunderland pay us a visit at the Emirates in what is another crucial game for Arsenal. With Manure playing in the early game at Everton we will know how far ahead of us they are before the kick off. I'm hoping that Everton can do us a favour and take a point from them and we can go on to make up some more of the ground that we lost in our defeats to them and Chelsea. Speaking of Chelsea I don't hold out much hope of them dropping points at Wolves but stranger things have happened and their away form in the league has been poor since they won at our ground in November. They have only 6 points from 6 away games in that time and that's hardly the form of potential champions. They have lost at Man City and Everton and drawn at Birmingham, Hull and West Ham in that run and that should offer Wolves and us a little bit of hope.

All that will be of no use to us if we don't beat Sunderland and we couldn't ask for a team in a worse vein of form to be our opponents today. Since they beat us on November 21st they have drawn 6 and lost 6 of their 12 games and it's up to us to make that an unlucky 13 for them. We need to see how much the defeat to Porto meant to the players with a performance from them to silence the critics. Sunderland went to Chelsea only 5 weeks ago and were thumped 7-1 after failing to show up in footballing terms and if they show the slightest weakness today we have to punish them. The defeat to Porto hurt Cesc a lot and that is obvious by the fact that he apologised to Arsenal fans on the flight home. Cesc loves Arsenal and it's good to see how much defeats like that hurt him but my biggest worry is that he will get fed up with the constant mistakes all around him and leave us in the summer. I know everybody makes mistakes and his form has been off in the last few games but I honestly can't recall him actually giving any goals away this season unlike the majority of his team mates.

As for the game itself it looks like Song might be available after his injury which will be a welcome respite for my nerves as he should play the defensive midfield role and I would imagine that Denilson will continue in the team but a little further forward as we again without the frequently injured Diaby. Cesc will obviously make up the rest of the midfield trio and I think the front 3 from the Porto game will probably start again although Walcott may get a start but Arshavin is still unavailable through injury. At the back with Gallas still out hopefully Campbell will be up to another 90 minutes after Wednesday night's hard work and he should play alongside Vermaelen in the centre. The problem is left back where Clichy just can't seem to find any form at all and even though he was a bit better against Liverpool he regressed on Wednesday night. Hopefully we can dominate Sunderland enough to give him an easier ride than he has being getting recently and he can gradually get his form back. At right back Eboue is pushing really hard for a start as he seems to do so much more in his brief cameos than Sagna does. He is certainly more of a threat than Sagna going forward and in home games like this we need that. That leaves just 1 position to fill and that's the 1 causing us the biggest problems all season. Almunia is just not good enough at this level and is immediate replacement, Fabianski, seems to be error prone in every game he plays. I had hoped he would step up to the plate on Wednesday night and he played very well except for the 2 horrendous mistakes that cost us the game. If Almunia is fit I think he will regain his place but I have no faith in either of them at this stage.

With Sunderland in such poor form we have to get at them from the start and punish every mistake they make. All too often this season we take almost all of the first half to get going but today I hope we can lay down a marker for the rest of the season by putting them to the sword. Despite our injury problems we will still have Vermaelen, Cesc, Nasri and Rosicky in the team and Sunderland do not have any players with their class. They do have Cattermole and Cana in the centre of their midfield and they will look to stifle our play and kick Cesc in particular as much as possible. I hope the referee is strong and punishes them as it's all too frequent a sight to see teams target Cesc for very bad tackles and harsh treatment. After today we don't have a game for another week and the players should be able to give everything they have knowing that they can take it easy for a few days afterwards. I'd love to see Bendtner bag a goal for himself and maybe Walcott get a chance to stretch his legs and actually do something this time. Wouldn't it be great if we could see the Theo that scored a hat trick for England not so long ago playing for Arsenal. If Almunia isn't fit I hope Fabianski can sort himself out and show us the player that he has the potential to be. If he goes through the game with no howlers and gets all his basics right I will be delighted for him. I'm predicting a return to winning ways for Arsenal with a 2-0 win as we continue to chase the teams above us to the best of our ability.

The boss had a lot to say about the various mistakes the referee made in the incident that directly led to Porto's 2nd goal on Wednesday night but I still think he should address the mistakes Arsenal made in how it was conceded. The lack of professionalism shown was unacceptable and the players involved should be told that in no uncertain terms. The boss also spoke about the plight of Portsmouth and how he hoped that they could manage to make it through to the end of the season. From what I understand of the situation if Portsmouth are wound up in their courts all their results this season will benull and void and the team to benefit most would be Liverpool who lost to them earlier in the season. We would lose 6 points and I really hope that doesn't happen too but it is looking more likely by the day.

Giles Sunu has joined Derby County on loan until the end of the season and I think that makes it 13 players we have out on loan. The TV schedules for April have been announced and 3 of our games have been altered. The trip to local rivals the Spuds has been switched from 3pm to 12.45pm on Saturday April 10th and I would hope that by then we will already be celebrating St. Totteringham's day as there will only be 4 league games left after that game. Our trip to Wigan has been switched from 3pm Saturday April 17th to 1.30pm Sunday April 18th and ou home game with Man City on Saturday April 24th will now be played at 5.30pm instead of the original time of 3pm. Finally for today I'm back to my usual blogging time today as I've temporarily sorted out my problem with my laptop and I hope I can sort it out permanently later today. That's your lot.

Here's a look at how we beat Sunderland 4-1 a few years ago.

And to finish today's title track from Eek A Mouse. I'm hoping that slowly but surely we will catch the teams above us.

See You Tomorrow.

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