Monday, 7 February 2011

What Next On The Arsenal Rollercoaster?

That was quite an amazing weekend of football for Arsenal, with highs and lows on extreme ends of the scale. Who would have believed that Arsenal would only take one point from a Premier League trip to Newcastle, having led 4-0 at half time. After that disaster it looked like "Manure" would make Arsenal pay for their slip when they raced into an early 1-0 lead away to Wolves in the Saturday evening kick off. Much to my joy, and the joy of all the other Arsenal fans the game didn't finish that way, as Wolves came back to win 2-1.

It meant that Arsenal's invincible team would not be matched by a "Manure" team that isn't fit to lace their boots. It also meant that Arsenal had closed the gap at the top of the table to four points with 13 games to play, and "Manure" facing a tough run of games. At that stage I thought that Chelsea would be the big winners from the weekend, as long as they beat Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. Much to my joy and astonishment Liverpool won 1-0 against a Chelsea team that looked to have forgotten how to play again.

It wasn't just the result that pleased me, as the manner of it was great too. Of course I do hope they can find some better form for their game against "Manure" in a few weeks. That result was Liverpool's fourth straight Premier League win, and it moved them up to sixth place in the table. They are now six points behind fourth placed Chelsea, and Chelsea are six points behind second placed Arsenal. I suppose that should bring me to the logical conclusion that Liverpool have as much chance of finishing fourth, as Chelsea do of catching Arsenal.

This really is a very strange season in the Premier League, and who knows what is going to happen next. How many other leagues can boast that the bottom team are capable of beating the top team, and Wolves have in fact beaten Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool as well this season. Their next opponents just so happen to be Arsenal, as they make a trip to the Emirates next Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal won 2-0 away to Wolves a couple of months ago, in a game where they had to work extremely hard for their win, and Marouane Chamakh and Lukasz Fabianski starred. It won't be an easy game for Arsenal on Saturday, but Wolves have the worst away record in the Premier League, and Arsenal will know that it's a must win game.

Earlier that day there will be the small matter of the Manchester derby, and Arsenal will be hoping that the "Manure" collapse gains some momentum in that game. When City came to Arsenal a month ago they parked the proverbial bus in front of their goal, and rode their luck to get a 0-0 draw. I would expect them them to use the same tactics again, and hopefully they can take something from the game, and give Arsenal the chance to close the gap even further.

It looks likely that Arsenal will go into that game without the services of Johan Djourou, as he picked up an injury on Saturday, and it leaves the frightening prospect of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci being the only fit centre backs at the club. That's not a prospect that fills me with confidence, and Newcastle showed exactly how vulnerable to high balls they are during that second half on Saturday.

There may also be one or two other players who are carrying knocks at the moment, as Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Kieran Gibbs all pulled out of their national squads for this week's friendly games. Apparently RVP has flu, but there is no word on the injuries for the other two. Of course Djourou was withdrawn from the Swiss squad as well, but that was to be expected. I'm hoping RVP's flu turns out to be nothing more than man flu, and he'll fit and ready for Saturday's game. He's on a great goalscoring run since he returned to the team, and Arsenal cannot afford to do without him at the moment in my opinion.

As usual during an international break there will be very little Arsenal news to write about, but I'll do my best to find something interesting to pass the days. When the players return it will be all hands to deck, as Arsenal have five games in 16 days starting with the game against Wolves. It's followed by the mouth watering, and very scary prospect of Barcelona coming to the Emirates. Then there's Orient in the FA Cup, Stoke RFC in the Premier League, and finally on the second last day of February there's the Carling Cup final against Birmingham City.

The previews, and match reports will be coming thick and fast at that stage, and if Arsenal can go into March still with a chance of winning all four trophies it will have been a very successful 16 days. I'm hopeful of winning the Carling Cup, progressing to the last eight of the FA Cup, and remaining in contention in the Premier League, but Barcelona are a different prospect altogether. Their current form in Spain is unbelievable, as they have now won 16 league games in a row, and they have won every single away league game they have played this season. 

They look absolutely unstoppable in Spain, and it will be interesting to see if Arsenal can cope with them. It would certainly be an easier task if Arsenal have a full squad to choose from, but it's starting to look like that won't happen. It would seem that Samir Nasri, Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou will all be injured for the first leg, and Bakary Sagna will definitely be suspended. I just hope that Arsenal can make it through that first leg, and field a stronger team away from home, which might give them a chance of causing an upset.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at some good action from RVP.

See You Tomorrow.

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