Monday, January 30, 2012

Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

The results matter most in the Cup games. Most of us were just happy to see Arsenal going through to the next round, however they achieved it. Two penalties and a freak goal. What an untypical way to win for Arsenal! We have seen legitimate penalties waved away time and again this season (some were even stronger cases than these), but we had two penalties given in one game! That's something to be mentioned. Has our luck turned? We would like to think so. Especially, Walcott's freakish goal epitomised the evening. How many times have we moaned about our luck this season? An interesting stat by Opta shows that Arsenal had the most number of shots cleared off the line in the Premier League in 2011 with 9 (incidentally, Per had his header cleared off the line by Ireland in this game). I don't know if the fact indicates that Arsenal were the unluckiest club of all the Premier League outfits or they took so long to shoot by the time they had done so the oppositions had all their players crammed into the goalmouth, but one thing is certain, which is that it has been very frustrating for the fans.

In terms of performance, our football might not have been as beautiful as it used to be, but the spirit was the key word for the game. The team displayed a great mental strength, coming back from 2 goals down at half time. They have pressed Villa very hard. The referee's favourable decisions helped the dramatic comeback without doubt, but it all started from Ramsey and Koscielny's closing down the Villa players, winning the ball and keeping going. The team deserves a full credit for their determination. The three goals in 7 minutes speak volumes for the intensity and urgency the team put into their game.

While much of the focus is on how lucky Arsenal were, statistics explain another reason why the team should deserve credit for their performance. Arsenal registered 12 shots on target as opposed to Villa's 5. Also, the North London club's passing success rate was a healthy 84.5%, right up to their high standard.

The scoreline invokes the old cliché, but Arsenal's first-half performance was not as bad as the scoreline suggested, apart from their lapse of concentration in the defence. They created enough chances to finish the first half a lot better, but as usual their attack was too slow. Still, we have seen improvements in the second half, which was encouraging.

Another positive from the evening was a number of players back from injury. Most notably, Bacary Sagna was in action for the first time in 4 months. Arteta and Henry also came off the bench. Gibbs will start full training on Monday. It won't be so long before we have specialist full-backs on both sides in our back four set-up.

Arsenal are awaiting the winner of the fourthcoming replay between Sunderland and Middlesbrough for the fifth round of the FA Cup. In the meantime, hopefully, Arsenal can take the momentum and belief into the Premier League, in which they have suffered three consecutive defeats.

Player ratings

Fabianski: 5
Unconvincing performance especially in the first half. I understand Wenger assigns the second-choice keeper as a Cup keeper every season in order to give them more playing time, but it was lucky he got away with his decision to rest Szczeny.

Coquelin: 7
He must have Wenger's faith, judging from the fact that as soon as he has come back from the injury he got his job back as the deputy right-back in front of Nico Yennaris, who impressed us with his performance against Manchester United. Coquelin took a more familiar position in midfield after Sagna came on in the 89th minute. He did OK as the right-back overall, but he should have been alongside Ramsey to stop the cross in, which led to Villa's first goal.

Mertesacker: 7
He should always be aware of the danger of the opponents' counter-attacks when he commits himself forward as he hasn't got pace. He was caught out by Villa's counter-attack, which resulted in their second goal just before half time.

Koscielny: 8
He was guilty for Villa's first goal by not even challenging Dunne, but he showed great determination to win the game in this match, too. Especially, he made a great run which led to the second penalty decision in favour of Arsenal.

Vermaelen: 7
He has venomous shots.

Ramsey: 7
Worked hard as usual, but his finishing still needs improving.

Rosicky: 8
Some regarded him as a strong candidate for the Man of the Match. He kept Arsenal's attacking ticking. Replaced by Arteta in the 71st minutes. He has still a lot to offer for Arsenal. Should be given a contract extension.

Song: 7
Did his job quietly as usual. Good intention to try to clear Bent's effort off the line, but he could not get back in time.

Walcott: 6
Did he recover his popularity by the lucky goal? He might not have known much about the goal, but he was at least in the right place in the right time. Missed other chances. Replaced in the 89th minute to give way for Sagna.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Another convincing performance by the 18 year-old. Has he established himself on the flanks in the first team in the absence of Gervinho? Replaced in the 89th minute for Henry.

van Persie: 8
Always reliable when it comes to taking spot kicks (except for odd occasions). After he put the first penalty in the back of the net, he went straight to the centre circle with the ball in his arm to resume the game. He must have learned a lesson from the Swansea game, in which we conceded a winner to the Welsh side when we were still in the afterglow of Walcott's equaliser. He was the Man of the Match in Arsenal's website poll, but if he is found guilty for the elbowing, it could hurt his rating for this match.

RVP will face no disciplinary action by the FA. 31 January 2012


Arteta: 7
Came on the pitch as a 71st-minute substitute for Rosicky. Good substitution. His performance usually goes unnoticed because of the unspectacular nature of his job, but his introduction gave Song greater freedom to go forward (Song's got those killer passes, remember? So it is a great plus). The Spaniard was sorely missed in the last 2 games. Now Jack Wilshere's lay-off looks likely to be extended, Arteta's presence will be even more important to us.

Sagna: 6
One of the 89th-minute double substitutions. Even during his cameo appearance, he showed what we were missing for the last 4 months. Good to have him back.

Henry: 6
The other 89th-minute subsititution. Van Persie went straight to him, who was warming up on the touch line, to celebrate Arsenal's winner. Henry is more than just a short-term on-loan player to help out the team on the pitch.


Michael Jones
I just thought that the name of the referee who gave us two penalties in one game should be noted. I am not implying that his decisions are partial or anything as even neutral observers agree that they were clear-cut penalties, but it was refreshing to see a referee giving us a penalty (even two!) for a change. Hope he will not put in too harsh a word against RVP.

Asked by the FA, Mike Jones stated that he saw the incident at the time and decided it was not worthy of punishment. Good man! He's my favourite ref.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2

First of all, I have to admit that I only watched the last 5 minutes of the first half and the whole second half, so I might not be in a position to do the post mortem of the game. Also, I did not have time to discuss the game afterwards with the members as I usually do. Therefore, this review here does not necessarily reflect that of Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club. However, I was compelled to write something positive amogst the doom and gloom surrounding a large section of Arsenal fans following the defeat.

I will not go into the details of the match apart from the brief comments on each player's performance in the usual Player Ratings section below, but I am going to pick several talking points from this game.

The biggest talking point was arguably the substitution, which Wenger admitted as a "tactical mistake" according to Sky Sports. His decision to replace the best player on the pitch in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with out-of-form Andrey Arshavin met with the fury of Arsenal fans and even the dissent of RVP (He later denied any rifts with his boss, but all the fans would agree with his instant reaction). Although it turned out that the sub played a part in conceding Man U's winner, what disgusted fans more was the fact that it was none other than Chambo who was taken off the pitch rather than Arshavin replacing him. The Russian could have come on the pitch in place of Walcott or Ramsey, but not Chambo, who looked most dangerous to Man U defence. This notion was confirmed by the fact that Sir Alex Furguson replaced the substitute defender, Rafael, with an attacking player, Ji-Sun Park, only 3 minutes after Chambo left the pitch.

Wenger defended his decision, by stating "I can understand that the fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn't work, but he (Oxlade-Chamberlain) had started to fatigue, He was sick in the week. Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team. You have an 18-year-old kid making his first Premier League start and a player who's captain of his country and they are querying the substitution? Let's be serious." The explanation of the substitution looks a bit feeble to me.

Obviously the result was disappointing and fairly devastating to Arsenal's aspiration for the top four finish (it was fortunate that Tottenham, Liverpool, Newcastle and Stoke all lost, while Chelsea only drew this weekend), but we have a lot of positives to take from this game.

The biggest positive of all was the outstanding performance of Chambo, which convinced us that he is now capable of coping with the intensity of the Premier-League games. After the disappointing first-half performance, Arsenal responded well in the second half, creating enough chances to win the game. Especially, the quick counter-attack leading to RVP's equaliser was something lacking in Arsenal's game for a long time. Hopefully, they will do it more often. Indeed, the second-half performance was encouraging. Following the two Premier-League defeats at the hands of the mid-table clubs, Arsenal showed that they have quality in the team who were capable of matching or even beating Manchester United if they played to their capacity. Vermaelen, whose fitness was a big doubt prior to the match, came through the game without a hitch. Nico Yennaris was useful in stopping Man U players attacking our right flank freely (although there is a lot of room for improvement offensively) after he had come off the bench to replace Djourou.

I still have belief in Arsene Wenger and think there is nobody better than him as an Arsenal manager, but his faith in underperforming players sometimes frustrates me. Look at Fergie. Bébé is now on loan to a Turkish club (and currently injured) only a year after the signing with a permanent deal in sight, while Obertan was sold to Newcastle after 2 years of service. Keeping on the payroll players who do not live up to expectations undermines the size of the squad under Wenger's strict financial policy. Shouldn't we be more ruthless about players?

Hopefully, more player will come back in the next few weeks. It looks like Coquelin is the first, who may be available the next game against Aston Villa. Sagna and Gibbs are two to three weeks away, both Jack Wilshere and Carl Jenkinson a few weeks away. Keep fingers crossed on the speedy recovery of Henry and Arteta. As Arsene Wenger seems to have no intention of reinforcing the squad in January on loan or otherwise, all we can do at the moment is to wait for the return of the injured players.

Our Man of the Match is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I suppose nobody has objection to that.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 7
Some good saves.

Djourou: 4
He was beaten every time Man U players attacked our right flank. Nightmare. Largely at fault for the first goal by not closing down Giggs despite Ramsey's instruction to mark him. Subbed apparently because of his inefficiency (as we haven't heard any injury report on him).

Mertesacker: 7
He did very well to clear the ball off the line, after he was outpaced by Welbeck. He is not as slow as people think. Although we conceded two goals, our defenders should be given credit for keeping Roony quiet.

Koscielny: 8
He showed determination to win the ball and the game.

Vermaelen: 7
We really needed him back for this game. Although he was partly guilty for Man U's opener by letting Valencia head Gigg's cross home, he worked hard.

Ramsey: 6
Created chances, but missed several goal-scoring opportunities. He has been the subject of a lot of criticism recently, but I think he has talent and skills to become a quality player, but he needs more time after the setback in his career through the horrific injury. Losing Fabregas as a rolemodel and Arteta as a midfield partner now through the injury has not helped his progress. Replaced by Ju Young Park in the 84th minute.

Rosicky: 7
Played a large role in setting up for RVP's goal.

Song: 7
Had a quiet game, but did his job.

Walcott: 5
Messed up some chances.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 9
Spiritted performance. Always looked dangerous. Set up a goal for RVP.

van Persie: 8
Scored goal, but missed an easier chance. Happy 91st birthday to his grandad Wim!


Yennaris: 7
The Leytonstone-born England youth international, who was apparently a team mascot in 2000, came on at half time to replace struggling Djourou. Although his crosses left much to be desired, his defence was fairly solid and much more reliable than Djourou. According to Arsenal player profiles, his position is described as midfielder, although his Carling Cup debut was as the right-back (if I remembered correctly). So he is another full-back played out of position, then! Aresenal are asking fans who should start at right back against Aston Villa in this weeks' Fan's Forum Online Poll  and Nico Yennaris is currently leading the poll with 62% of the total votes.

Arshavin: 4
He was partly blamed for Man U's winner by not being interested in defending.

Park: 4
Except for just one good interception and run, he was not involved in the game.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Swansea 3 Arsenal 2

I don't like Arsenal fans having a knee-jerk reaction and calling for the sacking of Arsene Wenger every time we lose, but the second consecutive Premier League defeat makes you wonder what is wrong with the Club. The loss to Fulham was kind of explained by the heavy legs in the second half, but we were outplayed by the mid-table club once again and this time we were on the back foot most of the time. Manchester United also suffered back-to-back defeats during the festive period. This may be merely a blip and there may be no need of panicking. However, some points from this game made us think about long-term issues.

There should be sufficient qualities in players to beat Swansea. All of Arsenal's starting XI, except for Miquel who is captain of Spain's Under-19 team, were established international players (maybe not Koscielny who earned his first cap only a couple of months ago), including three captains of their respective national teams. However, the team looked quite ordinary in this game, not good enough to call themselves title contenders. We felt the Club seemed to have gone backwards. A couple of seasons ago, we looked like a couple of players short of winning the title, but now we probably need five new players in order to challenge for the title.

Maybe it is time to spend money on tested and proven players rather than investing in young players and nurturing them. Samir Nasri's case has proved Wenger's youth policy no longer works in the real world. By the time young players have started making a name, they just want to move on to where they can get paid more rather than making progress as a footballer under the wings of an excellent educator in the shape of Arsene Wenger. We understand that most football fans admire Arsenal's youth policy and Arsenal fans boast of it as "we don't buy stars, but we make stars", but making stars and selling them will never make Arsenal champions.

The situation that surrounded Henry's departure five years ago worryingly resembles the current situation over RVP's contract talk. Henry was allowed to leave Arsenal for Barcelona as he was approaching  his thirties, while Arsenal were in the transitional phase with no prospect of winning trophies in the next couple of years. To make it worse in RVP's case,  he has no major honours to add to his CV. Since Henry's departure, we have won no trophies and we still have a relatively young team. During the five years, the best of the crop of the young players left Arsenal for Barcelona, while the others, such as Denilson and Senderos, proved that they couldn't make it at Arsenal (the jury is still out for Djourou). We need to build a team which can convince RVP that he can win silverware with.

We discussed the prospect of the January transfer window and concluded with disappointment that Arsenal are unlikely to buy anybody, based on Arsene Wenger's recent comments.

As for the game, Arsenal's performance was below-par, which was not good enough to beat a very good Swansea side. Our passing success rate was 78.7% vis-à-vis Swansea's 80.4%, according to Sky Sports site. The figure compares unfavourable to our standard, too. We have a lot to learn  from the way Swansea played. Their attacking was very fast from the break with the both wings joining the attack. Swansea are well-known for their passing football, but they don't pass around in or around the box.

On the defensive side, we made very bad mistakes, which cost us three points. What concerns us most is that in the last two games, the sense of panic crept into our defence when they came under pressure and the lack of concentration when we equalized. As stated in the previous post, we thought we had eradicated the defensive frailty. Hopefully, when Vermaelen comes back, he will bring stability and authority back into our defence.

A positive we can take from this game is that we had two superb goals. It has been nearly a month since we scored more than one goal. Also, no other club has scored more than one goal at the Liberty Stadium.

Hopefully, the team will respond to the disappointing result in the next week's game against Manchester United.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 5
His hesitation to come off the line and collect the ball led to Swansea's winning goal, apparently. (We largely missed the build-up to this goal because TV was showing the replays of Walcott's equaliser and we were busy celebrating it.)

Djourou: 6
His defence-splitting pass set up a goal for Walcott. Some good assistance to the central defenders.

Mertesacker: 5
He missed an absolute sitter. When a corner fell in front of him 6 yards out, he only needed to put it on the target, but he shot it wide.

Koscielny: 7
Some of his clearances were questionable, but played relatively well amongst the team's overall poor performance. Good effort to follow on to Rosicky's shot.

Miquel: 6
Made several good runs forward and good crosses. However, he was guilty for Swansea's second goal by being caught out of position.

Ramsey: 4
It is too harsh to blame him for the penalty as it was soft at best and in our point of view, there wasn't much contact. Even neutral observers think it was dubious. He had a poor game. Jeering from the crowd didn't help. He was at fault for Swansea's second goal by allowing the Swansea player to rob him of the ball.

Benayoun: 5
Couldn't fill Arteta's boots. Arteta, who missed the game due to a mild calf strain, would have played a big role in this game by holding the ball better and keeping midfield tighter.

Song: 6
Made little impact. Took a central defensive role after Mertesacker had been replaced in the 76th minute as Arsenal was desperately trying to salvage the points.

Walcott: 7
Scored a brilliant goal. Although it was partly attributed to Swansea's defensive mistake, he took it very well with composure. On the other hand, he also wasted chances. Hopefully, scoring the goal in front of Henry has boosted his confidence.

Arshavin: 6
Made an assist for RVP's goal via a precise pass. He was as lively as on Monday night, but as far as goal-scoring was concerned, there was no improvement. Worked hard, but he sometimes looked lost with the ball. Still, it is good to see him trying to grab a chance to secure his place in the starting XI, capitalising on the absence of Gervinho.

van Persie: 7
He took the goal very well from the almost impossible position, but he missed an easier opportunity, when he faced one-on-one with the Swansea keeper. He could have done better to beat him.


Rosicky: 7
Replaced Benayoun in the 63rd minute. Made an impact. His powerful shot from the edge of the box forced a good save from Vorm. He has been very effective this season, especially as a sub. Glad we didn't offload him a couple of years when some fans were insisting to do so. He shouldn't be sold.

Henry: 6
Came off the bench in the 63rd minute for Arshavin. Although he didn't have as big an impact as we all hoped, he did well. Some good passes and movements.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Replaced Mertesacker in the 76th minute in Arsenal's efforts to pour in more attacking power. Played well. He looked strong enough to play in the Premier League.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Arsenal 1 Leeds 0

One of the major talking points prior to the game was the return of King Henry. As stated in the previous post, at Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, our collective stance over this issue was cautious. While there was no doubt about positive influences on the young players in the dressing room and training ground, whether he could make an impact on the pitch had remained to be seen. Henry scoring the winning goal to send Arsenal into the fourth round of the FA Cup on his return was a fairytale scenario and made the game something special.

Samir Nasri was spotted by a TV camera in the Emirates, watching the game (Hope he has paid for it). How did he feel when he saw Henry receiving a hero's welcome by all Arsenal fans and expressing his love for his old Club with overwhelming emotions? One of other celebs spotted by the camera was David Beckham, who travelled from Manchester where he watched his old club beating their local rivals in the FA cup tie on the previous day to London, because one of his sons, Romeo, is a big fan of Arsenal, who insisted to watch the game. Before the game, many Arsenal fans feared that the younger generations of Arsenal fans, like Romeo, who don't remember how Henry earned his legendary status at Arsenal, might feel disillusioned in case that he failed to impress them.

RVP praised Henry's "brave" decision as the King no longer needed to prove anything, but his reputation and legendary status were at stake. Our current leading striker attributed the legend's decision primarily to his love for the game, but his reaction to the goal showed that the reason behind his return was nothing but his love for the Club. He has certainly lifted all Arsenal fans as well as the team, who joined him to celebrate his goal, including Szczeny who rushed all the way from the other end.

As well as the feel-good factor, Henry's return provided the much-needed goal-scoring power for the team. Before his instruction, his side struggled to find the net. Especially, Arshavin and Ramsey worked hard and did everything but score. The lack of composure in frong of goal and precision has been Arsenal's shortcomings for some time this season. Hopefully, the younger players will learn lessons from Henry, while Henry will continue his contribution to Arsenal's goal tally.

Another major talking point was team selection. RVP was holidaying in Dubai, meeting Diego Maradona, while Gervinho had left to join the Ivory Coast national team who are preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations. As Wenger tried hard to secure Marouane Chamakh's service for this game, the Morocco international was expected to start. Many expected Ju-Young Park to lead the line up front alongside Chamakh, but it was Arshavin who got the nod. Oxlade-Chamberlain started on the right flank as widely expected. Arsene Wenger stated prior to the match that he would field a strong side, which centred around the first-team starters. As he suggested, the midfield consisted of the usual triumvirate: Ramsey, Arteta and Song. Miquel and Coquelin were this night's full-backs, which had already stretched due to Vermaelen's recent injury and Djourou's one-match suspension. After this game, the full-back crisis worsened as Coquelin hobbled off the pitch with a hamstring injury, which is expected to sideline him for a few weeks (what used to be called a full-back drought is now cited as the curse of Arsenal full-backs). Koscielny and Squillaci formed a central defensive partnership for the night, which often proved disastrous last season. Why Mertersacker did not start or wasn't even on the bench was a mystery to me. On the Arsenal site, He was speaking as if he had been sure to take a part in this tie.

Arsenal's comfortable win was predicted as Leeds had been struggling to cope with injuries to their key players. However, Simon Grayson had his tactics right by concentrating available players on defence and gave Arsenal a hard time.

At Las Mimosas bar, our venue once again after the two-week closure, we were saying that the Budweiser Man of the Match choice made the other players who played for full 90 minutes look pathetic, but what Henry did deserved it. Within 10 minutes of coming off the bench, he achieved what the other players couldn't to do for 90 minutes, scoring a goal.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 7
Largely not troubled, but did well to keep a clean sheet against Leed's late charge .

Coquelin: 7
Played well once again out of position, at right-back this time. A hamstring injury forced him off the pitch in the 33rd minute to be replaced by an understudy right-back, Nico Yennaris.

Squillaci: 7
Played OK. Nearly scored (some of us thought he actually scored). Just his presence is ominous.

Koscielny: 8
Reliable as usual. He has been the most improved Arsenal player this season since Walcott has let us down in the recent few games.

Miquel: 7
Made several good forward runs, but lost the ball in the final third (after all, he is a central defender). Played well, considering the fact that he played out of position.

Ramsey: 8
As usual, he covered a lot of ground from the box to box, right to left, working hard. Orchestrated attacking moves, creating chances, and showed some fancy footwork and skills. His finishing let him down again.

Arteta: 7
Had a couple of shots, one of which was wide, the other was too tame to even sweat the keeper.

Song: 7
His passing after tackles is often awful, but he occasionally produces those killer passes you would expect from a creative attacking midfielder, such as the one that found Henry this night and the one that set up RVP's superb volley against Everton. He deserves more credit for the pass to Henry.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
He started on a subdued note, but gradually got into the game and started the second half brightly. His powerful shot forced a great save from the Leeds keeper. Replaced by Walcott for some reason in the 68th minutes. Is Wenger over-protective about the exposure of the promising youngster?

Arshavin: 8
He often get criticism for his laziness, but you cannot fault his workrate in this match. He was all over the pitch, working hard. Especially, he kept going despite a series of rough treatments by Leeds players. He had three chances inside the opening three minutes, the last of which was the best in terms of time and space he was given as well as the central position, but the lack of composure led him to blast it over the bar.

Chamakh: 5
I have started to run out of words to defend him.


Yennaris: 7
Replaced injured Coquelin in the 33rd minute. No non-sense defence and good going forward. No problem.

Henry: 9
Came on the pitch in the 68th minute for Chamakh and the rest is history. For the winning goal, the timing of his run was perfect (Relays convinced me that the Leeds player on the far side played him on side and also he timed his run carefully. They should show a freeze frame picture with a white line for the defence line and another for Henry's position in order to silence all the accusations by Tottenham supporters and the Irish), his touch was impeccable and his finish was clinical. Wenger revealed that his only instruction to Henry before coming on the pitch was to play through the middle, but he knew exactly what he was required to do once he was on the pitch. He is an intelligent world-class player. Welcome home!

Walcott: 6
The other one of the 68th minute double substitution. Put in a couple of good crosses, but did not make a big impact.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Arsenal v Tottenham in Benidorm

The club is proposing to visit Benidorm for this match
Sundary 26th Feburary 14:30 Spanish time

We are proposing to stay for 2 nights the total costs PER APARTMENT is
71.99 Euros for 1 bed apt.
75.99 Euros for 2 bed apt.
At the Levant Club Apartments

Any more information contact either
Ricky Devine 634328479 or Dave Johns 636827333

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fulham 2 Arsenal 1

What hurts us more than the result is the fact that Fulham outplayed us. Our performance in the second half was poor, as bad as the one against Olympiacos, but the latter was by our second-string team, while apart from the makeshift full-backs, Monday night's starting XI were currently our best team. That's what concerns us.

In fact, the team selection was one of the major talking points ahead of and following this game. Rotation was widely expected, including RVP to get a rest, but Arsene Wenger opted for just two changes from the starting line-up that faced QPR 48 hours ago; namely Gervinho for Arshavin and Coquelin replacing injured Vermaelen. Unfortunately, Henry's loan deal is still awaiting completion, hence no return of the King. In the hindsight, Arsene Wenger should have rotated more players, including RVP, who looked exhausted in the second half. The fact that we had to rely on Robin when he clearly needed a rest highlights the lack of depth in the squad.

On the other hand, some fans blame for the players who couldn't deliver the expected performance for full 90 minutes. Is 48 hours not enough for players to recover from modern-day intense games?

What we don't understand is Wenger's reluctance to play Oxlade-Chamberlain. Surely he is a better option than Walcott at the moment. The boss seems to be worried about the 18-year old overawed by the intensity of the Premier League. Maybe this was because he felt that Chambo's confidence was dented after his lacklustre performance in the intense battle against Bolton in Carling Cup. However, he has experience in playing in big games, such as the FA Cup tie against Manchester United last season in a Southampton shirt. Carl Jenkinson, who is only a year older than him, was introduced to the intensity of the Premier League and even the Champions League qualifying straight from the non-league football (the last game he played before his move to Arsenal was for non-league Eastbourne side). Also, the ex-Southampton player are used to play in the lower division where games are even more physical than the Premier League. Besides, there are many teenage players already playing in the Premier League. A talented player like him should be able to cope with the vigour of England's top-flight games. If Wenger is waiting for a comfortable game to ease him into the life in the Premier League, his chance will never come, judging from the way Arsenal are currently playing! (When did you see Arsenal winning comfortably last time?)

Another young player Arsene Wenger seems reluctant to field is Ignasi Miquel. In the absence of the two recognised left-backs and following the injury to a makeshift left-back, Vermaelen, Miquel was favourite to play in this position ahead of the match. Instead, Wenger chose to play a central midfielder, Coquelin, once more at left-back. Although Coquelin played well until Fulham scored their second goal, we don't understand why Miquel doesn't get a chance to play. When Wenger brought a defensive substitution in place of Ramsey, it was Squillaci who came on the pitch. (We were horror-stricken at the sight of him on the touchline.)

If we have to give our players credit, that's for their first-half performance. There was some free-flowing football and they kept mounting pressure. Arsenal dominated the possession, but as usual, they failed to kill off the game.

Let's hope the second-half performance was just a one-off incident as a result of the fixture congestion during the festive season. As we go back to the weekly Premier League schedule, hopefully Arsenal will get back in winning ways. Keep fingers crossed that there will be no need of an FA Cup replay. Fortunately (or unfortunately), we are out of the Carling Cup competition for this season, which means our January fixtures are not as congested as the last season, with no two-legged semi-final matches.

The transfer window is now open. Henry's return is imminent. Hopefully, he will be able to take a goal-scoring pressure off RVP, but we still need a solution for our full-back crisis. Wenger is reluctant to make a permanent signing for full-backs as Sagna and Gibbs are both expected to return by the end of this month. The boss stated he would consider a loan deal for a left-back, but players clubs are willing to offer a loan deal for tend to be second-string players if not third-choices. Such players are not good enough for Arsenal even on a short-term basis. Wayne Bridge is one of the player who have been linked to Arsenal, but in my opinion, he is no longer a top-level player. He was far from impressive during his loan spell at West Ham in the second half of last season. He wouldn't be worth his wages, which wouldn't be cheap for a Manchester City player.

Gibbs is well-known as an injury-prone player and this season hasn't proven otherwise. Signing a versatile defender, who can play both at left-back and in central defence, such as Jan Vertonghen, is not such a bad idea (and get rid of Squillaci!).

Player ratings

Szczeny: 6
Made some good saves, including the one that denied Ruiz's close-range shot, but he admits his goalkeeping was poor for Fulham's equaliser. If he couldn't get to the ball, he might as well have stayed on line.

Djourou: 4
Got two yellow cards (I still think the second yellow card was a little bit too harsh, though) and sent off.

Mertesacker: 6
His unsuccessful challenge put pressure on Djourou and thus led to the right-back's dismissal.

Koscielny: 8
Solid defending. Scoring a goal was the icing on the cake.

Coquelin: 7
He often made forward runs and linked with Gervinho very well. The problem with playing centre-backs in the full-back positions is that our deputy full-backs (i.e., Vermaelen and Djourou) tend to drift into the middle, but in this game Coquelin provided the width. Overall he played well, despite playing out of position. Made a brave aerial challenge on Sidwell, but the head injury may have affected his performance later on. Where was he when Zamora scored the winning goal? The Fulham striker shouldn't have been left unmarked.

Ramsey: 7
He made a great run, providing a cross for Koscielny to head it home. Pulled the strings on attacking moves and worked hard, helping defence. His finishing still left much to be desired, but managed to put shots on target. Replaced by Squillaci at 81st minute.

Arteta: 6
Not involved great deal.

Song: 6
He couldn't break down Fulham attacks as much as we hoped.

Walcott: 4
Crossing, shooting, passing, everything he did was poor effort. He has been having a few poor games recently. It's time to start Chambo in his place.

Gervinho: 6
He works tirelessly, makes great runs, beats defenders and gets into the dangerous positions but he doesn't know what to do when he cannot find RVP in the box.

Van Persie: 6
He failed to conjure up the usual magic. In the second half, he spent most of time on the ground, probably looking for fouls, which we all knew would end up in vain with Lee Probert. Playing three games in the space of 6 days is too much for RVP. We should only be grateful for the fact that he didn't get injured.


Rosicky: 5
Replaced Walcott in the 65th minute to bring a fresh pair of legs into midfield, but failed to make a big difference (anybody was better than Walcott, though).

Benayoun: 5
74th-minute substitution for Gervinho. Made little impact.

Squillaci: 4
Came on in the 81st minute to replace Ramsey supposedly to shore up the defence, with the result that Arsenal conceded two goals within 8 minutes of each other, just 4 minutes after he had come on.


Lee Probert: 4
He gave few decisions in favour of us. Gervinho should have been given a penalty after his legs were swiped away by Senderos in the box. Even Martin Jol admitted that it should have been a penalty. Another bad decision which cost us expensively.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Arsenal 1 QPR 0

The focus of our pre-match talk was on the certain return of Thierry Henry. Fans' immediate reaction to the news seem to be divided between those who hailed the King's return without reservation and those who were sceptical about his pace and fitness being able to cope with the Premier League's speed and vigour at the age of 34 years and thus feared that his return might tarnish his legendary status at Arsenal. Amongst the latter, some are unhappy with reputedly frugal Arsene Wenger's decision to opt for the two-month loan deal of the 34 year-old player rather than a permanent signing of a younger world-class striker, such as Podolski and Gotze, who have been linked to Arsenal for some time. At the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, our collective view on this issue is a wait and see. While he will have a positive influence in the dressing room and training ground without doubt with his winning mentality, loyalty to the Club and experience, whether he can make an impact on the pitch is yet to be seen.

The game was another frustrating affair, but the biggest difference from Wolves game was that we got the result we wanted. The three points out of this match took us to the fourth spot in the table, leapfrogging Chelsea, who lost 3-1 to Aston Villa at home on the same day, and Liverpool, who had briefly occupied the fifth place following their defeat of Newcastle on the previous night. We ended the very difficult year in the top four.

Another difference was that Arsenal's frustration in the previous match was largely attributed to the opponents' goalkeeper, Hennessey's stunning performance and Wolves stubborn defence, while in this game our own players' futility was the main culprit. With more clinical finishing, Arsenal could have sealed the victory much more comfortably.

With both Manchester clubs dropping three points this weekend, the title race looked wide open. However, we, Arsenal fans, are more realistic than people might think after the very difficult start to the season. Our target, for now anyway, is to finish the season in the Champions League spot.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 7
Made some good stops at early stage. There was an unconvincing handling, but he recovered well to save the follow-on.

Djourou: 6
Dealt with Taarabt relatively well.

Mertesacker: 7
Played OK. No problem.

Koscielny: 8
Our best defender again. Looked solid.

Vermaelen: 7
Very unlucky to be booked due to the mistaken identity. Withdrawn early due to a calf strain, which could sideline him for two to three weeks. Another left-back we have lost.

Ramsey: 7
Mixed performance. He orchestrated attacking moves, including an inch-perfect through pass to Walcott. On the other hand, he gave away the ball too often. If he wants to achieve his target of double-digit goals, he has to improve his finishing.

Arteta: 7
I would definitely like to see Henry taking free-kicks on the left-hand side instead of Arteta any day of the week.

Song: 6
Again, his passing left much to be desired. On the defensive side, he covered the back four well.

Walcott: 5
He never hides his desire to become a central striker and he had a brilliant chance to show what he can do. Unfortunately, he failed to take it. His finish completely lacked composure. Thierry Henry would have certainly slotted it home.

Arshavin: 6
Apart from the pass that set up the winning goal for RVP, he had little impact. He was lazy and ineffective defensively, hence Rosicky's introduction in his place. Work rate is the reason why Gervinho is always selected before Arshavin.

Van Persie: 8
We can rely on him when it matters.


Coquelin: 7
Replaced injured Vermaelen at left-back in the 56th minute. Being essentially a midfielder, he made more forward runs than Vermaelen and created chances. As it happened, QPR's right flank did not pose as much threat as expected, he played OK defensively, too.

Rosicky: 7
Came in for Arshavin in the 68th minute, 8 minutes after RVP's winning goal. Good substitution as protecting a one-goal lead is always difficult with Arshavin in defence.

Gervinho: 7
He made the immediate difference as soon as he came on at 74th minute, but wasted at least two clear-cut chances.


Martin Atkinson: 4
Vermaelen's yellow card mystified all of us as well as the player himself and it turned out that Koscielny was the intended recipient. Arsenal had two penalty shouts for handball turned down. If the handball by Gary Caldwell of Wigan in their game against Stoke was indeed a red-card offence, these should have had the same treatment.