Welcome back BK’ers. Arsenal returns after another typically boring interlull. Just to recap:
Our players departed to various corners of the globe two weeks ago. Unfortunately for us the Earth is not flat so Arsene’s attempt to send Bendtner off the edge of it failed. The Great Dane did however inform Arsene that not only is he the world’s greatest striker, but after conquering England, he and his fellow Vikings have overtaken Europe after storming the shores on massive flotillas; and now he’s asked the kit designers to change his name to ‘Bendtner-the-Great’!
We beat our knuckle dragging rivals 1-0 thanks to this goal by GIROUD!!!!
Today we lock horns with Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland. Although they’ve lost their past seven league games, Sunderland have had a decent record against us in recent seasons. They knocked us out of the FA Cup two seasons ago, we drew 0-0 on opening day last season, and we scrapped over the line with a 0-1 win in our last meeting. They are a different team this season, though. They’ve lost Mignolet and Sessegnon, but gained Mannone (best of luck, just not against us), Liverpool striker Borini, and Napoli defender Dossena.
Let’s get in to it shall we?
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring), Vermaelen (Back), Ox (Knee), Arteta (Thigh), Diaby (Knee), Rosicky (Hip), Zelalem (shame really, I would have liked to see him make a cameo against West Brom). Thankfully, Walcott is okay to play after he escaped injury following a tackle from Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Kucher. Sanogo will also miss the game (heaven forbid we need to chase victory in this one).
Sunderland: Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardner, Phillip Bardsley, Connor Wickham will all miss this fixture through injury. Wes Brown will most likely miss this one but with O’Shea missing due to suspension he may need to suit up.
Once again this should be best the available one. Ozil will make his debut in place of Rosicky. Santi will start out wide but drift in every now and then like he usually does with great success. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Flamini started in place of Jack, in fact I’d probably prefer if given Jack’s midweek involvement. The Gibbs/Nacho LB mystery still remains. I prefer Nacho in away games but I think Gibbs will start. If Ozil was settled in I’d be adventurous and go with Gnabry out wide instead of Santi, however, we need to assert ourselves early this season so a safety first approach should be in play.
Sunderland v Arsenal 0-1
Arsenal took the lead at the 36’ mark thanks to a beautiful strike from our mighty Spaniard Santi Cazorla. Late replacement Jenkinson was sent off after 62’ thanks to a second yellow. After that we had to dig our heels in and fight to keep the Black Cats at bay. This was the game we first saw the partnership of Mertz and Sagna. Boy did Sagna do well on short notice.
See Santi’s goal here:
Arsenal v Sunderland 0-0
A stubborn Sunderland could not be broken down in this one. Resolute defending and a shocking miss from new boy Giroud saw the game finish goalless. It’s fair to say we’ve seen better football matches than that one.
Form Guide: Arsenal: : WWWWL Sunderland: LWDLL
Four wins in a row and we are travelling nicely at the minute. A win against Tottenham should see spirits high in the Arsenal camp, not to mention the buzz created by Ozil.
Sunderland is yet to pick up a league win this season (2 losses and a draw). They did progress in the capital one cup after trailing by 2 goals against League One outfit MK Dons.
This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s a collection of Tony Adams’ favourite FA Cup moments. Enjoy.
One to Watch:
Ex-ManCity footballer Adam Johnson will need to be shackled in this one. Despite the fact that I don’t rate him highly, he is still an incredibly gifted footballer. If Gibbs or Nacho give him space he could fire in some bullet crosses, and with Fletcher hovering in and around the area he should not be given an inch.
Club record signing Mesut Ozil will have all eyes on him today. Arsenal fans will be sitting on the edge of their seats, eyes popping out every time he goes near the ball. On the other hand, journalists will be sharpening their pencils as they prepare to label him a flop if he doesn’t break the game apart. All I know is I’m bloody excited. If he scores, Arsenal fans the world over could develop a repetitive strain injury in the wrist…fear not though we have two!
Steven Fletcher vs Laurent Koscielny
Last season Fletcher was Sunderland’s key signing in the transfer window. After a reasonably large sum of money was exchanged for the former Wolves striker, Fletcher shot down his critics by scoring 5 goals in 4 games. This won him the Barclay’s player of the month for September. Last week marked his first match back from injury and he did it in style scoring against CrystalPalace after coming off the bench (albeit in a loss). I don’t know what it is about Fletcher but he just seems to be one of those strikers that can make you pay if given the smallest sniff (almost Bent-esque). Koscielny along with his partner in crime big Mertz will have to be on guard for this one. I have no doubt ‘Bosscielny’ is up for the challenge though, he’s fast becoming a world class defender. If he played for Bayern or Barca he’d probably already be labelled one.
Key Stat: Last season: Koscielny finished second in the league for aerial duels won (only 2% behind the monster Samba, 6% more than Cahill, and 14% more than Vermaelen). Have a look at his tackle and interception stats:
This week’s finger goes out to…International breaks! I’m sick of them! Yes I know Australia is useless at football (6-0 to Brazil…way to go guys) but there are just too many negatives. We at Arsenal know better than most that when our players jet-set across the globe not everyone will come back in one piece. If I decide to watch an International match I’ll do it to keep an eye out for our players. I don’t care if they score 6 goals! I’d rather them sit on the sideline or hover near the corner flag staying away from the action. With our thin squad the last thing I want to hear is Ozil/Santi/Kozzer has come back injured so we’re going to have to rub horse placenta on him. Arsene must lose plenty of sleep when his players fly the coop.
My next bone to pick with International games is their timing! We build up a head of steam, we’re choc full of confidence, 4 wins on the trot then it’s “I’ll see you in two weeks, Arsene.” Worst of all the injuries and roadblocks seem to happen during friendlies, cheers FIFA we didn’t need Ozil for 6 months anyway. Lastly the controversy; every time there’s an international round something happens that takes away from the game itself. We might care a bit more if we didn’t have to witness unreliable refs, diving, handball decisions not called, and worst of all…racism.
Then once in a lifetime a miracle happens…Australia make it past the group stages of the World Cup. A nation unites and everyone screams “Lucas Neill is the best defender in the WORLD!!!!” (funny thing is, Liverpool actually fell for it!). It’s a change from the usual “Soccer is a game for girls: they’re weak, they dive etc.” Then Australia gets knocked out by Italy thanks to a dive. It’s okay though, because it’s an excuse for the whole country to get drunk and cheer for a game no one normally cares about. The next day it’s “who cares, soccer is shit anyway.” To be continued…if Australia become half decent again.
As for Zidane, you can have a finger too! Suggesting Ozil left Real Madrid because he “lacked the will to fight”…buzz off you imbecile, perhaps he should go around head butting players then?! Although, I would have been a lot happier if he head-butted Bale and Ronaldo before he departed the club.
Pre-Match pat on the back:
This week’s pat on the back is going to Jack Wilshere for copping the criticism he received after his display against Ukraine. He was subjected to some rough tackling during the game (when isn’t he?) but the backlash from the game has been completely ridiculous. It’s the English media’s fault not Jacks. They’ve built him up to be Jesus Mk II.
But when he has a bad game he’s no longer the ‘Super-kid’ he was once heralded as; instead, they start questioning his ability or wonder if his injuries have left him as a shadow of his former self. The good thing about Jack, though, is we know he can shake it off and come back fighting. He’ll dust off those injury cobwebs and make those who doubted him look very senseless.
‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead. This week the answers were kindly provided by Adam from www.a-love-surpreme.com and Paolo’s Pecs (a Sunderland moderator for www.not606.com . Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:
1) How do you rate your transfer window (ins and outs)?
ADAM: There’s been a massive turnaround over the summer, with 14 new signings and 7 first-team departures. Yet the transfer window overall has been greeted with a mixed reception as some of the deals feel like they are desperate and only short term solutions to the problems. In saying that, Jozy Altidore looks promising as does Italian international Emanuele Giaccherini and Czech right-back Ondřej Čelůstka. On the other hand, it was sad to see Danny Rose return to Tottenham and Simon Mignolet’s departure is like watching your girlfriend leave you and yet still be on good terms.
PAOLO: I think we have found some good talent, but I do worry that some of the lads are only a slight improvement, when with the financial backing we have we should be going forward in leaps. We’ve lost a little of our pre-season optimism already, Cabral looked superb v Fulham then hasn’t figured, Altidore looks a handful but not a natural finisher, funnily, the last minute unknown Celutska looks a real gem, as does Diakite when used.
2) Can Vito Mannone fills Mignolet’s shoes between the sticks?
ADAM: It looks like Mannone will be providing competition for Keiren Westwood this season who’s waited patiently for a run in the first team. Mannone looked decent in pre-season however neither him nor Westwood will be as good as Mignolet in my opinion.
PAOLO: Not on any level. I had a chat with Vito in Tesco (bit surreal) and he seems a decent lad, I reserve judgement on him, but I think replacing Mig will take years, we are all seeing his impact at Anfield already.
Mignolet should be an Arsenal player, simple as that, even we said it ‘he should go to Arsenal, Liverpool are not good enough for him’. We’re not a bitter bunch at all…
3) You’ve had a slow start to the season, how do you think Paolo Di Canio he travelling? Will he take you places?
ADAM: I think Paolo will be either be a huge success (Europe) or we’ll be in a relegation dogfight, there’s no in between with him. Hopefully it will be a success but at the moment it’s not looking good.
PAOLO: Jesus, how long is your column… There are minor divides already, I’m still all for, love the natural enthusiasm and agree that discipline is needed. Some say he’s OTT, and there points are justified, some say he is short tactically, and we have failed to impact 2 of 3 games.
I do think he’s learning, and I do think, given patience, he will get us moving. How far? Top 10 regulars maybe, not this season though.
4) What player/position is your weakest?
ADAM: We lack creativity in central midfield although hopefully the signing of Ki Sung-Yueng will change that. We also look very light defending set-pieces as there’s not much physical presence in the team.
PAOLO: Centre mid, we can’t get a balance and lack creativity. Seb, who I like, is not worth his shirt at the minute, he is not strong enough or quick enough in the head to play CM.
5) Which Arsenal player would you like and why?
ADAM: Laurent Koscielny or Mesut Özil would be nice but realistically I’m a big fan of Rosicky and he’d be perfect for us, given our need for an attacking centre-midfielder. Despite smashing a penalty over against us a few years ago, his composure, long shots and determination to come back from a long injury have always impressed me.
PAOLO: Cazorla, driving force, creativity. We are desperate for that. I lived in Marbella for 3 years, watched Santi many times, and the man is a magician at times. Top lad too, used to just turn up at local schools and kick ball about with kids. His son, supposedly, is ridiculously talented, aged 5 or 6 or whatever. Sign him up!
6) Which player/position do you feel is our weakest?
ADAM: Arsenal had arguably one of the tightest defences ever under George Graham but Arsene Wenger’s era has been plagued with defensive frailties. Plus, there’s very little cover at the back as Sagna while playing well there so far isn’t a natural CB and Thomas Vermaelen is struggling for form. Arsenal don’t seem to like it when teams are rough and physical against them either although that is slowly changing now.
PAOLO: I think you lack a genuine holding midfielder, and think both of your wing backs can be got at. CB I think you have good players, but none of them perfectly complement each other.
7) Özil, will he live up to the hype?
ADAM: He made a very successful transition from the Bundesliga to La Liga and plays well at International level so he should be a huge success; I just hope he struggles on his debut!
PAOLO: Yes, and then some. Phenomenal natural talent, if he is half a Bale, I’m a fit blonde. He, Santi, Jack one midfield? I will be covering my eyes a lot on Saturday.
8) What is your prediction for the match?
ADAM: We have to put on a good performance eventually and that may be due against Arsenal. We have a decent record against you at home as well so (as long as Özil isn’t at his best) I’m going for 1-1.
PAOLO: I’m an eternal optimist, you have to be following Sunderland. 3-0 Arsenal…
I think we’ll account for Sunderland pretty easy. They have a very unsettled squad at the moment, and while we also have a plethora of injuries our squad seems pretty settled. I think Ozil will be a handful and I look forward to seeing both he and Santi working in tandem. I’m going to go with a very solid 0-3 victory, with Giroud scoring a brace early and Santi getting on the score sheet late.
For this week’s psychic prediction I contacted ‘Eagle Star’ again (he thinks I write for le-grove so if things go sour BK will not suffer his magical wrath. Terry may suffer from more warts on his pecker. But it’s uncertain whether that can be attributed to magic, or just the ‘dark arts’ strip club he works at on weekends). Here are his responses:
Oz: Will Arsenal dispatch Sunderland this week?
Eagle Star: Thank you for coming back. Here for some more free predictions huh?! After our last discussion I watched the Tottenham game and I must say Arsenal played well. I’m seeing a 0-2 victory.
Oz: sounds good. Our new signing Ozil is going to debut in this one, how will go?
Eagle Star: I think he’ll come close to scoring.
Oz: Now you predicted we’d sign 4 players after the Tottenham game, what happened to the other two?
Eagle Star: As I keep telling that pest James Bond Arsenal tried to but couldn’t close.
Oz: So you’re JB’s insider?
Eagle Star: ….I’ve said too much, see you next week Oz.
What is your prediction?
Will Ozil make a dream debut?
Can Mertesacker and Kozzer keep Fletcher at bay?
Written by: Oz Gunner