Monthly Archives: April 2012

A few words with Pedro at Le Grove: Wenger, defending, controversy and MC Hammer

An interview with Pedro at Le Grove

I did intend interviews with my betters to be a weekly thing. Alas, I’ve discovered that the folks in question have more important things to do than cater to my badgering. Fortunately, I’ve asked some genuinely kind folks and they’ve found the time to contribute. This week, it’s the turn of one of the most successful bloggers out there, Pedro of Le Grove.

I hope you enjoy it.

1. Le Grove gets a lot of criticism. Have you ever considered pandering your content more toward the masses, or does being consistently maligned only strengthen your resolve to keep your opinions honest and your own?

I think we cater to the masses already. We didn’t at the start and that’s why were heavily criticised. I don’t think we are nowadays. Le Grove is there to spark debate and conversation. That’s not a forced act, that’s just what happens when you have strong views. If people don’t like what is written in the post, they’re more than welcome to debate it out in the comments section with the rest. We like to think of the site as an online pub. Who wants to drink in the pub with someone who sits on the fence? Not me.
You mention that we’re much maligned… I totally disagree. We have a huge daily readership with 75% of them returning daily, our community has posted over 1 million comments between them and we’re often invited to do things outside of the site with other publications. A few people saying they hate Le Grove on Twitter really is insignificant when you look at everything else. The irony of it all is that those people seem to be pretty au fait with the content they claim to hate so much.
2. Like me, there are many new starters and novice bloggers out there. In an environment as competitive and vast as the Arsenal blogging community, how did you reach such a level of exposure and success, and what advice would you offer to those of us finding our feet?  

 We did a few things. Firstly, we took a view that the manager wasn’t invincible which was pretty taboo back in 2007. We also committed to creating a piece of content everyday. If you want to grow a following, you have to post content regularly. Before I started blogging, I had a daily schedule of sites I’d visit. There weren’t many that blogged everyday, those that did, regardless of quality would generally get my hit. Arsenal fans are information junkies, feed there habit.
 We’ve also never written for anyone other than ourselves. As soon as you start calming down your views or trying to satisfy every view point in a post, you lose any potency your content might have had. You’re also lying to yourself. You have an opinion… you don’t have six.
3. Arsenal can’t defend. This season is a litany of calamitous blunders at the back. It’s difficult to pinpoint whether the problem is individual or collective. What measures would you take to improve our defensive stability?
I think there are a number of things we can do to defend better. Firstly, practice defending. That would be an amazing start. I think individually, we have great defenders at Arsenal. We have the best right back in Europe, we have 3 very capable centre backs and I’m warming to Gibbs. We don’t defend as a unit though. That’s a problem. You can have average defenders who play in a world class unit.
I also think we need to use more video analysis. From what I understand, we’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analysing the opposition and the mistakes players make. We need to start upping our game. If you’re playing Stoke and you know who Delap is going to try and hit from a throw, you’ve got an advantage. If you’re playing Liverpool and you know which side Downing generally cuts inside, again, that’s a 2% you might not have had before. Players are lazy. Make then watch the videos. Just like Jose does at Madrid. Preparation is key. We don’t do enough of it.
Finally, I’d look to bring in a proper defensive midfielder who loves sitting in front of the back four. That man is not Songinho. We could really do with a Gilberto like player in the middle. Hopefully that’ll be M’Vila.
4. You’ve gone on record many times as stating you believe Arsene Wenger should step down from his position as manager at Arsenal. His contribution to Arsenal over 15 years is unquestionable, but with our lack of silverware now at 7 years, do you still think it’s time for a change?
If Arsene Wenger heads into this summer with the same attitude as last, then he needs to go. If he treats this summer like he wants to win the league, then I’d be more than happy for him to stay. This season, regardless of the finish has been a disaster. Most of that disaster happened last summer. I’d love to think he’s learned something from the errors and I’d love him to show us all he is still one of the best in the business. It’s up to him though… is he man enough to admit his errors and kick on and win us the league? I hope so…
And Finally… 
5. Due to a freak cheese grating accident, you’ve lost all your fingers and the ability for speech. Your only means of communication is the universal language of dance. One day, you meet Dennis Bergkamp in Tesco shopping for a pasta bake. How would you sufficiently show him your unbridled admiration?
I think I’d wrap my stumps around him and give him a big hug. Failing that, I’d probably bust out my MC Hammertime dance. Everyone loves that. Especially the ladies.
Thanks for taking a moment to read today, you beautiful bastards. You can use the comments section to say unabashedly nice things. I’ll finish with a big thanks to Pedro for taking a few moment of his time to answer my question.
You can follow me on Twitter @_ArmchairGooner and, if you don’t already, you can keep up with Pedro and all of Le Grove’s daily stuff @LeGrove

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A draw will have to do, despicable Pulis and Theo fit for Euros.

Pulis proudly showed off his degree in cuntism and idiotic hats. Graduated with honours.

FA Premiership, April 28th:  Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal

Sunday morning, day of rest greetings, various peoples.

I’ve got to be honest and say I’m a little disappointed today. I really wanted to get three delicious points at Stoke. Thankfully, Wigan’s recent impressive resurgence continued and they thumped Newcastle, so a meagre point isn’t at all bad in the grand scale of things. Third place still remains entirely in our own hands.

The match yesterday was what you’d expect from a trip to the Britannia Stadium; a hostile environment and an opposing eleven comprising of hackers and thugs. You could see from the moment the game kicked off, they intended to use old-fashioned intimidation tactics to throw us of our game.

To our credit, we weren’t as affected by it as we have been in the past. We had opportunities to win the game, and were it not for Gervinho’s profligacy, we certainly would have. I like the Ivorian, he has pace and enthusiasm. If he could just put a consistent end product into his game, he’d become a real handful and a very valuable asset. Something for him to work on in the summer.

Once Robin had cancelled out Crouch’s opener having been set up by a nice combination between Benayoun and Rosicky, I thought we’d go on and win it. The match sort of petered out a bit, and barring the occasional Delap-inspired scare late on, we didn’t look at all uncomfortable. With two games to go, and four points separating us and Newcastle, the positives to be taken from a draw against relatively lowly opponents are simply that we didn’t lose any ground to those chasing us. At this stage, that’s all I care about.

After the game, Arsene Wenger had a few words to say regarding the cacophonous abuse he and Aaron Ramsey – who had a solid game – recieved from the Stoke supprters:

“I focus on what I love in my job, which is football and the way my players behave on the pitch. I’m not responsible for the way people behave in the stands. If you want to stop that, it’s easy to stop. You can isolate every single face.

“I think sometimes when I go out on the pitch at the end of the game, and people are angry or hateful, I would like a little picture to send home for them to show their son or daughter, and then come back next week and see if they will do it again, see if they are proud of you.”

He added:

“I don’t think you can be especially proud to boo Aaron Ramsey, I don’t see what he has done wrong.

Well, he did have the audacity to have his leg broken by lovely, not-at-all-like-that, poor, sweet, innocent Ryan Shawcross on the Stoke turf. Honestly, what was he thinking? Of course, with the above comments, slimey and moronic as ever, Tony Pulis chimed in with his two-pennies wirth:

“I was more concerned about the Arsenal supporters booing Shawcross so I didn’t hear the ones on Ramsey.”

Seriously? Fuck off… Of course we boo him. He’s a thuggish idiotic without a degree of common sense who broke a young man’s leg in two. He deserves it. As for Ramsey, he deserves none of the above. He’s hardly at fault for being the victim of someone’s actions. Pulis, you truly are a stubborn and breathtakingly stupid man.

In oter news, Theo should make a recovery from injury in plenty of time to make England’s squad for Euro 2012. Good news for him.

That’s all for today folks. I’m back tomorrow with another interview for you to get your peepers round. Pedro from Le Grove has been kind enough to answer a few questions for me, and it’s a good read.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Take a moment to comment with your views on the game, and follow my Twitter account @_ArmchairGooner

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Starting XI against Stoke and team news.

Stoke Vs Blackburn was a highlight in any Premiership season.

FA Premiership, April 28th: Stoke City Vs Arsenal.

You may have noticed – or not – that my posting was sorely lacking yesterday. It’s always been my desire to keep The Armchair Gooner fresh with articles on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. Because of that, they’ll be the odd occasion where I feel compelled to offer up an apology, and assure the two of you that read regularly that I’m doing my best to ensure such things only  happen rarely. So, I’m sorry!

Right, onto to Stoke. Like me, I’m certain they’re not your ‘second’ team. I read an interesting stat, recently. During the entirety of the current league campaign, Stoke have attempted all of five through-balls. FIVE….

That beggars belief, and perfectly sums up their approach to the game. I’m far from the type that discounts the methods opponents employ, as everyone has the right to play to their strengths. However, their strong-arm, lets-bombard-the-penalty-area-with-long-throws-and-then-kick-the-shit-out-of-the-other-team-claiming-it’s-simply-committted-play-and-out-players-are-not-like-that tactics I find abhorrent. Plus, their manager is a world-class shit.

Playing them on their own turf isn’t a test of footballing ability, it’s a test of character and resolve. We’ll need to be able to give back what we’ll recieve in spades.

There are a few absentees. Theo and Mikel won’t feature again this season, and Diaby has suffered another predictably curious illness that’ll prevent him from featuring at all. Hardly surprising. Whether the relatively-lighweight, Yossi Benayoun features is an interesting choice. Having missed the Chelsea game, he’ll possess the freshest legs,  and his ball retention is excellent. I’ve a few doubts about this being the ideal fixture for him.

My choice would be:

Szczsney; Sagna, Gibbs, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain; van Persie. 

Today is a real test. We have the chasing pack breathing down our necks, and 3rd place is even more essential given Chelsea’s antics. A performance is needed, I’ve very faith the team will be up for it, and I think we’ll win.

Ballsy, perhaps. But I’ve a confident feeling about this one. I’m going to go for 3-1 to Arsenal, with a certain talismanic Dutchman finding his scoring boots again.

Let me know your views on the team and the result in the comments. Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Take a moment to follow me on Twitter @_ArmchairGooner

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Bendtner returns, UEFA’s dream final and quick news.

Arsene had a few stern words for Nicklas; "Shaving your chest does not make you aerodynamic..."

Thursday morning greetings, folks.

Today’s going to be as quick a post as my fingers are able to muster. Emergency has called, and I’m off to work on my day off in a blaze of heroism to prevent almost certain disaster. Kind of…

As has been the case in recent weeks, there’s plenty of news out there, but little that relates to Arsenal. I could pick apart last night’s Champions League semi-final, I could… Frankly, it didn’t really concern me which of the two teams went through, as long as the eventual winner takes the prize when they meet Chelsea. It was a hugely enjoyable game, though.

The one nugget of Arsenal information I did find was regarding the loaned-out greatest striker to ever grace the game, Nicklas Bendtner. Whilst Bendy is undoubtedly a fucking prat, I do feel a small measure of pity for him. On those rare occasions he was able to play in his favoured position for Arsenal, and get a few games consecutively, he was actually quite a good player. Granted, he could be stunningly useless and arrogant in equal measure, but I challenge anyone to say he’s not a better option than Chamakh or Park.

In all likelyhood, he won’t be at Sunderland next season. He was a Steve Bruce signing, and I imagine O’Neil will be keen to recruit a few players of his own. I could be wrong, but I get the impression he isn’t Bendtner’s biggest fan.

That leaves him heading back our way in the summer. I’m certain he has no future at Arsenal. The only debate is whether or not we can offload him on a permanent basis. Like Denilson – who’s heading back, too – I imagine that’s not going to be easy given the grossly inflated salaries we pay the two of them.

An that represents about it for today. I’ve got to dash now, so I’ll leave you with a quick link to the weekly column I write over at Arsenal Vision. You can have a read of it here.

Thanks for taking the time to read, you beautiful bastards. You know the drill; follow me on Twitter @_ArmchairGooner

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“3 cup finals”, Almunia gets lazy, Jack at the Olympics and everything you kneed.

The players looked on in wonder as Almunia's rocket-boots finally worked.

Wednesday morning greetings, brave souls.

Chelsea has defied the odds and made it to the Champions League. Even as I’m writing some 12 hours later, I’m still having trouble getting my head round such a gruesome fact. What I’m sure will be heralded in the press as a monumental defensive performance, was a game that baffled me. I begrudgingly concede that Chelsea do deserve credit for coming away from Spain with a score-draw, but I’m stunned that Barcelona didn’t progress over the two legs. I doubt they’ll ever dominate two games as much again and lose.

From an Arsenal perspective, it means that our quest for 3rd place in the Premiership has taken on another level of importances. If Chelsea were to emerge victorious in the final – I shudder at the thought – them 4th place won’t qualify for the ruches of Europes premier club competetion.

I can’t envisage anything worse than that. Chelsea and all their corrupt oil billions are about as deplorable a club as you could ever be unfortunate enough to see. They’re bad enough to make me cheer for Barcelona. The though of John Terry being unable to play the final because of his own arrogant stupidity doesn’t help; you know if they win, he’ll triumphantly demand to be the first to lift the trophy.  I don’t buy into this ‘support a team for a day’ malarky, but I’m certainly going to make an exception with either Bayern or Madrid.

Back to Arsenal. As Kieran Gibbs has said, we have “3 cup finals” left to secure that 3rd place, starting with a trip to the Neanderthal Stadium this weekend. If we cant beat Stoke, Norwich and WBA, then we’ll qualify. Newcastle are breathing down out necks, but I’m happy knowing the outcome rests entirely in our own hands. We can ill-afford any blunders or inept performances.

On that note, Manuel Almunia will be departing for pastures new for the season ends. Having seen his position in the pecking order rapidly drop, he’s taken to looking for a new club, preferably in London – the lazy sod:

“I’m looking for a nice move next season. I want to start a new episode of my life.”

“It’s a very respectful relationship and now I’m free, I can do what I like and he’s happy with my work at Arsenal for ideas.”

When quizzed if he will remain in England or move back to Spain, Almunia said:

“I have got lazy to move too far, because life here in London is fantastic and I hope I can have a club to go to next season so I can stay.”

It’s hard to say he’ll be missed, but I do genuinely feel it’s unnecessary to rip him to shreds. I’ll remember him for the performance at The Emirates where he single-handedly kept out Barcelona, not the litany of infuriating mistakes and peculiar decisions.

Elsewhere today, Stuart Pearce has refused to rule our selecting Jack Wilshere for the Olympics team. Whilst I think a Great Britain squad is a colossal waste of time, and one that affects clubs greatly, I do think participation should be up to Jack. If he’s fit, and it won’t impinge upon him playing for Arsenal, then it might work out to be a nice pre-season warm-up.

What do you think? Is Pearce being a bit of a prick? Are the Olympics pointless, or a great opportunity? Let me know your views in the comments.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Don’t forget to pop over to Twitter and follow my delicious account there – @_ArmchairGooner

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Identified: Arsenal’s top 3 transfer targets for the summer.

Tuesday morning greetings, fellow carbon life-units.

A lot of sites will claim to have insider knowledge. We’ve all seen the tall tales floating about the interwebs of irrefutable claims from ‘a friend’ or ‘Nicklas Bendtner’s taxidermist’ pertaining to the latest acquisition heading to Arsenal. I claim to have none of this information. I’m just an idiot who’s decided to share his opinion on the matter.

To prepare for today’s entry, I’ve done a good amount of scouring. I’ve scoured many pages of many websites looking for clues. Think of me as the Inspector Clouseau of the Arsenal blogging community; my bungling may inadvertently unearth the truth…

Enjoy.

First of all, I’m not convinced we’ll bid for Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen. I think the likelier destination for the Dick Law phone call is PSG. Arsenal last year tabled a £13 million pound offer for Mamadou Sakho, and he’s long been a player admired by Arsene Wenger. Having been a regular starter for the French club in recent seasons, Sakho has found himself on the bench for the majority of this one. We all know the boss likes a bargain, and if he’s surplus to requirements at PSG, I reckon that’s the first place we’ll be bidding. Vertonghen would, I assume, expect to command an immediate place in the team, and with the real need to add a quality back-up to Vermaelen and Koscielny,  Sakho is a better bet.

The topic of a new keeper is often overlooked when enjoying a thorough transfer discourse. We already have an excellent No1, but what we lack is a quality, experienced No2 who can pressure Szczsney for the starting position. Almunia will leave in the summer, Fabianski isn’t happy to play second fiddle, and I don’t see a future at the club for Mannone. It is conceivable we could lose all 3.

As it seems is the case every season, the name frequently linked is Sebastien Frey. Along with compatriot Philippe Mexes, not a transfer window passes without someone in the press reporting we’re after them. Frey wouldn’t be a bad addition. At 30, he has a wealth of experience playing in Italy. I doubt he would move countries and clubs to be an understudy. An experienced Premiership player like Mark Schwarzer would be perfect, and there’s James Shea in the reserves to be promoted.

Finally, we have potential attacking options. It’s universally expected Lukas Podolski will be announced as an Arsenal player at some point in the not-so-distant future. Call me a dreamer, but I hope Wenger doesn’t leave it there. Chamakh and Park do not make for adequate back-up, and we’ll need a minimum of three strikers. Assuming Robin van Persie extends his contract in the summer, and assuming the Podolski deal isn’t an elaborate ruse; we still are short in that department.

A third striker who can affect game isn’t a luxury. Oliver Giroud is a player I know next to nothing about, but one that seems the most favoured choice. Gilles Grimandi is alleged to have compiled a dossier to send to Wenger detailing his performances – by ‘dossier’, I can only assume YouTube compilations. However, I see little chance in Wenger signing anyone if Podolski’s on the way. He’ll opt to promote from within; Benik Afobe, for example.

An attacking midfielder, someone in the mould of Marek Hamsik, isn’t essential – for the record, I think Hamsik is a brilliant player and I’d love him at Arsenal. Should fortune smile of the careers of Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere and grant both a full season, we have numerous options in that area. Admittedly, putting faith in that happening is akin to hoping that hideous blemish on your penis will ‘just go away’. My point is, I don’t think it’s a key area to address.

In summation, I can see 3 incomings over the summer, with the obligatory sprinkling of U16s signed from obscure and far away lands. Would you be happy if the squad remains the same with the addition of Sakho, Podolski  and a back-up Keeper? Do you think a larger upheaval is needed to compete for the prizes? Let me know your views in the comments.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Don’t forget; you can keep up with all my curious and idiotic tweets on Twitter – @_ArmchairGooner

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Get ready for some unabashed Robin van Persie loving, folks!

PFA Player of the Year: Robin van Persie.

Monday morning greetings, folks.

There is only one man who’s going to take up today’s post. I’m sure you’ll all agree, he’s been nothing short of magnificent this season. Last night, his peers voted Robin van Persie the award for player of the year.

Richly deserved.

It made me think about the impact a fully-fit Robin could have had on our previous pushes for the title. Would our silverware drought be a subject for conversation any longer had he played the whole of 2008/2009? Probably not. It’s such a shame that niggling injury has denied us the regular services of a genuinely world class forward.

This season, with those injuries behind him, he’s shown the impact he can have. Whether is be a poachers goal, or a miraculous 25 yard thunderbolt, Robin has proven he is a centre forward with everything in his locker – he’s even pretty handy in the air. Before yesterday, only Liam Brady, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp have picked up the same award. He can join those safe in the knowledge he’ll be club legend for many years.

As a captain, he has always practiced humility and praised others before accepting praise himself. That’s a sign of the man he is. When accepting his award, he said:

“If other people are saying it, it is special, but it is even more special if your opponents are saying it,”

“It is very special because you are playing against them week in week out and every single player does everything to win and in the end if they make up their minds that I’m the best player it is a big honour.”

He went on to single out the contribution of his teammates:

“Without them I could not have achieved it. For example Theo Walcott, he has given me more than 12 assists and I do really appreciate that.”

Robin van Persie deserves every bit of praise he’ll be getting. Like all of you, I can only thank him for his performances and goals this season and hope he’s around for a good few years yet.

That’s all for today, folks. What is your favourite Robin moment? Lets me know in the comments section below.

To get you in the mood, here’s a taster of some of those fantastic goals we’ve seen over the years:

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Take a moment to follow my Twitter account- @_ArmchairGooner

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A point isn’t bad, Theo’s out for the season and other news.

The Chelsea defence couldn't contend with Thomas and Robin's newly acquired talent for levitation.

FA Premiership, April 21st: Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Sunday morning, day-of-rest greetings to you, splendid perusers.

Although we didn’t play at our highest level, and Chelsea showed all the willingness to make a game of it as I’d have expected from League One opposition, a draw isn’t catostrophic.

The game itself was oddly subdued. The reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge was one of the finest advertisements for the excitement and drama that makes our league the best in Europe. At The Emirates, you’d have been forgiven for assuming it was a mid-table, end-of-the-season clash with nothing of any importance riding on it. Arsenal controlled matters for the vast majority of the game, but lacked any sort of incisive edge or spark in the final third. Chelsea barely registered an attack of any note, leaving Szczseny to spectate. With their minds quite obviously on the mammoth task that awaits them in Barcelona, Di Matteo made several changes from midweek, and they looked happy to park the bus.

Arsenal came closest to shattering the tedium through van Persie and the exceptional, Laurent Koscielny – both striking the woodwork with Cech beaten. However, the three point we needed didn’t come in the end, and whilst it’s a long way from being disastrous, it does allow Newcastle the opportunity to come level on points with us, should the win their game in hand. The major plus-point in the race for Champions League spots was Spurs continuing their hilarious capitulation at QPR with another defeat. In all likelihood, the race to finish 3rd is between us and The Toon.

I am disappointed the boys couldn’t get into that final gear that would of seen three points instead of one; Chelsea were there for the taking if we had really, really wanted it. However, as long as we head into the final three games with matters still entirely in our own hands, the only important results are the ones to come.

There was bad news on the injury front. Theo was replaced by Gervinho on the hour mark yesterday, and he’s picked up a hamstring injury that will see him join Arteta, Wilshere and Mertesacker on the sidelines for the rest of the season. His absence won’t be as noticeable as Arteta’s, but with our attacking options already at the bare minimum, it’s not come at a good time. It should almost certainly mean a few more starts for Oxlade-Chamberlain to impress us.

When quizzed about the injury, Wenger said:

“It looks like a serious hamstring,” said Wenger.

“First we assessed the hamstring, he wanted to go on and stay on the pitch, and I think he should have gone off straight away because the second time it was a real hamstring [injury].

“I think now for him it will be tough to come back before the end of the season. It is usually 21 days [minimum].”

“He should be OK to play for England, but I don’t think he will be ready to play for us.”

It was good to see Diaby back yesterday. He looked good when he came on. I’ve always been a fan of the leggy, looks-kinda-like-Patrick Frenchman. At his very best, he can be an exceptional cog in our midfield. But -and his career is littered with ‘buts’ – it all depends on the plethora of injuries he’s sustained, and wether or not he’s actually made a full recovery. I hope so. I hope for a similar resolution to what’s happened with Robin. Abou Diaby fit for an entire season would only be a great benefit to us.

That’s all for today folks.

Thanks for reading, you beatutiful bastards. What did you think of the game? The comments are below, and they are eargerly awaiting your thoughts.

Don’t for get to follow me on Twitter @_ArmchairGooner

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Starting XI against Chelsea and team news.

John Terry post-slip. Couldn't have happened to a nicer man...

FA Premiership, April 21st: Arsenal Vs Chelsea

Big game greetings, intrepid reader.

Let’s not beat about any bushes here; today’s game against Chelsea is vitally important. I’m not one to put any faith in them being ‘tired’ after their defensive excursions repelling the incessant tippy-tappy Barcelona attacks on Wednesday. No, sir. They’ll be up for this one; expect rotation in the team to give them freshness. Victory puts them right back in the hunt for a top-4 finish, defeat for us certainly opens the door to a nerve-shredding final few games. Mercifully, Drogba won’t be there to terrorise our defenders.

After a tame and unimaginative performance against Wigan, I’m hoping that motivation will take care of itself with this one. When the big guns have come calling at the Emirates, we’ve – mostly – managed to raise our game and put on a show.

There are a few selection problems, however. Mikel Arteta’s calming, productive influence in the centre of midfield will be a huge loss, Yossi Benayoun is ineligible against the club from which he was loaned, and we’re all aware of the absence of Wilshere and Mertesacker.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Laurent Koscielny makes a very welcome return after serving his two match ban, whilst Gibbs, Diaby and Coquelin are all pushing for selection – Diaby is highly unlikely to be anything other than a body to make up the numbers.

With that in mind, I expect the team to line up thusly:

Szczsney; Gibbs, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Song, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain; van Persie.

The two most important figures will be Song and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Our Cameroonian midfielder can ill afford to leave any gaping holes in the midfield knowing Arteta won’t be there covering his forays into opposition territory. He should contribute to attacks when the situation requires it, but there has to be someone covering the back four. In recent weeks, he’s bounded off upfield only to leave an enormous fucking chasm in front of the defence. If he does that too often today, we’ll get punished.

Oxlade-Chamberlain will frighten seven shades of Christ out of Chelsea’s full-backs. He’s young, extremely gifted and plays without fear. He can really hurt Chelsea if he gets into the game. I expect Chelseas to try and cut off space for our wingers, which invariably leaves Theo massively ineffective . Getting The Ox involved might just turn their attentions away from Theo, who, given some open space, has proven more than a match for Cashley.

Big games like this are often tricky to predict. In a season where peculiar results have occurred on a weekly basis, I’m at a loss to offer a reasonable guess at the scoreline. I’m going to go for a simple 1-0 to Arsenal. I can’t imagine we’ll be having the fireworks and splendour of the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge.

That’s all for today, folks. Enjoy the game from whatever vantage point in whichever part of the globe you reside. The comments await you below, and they’re primed and ready to receive your views on the starting line-up.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @_ArmchairGooner

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Abou, Mikel, Gervinho, Jack, Chelsea and Robin for the PFA award.

"I'm not letting you go. Contract or no contract".

Friday morning greetings, regular reader.

Firstly, apologies for the lack of any post yesterday. On occasion, my work and personal life will conspire to prevent me from having the time to write. Those instances will, hopefully, be few and far between. It was nice to hear some of you missed my daily contributions and I thank you all for your support.

Right, on to The Arsenal.

Most of the news in centred around our bare minimum midfield at present. By now, you’ll all be aware that Mikel Arteta is ruled out for the remainder of the season with ankle ligament damage. The Spaniard has steadily grown into a vital player at the centre of the team, so obviously it’s a big blow.

Abou Diaby is back in full training and managed a full 45 minuted as the reserves played out a 1-0 victory against an Oman XI. Some reports are filtering through that he picked up another injury playing in that game which will prevent him from being available for Saturday. I doubt he would have been involved from the start, but given the paucity of options available to Wenger at the moment, a place on the substitutes bench did seem likely.

There are some that believe Diaby should be sold or moved on if his injuries continue. His problems appear interminable, and paying a substantial wage to a player unable to feature regularly is money wasted when it could be put to better use elsewhere. I agree with that to an extent. Diaby himself isn’t to blame, and I feel for him. He’s got talent in spades, and with a bit of luck, he could be a really good player for us. I’d give him next season, and if the same troubles are there, seriously consider cutting our losses.

Jack Wilshere is sensibly being omitted from Euro 2012. However, there are rumours he will be selected for the Olympics squad. Wenger has advised him against playing. Jack loves his football, and he loves his country. I think he could very well turn out for the Great Britain side. I hope he doesn’t. That time would be far better served allowing him to get re-accustomed to his teammates at Arsenal.

Elsewhere, Gervinho has been having a chin-wag with the press, talking of his pride and Arsenal’s form. He said:

“In life you will always be criticised. We had to prove to the people who didn’t believe in us that we were able to come back by playing well on the pitch.

“The result is here today. Our progression during the season speaks for itself on the pitch.

“We want to be among the top three. The whole group is very motivated and we are already happy to be where we are.

“We can still do better with the four matches coming. We are fighting only for third place, we don’t think about fourth spot.

“Everybody is determined to fight until the end, from the players and the manager to the fans, to maintain third place. If we manage to keep it then everybody should be proud because we fought very hard for it.”

I like Gervinho. Like Bobby Pires, I see him as a very affective 2nd-season player. If he works of his finishing over the summer and grows in confidence, he’ll do some really damage. He has all the attributes to succeed, it’s just a mental block.

Lastly today, the PFA Player of the Year awards are out, and there can be only one winner in my eyes. Yes, I’m extremely biased, but if anyone can give me a more deserving candidate than Robin van Persie, I’d be happy to hear their reasons. Our Dutch captain has run through and used up the book of superlatives. I think he richly deserves the recognition.

That’s all for today, folks. Chelsea preview and team news will be headed your way tomorrow. I might be one of the few, but I wasn’t all that impressed with their performance against Barcelona. Sure, they defended well, but I can see them getting a hammering at the Nou Camp if Barca really turn it on.

Thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards. Take a moment to comment and follow my Twitter account – @_ArmchairGooner

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