The Armchair Gooner

An Arsenal blog bringing you news, opinion and humour on a daily basis. Well, I'll try at the very least…

Arsenal’s starting XI for the game against Bayern Munich (match preview and team news)

Tuesday February 19th: Champions League, Bayern Munich (h -1st leg)

Afternoon, intrepid readers.

Matches don’t come much bigger than today. Maelstroms of bitterness and discontent can be put aside, petty bickering and waring factions can temporarily relent; Bayern Munich are in town. Having blundered so spectacularly on Saturday, tonight is the perfect stage to show the world the real Arsenal.

Adversity can often become our greatest ally. The players and manager will know full well how daunting and formidable our opponents are. The chips are down at present, positivity is something of a forgotten mindset. Unification often comes from the darkest of hours, and I’ve got faith in us seeing a real response from the players, and a vociferous, inspiring one from the home support. Losing with such shame to Blackburn might just be the tonic for a win tonight.

On the team news front, Vermaelen and Jenkinson will return to the squad, but Laurent Koscielny again faces a late fitness test. With Gibbs injured, Monreal ineligible and Santos sunning his considerable frame in Brazil, the left-back position is the main area of concern. I expect Arsene to deploy Vermaelen there, and use Sagna in the centre with Mertesacker and Jenkinson at right back if Koscielny doesn’t come through his test.

My guess at how we will start – assuming Koscielny plays – would be:

Of course, that may not necessarily be the case. The Boss may chose to play either Ramsey or Diaby in one of the wide positions enabling them to drop in and support the midfield. Bayern have some monsters with the likes of Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, and we will need to compete physically as well as technically.

There’s a great deal of pressure on this game. After Arsene’s uncharacteristic outburst toward the media yesterday, it would appear that even the usually calm and gregarious Mr Wenger is feeling the walls close in on him. Few of us fans realistically expect triumph in this competition, but to exit with a whimper and not a fight will only and further fuel to the growing fire of discontent surrounding our manager.

Fixtures like this one can make or break a season. A stirring performance and a win could become the catalyst for better things to come. A resounding defeat might send an already disappointing season spiralling into greater realms of shit. Often we approach matches wondering which version of our beloved Arsenal will turn up – the team capable of great attacking fluency, or the version unable to muster a decent shot on goal against infinitely beatable opponents.

We can ill afford anything but the real Arsenal turning up tonight.

If you’re confident about the game, if you have a sneaky feeling for a victory, why not put some of your well-earned cash on the line? Bet Victor offers newly registered members the gift of a free £25 bet. You can register here.

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich odds.

That’s all for today, folks. I hope you’re all prepared for the game. Wether you’re attending or watching amidst the jostling jocundity of a local bar, let’s all stick together on this one. There’s a time for protests and a time for support. Tonight is certainly the latter.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow hopefully able to effusively ramble about a scintillating performance.

Huge (lack of) transfers and controversial banners.

A heartwarming statement…

Afternoon, precious lifeforms of the Arsenal interweb.

In case you’re unable to read from the picture above, the enchanting sentiment on the banner reads, “Arsene – thanks for the memories, but it’s time to say goodbye”. Lovely stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

When it comes to our fair manager, I consider myself to be firmly out of either of the extremist camps. I don’t profess to believe Arsene is infallible and capable of no wrong, nor do I think he should be drop-kicked to the moon so a faceless saviour can arrive to restore past glories. Personally I think such radical views are both wrong, and both factions are as bad as each other.

When I read the story of that banner, and how producing it at the Brighton game caused a series of mini brawls and punch-ups, I was a little surprised by it all. Not surprised that some cretinous individuals thought plunging to such depths would have anything other than a negative effect, but surprised that it resulted in fisticuffs.

The banner itself is absolutely pointless. People have the right to express frustration and doubt whichever way they see fit – I don’t dispute that. What I find strange is that they thought there was any point to it at all. Perhaps they assumed Arsene would take one look at their handiwork and exclaim, “Sacre bleu! Those supporters are correct! I must leave at once!”

The only thing that banner accomplished was bad press for the club, and a show of disharmony amongst our support. Neither of which are particularly helpful.

Elsewhere today, we have the bleak, desolate world of the January transfer window. As the clock ticks down toward the end of the month, it appears increasingly likely we won’t see any delicious new players come in to the club. Shame.

If our manager believes we have strength in depth enough to cope for the remainder of the season, then, as a humble fan, I have to respectfully disagree. We could use strengthening in pretty much all areas of the pitch, and whilst I wouldn’t expect 4 players to arrive, 1 or 2 excellent signings could make the difference to our league position come the final fixture in May.

There may be a shock to come in the next couple of days, but I won’t raise your hopes. Diame would seem the one deal with any potential to it, but even that at this stage appears 50/50 at best. Let’s hope Arsene is correct in his apparent choice to not reinforce, because he’ll certainly be putting himself in the firing line if he isn’t. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading today. Leave me a few of your thoughts in the comments.

Wilshere, Podolski, Koscielny, the abuse of Ramsey, and comfortable qualification.

Arsenal 2-0 Montpellier: The whole stadium was awe-struck by Podolski’s volley – except The Ox, who had a bit of a nap.

Afternoon, folks.

We’ve qualified. Wether we top the group, or finish as runners-up remains to be seen, but Arsenal are heading into the last 16 where we’ll most probably have to play Barcelona.

Last night was something of a rarity; a fairly bland and comfortable win, and one that came with no concession. We took the points with two superb goals from Wilshere and Podolksi – Olivier Giroud’s contribution to both shouldn’t go unnoticed – and we never looked in any danger of losing to Montpellier. With Schalke also winning, they go into the final round of games a point ahead of us – finishing 1st will depend on us taking 3 points in Olympiakos, and Montpellier taking points off Schalke.

Whilst it would be difficult to offer monumental praise to anyone after such a routine and formulaic display, I though Laurent Koscielny looked immense at the back. He’s struggled on occasion to find his best form, but he looks like the best centre-back at the club when he’s on his game. With Gibbs now fit to play, it leaves Arsene with a selection problem; does he drop Koscielny in favour of returning Vermaelen to the centre. or leave out Mertesacker and risk upsetting the balance of the central pairing? It’s a tough call to make, especially since the captaincy hasn’t brought out Vermaelen’s best form.

All in all, it was good to see victory achieved without too much exertion, and even better to see us progress where Chelsea (most probably) and Manchester City have failed  - it goes to show that money cant always buy you everything.

Elsewhere, that oh-so alarming trend of Ramsey bashing has reared it’s ugly and unwelcome head – this time before a game even started. In yesterday’s comments section, a thread discussing team selection quickly descended in a stomping ground for the “if Ramsey plays we’ll lose” club.

Now, I’m all for criticism of players if it’s constructive and has merit. No player should be above that. However, It’s often seen about the Goonersphere that our Welsh midfielder gets his, and everyone else’s, share. His form has been patchy – yes. But there has to be a point where we realise that singling him out for blame at every opportunity is both counter-productive and foolish.

I like Aaron. I see bags of potential in him, and I think some fans conveniently forget that he’s been through a lot for someone so young when they’re on the hunt for a scapegoat. I wouldn’t dispute he should be playing better, but my reason for saying so is simply because I believe he is more than capable of it. He isn’t a “championship player”, or the one reason most likely to make us lose. He’s a young guy with talent that needs our support. We should give it to him.

That’s all for today folks. I’ve opened up a fresh avenue for more Ramsey bashing here, but I’d like to see the other side of that argument, too. Do you think Aaron is unfairly treated? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading today, you beautiful bastards. I shall return tomorrow.

Learning from defeat, big money buys, bouncing back, and peculiar search engine terms.

“Shit! That was a bit wide…”

Morning folks.

Once you have a few moments to collect your thoughts away from the burning disappointment inside you, you soon realise that the shambolic shower of shite we put on against Norwich – and it was – isn’t the end of the world. They’ll be plenty of other teams who drop points in games they perhaps shouldn’t. Saturday’s result wasn’t exactly pretty, but it’s far from disastrous.

It’s done now, and is of little importance. What is of paramount concern is the reaction of our players. If you look back over the years, poor defeats can have a knock-on affect with Arsenal. For example, look at the team’s form after the Carling Cup Final loss, or the 4-4 at St James’ Park (I know… It wasn’t a defeat, but it sure felt like one). We play Schalke on Wednesday, and they’re a very good team. I think it’s a good game to have, becuase a good performance and victory can send the ol’ confidence levels shooting back up.

A lot of talk has surrounded January acquisitions. There were some interesting points made in yesterday’s comments and on my Facebook Page concerning the areas fans think we are found lacking. The supposed lack of physically imposing players in our midfield is a good point, but I personally think we are not missing too much. I think the problem is psychological; we don’t posses a winning mentality that sees you through games when you’re playing poorly. The players we brought in are excellent. Cazorla is world class, Podoloski is a breath of fresh air, and whilst Giroud has had his detractors, and a slow enough start to give them ammunition, I still think he’ll turn out to be a quality player for Arsenal.

Spending a fortune on new faces won’t guarantee success. What we perhaps need is a new keeper to challenge Szczsney, and another striker – preferably one different from Chamakh and Giroud. If you believe what you read, we could very well be welcoming Atletico Madrid’s, Adrian Lopez to the club when the bitter chills of early 2013 are upon us.

When you consider we still have the likes of Rosicky, Szczsney, Sagna, Wilshere and Diaby to come back into the team, without injury we have a very strong and competitive squad.  If we can cut out the maddening performances and get over whatever maladies prevent us from turning up, we might just be in with a shout of proving people wrong.

Lastly today, I thought I would share with you some of the more bizarre search terms used by people to find this delicious little blog of mine. Have a look below, and if you’re responsible for any of them, feel free to come clean.

I totally agree with the first one.

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You strange people…

That’s all for today, folks. I hope you’ll take a moment to empty your respective brains all over the comments section. I await a few of your opinions and thoughts.

I shall return tomorrow. Thanks for reading, you scrumptious individuals.