Arsenal v. Hull; the FA Cup semi-final and revenge await

Stupid, yes. Also dumb. But it is something I've gotta do

As usual Wenger’s playing the starting lineup close to his chest; only giving out little bits and bobs of who will be included today. From the article linked above, we can see that Fabianski and Gibbs (who have featured in the FA Cup) are the only two who are certainly being included in the starting XI. From there on out it’s a matter of fitness, rotation, and tactics that will decide the squad.

For fitness, the boss spoke of Arshavin’s desire to get on the pitch despite suffering a gash from a Ooijer tackle (link possibly NSFW) that required 8 stitches on Saturday. The Fonz spoke openly about the events of Saturday saying of the wound

It’s like a knife cut – not very deep but quite painful. Ooijer tore my boot and the skin, too. At half-time, our doctor had to do a lot of work on my foot. So when I scored the second goal, I ran over to thank him for a job well done.

That explains why he was late coming out of the tunnel and his sort of tearful hug of the team doctor after he scored, I was wondering about that. Arsene wants to include him, Arshavin wants to play, but ultimately, he’s going to be a game-time decision.

Rambo, on the other hand, has been ruled out owing to the fact that he is “growing in stature” and needs a rest. I remember some talk from Arsene about Rambo’s lack of fitness when he came in to the squad and so I’m guessing the boss means that and not that Aaron has literally grown and needs rest. 17 year old’s sometimes do have growth spurts and they are very painful. Either way, he’s not even included in the team.

Robin van Persie hasn’t played since the 11th so I expect him to get the start, no sense leaving him to rot on the bench, but after that the Gods only know who Arsene will pick. He could play a 4-5-1 with RvP as the lone striker, Vela and Arshavin on the wings, Nasri in the middle (or switch Nasri and Arshavin) and the two-headed-hydra in central midfield. He could put Diaby in the middle, could start Djourou and rest Gallas, etc. etc. Wenger has a lot of choices today and that’s a good thing. If he rests those folks and starts Vela and Bendtner up front, that leaves him RvP and Theo Walcott coming off the bench.

Wait…

Squad depth?

Whoa.

For their part Hull and their manager have a great deal of belief coming in to this match:

Win this – and don’t forget we’ve already won at Arsenal this season – and we’re at Wembley playing Chelsea, win that we’re in the FA Cup final

…our performances were good, but results were hurting. The Cup run reminded us of how good we can be. It meant players were still bouncing, still coming into training looking forward to the sessions we were putting on. A smile on a player’s face is priceless to me. There’s no question that the FA Cup maintained spirit.

Hull will be up for this game and we should expect a spirited, attacking team who see the FA Cup as a light in the dark tunnel of Premier League survival. Buoyed by their surprise result at Emirates at the start of the season and their run of form to get them this far in the FA Cup this is by no means a walk in the park. Arsenal will need to closely mark danger men like Giovanni in open play, be prepared for Hull to mark them closely in return, and defend well from set pieces: three things we didn’t do well last time.

Hull will want to score early in order to take some pressure off so, look for them to come out hard in the first 5 minutes. This isn’t the same team that Hull shocked earlier in the season and I expect that this Arsenal team can handle that pressure — considering that they just got back from Rome and played a world class team in an unfriendly stadium, Hull, at Emirates, should be considerably easier.

So, for our part, Arsenal will look to soak up their pressure and hit them on the counter early.

What are the odds for van Persie to get a goal in the first 10 minutes?

Right, that’s it, I’ve been sick basically since I got back from London (two different colds I think) and finally got on antibiotics for this crud that settled in my chest. I am feeling a lot better and need to get in and put in a half day at work… which is perfect since kickoff is 12:45 PST.

The match is being shown live at Doyle’s so come on down and join us if you’re in town. It should be a cracker!

Oh yeah, happy St.EveryoneInAmericaIsIrishAndDrunk Day!

Luck of the Alsacian

A few weeks ago, during one of my fugue-rants I did say that if we found ourselves in 4th place we should consider ourselves lucky and that more than anything we did, it’s up to what Villa do (or don’t do) as to whether we regain our 4th place birthright. Well, Villa has done it and dropped points in a rather remarkable fashion, culminating in a 2-1 loss at home to Tottenham which saw their star player booed off the pitch by his home supporters.

I understand booing Eboue: he’s had massive swings in fan support. From the highs of his Champions League run at right back to his near disastrous replacement on the left wing against Wigan. Moreover, Arsenal were within a few matches of taking the League last season, so expectations are high for Arsenal supporters. Booing Eboue makes sense, he’s a highly divisive figure on a team with a great history who’s fan expect champagne at the end of every season.

But booing Agbonlahor? How does that makes sense? If it didn’t come at our expense, I’d be rooting for Villa to take 4th place. Villa is an old club, with a great history, who routinely filled their stadium despite their recent drought of trophies. Why on earth would you boo one of the best players on the team? You’re just shooting yourself in the foot with that.

Come to think of it, keep booing. Arsenal are only ahead on goal differential and we could use all the help we can get. Could you boo Ashley Young while you’re at it?

Another strange moment during that game came as the commentators were talking up Wilson Palacios (the player rater there is rather generous). Each time they went to fellate him for his “hard work” he would promptly do something really stupid and remind everyone why Arsenal passed on the player. Maybe it was a one-off but take Song and Eboue’s worst games, wrap them up in an energetic shell, and you’d have Wilson Palacios. He sure has a lot of energy, too bad he has so very little talent.

Let me put it this way: would you rather spend £14m on Palacios or Arshavin? Hmmmm….

In the injury room, Arsenal are now saying that Thomas Rosicky has had another setback. This means his next setback will not be announced for another two weeks. I’ve maintained for some time that Rosicky will not play for Arsenal ever again, I hope I’m wrong.

Looks like England International Almunia picked up an ankle injury from El-Hadji Diouf’s horrendous challenge. Of the challenge, Wenger is saying he “didn’t see it” and needs to look at the tapes. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say after he sees the tapes!

Up next for Arsenal in the league is Newcastle (A), Citeh, and Wigan (A). We mauled Newcastle early in the season and given their recent form we should be able to pick up three points there. Citeh was the last team to beat Arsenal in the league and I expect Arsenal will be looking for a modicum of revenge there. But then there’s Wigan at the JJB… those shiat kickers will probably hold 6 Rugby matches the day of the match in order to turn the field into something looking like the surface of the moon in order to improve their chances of getting a 0-0 draw: like they did last season to give a lift to Man U in the title race.

I don’t want to get too far ahead, up next (Tuesday 12:45 PST) Arsenal have to beat Hull in an FA Cup replay for the right to face a resurgent Chelsea.

More on that tomorrow. Until then, keep the faith!

Arsenal 4-0 Blackburn; Paradise Attained

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Andrey Arshavin opened his Arsenal account as an attacking masterclass saw the Gunners to a handsome 4-0 victory over Blackburn in their Premier League clash at the Emirates.

Telegraph.co.uk: Andrei Arshavin the inspiration as Arsenal move up to fourth

Match Video

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Man of the Match

This one is easy and shouldn’t be too controversial: I’m giving MotM to Arshavin. I mean, all he managed was two goals and an assist. One of those goals was an early goal to boot.

I can’t stress the importance of early goals enough, especially against teams that play the Fat Sam style of football. If a team is there to harass and try to steal one on the break and you get an early goal, then that team has to go to plan B and try to attack. So, Arshavin’s early goal was the key to why Arsenal had such an open game against Blackburn yesterday and certainly helped furnish the 4-0 score line.

That said, I was really proud of the way he waved off the first goal. It was pure class to straight admit that he didn’t score the first. You can bet your ass that El Hadji Douche would have had a 4 hour celebration if his endeavor had led to a similar goal.

And the second goal… well, if Arshavin waving off the first was class, the second goal was pure class. Dummy the defender, dribble down the end line and shoot it straight at Paul Robinson, who collapsed into a heap as the ball sailed over his head and into the top of the net. All with stitches in his foot from a cut suffered in the first half, at the hands of some Blackburn foul, probably.

Goals have been coming for Andrei, you have to admit and it was a little glimpse of paradise to see him score the first two.

The Good

The midfield pairing of Song and Denilson were superb, again. It’s too early to hail them as the midfield of the future, but it is very nice to see them put in a string of performances like they have done over the last few games. Song was excellent in defense and would have had an assist had it not been for the serial wastefulness of Bendtner. Denilson, for his part, did end up with an assist (his 7th) and it was no less than he deserved for all his graft.

Who could have guessed that Eboue would come on as a late, defensive sub and would score two goals — one from a penalty? I certainly wouldn’t have. Hell, if you gave me 1000 predictions I wouldn’t pick The Pass Master to score from a penalty. Especially one that was won by someone else. Strange. But he did score a good goal after Arshavin’s shot caromed off the post and deserves credit for that.

Oh yeah, and Theo… he was electric wasn’t he? I can’t wait to have him get some games under his belt. His pace and width were crucial to Arsenal breaking Blackburn down and he was seriously unlucky not to have notched up an assist or two.

The Bad

I’m not going to pick on Bendtner. He played his heart out and was unlucky not to put in a couple of goals. That said, he had to feel miserable sitting on the bench and watching Eboue score a brace. I’m hoping it makes him double his efforts, that and a little speed training and he’ll be a hell of a  player.

The Ugly

On the one hand I wish that Eboue wouldn’t dance after scoring a goal (much less a penalty) on the other hand I wish that El-Hadji Douche would die in a fire. So, as you can see I’m a bit unsure of what I should write about.

I can’t understand how Diouf gets away with tackles like the one yesterday: it was studs up, late, intentional, and intended to hurt. This isn’t a Tiny Taylor situation where the argument could be made that he’s oafish and just not quite at the same level as Eduardo, plus, as they all said, he’s Taylor’s a nice guy.

No, El-Hadji Diouf is a cheating bastard who has a long record of dirty play that he’s somehow escaped censure for. Last year at Liverpool, he pulled a similar stunt on Arbeloa and similarly was given only a caution. I remember at the time, former refs and pundits alike were calling for retroactive action against people who commit fouls like yesterday’s.

I don’t care whether it’s rugby style post match reviews or if it’s more of an instant re-play like we do here in America. Something needs to be done before a no talent ass clown like Diof cuts down a promising young English keeper like Almunia.

He’s a spitter, a diver, a drunk, a foul mouthed shiat, and now he’s trying to add “leg breaker” to his resume. How much longer must the EPL suffer this person?

Conclusion

It doesn’t get much better than this: Arsenal are now 15 matches in the EPL without a loss and 4 consecutive wins in all competitions (I’m counting Roma as a win). Moreover, we’ve got Theo back, Arshavin is scoring, the midfield is playing well, we’re scoring goals, the defense is playing well, and if that wasn’t enough, Cesc and Adebayor will be back after the international break just in time for the match against Citeh and the sprint toward the finish line of the FA Cup, Champions League and the League.

Oh yeah, and we’re back in fourth place.

Truly, it’s goo goo goo to be a Goonah!