FA Cup vs Carling Cup: Which is more important for Arsenal now?

In life, there comes a time when we have to make some difficult choices, some things we have to make more important than the others. Prioritize some aspects and leave some stones unturned. Arsenal are in a similar state right now. For obvious reasons, the Premier League and the European Cup remain our priorities. Even though it is hard to admit it, there is a strong possibility that we will be kicked out of one of the two ‘weaker’ cups very soon.

Our squad this season has substantial depth and can withstand a bumpy run of fixtures more strongly than before. Consequently we find ourselves competing for all available trophies even in the middle of January (and are in respectable positions in all of them too). But as the fixtures get congested, Wenger will have to rotate the team heavily and inevitably we will not be able to put the same amount of quality/effort in all the competitions.

Hence we will be forced to choose between the two cups now. I am not saying we should ‘give up’ on any one of them, but prioritize one, realize that as we progress further our chances of being knocked out become stronger. This will become especially true when we suffer more injuries and some players start to feel the effects of fatigue (like Arshavin).  Last season this was not a problem become we played a largely second-string team in the Carling Cup, leaving the big guns to fight for more esteemed honors.

Arsene Wenger has made it clear, not once but twice, this season that he is taking all four competitions seriously. Just today he spoke about his targets for the season and how he will use the rotation technique to help his team cope during the most rigorous months of the year. He said:

“I will go for it [all four competitions], but we will have to rotate.

“Our success depends on the way the whole squad can focus on the different competitions. I believe we have the quality to qualify no matter what I do on Wednesday. It’s just how much we are able to focus on the competition.

“The timing is not the best but it is down to us because we could have beaten Leeds at home. We didn’t manage to do that but now there’s no reason why we should give up.

“I will prepare [for] this game to win it then we will see. It is important we go there with a positive attitude.”

It’s very ambitious of him to try doing so and I stand by his intentions. This Arsenal team includes players who have not yet won any major trophies in the whole of their careers and I believe until they get the taste of winning a trophy, any trophy, they will not grow the hunger for it. You do not become addicted to smoking until you had your first taste of a cigarette.

But the question remains, which trophy should Wenger concentrate more on? In which competition should he field a stronger team? The FA cup or the Carling cup? On first glace, the answer seems rather simple. The FA cup is more prestigious and Arsenal are a side that specializes in winning this cup (10 times). In fact the last match in which we won a trophy was the final against Manutd in the FA Cup (2005).

But the FA cup is still in its preliminary stages and Arsenal have to progress a lot further before they are in a realistic position to actually win it. Although it is called the FA cup ‘3rd round’, it is actually the 1st round for Premier League teams and there are still 64 teams in the competition currently(not counting the teams that have already progressed for the next round)! Whereas, in the Carling Cup, the completion is nearing its end and we are playing the semi-finals against Ipswich. Thus this aspect of the competition is very alluring as we are in a strong position to actually winning this competition and obtaining our first trophy since 2005.

In my opinion we should put more effort on winning the Carling Cup this season. A trophy which is so within our reach should not be ignored. We play Leeds United for the FA cup replay on Wednesday and I think Wenger should take a leap of faith and field a weaker side than the one that faced West Ham the other day. But what do you think- should Wenger fully concentrate on the match against Leeds on Wednesday and hope that the team remains unscathed or put winning on the line and rotate strongly? The FA cup or the Carling cup this season?

Do let us know.

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Get Rid of Arshavin

We know Juventus as the club who have been constantly trying to unsettle Robin Van Persie by showing an interest in him for the past couple of years. Ofcourse, they failed miserably. Robin Van Persie has Gunners blood now, so he’s not fazed by that sort of stuff too much. Juve have finally turned their attention to another Arsenal favourite Andrei Arshavin.

I’m not actually sure whether Arshavin has become an ‘Arsenal favourite’. I personally like him a lot, but quite a few fans still don’t think he should start as regularly as Wenger makes him. Recently, he’s been missing easy chances which should’ve been scored and could’ve changed the scenario of the match.

Arshavin’s role in the team will certainly change over the next few months. Assuming our midfield and attacking options are injury free (fingers crossed), he will definitely have to find a place in the Arsenal bench more often. With Nasri and Walcott playing so well, I don’t see Wenger placing Arshavin as the ‘genuine’ starter anymore. Is the Russian captain happy with a more subdued bench role for Arsenal? I’m not too sure.

Andrei Arshavin joined us in January 2009 and has made the starting lineup on a regular basis. Therefore, he has definitely contributed to any of the successes and failures we have had as a team over these last two years.

What if a bid were to come for Arshavin? How much is he even valued at the club? Should he be sold if the bid is much higher than we expected? I’m not saying Arshavin should be sold now. The more quality players like him we have in the squad, the more likely we are going to win any silverware this season.

He is 29 now and should definitely be at his peak right now. However, he doesn’t seem to be at his best and we probably won’t see any drastic improvements in his game in the near future. So let’s be realistic, as Arshavin is not irreplaceable. If a situation like that was to arise, Wenger should spare some thought.

Scouting: Jan Vertonghen to Arsenal

Reports are in that Arsenal are interested in signing Belgian international and Ajax defender Jan Vertonghen. With Arsene Wenger saying that he may reinforce the defence if Vermaelen is not fit in time, this could make the option of signing Vertonghen more attractive. So who is he?

Vertonghen is a strong and tall 23 year old central defender. He stands at 6 ft 3 which gives him relative aerial ability at the heart of the defence. After an impressive youth burst in Germinal Beerschot, he was picked up by Ajax and has established himself as a regular. He’s already made a handful of appearances for his national team Belgium, partnering with our own Thomas Vermaelen. Thus, one would expect it that it wouldn’t take him too long to blend in to the Arsenal side.

He predominantly plays as a central defender, but can also play as left back and as a defensive mid. His versatility makes him a great player who can be used off the bench as well.

Vertonghen has been regarded as an exciting talent in Europe for quite some time now, so naturally other clubs have taken an interest in his progress as well. Clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United are the most notable ones.

A January move seems unlikely, as Vertonghen seems intent on trying to win the Dutch Eredivisie this season with Ajax. Definitely expect strong rumours of Arsene Wenger signing him in the summer transfer window!

New signing is imminent, only two centrebacks left

Arsenal have been going through a quick run of fixtures for the last couple of weeks. It’s been horrific to say the least. On the 27th of December, we had the win against Chelsea. Two days later we faced Wigan and drew. On the 29th, a couple of days later, we played Birmingham City. We got absolutely no rest as we faced Mancity three days later.

It is no surprise then that we are already having a few injuries.  Rotation or no rotation, when you are playing back to back games with only two days between then, there is no way you can avoid injuries. In fact, I am bit surprised that we have so few injuries so far. I was absolutely confident that the likes of Van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott would have gotten injured by now. Jokes aside, we do have one important injury update to give.

Wenger has just now informed that Seb Squillaci had picked up a hamstring injury in the match against Leeds United in the FA cup. With no positive signs coming from the Vermaelen injury, this new injury is a massive blow for Arsenal. We now have only two centrebacks available and the situation suddenly looks like an emergency.

This was Wenger’s update:

“If he [Squillaci] has a problem then we must quickly go for a player,”

“Squillaci came off with a little hamstring problem and if we only have two centre backs then that cannot work with the number of games we have.”

Hamstring injuries are one of the trickiest sort of injuries. It could take only a couple of days to recover from or it could mean a month on the sidelines. Just when you think the player has recovered and you play him, he aggravates the injury and is out for several months. In my opinion, there is no way we can cope with only two centrebacks, given the fixtures. If you look at the fixtures, we still have to continue back to back games for weeks to come.

15 Sat Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League A West Ham United
18/19 Add to Calendar The FA Cup A Leeds
22 Sat Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Wigan Athletic
25 Tue Add to Calendar Carling Cup H Ipswich Town
29/30 Add to Calendar The FA Cup H Huddersfield Town
(If Arsenal beat Leeds United in Round 3)
February
01 Tue Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Everton
05 Sat Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League A Newcastle United
12 Sat Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Wolverhampton W.
16 Wed Add to Calendar UEFA Champions League H FC Barcelona
19 Sat Add to Calendar The FA Cup N Fifth Round
22 Tue Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League H Stoke City
26 Sat Add to Calendar Barclays Premier League A Tottenham Hotspur
(This game will be moved if Arsenal reach the Carling Cup Final)
27 Sun Add to Calendar Carling Cup N Final

As you can see, until the end of the month we have to play consecutive  games. And the MAXIMUM number of days we have in between the matches is four(except for the match after Newcastle on the 5th)!!! Expect an extended number of injuries to be on their way. The only positive side is that  our Premier League fixtures are relatively kind. But that’s it, other than that we are screwed.

One player who we have been linked with this season is Werder Bremen centreback Per Mertesacker. Ever since the January transfer window has opened up, Mertesacker has been on the top of the ‘probable transfers’ list. The latest update comes from sport.co.uk.

The agent of Mertesacker gave Sport.co.uk an update this morning regarding any January move for his client:

“So far we have had no contact from Arsenal. We will wait and see but for the moment they have not contacted myself or the club.” Guido Nickolay told Sport.co.uk.

Arsenal manager Wenger has been perennially linked with the big German stopper, however the centre-half ruled out a move last summer pledging his short-term future to the German side.

Reports this morning also suggested that Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United could were also monitoring the player.

Sport.co.uk confirmed last month having spoken with a source close to the player that Mertesacker was ready to quit the Bundesliga for another top league, with the Gunners still interested in the giant defender’s services.

“I think he would like to move.” The source told Sport.co.uk.

“Or let me say it like this – he would be interested in seeing other countries.”

I, for one , would love to see Mertesacker play for us at the Emirates. The guy is a monster. He is 6ft 6 inch!! Plus he has all the necessary experience we need. He is a regular for the German national team and is of perfect age(26). Due to his height, he can not only defend well aerially but is a huge threat from set pieces, a quality clearly lacking in our current crop of players. Let’s just hope Wenger signs someone quick and that the player is someone like Per Mertesacker and pray that the Sol Campbell rumours are not true!!

Wenger’s rotation policy a MUST, not a choice

Last week, everyone started criticising Arsene Wenger after he made 8 changes to face Wigan after the Chelsea game. What made it worse is that the changes didn’t pay off, as Arsenal went on to draw 2-2 with Wigan. Wenger changes the winning lineup, we draw, so it’s Wenger’s fault.

The thing is I think Wenger would love to play his best lineup every match. If that ensures the win, then I think that’s what every manager would do. Play the same set of 11 players game in and out. With Arsenal, it’s a special scenario. Wenger has to take into account quite a few factors before making changes like that on a regular basis.

First of all, we have to consider that all our players are injury prone. Yes I said it, all of them are! Let’s just keep Vermaelen out of this since he’s still injured, you’ll find very few players who haven’t faced a lengthy spell in the sidelines. Especially out attacking options in Fabregas, Van Persie, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott, Nasri, Diaby and Ramsey have all faced injuries at times which have left them out of the side for months. Did I miss someone out because I am sure the list is longer.

Fans were so upset that Djourou didn’t play in the Wigan game after producing a match-winning display of keeping Drogba quiet against Chelsea. So we wanted him to play after 48 hours with barely any recovery time. We tend to think of only Eduardo and Ramsey having horrific injuries, but Djourou is making a remarkable comeback after a dreadful knee injury too. Would we rather see him be match fit for more of the season or risk the chance of him being injured again at a crucial point in the season?

Secondly, our squad is just way too strong. Arsene has a tough job in trying to keep them all happy. In football, the only way you can keep a player happy other than financial incentives is to put them in the starting lineup on a regular basis. As soon as Walcott didn’t start for 3-4 games this season, he started voicing out concerns of how badly he needs to start now. Walcott starts again and scores and assists against Chelsea. When Bendtner’s groin troubles are gone for good and he still didn’t make the starting lineup, he just wanted to leave outright. Wenger plays him against Wigan and he scores a wonderful goal. I’m predicting Arshavin might have to sit in the bench more often these days, so just wait till he starts speaking out publicly when that happens.

Wenger has to rotate his players, he doesn’t really have a choice in this scenario. Maybe he could toggle around with the lineups a bit more and possibly set two lineups that are a bit more equally strong. That will take some weeks to sort out as well. Regardless of that, expect a rotation policy to be there throughout the season. There is no way of avoiding it.

 

Sending Vela out on loan

So Wenger confirmed it yesterday that Carlos Vela is most likely to go out on loan. It seems that Bolton is the most likely place he’ll be joining.

I had expected Vela to be used way more off the bench this season than he has been. Except for a handful of start for the Carling Cup and a couple of appearances in the Premier and Champions League, Wenger has kept him out of the pitch for most of the time. Although he’s still somehow scored 3 goals in competitive matches just shows that his goal scoring record isn’t as bad as most people may think.

Bolton is a great club to go on loan, especially for someone of Vela’s talent. Owen Coyle is also someone who seems to love Arsenal’s homegrown players. One of the reasons why Jack Wilshere got a start in the first team is because he had a great spell on loan at Bolton. Coyle started with Wilshere in most of the games and he handled the pressure with ease, played a solid midfield role. It did show Wenger that Wilshere was capable of putting his talent out on the ground and was influencing ball play. Hats off to Wilshere though for capitalizing on his opportunity and cementing his place in the first team. You’ll see talented players all over the world who play well day in and out in training, but it’s the mental aspect of the game which you can only assess in players while they’re playing at a competitive level.

Rather than bench warming and training with Arsenal, it’s best if Vela gets first team action. We all know what he’s capable of doing, but us fans need to see whether he can maintain consistency at the top level. I’m sure Vela knows that he has a future at Arsenal but our attacking options are plentiful and too competitive. He should understand that even Walcott, Arshavin and Bendtner are needed to wait in the bench for their chance. Hopefully he’ll play his heart out (wherever he goes on loan) and proves to Wenger that he deserves a starting place too. I want Wenger to have a first team selection headache 24/7!

But wait, what happened to David Moyes and his Everton transfer plans? I thought he was looking for attacking options to bring in on loan to replace his under-firing strikers? I would’ve been so happy in Vela was playing for a team like Everton, as most players who have loan spells there had great ones (such as Jo and Landon Donovan at recent times). He’d probably score a lot more goals at Everton than at Bolton, who have scored quite a few goals this season, thanks to the rejuvenated striking pair in Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander. Oh well, I don’t manage Everton though so it’s quite insignificant what I think from a Moyes’ perspective! As an Arsenal fan, I’ll be happy if he stays in the Premier League (because apparently Valencia want him too), starts often and most importantly, creates and scores goals in plenty.

Ramsey would have started instead of Wilshere if he did not get injured

Amidst all the hype and excitement of the Premier League and other festivities, you might have forgotten about a player named Aaron Ramsey. After signing for Arsenal from Cardiff in 2008, Aaron’s career had never flown off. Hindered by injuries ‘Rambo’ failed to snap up a place in the starting lineup which could have been his by now.

A huge obstacle in Ramsey’s football life has been a career threatening injury which he suffered during a league appearance at Stoke on February 27, 2010. Ramsey suffered a double fracture in his lower right leg and Shawcross was sent off and left the pitch in tears. The injury was and is still considered similar to Eduardo’s injury which he (Eduardo) never fully recovered from. Eduardo’s career went downhill from there onwards and he eventually left Arsenal for Shakhtar Donetsk in July 2010. It is this fear that still haunts us Arsenal fans. Will Ramsey suffer a fate similar to that of poor Eduardo??

Whether Ramsey will cope with his injury depends on his mental strength. In my opinion the lad can make the grade but it has not been proven yet. Preliminary results have been promising. The Welshman had been sent to Nottingham Forest for rehabilitation and appeared in five matches with the team. Arsene Wenger would have liked him to have played a little more than just five games but bad weather had prevented this from happening. In the few matches he played with Forrest, he did nothing out of the ordinary. That’s expected, he did not go out on loan to do a Messi; he went there to train. During the matches he was a bit cautious as expected but he did not hold back in training. According to Nottingham Forest midfielder Chris Cohen  the fact that Aaron is Arsenal quality showed while they were in training together. After Ramsey started his first game for Forest, Cohen was full of praise for him. He said:

“He’s fantastic. He’s obviously just coming back from a very bad injury but the bits in training he does it makes you feel a bit like you shouldn’t be playing with him sometimes.

“He’s brilliant. Coming back to fitness is always going to be hard. He done well last night, he obviously got tired and came off after about 65 minutes. That’s not because he was doing badly just because it was his first game back.

“But you can see he can be a superstar in the future if he keeps progressing the way he has since he come from Cardiff. He’s fantastic and a really nice down to earth lad – he’s fitted in brilliantly with the lads as well.”

But that was a few weeks ago. Arsenal have decided not to extend Ramsey’s loan and he has finally returned to Arsenal. This, according to Wenger, is due to Arsenal’s injury to Diaby who is out for over a month. In a similar manner to Coyle wanting to keep Wilshere after his loan to Bolton, Davis (Forest’s manager) wants Ramsey to stay at Nottingham but admits that it will not be possible. He said:

“If that’s the case [the loan not being extended] it’s a pity we never got more use out of him. He has certainly been a joy to work with and a credit to himself and club.”

But the loan not being extended is certainly not bad news in anyway for Arsenal. Wenger has reassured the fans that Ramsey will return for the good and is not far away from making his first Arsenal appearance since February. He insisted:

“Ramsey will definitely come back. He did not get the number of games [at Forest] that he, or we, wanted because of the snow. He’s not completely ready yet but he should be in February.”

There you have it. February is just a month away.

But have you ever wondered what would have happened if Ramsey never got injured?? I had. The first thing that sprang into my mind was that Jack Wilshere would probably not be in the starting lineup this season if Ramsey had never gotten injured. Ramsey and Wilshere are two completely different players but I think Wenger would have made Aaron the priority since he is older and even more talented (in my opinion).

Aaron’s a fantastic talent. He is a physical player and whom I would actually call a complete midfielder. Could Ramsey play the role that Wilshere is playing now? Yes, I think so. He can possibly do it even better than Jack. I am serious. Ramsey can be every bit as physical as young Jack can be, so that’s not a problem. He probably cannot dribble as well as Wilshere but he isn’t bad at it either. Furthermore Ramsey is much better a passer than Wilshere. Like Fabregas and unlike Wilshere, Ramsey is not afraid of making long incisive passes to players. He distributes the ball much better than Jack also. Another immense quality that Ramsey possesses is that he can finish very well for a midfielder. I may be mistaken but I think he can finish better than most and possibly all of our midfielders. Taking long shots is not a problem for this guy, as was proven in the few matches he played for Arsenal. It’s a shame that he got injured because he would have developed a lot during this time.

In the near future, I can see Ramsey becoming a regular for Arsenal. When and if Fabregas leaves Arsenal, Ramsey will slot in there directly. No questions asked. Even if Fabregas never leaves Arsenal, I still believe this guy will earn his place into Wenger’s lineup. Who he replaces? I do not know. Wilshere is not a natural at the position he plays. He is more of a nasri-type player. He will inevitably take up a free role on the field- moving about the pitch, linking up play, scoring goals etc. Arshavin will be one player who is likely to lose his place and Jack might just be the perfect replacement. Ramsey will possibly play beside Fabregas and the two will cause havoc and dominate the midfield irregardless of the opponent at hand.

But what the lies in the future, no one knows. And, I am no psychic but I can predict that in the not-so-distant future, Arsenal fans all over the world will be wishing that football be played with twelve men instead of eleven because there is no way in hell a player of Aaron’s caliber can rest on the bench!!

Here’s a nice video of Rambo’s I found on the internet. Enjoy: