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Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/29/2012

After the great comeback this season, Arsenal are stumbling towards the finish line as the need to secure third place in the league has become greater. Chelsea's unexpected success in Barcelona means we have to take the possibility of them winning the Champions League seriously. The thought of Chelsea being the first London team to win the Champions League isn't a good one, but to have them also put us in the Europa League by taking the fourth spot in next year's tournament, would be close to unbearable.

There's two ways to look at the Stoke match. It's easy to say that we dropped two points against a team that haven't had a brilliant season. However, on the positive side, it was a point gained at a stadium where we've had little success in recent seasons. With Newcastle's defeat, it's a shame we couldn't extend our points lead in third, but we still have third place in our hands. Beat Norwich City and West Brom, and we come third. Simple.

However this is Arsenal, it's unlikely to be simple. We can still optimistic about the two games though, as there were plenty of positives to take from the Stoke draw. We've been quick to go into our shell at the Britannia before, but we saw an Arsenal team on Saturday that were willing to face up to the more direct Stoke tactics, and then play our own attacking game.

We’ve been exposed by the long throw-ins and crosses into the box numerous times against Stoke, but generally we dealt well with them on Saturday. Szczesny gives the players more confidence when defending those balls into the box than our previous goalkeepers against Stoke have done. Our defensive organisation has improved immeasurably during the season, with Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen’s partnership has been a major part of that.

Despite the improvements, we still conceded from a cross. Arguably, there’s not much you can do when a six foot seven striker out jumps the shorter centre back. However if we want to aim higher than third next season, we can be doing more to stop conceding those goals. We needlessly lost the ball in midfield, didn’t close down the cross and were punished.

We usually concede early goals at Stoke, and mostly have capitulated afterwards. However it was another sign of the team making up for the less skill in side, with hard work and determination. To level the match so quickly meant that we didn’t allow the hosts to get on top of the game and allowed us to not become frustrated. We’ve performed worse in recent weeks when chasing games, and the longer we’ve been behind in matches, the more jittery we’ve become. We did well to avoid that on Saturday.

I’ve said before that I’d like to see Yossi Benayoun signed on a permanent deal as he has been an excellent squad player this season. He will never be a regular starter, but he’s the more experienced back-up player that we’ve been missing in recent seasons. His contributions to the equalising goal shouldn’t go unnoticed. He pressured Shotton high up the pitch and immediately put us on the front foot by winning the ball. Tomas Rosicky’s subsequent cross was superb and Robin van Persie finished it. The skipper showed why he’s been made double footballer of the year this week. It looked like an easy finish, but it was the excellent movement that enabled him to tuck it home. On a personal level, the goal edged van Persie closer to the Golden Boot; a prize that would befit his superb season.

The rest of the match was quite tight after the early goals. We defended well and did create some chances, but never anything as clear-cut as the equalising goal. Going forward, Gervinho was lively, but still can’t get near some of the good form he showed before the African Cup of Nations. With the emergence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a good end to the season would help Gervinho start next season knowing he has a real chance of cementing a starting place. However if he doesn’t put in two good performances, and we then sign one or two attackers in the summer, the Ivorian might slip off the radar. He won’t want to become another Marouane Chamakh.

Speaking of the Moroccan, he was actually seen on the pitch on Saturday! He didn’t have a terrible game, but didn’t make a big impact on it. I’ll be staggered if Chamakh is at Arsenal next season. He’s the sort of player who should be able to affect games like Stoke away, but he hasn’t been able to do so this season.

Elsewhere in the team, Tomas Rosicky was busy in midfield, and it was worrying to see Abou Diaby limp off at the end of the game. He probably won’t play again this season, meaning we’re a bit short of central midfielders for our final two games.

One of those that are fit is Aaron Ramsey. Going back to Stoke reminded us just to be grateful that he’s playing again after the injury he suffered there. For Stoke fans to boo him was just brainless, needless and showed a real lack of class. I’m all for some fan banter; at Arsenal we’ve jumped up when an opposing manager has been annoyed by something, so I didn’t have a problem with the fans’ Wenger arm waving (although Linekar’s efforts were daft), but booing a player because he had his leg broken? That’s seriously low.

There are just two games left, and on paper they’re both eminently winnable. The last few matches have been as well, so we can’t expect six points, but obviously we have to aim for them. If we get the six points, the nightmare Chelsea scenario is out of the question. Norwich seem to be flagging at the end of the season, and even though our last two home games have been disappointing, our players should be desperate to end the season at the Emirates on a high. We’ve had some great moments there this season, so adding one last victory would put pressure on those behind us.

Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea have games in midweek, so they could be closer to us by the time we kick off on Saturday. Whatever they do in midweek, it shouldn’t affect our mind set and attitude towards the Norwich match.

We can still claim some success from this season by finishing third, and doing so would mean that Stoke was a good, solid away point. However if we fall to fourth from the end of season stumble, we’ll be cheering Bayern Munich on in the Champions League final. Then again, we’ll be doing that anyway!

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Comments

Posted by PoPo on 04/29/2012

1st

Posted by zebra on 04/29/2012

thanks Sam for the article and always supplying us fans with perspective and analysis. i hope you'll continue doing this for next season! do you know if you will?

i think you're absolutely right about stoke's goal. there wasn't much we could have done since we gave the ball up and didn't close down. we did put the defense and Szczesny under pressure with some bad clearances, just like as earlier in the season. we had lots of energy in the first half and i was waiting on our second goal. but by the second half, it was clear that we'd lost that come-from-behind excitement that we had not many months ago.

our injuries are not helping but we still have a strong backbone and our best back four in ages! i like our defensive partnership across the back. and it was awesome to see RvP put one in again!

it's been hard to expect things from this team as an arsenal fan. hopefully by finishing 3rd and strengthening our team this summer we can expect more for next season and change our mindset!

Posted by H2H on 04/30/2012

My prayer is that God will help to win our remaining to games coz we just cant afford to miss out on the champions league nor be so tensed with champs league final.Which i know will be very hard for chelsea to beat bayern in home ground,

Posted by Canberra Gooner on 04/30/2012

The biggest positive was the resolve we showed after the goal and excellent marking of Crouch for the bulk of the game. Our issues with Stoke are well known and while the goal we conceded was disappointing and typical of previous encounters we learned the lesson.

Two huge matches to close out the season and secure third.

Posted by curtis harris on 04/30/2012

I have to say that I'm glad I started reading ur blog this season. You give honest assessments and never pull punches. Keep up the good work bro

Posted by Mohd Fauzi on 04/30/2012

Hi Sam, a bit improvement on your article :-)

Agreed with you this is a fair result even though we should get winning goal by half time and a bit disappointment.
1. Ramsey has a decent game as well as Benayoun. Hoping both of them will get good improvement for remaining two.
2. Why Chamakh been brought in for Gervinho?? For me there is only 1 reason to win the high ball but absolutely rubbish! In fact every time he played, no any reason to cheer with. He was seems a school boy player! Poor passing, too soft.
3. The Ox should be brought in instead of either Chamakh or Santos to inject the pace and create something. Why it not happen??
4. You seems to agreed with my previous comment that don't want to see Gervinho to become Chamakh clone of failure. Make sense?
5. Why Wenger always overlooked the Ox while we are chasing the goal?
6. I am really tired to see final season performance repeated again and again, killed our chance to win EPL likes 07/08, 09/10 & 10/11. Why it always happened?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment.
3 and 5. The Ox would have added pace, but we should be able to bring on a second striker in these sorts of games. It's just a shame that Chamakh isn't great.
4. As I said in the blog, Gervinho is in danger of being similar to Chamakh. Hopefully he won't go that way.
6. That's a question that Arsene Wenger has probably been trying to answer every season. Hopefully he'll find an answer by this time next year.

Posted by david fitch on 04/30/2012

Well the game went very much to scriptStoke preformed well enough Arsenal miss chance's Stoke nearly won at the end.Getting third is important the next two game's are must win game's Arsenal should be sending a crate over to Wigan for helping out.But limping over the line at the end of the season sum's up the season of see-saw result's but if Arsenal look up they are far away from the top two and with both these team's going to strengthen with transfer's and of course Chelsea once again Arsenal transfer policy is under the spot light read and heard alot about player's but seen nothing on Arsenal website?The next two game's are against two team's who have nothing to play for so on paper should be win's for Arsenal but thought that after the city game that they would be holding third and having a go at second,something has to change at Arsenal unless they want to repeat of this season next year.

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/30/2012

Not much to comment about this game.We were not play as what we should in order to secure 3rd place and Stoke just won't let us win at their home and at the same time not really push for win as they should be comfortable at middle of the table.
Most of our player not play at their level as what they did in Feb.Only Kolcheiny,TV,Rosicky, Gibb and Song still keep up with their performance.RVP,Scezsny,Sagna and Benayoun slightly below par.Ramsey,Santos and Gervinho not perform at all from my opinion.Surely we will kick tires if we slip from 3rd place at this point.Most of our rivals show some intensity right now but we seems like just lost hope even we try not to.What's wrong with us?Are we feel comfortable or out of gas or what?
We must win next 2 games and not to take any chances by just hoping our rivals yet again slip point as what happened to Newcastle.Remember that we have 3 rivals and now all of them only away 1-2 points so anything can happen.
Match again WBA like sudden death.

Posted by Spoilo on 04/30/2012

I couldnt agree with u more,that was a good one

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/30/2012

Again IF we cannot bypass against tight defending -Try long shoot sometimes.Scholes always do this for MU,Kolerov-M.City&Gerrard-L,pool.
Clearly without Arteta,no one have a courage to try a long shoot and I've seen this obviously in this match.We wasted 2 really good chances at good spot for a long shoot in 2nd half [I missed 1st half].First is Rosicky which ended with pass to RVP and second is Song {better than Rosicky spot] and again ended with pass to RVP at offside position,I think.
Ramsey can shoot & also can find the tight space at the corner of the goal but he doesn't have power shot.Our midfielders need to improve their skill on this.
I don't understand with Gervinho.1st-why he is not as what he was after returned from the African Cup? 2nd-He is good and able to steal the ball away from the opponent player's feet but at at the same time,he also always easily lose and give away the ball to the opponent?3rd-His finishing is terrible just like Eboue.Sam,what do you think of him?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I like Gervinho, but I want him to return to form. He was dangerous in the first half of the season as he based his game on pace and the confidence to run past players. He seems to have lost that confidence at the moment. I think he's better than Eboue.

Posted by Clyde on 04/30/2012

Nice article Sam...agreed, what the stoke fans did to Ramsey was distasteful at the least..so, is it his fault he got his leg broken?we should all try to move away from that..um sure the lad is trying to but we keep bringing it up!anyway, i wanted to know if u will be posting anything during the close season.the euros maybe..or some transfer speculation...

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I'll be reviewing the season and commenting on transfer, how Arsenal players do in the Euros, and anything Arsenal related that happens.

Posted by eugene on 04/30/2012

gunners 4 life!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Raib on 04/30/2012

I really hope it doesn't come to us having to place our European hopes in Bayern's hands as much as we'd be supporting them anyways!

Posted by smudla62 on 04/30/2012

If I'm Robin van Persie, I'm thinking: `I'm never going to lift a trophy with these punks'. Sure, there's injuries and many players who have seriously come up short, but to come out as flat as they did with so much on the line shows an inability to rise to the challenge. They seem to have no control over which team shows up: The one that beat Tottenham 5-2 or the one that got knocked out of the cup by Sunderland. Stoke didn't defend particularly well, Arsenal just missed pass after pass and players refused to take responsibility to bring the ball forward. Even with the clock running down they were passing it sideways and backwards, hoping someone else would take responsibility. I'd love RvP to stay but wouldn't blame him at all if he went for a team that can lift a trophy. That's not us now.

Posted by Louis on 04/30/2012

Excellent article as usual sam, i was looking forward to reading it.

I love the humour at the end, surely we will cheer for Bayern!

I'm lost or thoughts over our last few games, to get a draw against chelsea and stoke is acceptable, but to not seal off the 3rd position by now is disappointing, especially considering how close the others are behind us. looking at the fixtures we have one of the easiest run in on paper. so it's quite right to say our biggest enemy at the moment is ourselves.

Now that the season is coming to an end, who would you rate to be our signing of the season? Arteta? In retrospect Ox has been a good signing but is the 13million price tag really justified?

Here's to hoping we finishing 3rd and well above the 6th placed spurs.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think Mikel Arteta has been our best signing. he added stability to the midfield when it could have fallen apart.

Posted by Hussam on 04/30/2012

Your articles are much appreciated Sam..

The team played well against stoke but no 3 points.. The team have to learn how to grind out a win, thats what will make them title contenders(winning in these circumstances).. The only terrible game ramsey played was away to Milan, but he does need to improve..Benayoun looked like a player on a mission at Stoke(wanted to win) but he ALWAYS chooses the difficult option rather than the obvious one.. RVP looks like the most absorbrd player in th league, he's done too much this season.. Squad depth is very much needed as is obvious by Chelsea, they aren't particularly superb the (bench players) but they play their football with confidence & get the job done.. Lastly, 2 wins should do it(HOPEFULLY), but Arsenal are currently in a state were their allowing others to do their job for them...

Posted by Arsenal Army on 04/30/2012

Sam, I just have a thought about your writing on RVP exhausted issue in this season.He seems drop in his performance lately and to beat Van Nistelrooy record is almost impossible.Now Rooney just 2 goals behind and can take over top sorer position with 3 games left. Suddenly I started analyzed Messi and C.Ronaldo performance.Both of them play most of the games in this season and they just can't stop scoring.Sunday games-both of them still score 2 goals and now,both of them reach to 43 goals.
How you compare this with V.Persie?Is it really about exhaust or his form just drop or team performance affected him?
Why AW did not buy Falcao?He is really good and everybody knows it.He just wasted his career going to Athletico.He is 3rd top scorer in La Liga.Even Rooney start to show some pick up on his performance and I think he can score more than 30.If RVP unable to score in next 2 games, he will just lost his only golden boot to Rooney and for that I really hate MU for the rest of my life.Pls

Posted by noel on 04/30/2012

Sam, is it time for AW to give up on Abou Diaby? Time and time again he's made a 15 minutes cameo appearance after a lengthy lay-off, only to go back to the treatment room and not play for another month. I can appreciate his fighting spirit to getting back to fitness but he can't seem to maintain it. My patience is wearing thin and I'm sure many fans feel the same.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. It could be time to let him go, but he has got a lot of talent as a player. We're in a position where we can't plan for the long term with Diaby because we can never be sure that he'll be fit, so it'll be difficult.

Posted by Jason on 04/30/2012

Sam, What do you think about this morning's news on the podolski buy?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Really pleased by it. I think he's an excellent player and will support RvP next season.

Posted by Ethan on 04/30/2012

Nice article, Sam.
I beg to differ on Benayoun's future. I know I have changed my mind on this. This is partly because of the large squad we have.
I am extremely thrilled with signing of Podolski and I hope for more. I am sorry that I am so greedy. Before we see more new faces, I think we need to offload players and Benayoun has to be one of them, since he is the easiest to go.I am also not a big fan of Djourou, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Dennilson and Bendtner. Squillaci and Almunia raises big questions if they stay. Vela and Chamakh, I think, are better off elsewhere. Tough decisions would be Diaby, Arshavin and Coquelin.
We have our core players now. To go higher, we need exceptional players. We still lack a certain degree of creativity and that talent to win or turn games. Defensively, we can still add a world class (and tall) central defender, as well as an experienced keeper, like the ones in Bayern vs Real.If we have the luxury, we could also sign another fullback like Kyle Walker.

Posted by Anonymous on 04/30/2012

AW should buy Robben in addition to Podolski. Go Arsenal!

Posted by Alex on 04/30/2012

Sam, good write up. Based on the ever thinning midfield issue we seem to have. What is the story with Diaby? He comes on for another 20 minutes and walks off with a limp. Is he "really" ready to comeback, or does he have a more serious issue? Interesting to see what Gervinho can do with 2 more games knowing Poldolski just signed..... Your thoughts?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Diaby is terribly injury prone, but without games he won't get stronger, so it's a difficult situation for Wenger to manage. Gervinho will have to up his game now Podolski has signed.

Posted by Salaudeen olayinka on 04/30/2012

We just need 2 win our next 2 matches nd d 3rd position is ours.realy glad about d podolski deal nd hope he become a success bt i heard we are also closing in on Matias suarez .aw true is that?

Posted by Titansgunners12thman on 04/30/2012

No fire underneath the boys on Saturday. Or is i we have no game changing players other than RVP on the pitch. Stoke were never going to lay down against us, so we ere always running into tough match. But we had no inspiration on the pitch. I still don't understand Wenger's choice of lineups at times on several occasions this season.
Gervinhno is moving the way of Chamakh. He's not getting playing time, and for the life of me I don't understand why. He did what he has doneall season, dribble and pass the defender that is in front of him, attack the goal, and show he is not a true finisher. His attacking at the beginning of the season was bagging RVP quite a few goals, even getting the Ivorian some nice assist. But Wenger inexplicably took in out fo the lineup. Now after being out, he has to get up to speed. Meanwhile, an obviously knackered Ramsey plays and is invisible on the pitch. We still have something to play for, get your best players playing Wenger!

Posted by Kevin on 04/30/2012

Rough game.. certainly getting frustrating... only games I have been able to watch recently have been losses and draws, not watching the winning games. Bodes well for this weekends match, since I will be checking the score on my phone. I must say that it wasn't unexpected, tho at least we didn't have an injury. I thought the early yellow really kept the game in check in terms of tackling.

On to my real question for you. With the announced addition of Podolski to our squad, does that shore up our attacking options for next year, or do we need another one (i.e. Dempsey)? Also, would you rather see M'Villa come or Vermaellen's Belgian teammate with the equally long V name?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think it does shore up our attacking options, but I think we'll need another signing as we'll probably lose at least one of Chamakh and Park. I'd prefer Vertonghen to M'Vila.

Posted by Ric on 04/30/2012

Hi, who do u think could be the next possilbe signings for da gunners?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. There have been loads of names linked, but I think a midfielder or a defender will be next. It'll also depend on who we sell.

Posted by Nwabueze on 04/30/2012

The manager and his boys have done well thus far, and the emirate god (godess) that turned our season around, will see us through to Europe next season. Lets' keep the fate.

Posted by James on 04/30/2012

Sam, who would you rather see win the Manchester derby today? I'm torn between my dislike of United and my dislike for City's attitude that they can just buy the title, and just the idea of Na$ri winning a title disgusts me. What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I preferred United to win, but it's still not over even though City won.

Posted by g on 04/30/2012

Brlliant article sam. Couple of things though, despite the fact that we have had a 7 game(i think) winning run... A lot of players have gotten complacent after that. Gervinho cant be blamed. Pen miss at afc was pretty sad for him. But ramsey has gotten a little arrogant after AW gave him starts in the beginning of the season and he is leaving form as quickly as he came into it.
IMO, formation next year should be arteta song rosicky/wilshere in mid... Any other prospects for mid next year imo cam be held off with technical diaby and possible benayoun.
Podolski/arshavin should be an interesting switch as aa has just won a cup with zenit :-)...
If we actually buy hazard, who would start on the wings? too many wingers...

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Now we've got Podolski, I'll be surprised if we sign Hazard. I think his price will be too high for us.

Posted by Alexander on 04/30/2012

Sam , thank you.Wenger makes poor substitutions and is late in doing so.I would prefer Ox starting in all the games instead of Gervinho. I am still wondering why Wenger signed him. He misses many sitters which even an expectant woman could score.He missed one against Manchester City and several before that.He cannot shoot, runs forward and turns backward and often is dispossed of the ball,colapses like a back of cards at little touch.A beautiful ball was crossed in front of the goal exactly where he could head it for possible second goal at Stroke, he did not know what to do.Chamakh should be sold. I do not see him picking up. Maybe the French league and their style can fit him. Wenger is reluctant sell him. Why on earth could a manger not have more than one striker. Most teams have.Does Wenger realize the importance of a strong bench?He has hardly anyone who can be called to change the game in our own favour: Arsenal has eleven good players and if any is injured we suffer.

Posted by Raza on 04/30/2012

I'm surprised not to hear mention of a penalty; Yossi would have been shooting at goal if he hadn't been tripped. I thought we were really unlucky not to get it; but then again, we could have lost all if Sagna hadn't cleared off the line at the death.

I personally think our big challenge for 3rd will come from Spurs; Toon and Chelsea have very hard fixtures left, while Spurs have it all easy. Having said that, we should be able to wrap 3 points against Norwich.

Sam, now that Podolski has signed, do you think we need another striker? Which other players are you hoping we sign?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think we will need another striker as we'll probably lose at least one of Chamakh and Park. There aren't any specific names I'm hoping for, just experienced players that will boost the squad.

Posted by AnArsenalFan on 04/30/2012

I think Gervinho really suffered mentally when he had all those missed chances in the latter parts of the first half of the season after a very positive start. Then he went off to the ACN, Oxlade emerged, and Gerv never regained his confidence.

But he is surely a class player and I dont think he'll slip off the radar. His directness and agility helped propel us at the start of the campaign and I think he will sort himself out in the summer. IMO Oxlade and Walcott might have a harder time with Poldi coming in.

Posted by Adeola on 04/30/2012

It's a must win game!

Posted by Charles on 04/30/2012

Man city will come first, Man U second while Arsenal will finish third at the end of the season. Lets hope our England colleague lift the champions league trophy although i know it wont be that easy

Posted by youngGun16 on 04/30/2012

A good point at a ground we always struggled at. However i have a question:
Why do the stoke fans hate us so much???? P.S booing Aaron was probably the ridiculous things i have ever heard.

Anyway we have fought really hard to get where we are and makes me proud to remember that i was one of the few who were really optimistic(look back to early posts if you don't believe me). TOP 3 THIS YEAR, TROHPIES NEXT YEAR!!!

COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!

Posted by oleg on 05/01/2012

This team has shown real mental toughness for the first season in a long time. They have 2 games left to prove that it's here to stay. 2 games against mid table teams who have little to play for. If the players fail to get third spot from here they can only blame themselves. We have more than enough quality and motivation to take the 6 points.. time to deliver boys. Come on you gunners!!!

Posted by RLS on 05/01/2012

Great post Sam,
Although it is just a stumble, it is a very worrisome one. Newcastle luckily did not take advantage but Chelsea and Tottenham are coming back into the race for third. Podolski deal has finally been confirmed, also we seem to be in pole position for M'villa. If we can bring him in as well it would be a huge boost. You insist that our defensive partnership between TV5/Kos is great and I tend to agree, but we have still conceded a whopping 44 goals this term which is a very bad statistic. How do you think we could address the problem?

I think that Mertesacker is very much to blame in the 1st half of the season and I think he should be offloaded even though we would not get as much as we paid for him.
Gervinho has also been pretty poor lately.

I think we could use these two as bargaining chips for big targets.
Perhaps we could give Lille Mertesacker+Gervinho+10million to land Hazard. Your thoughts?

This would also make room for a Vertonghen transfer.
What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Since Kos and Verm have been together, we haven't been bad at the back, so we're already addressing the problem.
I don't want us to sell Mertesacker, and I don't think Lille would do that sort of deal.
I still think we might go for Vertonghen anyway.

Posted by saurabh gwalani on 05/01/2012

nicely...written sam....optimistic..atleast
sam..now..as we hav..finally completed d signing of podolski
nd i heard arsene wenger saying der will b more world class signings added.soon
wat is ur opinion sam?
on which positions we need additions..in d squad
a playmaker,attackin midfielder,defence???

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think a defender will be a priority for Wenger, and possibly an attacking midfielder.

Posted by Kenneth on 05/01/2012

I am not sure why Sam keep saying we are short in midfield. we have so many young and hungry midfield players waiting to start the games. yet arsene did no trust their ability to start them. i am sure they can perform better than the out of form ramsey and the limping diaby. we have coquelin who can play in central midfield. why not start him? as for alex song, once again, he keep giving the ball away. time to sell him. as for benayoun, i will be surprised if we signed him as we have so many young and talented midfield players. we should give them a chance. and if we sign another 1 or 2 world class midfielders, then we will be over crowded in that department.

Posted by rays on 05/01/2012

Good piece Sam, just keep us up to date with your analysis in the remaining 2 games.

Posted by RLS on 05/01/2012

Proposed starting line up for 2012, ambitious but possible...

----------------------Szczney--------------------------Sagna-------Vermaelen----Kocielny---Vertonghen--------------Song-----------Arteta----------------------------------wilshere-----------------------------Hazard(walcot)---------------------Podolski-----------------------------RVP-------------------------

bench: gibbs, rosicky, ramsey, afobe, walcot, ox, goalkeeper?
Transfers: out
chamakh=5m
arshavin=10m
diaby=5m
Gervinho=10m
Almunia+squillaci+Mannone+other deadwood=5m

total=35m

Transfers: in
podolski=11m
vertonghen=10m
hazard=30m

total=51m

51-35= only 16million loss

What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Interesting look to the side and the transfers, but we need to bear in mind that football doesn't quite work like football manager so it's hard to guess prices.

Posted by Louis on 05/01/2012

to the @RLS dude above,

seriously gervinho to be sold? it's only 1 season and he is just having a dip in form. Partly why our players fails is we fans never ever give them enough patience, those booing on field does not help with performance guys.

Our manager, on the other hand, have too much patience with the deadweights.

Posted by Tyler on 05/01/2012

I know Hazard is going to be expensive, but why not? If AW spends his entire budget on Hazard would anyone be disappointed? Especially now that we have Podolski.

And I really like Gibbs. He's young and fullback is a hard position to play. But if you watch him close, he has arguably the second best touch of anyone on the team (obviously RVP is better). That's a good base for a FB. He's caught out of position at times, but not as much as Santos. And he's rather quick. He has the makings of a stellar FB. If he can stay healthy I really think he can be a star. But thats a big IF.

Posted by number one fan on 05/01/2012

LIKE YOUR TEAM BUT WE WILL WAIT AND SEE WHAT NEXT SEASSON BRINGS KEEP HOLDING THE FAITH.

Posted by KH on 05/02/2012

Hi Sam,

Enjoy reading your posts. From this season thus far, it appears that Alex Song can contribute a lot of assists. Do you think AW may play Alex Song in the attacking midfielder role next year?

Would Jan Vertonghen (if he comes over) be able to then naturally fill in the holding midfielder role?

What about Park? Why do you think AW does not seem to have much confidence in him? I saw his Carling cup goal this year and it was Thierryesque! Shame that he has not been given as much playing time as Chamakh even. What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks your comment. I don't think Song will play as an attacking midfielder, he's better when coming forward from deep positions, so if we signed Vertonghen, he'd primarily be a defender. I'm surprised why Park hasn't been given more time in the team as I think he'd contribute more than Chamakh.

Posted by makun olayinka on 05/02/2012

Good one! hope the players put this into their head!

Posted by keshav on 05/02/2012

sam is there a possibility that wenger would sign christian eriksen?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. He's a good player, but as we've signed Podolski, I'd be surprised if we signed Eriksen.

Posted by FAA on 05/02/2012

The focus on attacking midfielders is a distraction; Arsene really needs to address the "lack of balance" in goal-scoring. RVP has been in great form, but do we see any 2nd or 3rd forward getting 10-15 goals? Gervinho, Ramsey and Rosicky combined didn't get the goals this year. No way we catch the Manchester clubs next season relying on just RVP for goals, again. Podolski is a good signing but we need one more forward! Urgently!!!

Even lower clubs - Newcastle, Tottenham, Chelsea - are more balanced. What we need from midfied is more shots from distance & no injuries. What do you think Sam?

By the way, Arsenal's renowned academy has't produced new starters since Jack Wilshere. Do you think the club declining in this area too and what should be done about it?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. We will probably need another attacking player, and answering your next question, someone like Benik Afobe could be that man.

Posted by FAA on 05/02/2012

Great post Sam.

Thoughts on the squad: before this season, RVP always had injury issues but it's been a great decision to keep him at Arsenal and it paid off big time this season!

I feel the same about Diaby - so much talent, adds height to the team and he's motivated to repay AW's faith. I think he'll shine next season, just like RVP! Should definitely keep him... what do you think Sam?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I'm a fan of Diaby and would like to see him stay.

Posted by blave on 05/03/2012

Oleg said it best. The squad has really shown alot of mental toughness and resiliency to get this far. It's still in our hands.

If we can't handle two mid-table teams with little to play for it would be a real letdown and the players would have only themselves to blame.

It was a decent effort against Stoke but a fairly predictable result and now we simply can't count on other teams to slip up anymore.


Lets makes sure all the hard work is rewarded with 3rd place finish to cap off the season. Come on Gunners!

Posted by nijwm on 05/03/2012

with both spuds n newcastle winning n both teams just a point behind, it's gonna be squeky bum time for us. of the three teams,newcastle has the toughest job- beat man city, while spuds have to beat relegation-threatened aston villa.

as for arsenal, it has to beat norwich- the revelation of the season, and not an easy team to beat as well as west brom who have been solid under hodgson. not easy games both.

no matter which way i look at it, it's gonna be tough and there's no way i can relax.

Posted by Sam Agona on 05/03/2012

"Proposed starting line up for 2012, ambitious but possible...

----------------------Szczney--------------------------Sagna-------Vermaelen----Kocielny---Vertonghen--------------Song-----------Arteta----------------------------------wilshere-----------------------------Hazard(walcot)---------------------Podolski-----------------------------RVP-------------------------

bench: gibbs, rosicky, ramsey, afobe, walcot, ox, goalkeeper?
Transfers: out
chamakh=5m
arshavin=10m
diaby=5m
Gervinho=10m
Almunia+squillaci+Mannone+other deadwood=5m

total=35m

Transfers: in
podolski=11m
vertonghen=10m
hazard=30m

total=51m

51-35= only 16million loss

What do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Interesting look to the side and the transfers, but we need to bear in mind that football doesn't quite work like football manager so it's hard to guess prices."

RLS I agree with You in entirety.. A lot of players on the Arsenal wage list are not of any help.

Posted by MO on 05/03/2012

Hi sam, nice article.
Just a couple of things, Podolski would take up either the wing or second striker spot?
If he does end up taking the wing, we already have 5+ wingers, (walcott, gervinho, oxlade chamberlain, ben, ros, rams when AW puts him there), and if Ben/Ros/Rams were to come to the midfield instead, that too is pretty cluttered up, considering Diaby, Wilshere, Arteta, Song, Frimpong, are to step into first team. Diaby in my opinion is a great player, with finesse strength and height/i don't know why he is underrated.
Ramsey has tried to take on the mantle of Cesc and has helped out for half the season, but forgotten his place. I don't see a future for Benayoun at Arsenal even though he's played tremendously, but his future IMO lies at Chels. Arshavin should be brought back, and Bendtner, as he got into some form that arsenal hasn't allowed him.
Chamak, Park should be sold. Park is good and I don't know why AW hasn't given him PT as his goal in CCup was fantastic.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. I think Podolski will mainly be used on the left.

Posted by Keith on 05/04/2012

Hi Sam, many of us are getting excited about the potential new signings for the next season. However, I have not read much about our recent signings such as Thomas Eisfeld, Joel Campbell and Ryo Miyaichi. In your opinion, are they ready for the next season? Thomas is 24 yo and I don't think AW signed him during the last winter transfer window to invest in the future. He must have been in his plans sooner than the other 2.

As for Abou Diaby, he's turning 26 in a few days' time. His time is really running out to be a top player. While I admire his potential just like you, I am getting apprehensive about his fitness and whether he will become a liability when the size of the squad is a concern.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Eisfield probably won't be, Campbell might be as he's been quite good for Lorient and Ryo has been on and off for Bolton so we'll see how pre-season goes.

Posted by OzGooner on 05/04/2012

Another excellent article, Sam.

Posted by uuro on 05/11/2012

JUST DO IT. SHOW THE WHOLE WORLD WHAT U ARE CAPABLE OF. NOW BRING THIS TO WENGER, PLEASE.

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About
David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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