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Arsenal
July 29, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/29/2012

A new season, a new kit, a different pre-season venue to play in, but the seemingly the same old problems for Arsenal. In the second match of the pre-season Asia Tour, we played well against Manchester City, however couldn’t convert chances and were punished for some slack defending on the break. It’s important to remember that it was only a friendly; however it’s never good to lose to a rival like Manchester City, especially when the loss came in a similar fashion to many of the ones we’ve suffered in recent seasons.

The squad for the Asia Tour is still missing a large number of first team players because of injury and fitness after Euro 2012, however we still fielded quite a strong team against Manchester City. Being honest, I didn’t rate our chances of winning the game as very high. We didn’t start with a regular striker, and had the inexperienced Kyle Bartley at centre back. Seeing a City team sheet including Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure was a concern, and their clinical counter attacking proved to be the difference.

The 2-0 score-line didn’t do the match justice, but rarely does a result reflect the overall flow of a football match. Hopefully we can get these matches out of our system before the season starts; where we dominate, but don’t turn that pressure into goals.

May 14, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/14/2012

Arsenal added the motto ‘Forward’ to the bottom of the club’s crest for the 125th anniversary season, and for a large slice of the season, that was looking like an embarrassing move. It seemed like we were a club in decline, and one that was definitely moving backwards. No-one could have envisaged that we’d end the season with a higher points total than the previous campaign, and finish a place higher.

It might only be a small step, but we have gone forward as a team and as a club this season. Whilst we should be rightly pleased at how we recovered from the dreadful start, this achievement shouldn’t be looked at as the be all and end all for this group of players. It needs to be the start of something.

We’ve stumbled over the line, but finishing third not only puts us back in the Champions League group stage, it gives us more clout when negotiating new contracts for certain members of the current squad, and helps us in the transfer market to attract players. One of the reasons for the ill-advised trolley dash at the end of last summer was that we weren’t able to guarantee potential signings that they’d be playing in Europe’s top competition because of the Champions League qualifier with Udinese. We won’t have that problem this summer.

May 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/07/2012

At 2.45pm on Saturday, it looked like we were going to be in desperate need of Tottenham suffering another lasagne induced bout of food poisoning, as in 2006. However at 4pm on Sunday, things weren’t looking quite as desperate. However given Arsenal’s remarkable ability to throw away our good work this season, we should probably start planning in the kitchen just to make sure we secure third place.

If Arsenal fail to finish in the top three, it will be our own fault. We’ve had the chances to secure that position, but have so far contrived to blow every one of them. To have one final chance is unexpected, but it must be utilised. On the basis of the season we do deserve to be where we are, you’re not third by accident after 37 games, because whilst we’ve had our failings, so have our closest challengers. The team should learn from the numerous mistakes we made against Norwich and give everything to take advantage of our final chance, as failure to do so could still result in Europa League football.

Our recent run is concerning ahead of the final game because we haven’t won for four matches now. After our win against Wolves, we’ve lost to Wigan, and drawn with Chelsea, Stoke and Norwich. A win in any of those games, and we’d virtually be safe in third place. It’s amazing that our fate is still in our hands, but the form ahead of a must-win match doesn’t fill me with confidence. At least in the draws with Chelsea and Stoke, we generally defended well. That wasn’t the case against Norwich.

April 29, 2012
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.

April 23, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/23/2012

The season isn’t over, but watching the match between Arsenal and Chelsea on Saturday, it would have been easy to think that both sides had nothing to play for. For Arsenal, we are in danger of undoing the good work of the second half of the season by not finishing off the job of finishing third. Apart from Newcastle’s good run of form, we’re fortunate that the teams behind us can’t put a string of good results together.

The team looked fatigued against Chelsea, which is understandable at this stage of the season, however when the opposition were in a similar state and were mainly focussed on defending, it’s frustrating that we couldn’t win the game. It’s hard to be angry at the result though, because it was a poor game, and Arsenal didn’t force the issue or grab the initiative to press forward for a win.

We’re still in a good position to finish third, but we have to take the last three matches seriously and not just let the season drift and meander away, as it did at the end of last season. The negative vibes that built up during the last few weeks of last season then continued into the summer, and things hardly went smoothly in the last off-season. Fatigue does play a part, but it’s also the case for every team. The players should be able to deal with it and be prepared to give everything, otherwise we’ll find ourselves slip out of the top three, and possibly the top four.

April 17, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/17/2012

I'll start this blog with some honesty. I don't like Wigan. I went there in 2010 and saw Arsenal lose 3-2 as another hopeful title bid spectacularly crumbled and for obvious reasons didn't enjoy my trip to the DW as much as I'd hoped. I don't really like that Wigan can't get more than 200 fans to come to an away game. I sometimes feel that there are clubs that would bring more to the circus of the Premier League than Wigan Athletic.

However I have nothing but the upmost respect for Roberto Martinez, and Dave Whelan as their chairman. Whereas other chairmen might have sacked a manager that was in charge of a team that seemed in free-fall, Whelan stuck by Martinez and it's paying off at this stage of the season as they are now looking like a good bet to avoid relegation. Loyalty can go a long way in football. Martinez hasn't just got Wigan playing boring, functional football either. They play with ambition and he has developed a different formation that is hard for anyone to play against. Martinez is getting the best out of a limited squad at the most important part of the season.

• Wigan blog: Great escape on for giant-killers

However the best thing about the way Wigan Athletic are playing at the moment, and thing Arsenal really should learn from, is to pressure the ball high up the pitch, to play with freedom and without fear. A classic Wenger-ism to say that we have the handbrake on; Wigan's was non-existent at the Emirates whilst ours was firmly on. With so few games left this season, that shouldn't have been the case.

April 12, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/12/2012

I thought the match away at Wolves would be more nerve racking than Sunday’s Manchester City game. Despite our good recent run, I can never be sure which Arsenal team will turn up for each match, and with memories of the QPR defeat still fresh, there was a fear in the back of my mind that we’d end up being remembered as the team that Terry Connor’s Wolves actually managed to beat.

As it turned out, I haven’t been that relaxed when watching Arsenal for a while. To be 2-0 up inside 11 minutes adds a large degree of comfort to any match, but when the opposition are down to ten men, you immediately feel like victory should be assured. The team still had to do the job well though, and whilst we could have scored more goals, and could have absolutely demolished Wolves, Arsenal were professional in the approach and got an important three points.

Wolves played well considering they were a man down for the majority of the game. They certainly attacked us more than Manchester City did with 11 men, and they closed us down well. However there was always a sense that should Wolves threaten a way back into the game, we’d just step up our game and kill the match off. That’s effectively what Yossi Benayoun did; just moments after Wojciech Szczesny’s superb save.

April 9, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/09/2012

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the media focus after Sunday's match has been on Manchester City's fading title challenge, and a certain Italian striker. However this being an Arsenal blog, it's time to redress the balance and give our team the credit they deserve for a fantastic win.

The victory wasn't without its difficulties, mainly of our own making with some interesting finishing in front of goal, however no-one could deny that we deserved to win and outplayed and outclassed our opponents. On paper, the match was between two teams with completely different philosophies on running a football club, with one attempting to buy the best players, and the other having a self-sustaining business model. There was also one team chasing the title, and the other 13 points behind them in a scrap for the top four. If you were an outside observer watching the game, you'd never have guessed correctly which club was which.

We looked like the team that were chasing the title because we actually were intent on attacking to try and win the game. It's been a while since we were involved in the title race right until the end of the season, but we know as Arsenal fans that in these sorts of games, you need to make a statement. City didn't do that. It was partly because we didn't allow them to. Arsenal put the QPR defeat behind them and played with the confidence that comes with winning seven games in a row. However, Manchester City again came to the Emirates and were mainly concerned with defending.

April 2, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 04/02/2012

Arsenal's recent run of form has been fantastic, but our celebrations about claiming third place have been premature. The ‘Mind The Gap' jokes, Spurs' demise and our own winning streak have been worth celebrating and enjoying, however we can't assume that we'll finish above Tottenham and that third place is ours.

Momentum is a strong thing in football, and we've used it brilliantly to our advantage recently as we turned the momentum against Spurs through Bacary Sagna's thumping header in the North London Derby. We now have to work hard to make sure that the slip up at Loftus Road, and Tottenham's win against Swansea, isn't as big a momentum swinger as Sagna's header. Maybe it was complacency, but the team seemed to take their eyes off the ball against Queens Park Rangers and there wasn't quite the same level of work rate and incisive attacking that we displayed during our winning run.

We do need to put the defeat in some perspective though. The fact we're in a battle for third place at all is brilliant considering how dark some of days were this season, and we have to give credit to QPR. They've beaten Chelsea and Liverpool at Loftus Road, and are in a relegation scrap where others around them are picking up points. They had to raise their game, and they did.

March 27, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/27/2012

Three goals, three points, a three point lead and third. Three really is a magic number at the moment. Obviously in the longer term we want the number one to be the magic number, but it’s hard to complain about it being 3. We haven’t just claimed third, we’re now beginning to cement it and move clear of others. Complacency isn’t setting in and we’re playing fantastic football. It feels great to be a Gooner again.

There is still a long way to go in the season as we’ve got to face Manchester City and Chelsea at the Emirates, and travel to Stoke, but we’re in such good form, that even some of my pessimism is being quashed. We have a real chance to beating those sides because the aura about this Arsenal team is constantly growing.

It has to be said that Aston Villa weren’t overly challenging opponents. I’m not sure what Alex McLeish is doing to that team at the moment, but they’re struggling and playing some poor football. However we didn’t allow them the chance to get in the game. When they came to the Emirates in the FA Cup earlier in the season, we were a bit tentative going forward and allowed them to get a foothold in the game, which subsequently turned into a 2-0 lead. Even though we came back and won that match, Arsenal look like a different team to the one we were watching two months ago.

March 23, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/23/2012

I think I’m going to give up trying to predict anything this season. The Premier League, as proved by most British clubs failing in Europe, isn’t quite at the level it was in terms of quality, but the excitement, tension and unpredictable results produced have more than made up for it. It isn’t just in one-off games either. I’d never have predicted that Arsenal would be in the top three at any point in this campaign considering our start to the season, and our start to 2012.

Now we’re actually there, we can’t assume that the job is done. As much as Spurs’ demise is hilarious, they’re still only a point behind us and have some winnable fixtures left. However confidence and momentum can be powerful things in sport. To make a change to recent seasons, we’re heading into the run-in with some confidence and momentum flowing through the team, while others around us continue to fail. Given the previous fragility of Arsenal, I can’t bring myself to be overly confident that we’ll hold onto third, but now it’s hard not to be positive about the way we’re playing.

The Everton game was slightly different to our recent wins, mainly because we didn’t have to go behind to click into gear, and because we allowed Wojciech Szczesny to have a quiet match. After Spurs lost at Goodison Park, I was really concerned that the hosts would be pumped up for the match and that we’d suffer up north again. Instead, we dominated the match in the early stages and looked capable of cutting Everton open every time we attacked.

March 14, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/14/2012

Ever since the first few weeks of the season, it feels like we’ve been trying to build a comeback. It seemed to be going well, before we took some more hits in December, and then had the epic failure of Milan away in the Champions League, and Sunderland in the FA Cup. A comeback towards the league title was never realistic, and for a long time, the same could be said about the top three. However somehow we now find ourselves on the verge of completing a near miraculous turn around.

In the last few weeks, this comeback has been instigated by comebacks. Obviously we’d all prefer for Arsenal to not be a goal down in games, but it seems that isn’t a problem for the squad at the moment. Questions can legitimately be asked as to why we keep falling behind in games, but after five Premier League wins in a row, that shouldn’t be the focus. The focus should be on how this team keep surprising us and producing magic moments.

Fans’ expectations of the team and the players as individuals have undoubtedly been lowered this season, although the expectations of the club as a whole have remained high. Due to this, every time we do come from behind, I’m surprised and elated in equal measure. By now though, I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re the first team to go a goal behind in four Premier League matches in a row, and still win them. Amidst the strangest of seasons that we’re experiencing, that is superb.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/14/2012

Ever since the first few weeks of the season, it feels like we’ve been trying to build a comeback. It seemed to be going well, before we took some more hits in December, and then had the epic failure of Milan away in the Champions League, and Sunderland in the FA Cup. A comeback towards the league title was never realistic, and for a long time, the same could be said about the top three. However somehow we now find ourselves on the verge of completing a near miraculous turn around.

In the last few weeks, this comeback has been instigated by comebacks. Obviously we’d all prefer for Arsenal to not be a goal down in games, but it seems that isn’t a problem for the squad at the moment. Questions can legitimately be asked as to why we keep falling behind in games, but after five Premier League wins in a row, that shouldn’t be the focus. The focus should be on how this team keep surprising us and producing magic moments.

Fans’ expectations of the team and the players as individuals have undoubtedly been lowered this season, although the expectations of the club as a whole have remained high. Due to this, every time we do come from behind, I’m surprised and elated in equal measure. By now though, I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re the first team to go a goal behind in four Premier League matches in a row, and still win them. Amidst the strangest of seasons that we’re experiencing, that is superb.

March 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/07/2012

Ultimately, having pride doesn't bring you trophies. The fact of the matter is that despite playing superbly against AC Milan at home, we're still out of the Champions League. Whenever a game has gone badly, I'm keen to look at the bigger picture. It should also be considered when we've played well.

The bigger picture is that it is now definite that we won't win a trophy this year, and that we're still struggling for consistency at the highest level. We have so many regrets from the tie with AC Milan, mainly for the non-performance of the majority of the team in the San Siro. However as an individual match, the home leg at the Emirates showed the fans and the team, that Arsenal do belong at Europe's top table. Not many teams will beat AC Milan 3-0 this season.

Now isn't the time in the season for negativity. The fans know, the players know and the whole club knows that the performances in Milan and Sunderland in the cup were abysmal. On a long term basis, those poor performances in key cup games need to be addressed. In the short term, performances have definitely been addressed and sorted out. If after those games, someone said to me that we'll beat Tottenham, Liverpool and Milan, score 10 goals and concede three, I'd have dismissed them as crazy.

March 5, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 03/05/2012

Anfield has been the venue for many great Liverpool v Arsenal moments. From our point of view, Michael Thomas and Robert Pires immediately spring to mind. Usually our best results on Merseyside have been the unexpected ones. Despite the demolition on derby day last weekend, I wasn’t expecting too much from Liverpool game. After our performance early on in the match, the expectation was lowered further.

However whilst we know that in certain areas this Arsenal side are significantly down in quality, there are some big characters that can drag the others through games. Robin van Persie has grown into the captaincy this season, and has improved his own individual performances when wearing the armband. Wojciech Szczesny is 21 years old, but is never short on confidence. If you’re going to be that confident, you have to back it up with performances, and Szczesny’s showing on Saturday was sensational.

There was a distinct hangover from the midweek international break throughout the team, and following the epic victory over Spurs, it was clear the players were struggling to find the same level of intensity that was so prominent at the Emirates a week earlier. In the first half, we were out played. Liverpool were quicker to the ball and fed off the Anfield crowd. To repel the sort of onslaught we faced, you need a bit of luck and a world class goalkeeper. For the majority of the time, we had both.

February 28, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/28/2012

Does it get much better than that? Apart from winning a trophy, I can't think of anything that could have been more enjoyable. Regardless of any pre-text or sub plot around the season, the North London Derby is always vital and the thought of losing is always unbearable. This match just had that extra edge on other derbies. It could even have been as drastic as Arsene Wenger being out of a job because of it had we lost.

Being critical and negative, it's easy and understandable to question why the team can't play like we did against Tottenham every week? However it's not a time to be critical. We just need to revel and enjoy the fact we pummelled our local rivals. If there was one game that the team were going to turn and give everything, we as fans would have chosen that game.

At 2-0 down, considering how abysmal the last two weeks had been, I expected the team to crumble and meekly surrender to a humiliating defeat. What followed was rousing, stunning and genuinely epic. Every player stood up to be counted and after going 2-0 down, no-one had a bad game. Everyone was fantastic and deserves a huge amount of credit. The challenge is to reproduce that level of performance regularly.

February 19, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/19/2012

It’s been one of those weeks; one of those weeks that we’ve had too many times as Arsenal fans in recent seasons. In terms of winning a trophy, the season is over. As much as I like to dream that it might happen, it’s serious unlikely that we’ll win 5-0 at home to AC Milan. Even if we were 5-0 up at home to AC Milan, we’d probably find a way to concede a goal and go out on away goals.

Anyway, there can be no miracle in the FA Cup. With the other teams that had gone out, it looked to be a great chance to win some silverware. However once again we followed a bad defeat with another one. It has become a worrying trait of Arsenal in general, not just this in this season, that we lose two keys games in a row. Plus they haven’t just been tight games that we’ve narrowly lost, we haven’t really looked like winning either of them.

Now we’re out of the FA Cup and effectively out of the Champions League, all we have left is the league, and the fight for the top four. People laughed when Arsene Wenger said that finishing fourth is like a trophy. Obviously it isn’t the same, however given the way modern football is, financially it is as important, if not more so, to finish in the top four. I don’t particularly like that it is, but it’s the way the current game is, so we have to make sure we finish there. Even if we do make the Champions League, it will be hard for any Arsenal fan to justify this season as being a success. However it wouldn’t be a complete failure. Missing out on Champions League football would be.

February 16, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/16/2012

Before the match with AC Milan in the San Siro, I couldn't decide what I expected from the game. My mind kept switching between thinking we could go there and win, similar to the way we did in 2008, and thinking we'd get walloped. Eventually, I settled on thinking we'd give it a good go but might lose 2-1, and at least give ourselves a chance of getting through in the second leg.

I should have chosen to expect us to get walloped. That way at least I'd have been less disappointed and wouldn't feel as let down by the team as I did after the match. I'd have been more accepting of the defeat had the Arsenal shown some fight, some application and some determination to get back into the tie. There's no scapegoat to place the blame with, and the result wasn't the sole responsibility of the manager. No-one was good enough and the team got what they deserved.

The big challenge has to be for this result to not affect the team for the rest of the season. Given how certain matches have led to our seasons falling apart in the last few years, I'm struggling to see how the players will pick themselves up from losing 4-0. If they don't, that defeat in Milan will be our last meaningful away trip in Europe for some time. The fans that travelled to Milan and sang throughout the game deserve better. Even at 4-0 down, the only singing that could be heard through the television were the away fans who were high up in the San Siro.

February 12, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/12/2012

Should we really be surprised that Thierry Henry signed off from the Premier League with a winning goal? He's done it so many times before, yet his injury winner at Sunderland had that something extra special about it. It wasn't that it was a wonder goal, it was just a poacher's goal in the six yard box, but the goal was as important as it was symbolic.

Forgetting that it was Henry who scored, the goal itself was vital in our fight for fourth. Just two and a half weeks ago, we were lamenting the state of the team after the 0-0 draw at Bolton. Now we're in the position we hope to occupy at the end of the season. With other results going our way, a draw would have felt like another missed opportunity. We also had to build on the 7-1 win, and a draw wouldn't have been good enough. Now, the fact we were ruthless against Blackburn is looking extremely handy, as we're currently only ahead of Chelsea in the table on goals scored.

Sunderland have been in great form since Martin O'Neill took over, and made themselves extremely hard to break down. It was cold, the pitch was bad, the hosts were organised; the list could go on of reasons as to why the match that was a prime candidate for dropping points. The game also came at the start of a massive week for our season, with AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, and another trip to Sunderland in the FA Cup next Saturday. Suddenly the team are going into those matches off the back of two very different wins, but equally as important ones. The 2-1 win at Sunderland said more about how much we want to finish in the top four than the 7-1 did.

February 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/07/2012

1 - Robin van Persie, 2 - Robin van Persie, 3 - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 4 - Mikel Arteta, 5 - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 6 - Robin van Persie and 7 - Thierry Henry.

The last few weeks have been extremely trying for Arsenal fans. We were in serious need of a lift, and three points against Blackburn, however they came, were going to be the only way for some of the unrest amongst supporters to quieten, even if momentarily. The aforementioned seven reasons should give the team some deserved leeway with fans, as they finally showed, for the first time in the league in 2012, that they aren't going to give up easily in the battle for fourth.

With the other results from the weekend, we're now three points behind Chelsea in the race for the Champions League, plus they still have to come to the Emirates. There is a lot to happen between now and then, but we're hardly in a disastrous position. I mentioned in my last blog that failure to beat Blackburn might lead to a change needing to be made, not necessarily of manager, but a change. The 7-1 thumping was proof that the Arsenal style can still rip teams apart.

February 2, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 02/02/2012

Before being all doom and gloom, let’s start with the positives from last night. We ended the losing streak in the league. Obviously we’d like to have won, but given our recent form we have to be slightly relieved not to have lost. We also created a lot of chances. Particularly against Fulham and Swansea, that wasn’t happening. However, again we’d like to have converted at least one of those.

There were other positives, with Wojciech Szczesny looking solid again. By his own admission, he’s not been at his best recently, but he did well to spread himself when N’Gog was through in the first half, and his save at the feet of Mark Davies late on was vital. We’ve conceded stupid goals at Bolton numerous times before so a clean sheet was very welcome. That was aided by the return of Bacary Sagna who gives our back line a much more balanced look.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain impressed again with some more direct running. He has been a real breath of fresh air in a terrible run of form, and gives us real hope not just in the long term, but for the rest of the season. On current form, when Gervinho returns from the African Cup of Nations I’d like to see the Ox on the right and Gervinho on the left. I think Theo Walcott needs a reality check to knuckle down and improve. Oxlade-Chamberlain can easily replace him for Arsenal and England.

January 31, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/31/2012

Except for Thierry Henry’s goal against Leeds, the start to 2012 has been thoroughly forgettable and could ultimately have a long lasting effect on the second half of our season. With 45 minutes to go in the last match of January, although it didn’t seem possible, things had got worse. Aston Villa had undone us from a short corner and then picked us off on the break. Given how we’ve gone out of the FA Cup in recent seasons with a whimper away to Manchester United and Stoke City, I wasn’t expecting any sort of comeback and was going to have to accept that we’d have given up a chance of a trophy to concentrate on the league.

Most of us won’t know who said what in the Arsenal dressing room at half time, although to turn the match on its head in 16 minutes was a superb effort from the team. A lot of them have come in for a lot of criticism of late, most of which has been deserved, however this match was a reminder that some of the guys in this side are made of sterner stuff that recent Arsenal teams. It was also an indication that the team can be ruthless if needed and are determined to end the trophy drought.

The first half performance wasn’t bad, but it lacked intensity. Everything seemed slightly subdued. The players seemed to be waiting for something to happen to turn our bad run around. It would have been easy for the team to feel sorry for themselves at half time. We were in a similar situation at the end of last season against Aston Villa and lost 2-1 as we didn’t show enough determination in the second half. We did show determination on Sunday. Often when chasing the game, we’ll end up playing a number of meaningless passes around the opposition box and not create anything, but against Villa, we went more direct, but still in an Arsenal style.

January 23, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/23/2012

For the third Premier League game in a row, we've lost a match where we could, and should, have got some points. When looking at the match out of context and just comparing it to our last meeting with Manchester United, losing 2-1 is a lot better than losing 8-2. However humiliating and utterly depressing that result was, the defeat at the Emirates was almost more infuriating because of our desperate need for points, and how we failed to claim those points when they were there for the taking.

One of reasons for not taking those points that has been heavily focussed on by some fans in the immediate aftermath of the game, was the substitution of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the introduction of Andrey Arshavin. Before talking more about that, it's worth giving the Ox his due praise.

We need to be realistic about Oxlade-Chamberlain as he's still only 18 and won't produce performances like that every game, but he was superb against Manchester United. He played without fear, he ran with the ball, he ran hard for the team and picked up a great assist. There were moments when his inexperienced showed, but his enthusiasm, direct dribbling and skill on the ball more than made up for up. I was sceptical about Wenger spending a substantial chunk of money on the Ox in the summer as I wasn't sure if he was needed. I can now see why he was signed and it just makes you wonder why he wasn't unleashed earlier.

January 16, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/16/2012

In recent years, this Arsenal team have been outplayed before; most notably by Barcelona at the Nou Camp a couple of times. However I can’t remember being completely outplayed by a newly promoted team. We weren’t just outplayed in terms of the score line, but we were outplayed at our own style of football.

Swansea deserved to win the game and must be given an immense amount of credit for the way they played, however from an Arsenal perspective, the defeat was seriously avoidable again. The team seemed incapable of keeping the ball for a sustained period of time to build pressure on the hosts, with some individuals frustrating a lot of fans.

Injuries have taken their toll, but Arsenal should still have had enough quality to get three points. We all know that when fit, our best starting XI is capable of beating anyone, but the hallmark of a great team is being able to pick up points when key players are missing. It seemed that some of the players on the pitch were about as useful as some of those who were absent from injury.

January 10, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/10/2012

Who writes his scripts? The one played out on Monday was almost too good to be true. It was the sort of story that only appears in dreams or in comic books. A superhero returning to his home in a time of need and providing the winning moment, or a King returning to the arena in which he once reigned and reclaiming his place on the throne after being written off by many; whichever way you look at it, it’s barely believable and is the stuff of a legend.

However the word legend and Thierry Henry fit together. The stage had been set for him, and after entering from stage left, he nailed his lines to perfection. This wasn’t acting though. This was the real Thierry. There were no pre-planned movements, finishes or celebrations, it was all natural ability and raw emotion from the great man.

As soon as Thierry Henry received the ball from Alex Song’s slide rule pass in the inside left position, everyone in the stadium knew what he was going to do. Thierry probably knew, but he didn’t need to think about it. He’d done it numerous times before when wearing red and white, so what to do came to him instinctively. The first touch was superb before the trademark finish.

January 4, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/04/2012

2011 might not have been great, but the start to 2012 has been dismal. Whilst most people see the New Year as a fresh start, Arsenal began the year looking fatigued and tired, and in serious need of refreshment.

Hopefully that refreshment will come in the form of a couple of new players, and some enthusiasm and encouraging performances from players in the FA Cup. Despite playing well in the first half against Fulham, the busy Christmas period took its’ toll on the team and they lost all control on the game.

Some of the fundamental mistakes that we hadn’t been making in recent weeks returned at Craven Cottage. The injuries and the red card didn’t help the situation at the back, but both goals that we conceded were avoidable, and came from individual errors. What also made the match immensely frustrating was that the last results of 2011 had all gone in our favour, and a win at Fulham would have put some pressure on those above us, and kept us in the top four. 2011 ended so well, and now at the start 2012, that feels wasted.

January 2, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 01/02/2012

After the football year for Arsenal was generally quite forgettable, 2011 ended well with the win over QPR, meaning that we finished the year in the top four. Considering where we were earlier in the season, to be in the top four going into the New Year is a superb effort by everyone at the club.

We have been helped massively by the weekend’s results, with Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Manchester City all dropping points. As I mentioned after the Aston Villa match, this period of the season is all about results, and of the top clubs, we got the best one at the weekend. It does add a bit more frustration to the Wolves game, as a win there would have put us in an even better position, but it’s hard to complain where we are, given where we’ve had to come from this season.

The QPR match should have been a lot more comfortable than just a 1-0 win, however we learnt our lesson from Wolves and were solid at the back for most of the game. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were both very good, whilst Francis Coquelin gave a good account of himself when asked to play in an unfamiliar left back position.

December 29, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/29/2011

It’s easy to write off the Wolves match as ‘one of those days’. One where we have a large number of shots, the visiting goalkeeper plays a blinder and we find ourselves generally lamenting the lack of a plan B.

Ordinarily, we’d just accept that whatever we tried, we just weren’t going to score. However the position we find ourselves in at the moment means we can’t afford to have ‘one of those days’. With Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City dropping points the day before the Wolves game, it was the perfect opportunity to move into the top four, and put some pressure on Tottenham.

Whilst Wayne Hennessey did have a superb match, the lack of a plan B when Robin van Persie couldn’t find the net continued to be a worry.

December 22, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/22/2011

We weren’t as good against Aston Villa as were against Manchester City, but when you score a late goal to claim all three points, who cares?

At this stage of the season, obviously it helps if performances are good, but ultimately with games coming thick and fast, it’s just about getting the job done. With the moving of the Wolves game, we’re going to head into a period of three games in less than seven days. Players will get tired physically and mentally, so maintaining a fluent style of play will be tough. Grinding out a win at Aston Villa was a great way to set us up for the hectic festive period.

As I mentioned in my last blog, we could easily have slipped into a bad run of form following the Manchester City game. We had to somehow find a way of getting a result against Villa, otherwise we’d be playing even more catch up football during the Christmas period, and be at risk of other clubs getting away from us. It may not have been pretty, but that’s what we did. No-one would have predicted Yossi Benayoun to be the man to get on the end of a corner, but we’re all grateful he appeared at the back post.

December 20, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/20/2011

Our last visit to Manchester was forgettable to say the least, and considering the way Manchester City destroyed their neighbours, who had subjected us to the horror of 8-2, fear of a thrashing on Sunday would have been understandable. However the team showed that the horror showing in late August is miles behind them.

Yet us fans were still left frustrated. The performance was very good, although there was a feeling that one, even three, points were there for the taking.

I was worried before the match that I was confident we’d win the game, fearing my confidence could lead to an embarrassing defeat. We definitely weren’t embarrassed, but it seems that all too often in the big games in recent years, we’ve come out of the match with a lot of credit, but no points.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/20/2011

Our last visit to Manchester was forgettable to say the least, and considering the way Manchester City destroyed their neighbours, who had subjected us to the horror of 8-2, fear of a thrashing on Sunday would have been understandable. However the team showed that the horror showing in late August is miles behind them.

Yet us fans were still left frustrated. The performance was very good, although there was a feeling that one, even three, points were there for the taking.

I was worried before the match that I was confident we’d win the game, fearing my confidence could lead to an embarrassing defeat. We definitely weren’t embarrassed, but it seems that all too often in the big games in recent years, we’ve come out of the match with a lot of credit, but no points.

December 13, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/13/2011

It seemed fitting that, on a day where Arsenal were celebrating the amazing history and heritage of the club, the final score against Everton was a score line that has become synonymous with the Arsenal. I doubt that there have been many 1-0 wins down the 125 years of Arsenal Football Club that were won by such a sweet volley.

With three true legends of the club deservedly honoured and immortalised outside the stadium, the modern day icon and legend of the current team continued to do his best to lead this new and developing team to make history of their own. As a squad, the current team aren’t nearly as good some of the ones represented by the legends at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, however they’re nowhere near as bad as we all feared they would be at the start of the season.

A classic 1-0 win now looks even more valuable after the footballing weekend, with Tottenham and Manchester City’s defeats opening up the top four again. Chelsea’s win against City knocked us back out of the top four after we temporarily held the position, however it did signal the end of the last team’s unbeaten start to the season, so we can all breathe easy about still being the only Invincibles.

December 7, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/07/2011

The defeat in Greece was, in most respects, completely meaningless. However that doesn’t mean it wasn’t disappointing to see Arsenal get turned over given our recent form as a club. It also served a reminder of the dark days of the not-so-distant past, when our defence looked shaky and we were prone to spectacular goalkeeping mistakes.

Our first team defence, which had been beginning to look settled, is now going to be without its’ left back for the foreseeable future as Andre Santos picked up an ankle injury. We now have no fit full backs, either on the left or the right. Despite being our best centre back, I suspect Thomas Vermaelen will fill as a left back, with Johan Djourou as the right back. Laurent Koscielny can then move back into the centre to play with Per Mertesacker.

It also means we’re one injury away from Sebastien Squillaci playing regularly again. Having said last week he had a good game against Manchester City, Olympiacos saw the return of the Squillaci that we thought had played his last game for Arsenal. Per Mertesacker might have some critics, but he is such a massive improvement on Squillaci.

December 5, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 12/05/2011

Wigan hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent seasons. The North West of England in general has been regarded as somewhere Arsenal don't like to go, especially when it's wet, and cold, and grey, and overall pretty grim. However, the new look Arsenal barely broke sweat as we swept Wigan away in the sideways rain, and our waves of attack.

In terms of the overall state of the team, many will argue that the match didn't tell us much about the side, however I think the ease of the victory was extremely encouraging. It feels like a long time since we went away and won so comfortably; not just in terms of the score line, but in the performance as well. Apart from Jordi Gomez's early chance that was blocked by Andre Santos, we didn't allow Wigan to build on any momentum they built up by beating Sunderland last weekend.

Our draw with Fulham and defeat to Manchester City could have put the development of the team on hold, and although they weren't awful performances or crushing defeats, we had to respond positively as we know Arsenal have had an amazing ability to implode in recent seasons. The response was excellent and puts us just one place off the coveted top four.

November 30, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/30/2011

So our first chance of a trophy this season has gone, however I doubt there were many Arsenal fans who didn’t feel proud of the efforts put in by our second string against moneybags Manchester City.

Apart from the strikers, it was hard to fault the performances of those in red and white on Tuesday. The effort and work rate of the side were fantastic, everything was there in the performance except for in the final third. Given we had players facing up to an opposition that cost a lot more to assemble, they gave a fantastic account of themselves and dominated the game for long periods.

The only difference between the sides, that highlighted the monetary difference, was finishing in front of goal. When given the chance, Sergio Aguero took it. When there was a sniff of a chance near the end, Marouane Chamakh couldn’t convert. Otherwise we matched, and bettered, those with the bigger cheques.

November 29, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/29/2011

The draw with Fulham was a reminder that, despite our good form, this Arsenal team are still progressing and are nowhere near the finished article. It also showed the reality that the team have put in so much effort over the last few weeks to compensate for the failures at the start of the season, that they’re suffering physically and there were definite signs of fatigue on Saturday.

That said, it was the sort of match we’d have lost last season or at the start of this season. Despite being near the bottom of the table, Fulham were really organised and defended very well. Even with Philippe Senderos playing for them we struggled to break through.

Saying Thomas Vermaelen had an interesting game is an understatement. His own goal was unfortunate, but arguably came from poor technique when trying to clear the ball. Having scored the own goal though, I doubt there are many centre backs in the Premier League who would be able to atone for the error in the way Vermaelen did.

November 25, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/25/2011

When Antonio Di Natale was preparing to take his penalty at Udinese in August, I’d never have thought we’d be the first English team through into the Champions League knockout rounds. Wojciech Szczesny saved the penalty superbly, Theo Walcott went down the other end and put us through to the groups, and now we’re the only English side through with a game to go. Plus, we’re guaranteed to be top of the group.

The Dortmund match wasn’t a vintage performance, but it we came up against a good side and put in a solid performance to get the job done. It’s hard to not get carried away by the improvement of this side, considering where we were at the start of the Champions League campaign and the current state of the other English Champions League sides. Given our epic failures at the start of the season, I doubt there isn’t an Arsenal fan who is secretly laughing and is desperate for the other three English Champions League clubs to end up in the Europa League.

I think I’ll get the customary superlatives for Robin van Persie out of the way early. Two goals a game is almost becoming standard for the skipper. Against Dortmund, he didn’t seem to be at his best as he didn’t see much of the ball, but in a game where our chances were limited, when they did arrive, van Persie was never going to miss. The second goal was just about being in the right place, something van Persie is great at, but the first goal was a superb header. He was reaching for the ball and had to generate a lot of power from the header, but managed to get it down and in. With the top spot secured, we can now rest Robin in the next few midweek games with the Carling Cup and Olympiacos to come.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/25/2011

When Antonio Di Natale was preparing to take his penalty at Udinese in August, I’d never have thought we’d be the first English team through into the Champions League knockout rounds. Wojciech Szczesny saved the penalty superbly, Theo Walcott went down the other end and put us through to the groups, and now we’re the only English side through with a game to go. Plus, we’re guaranteed to be top of the group.

The Dortmund match wasn’t a vintage performance, but it we came up against a good side and put in a solid performance to get the job done. It’s hard to not get carried away by the improvement of this side, considering where we were at the start of the Champions League campaign and the current state of the other English Champions League sides. Given our epic failures at the start of the season, I doubt there isn’t an Arsenal fan who is secretly laughing and is desperate for the other three English Champions League clubs to end up in the Europa League.

I think I’ll get the customary superlatives for Robin van Persie out of the way early. Two goals a game is almost becoming standard for the skipper. Against Dortmund, he didn’t seem to be at his best as he didn’t see much of the ball, but in a game where our chances were limited, when they did arrive, van Persie was never going to miss. The second goal was just about being in the right place, something van Persie is great at, but the first goal was a superb header. He was reaching for the ball and had to generate a lot of power from the header, but managed to get it down and in. With the top spot secured, we can now rest Robin in the next few midweek games with the Carling Cup and Olympiacos to come.

November 20, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/20/2011

Given our excellent run of form before the international break, I was very worried that the momentum, team spirit and confidence we’d built up was going to evaporate as players jetted off for meaningless friendlies with the risk of injuries. Fortunately, as we showed at Norwich, this Arsenal team weren’t going to let their recent improvement go to waste and have now won five Premier League matches in a row.

In many ways, the 2-1 win at Norwich told us more about the improvement of this Arsenal team than the sensational 5-3 result at Stamford Bridge did. Earlier in the season, a defensive mistake, similar to the one that allowed Norwich to score their goal, would have rocked Arsenal’s confidence, and we’d have seen one or two more goals conceded. However there now seems to be a belief in the team that if we do concede, they can tighten the defence up and know we can score enough at the other end.

Even at 1-0 down, I was more relaxed when watching the match than at the start of the season as the players are going onto the pitch looking much more confident. Confidence can be extremely fragile in football, so it was a massive relief to see it not get broken up by the international break.

November 7, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/07/2011

Since the last international break, it’s fair to say that the new Arsenal’s form has been excellent. We’re still fighting back, and we can’t get complacent over recent form, but even the most optimistic of Gooners couldn’t have predicted the relatively rapid improvement of our newly constructed side after the defeat away at Blackburn at the start of September.

We can now realistically challenge for the top four, and despite those around us in the top half also winning at the weekend, we’re well positioned going into the next international break. In some ways, the two weeks off will be good for those not involved in international fixtures, as they’ve put a lot of effort into games during the last few weeks. However, every Arsenal fan will be keeping everything crossed and waiting anxiously for news about the fitness of our international players when they return to the club in a week and a half.

I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan who is seriously worried that Robin van Persie, or others, will get a long term injury in a friendly. It’s happened before, and inevitably will happen again. Just please can it not be now.

November 2, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 11/02/2011

Amongst all the excitement and euphoria from Gooners after the Chelsea victory, it was easy to forget that we had a Champions League match four days later. It seemed some of the players had forgotten as well. The team put so much into the win at Stamford Bridge that it wasn’t overly surprising that we looked slightly off the pace against Marseille. The match wasn’t without positives though.

Whilst we struggled going forward, to keep a second consecutive clean sheet in the Champions League is worthy of note. Marseille have been struggling in Ligue 1, but still have some good attacking players. In the game between the two of us in France, neither team were overly adventurous, but Marseille attacked more at the Emirates, so a clean sheet was very welcome.

Given how open we’d looked in the first half of the Chelsea match, we kept things tighter and it looked like Marseille were going to need to score a special goal to get past us. I was encouraged by the Mertesacker and Vermaelen partnership, and it puts us in the strange situation of having three good centre backs to choose from.

October 31, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/31/2011

There have too many occasions in 2011 that Arsenal fans have been annoyed, frustrated, embarrassed, disillusioned, or have strongly questioned the most successful manager in our history. Often those frustrations and questions have been justified, and many, myself included, thought we were seeing the beginning of an inglorious end to Arsene Wenger’s reign as Arsenal manager.

I wrote on this blog earlier in the season that I was desperate for Wenger to turn things around because of how much he gives and cares for the club. We saw on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, that he’s far from done as Arsenal manager. Our eighth win in nine games confirmed that this new team under Wenger are on the right track to salvaging something from a season that looked set to be a train wreck.

• Chelsea blog: No defence for horror matinee

Everything still isn’t perfect, we can still be defensively vulnerable, we’re still outside the top four and we drew Manchester City in the Carling Cup quarter finals, but we have pride, confidence and some real belief in this team now. The target is still the top four, suggestions that we’re now back in the title race are slightly far-fetched, but it appears the 8-2 at Manchester United can now be written off as a massive blip, and a result that wasn’t terminal for Arsenal Football Club. Lesser men and lesser clubs would have crumbled after the start to the season we had, so far it seems that doesn’t apply to Arsene and Arsenal.

October 26, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/26/2011

As expected, Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes for the visit of Bolton in the Carling Cup. With the first team doing a good job recently in pulling us back into the top half of the Premier League, any momentum could easily have been disrupted if a team with a mixture of youth players and first teamers in need of minutes went out of the league cup at home to a struggling Bolton side.

However it seems the recent improvements are becoming infectious within the club. Those who wore the red and white on Tuesday night showed fantastic determination, put in a ton of effort and showed some excellent skills to secure a rousing victory. At 1-0 down, it was also reassuring to see the experienced players on the field really up their game and help guide the younger players through the match.

So often league cup matches can be fairly tame, giving the youngsters the space to showcase their skills, but Bolton weren’t there to make up the numbers. It was an intense, and at times physical, game, and it was fantastic to see the team show the confidence to still play good football, and dig in when needed.

October 24, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/24/2011

This blog post has the potential to be very similar to last week. We started well, conceded a goal from a set piece and had Robin van Persie to thank as he bagged a brace to win us the match.

It may seem like it to many, but we’re not a one-man team. We’re just lucky to have a captain and striker in the form of his life, and he is rightly grabbing the headlines with some excellent performances. I would happily argue with anyone who doesn’t think Robin van Persie is the best striker in the Premier League at the moment. 25 goals in 26 league games in 2011 tells its own story.

Even with his history of injuries, I was surprised to see him rested on Sunday. With the Carling Cup in midweek, he was going to get six days off anyway. It was a slight gamble from Arsene Wenger, but it definitely paid off as van Persie only played 25 minutes, continued his great goal scoring form, won us the game and didn’t get injured. Arsene must have had a quiet, and deserved, smile to himself after the game.

October 20, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/20/2011

I love exciting games of football. Who doesn’t? I love that in my time as an Arsenal fan, I can’t remember a sustained period of time where we haven’t played exciting football. It’s fair to say our match in Marseille on Wednesday wasn’t a thriller. Although do I care? Not really.

Our match against Blackburn was exciting and we played some good attacking football that day, but we lost and I never want to see that game again. As much as I want to always see Arsenal playing exhilarating football, at the moment I’m more than happy for us to revert to a more restrained style if it means getting results. Sometimes, as we proved last night, you can get as much satisfaction out of a good old ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ as you do out of games that in theory are more exciting.

What made the win on Wednesday even better, was that I was struggling to see how either team was going to score the longer the game went on. You only needed to look at the reaction of the travelling fans, and undoubtedly the reaction of fans in living rooms and pubs, when Aaron Ramsey scored, to know that winning away in the Champions League really matters, however it’s done. The players looked chuffed as well. Surely it’ll give them extra motivation in the league to make sure they can experience such wins in Europe next season.

October 17, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/17/2011

It seems to me that some of the media have been quietly enjoying Arsenal's demise this season, and starting the Robin van Persie speculation was another sign of that. Captain for just two months and already there were stories that he wanted to leave the club.

After using his programme notes to dispel those rumours, he then emphasised his commitment and importance to the side with a fantastic performance to drag us out of another hole and claim an important three points.

Regardless of the speculation about his future, there had been some pundits who questioned Robin van Persie's leadership as a captain. Personally, I think that's nonsense. When the team are struggling, it's ultimately down to the captain to galvanise the players and lead by example. There is no disputing that Robin is doing that in the way he's leading the line. After giving us the lead on Sunday, van Persie was visibly calming the side down. As we looked nervous in possession, Robin could be seen with his arms aloft directing his troops.

October 4, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 10/04/2011

The defeat to Liverpool was frustrating, the destruction against Manchester United was horrific, the embarrassment of Blackburn was bad, but losing to Spurs brought pain, anger, anguish, frustration and general lamenting of our season to a completely new level.

I said in my last blog that any progression in the last couple of weeks would seem almost meaningless if we lost to Tottenham. It feels like we’ve gone even further back past the Blackburn defeat. Regardless of whether the performance was good or not, it’s incredibly difficult to accept losing to shadow dwellers.

The performance wasn’t terrible as we controlled long periods of the match, however in the mind of every Arsenal fan it will be, and should be, judged as not good enough. Defensively we were too open again, didn’t convert a couple of great chances and didn’t create enough of them to get a result out of the game.

September 26, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/26/2011

With the team still not playing fluently and desperately trying to get points where possible, Arsenal were in need of some individuals to take the game against Bolton by the scruff of the neck and drag the club back up the table. Who better to step up than the captain?

Robin van Persie is now into his eighth season at Arsenal, and still divides opinion over whether he should wear the captain’s armband. In recent years, there have been some fans who thought the club should cut their losses on van Persie and sell him due to injury problems. Personally, I can’t speak highly enough of the Dutchman.

Criticising him for his injury record is tough, as, ultimately, there is only so much a player can do when they’re injury prone. Van Persie has been through a lot at the club, and now understands about being an Arsenal man. He has always given 100%, has matured immeasurably in his time at Arsenal, is becoming an excellent leader and is clearly a striker at the peak of his game.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/26/2011

With the team still not playing fluently and desperately trying to get points where possible, Arsenal were in need of some individuals to take the game against Bolton by the scruff of the neck and drag the club back up the table. Who better to step up than the captain?

Robin van Persie is now into his eighth season at Arsenal, and still divides opinion over whether he should wear the captain’s armband. In recent years, there have been some fans who thought the club should cut their losses on van Persie and sell him due to injury problems. Personally, I can’t speak highly enough of the Dutchman.

Criticising him for his injury record is tough, as, ultimately, there is only so much a player can do when they’re injury prone. Van Persie has been through a lot at the club, and now understands about being an Arsenal man. He has always given 100%, has matured immeasurably in his time at Arsenal, is becoming an excellent leader and is clearly a striker at the peak of his game.

September 21, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/21/2011

Due to the inevitable changes to the team and the division of our opposition, the Carling Cup game with Shrewsbury Town was never realistically going to give us a better idea of where the squad is at following our dreadful start to the season. However those who turned out in red and white did do enough to raise a smile amongst supporters, even if we made hard work of winning the game.

Shrewsbury, like all of our recent opponents, played without any fear against us and weren’t afraid to attack our fragile defence. At the same time, they were organised and made themselves hard to break down. When they were 1-0 up, I’m sure I wasn’t the only Gooner beginning to contemplate that we were going to suffer another embarrassing defeat. Ultimately though, some of the more experienced players stepped up their game, and had some excellent youngsters around them to help dig Arsenal out of another hole.

I’ll start where I did after the Blackburn game; defending. Against Shrewsbury, Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel were the centre back pairing, and looked shaky. Miquel gave a much more assured performance than Djourou, but had Shrewsbury had more of the ball, they could easily have had more chances. My biggest concern is the form of Djourou, especially considering how good he was at times last season. His decline has matched that of the team, and within the space of less than a year, he’s gone from playing his best football for the club, to arguably playing his worst. Can someone please make Djourou watch back some of last season's matches, so he can see how good he was? With Vermaelen still out, Mertesacker and Koscielny still a work-in-progress-partnership, and Squillaci as the only other experienced centre back, we need Djourou to regain some decent form.

September 19, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/19/2011

After some Arsenal defeats, it can be hard to know where to start when trying to blog about it. For example, look at the Manchester United defeat. There were so many things wrong in that game from an Arsenal point of view that it took a while to decide where to go. However after Saturday’s match with Blackburn, there is only one place to start, and probably finish with; our defending.

I thought my initial rage over our defending might have calmed by the end of the weekend. It hadn’t. How a side that considers themselves to be a top four side can go to a team at the bottom of the table, who are low on confidence and have fans protesting over their manager, and concede four goals should be beyond comprehension. Yet somehow Arsenal managed it.

Maybe I was being naïve by thinking that we were slowly regaining a bit of form after the win against Swansea and the draw in Dortmund. The harsh reality is that we are defensively shambolic. We’re not just shambolic compared to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, we’re shambolic compared to most sides who finished in the bottom half of the table last season.

September 14, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/14/2011

Before our match in Dortmund, I'd have happily taken a draw. With the nature of our current squad, how the players are still trying to gain an understanding with new signings, with Arsene Wenger in the stands and the fact we were facing the German Champions, I would have almost bitten someone's hand off if they offered Arsenal a draw before the match.

However, having seen the team battle for 88 minutes and hold off a talented Borussia Dortmund side, it was really frustrating to see the ball hit the back of our net. It was the sort of volley that the player who scored it, Ivan Perisic, is unlikely to hit again in his career. As an Arsenal fan, inevitably I felt hard done by on behalf of the team. Although ultimately it was hard to dispute that Dortmund didn't deserve something from the match.

As with the Swansea match, Arsenal still looked like a team trying to find form. A few passes still aren't coming off, and we're struggling for fluency. Although it's not for the want of trying. The quality is slowly improving, the effort and commitment levels are up immeasurably from a few weeks ago.

September 12, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/12/2011

Let's face it, Arsenal weren't brilliant against Swansea at the weekend. Despite the feeling around the club before the game of the match representing a fresh start and where our season could finally get going, the performance was still scratchy. Although given our abysmal start to the season in the league, I'm sure all Gooners prefer the fact that we won and played badly, rather than if we'd played well and lost.

It would have been wrong of us as fans to expect Arsenal to just go out and win by four or five goals as the new arrivals didn't have long to gel with the rest of the team before the Swansea game. Added to that, Swansea were always going to be well organised and the 8-2 defeat will still have been in the back of some the players' heads. To be honest, I'm happy to take any sort of victory after the horror showing two weeks ago.

Ultimately, we had to work harder for the 1-0 win than I expected we'd have to. Swansea like to play good football and not just opt for being defensive and playing direct football up to a striker. This should have played into our hands, but there were still signs of some players not showing the cutting edge or killer instinct that has been apparent in the teams above in the league this season.

August 29, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/29/2011

It's taken me over an hour to begin this blog post. It's been almost impossible to know where to start after Sunday's demolition, humiliation and disgrace at Old Trafford. Losing 8-2 in any situation, in any match, at any level, is simply unacceptable by the high standards set by Arsenal Football Club. It's not like we have a divine right to not get thrashed as reputations in sport ultimately mean nothing, but no Premier League side should just accept losing 8-2 as a bad day at the office.

For Arsenal, the infrastructure of the club, the fans, the stadium, the reputation, the recent record in the league, the manager and some of the players are of an extremely high standard. However, such a defeat as we received on Sunday has been coming for a while. Despite playing well last Wednesday and raising optimism amongst fans, there are underlying issues at the club that need addressing, both in the squad and higher up the Arsenal hierarchy. It's tough for all fans to have to face the reality of the situation we're now in as a club, and we can only hope that this result is so embarrassing and humiliating for those inside the Arsenal, that those issues are now properly addressed.

It's easy to play the blame game and single out certain individuals. However that doesn't help in these situations. The club as a whole has to be looked at. It isn't the fault of the players that they're picked to play for Arsenal, that's down to the manager, the coaching staff and those who scout the players in the first place. However once on the pitch, the players should take some responsibility for it themselves. We've seen some of them do great things with a ball in the past, but for some, greatness is seen all too rarely.

August 26, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/26/2011

It only took three and a half games, but it seems Arsenal have finally got going this season. Up against it at half time in Italy against Udinese, for the first time in a long time, we saw Arsenal show some fight, unity and pride.

Potentially added to by the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, I’ve had a feeling in the last few weeks that even when knowing its Arsenal playing, I haven’t felt like I was watching the real Arsenal. That’s been the case for a long time, stemming from our collapse at the end of last season. However the second half on Wednesday night was different. We played some good attacking football, scored the goals we needed and manage to stifle a team that had caused us problems in the both legs. There was also an epic penalty save from Wojciech Szczesny.

One half of football doesn’t mask that areas of the squad need improving, or mean that we’re suddenly world beaters, but it was great to finally see this Arsenal team stand up for themselves and make sure we remained in Europe’s elite this season.

August 22, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/22/2011

It's not quite 'save our season' time, but it's not far off. I didn't want to put too much pressure on these opening weeks of the season, but if the coming nine days are a failure on and off the pitch, then it looks like it'll be a horribly long season.

Getting into the Champions League by qualifying against Udinese on Wednesday is vitally important for the morale and the financial condition of the club. Manchester United next Sunday could see the team fall further behind in the Premier League and give us an up-hill struggle to get back in contention even at this early stage. There’s also nine days left to get the significant transfer business done, having not sorted it earlier in the summer.

The Liverpool match on Saturday saw another suspension, another injury and a defeat. Yes, we were unlucky with the injury situation and the first goal had a strong hint of offside. However we can’t just hide behind the excuse that we were unlucky. We are lacking the depth in the squad to cope with what is being thrown at us, and some of the players that are available aren’t pulling their weight.

August 19, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/19/2011

After the goalless draw with Newcastle, it felt like our season properly got going with a 1-0 win over Udinese in the Champions League qualifier. Theo Walcott opened our account for the season, giving us a lead to take to Italy for the second leg next week. However, even after only two games, our squad is worryingly thin with massive games to go in the rest of August.

Injuries, suspensions and transfers out are adding up, making the need for Arsene Wenger to re-invest the Cesc Fabregas money even greater.

From the Newcastle match last weekend, we’ve lost Gervinho and Alex Song to suspensions. Both will miss league games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea. All three substitutions against Udinese were enforced because of injury. Fans’ fears about Kieran Gibbs’ injury record were reinforced as he was replaced by Johan Djourou. The Swiss defender only lasted nine minutes himself before going off with a hamstring problem, before Tomas Rosicky also limped off. Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby are both still side lined with knocks.

August 16, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/16/2011

So real football is back. Just for 90 minutes we were able to stop talking about Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and watch those who seemingly want to be at the club, play in the red and white (complete with red socks!). After the defensive horrors at St James’ Park last season, all Arsenal fans would have grabbed the chance to keep a clean sheet. However, the goal scoring was also lacking, and for the most part we opened the season with a bore draw.

Given Joey Barton was on the pitch, there was always the chance that there’d be some controversy, particularly after he started the collapse last season in helping get Abou Diaby sent off. Somehow, that man annoys Arsenal to the point of petulance, which the modern Arsenal doesn’t usually show.

In 2008, Samir Nasri was new to the Premier League and had a run-in with Barton at the Emirates. It ended with Nasri tripping over the Newcastle man off the ball. Last season, when we were 4-0 up, Barton put in a needlessly strong tackle that brought an overreaction from Diaby that got him sent off. Unfortunately, the same happened on Saturday with Barton provoking reactions from Arsenal players.

May 23, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/23/2011

After I called for the players to regain some pride in Arsenal and remind the fans why they follow the club, once again it was only a select few that rose to the challenge. It was the same few that have been putting in 100% in recent weeks when others around them haven’t looked interested.

Like the Aston Villa match last week, the Arsenal fans again were chanting for Arsene Wenger to spend some money. It was hard to blame the travelling supporters for voicing their opinion as they were watching a team that lacked urgency in trying to get back into the game.

Even though Manchester City’s win at Bolton made it irrelevant, at the start of play there was still a chance to finish 3rd and avoid the Champions League qualifier. However, you wouldn’t have known it the way some players were looking to just coast through the game and go off on holiday.

May 16, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/16/2011

When Aston Villa went 2-0 up on Sunday, I’m sure I wasn’t alone as an Arsenal fan by not being surprised by the score line or the nature of the goals. In the past, the sense of shock would have been obvious around the stadium. Instead, there was a resigned feeling that the team weren’t going to get back in the game.

In many ways, the match was a perfect example of Arsenal’s ending to the season. Poor defending allowed the opposition to score cheap goals, one of which came from a long ball into the box, whilst the only player who looked dangerous going forward was Robin van Persie. It was the same at Stoke last week and the same at Bolton on Easter Day.

Whilst some fans are understandably angry, the overriding emotion on show from most fans around the ground on Sunday was one of disappointment and frustration. On the pitch, when Arsenal finally got going, it was clear there was enough quality in the team to win the game, but again they fell short. It summed up the frustrating recent seasons; there is obvious skill and talent, but alongside the inability to get the job done. This has led to the disappointment.

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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