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August 7, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 08/07/2012

Honestly, I’ve taken my eye off most things Arsenal in the last week and a half with the London 2012 Olympic Games meaning I’ve been trying to understand the rules of judo and have been getting massively over-excited about track cycling and handball. I’ve watched some of the Olympic football tournament, but have been so engrossed in the other sport that the men’s football has generally felt like a needless sideshow. The women’s football tournament however was a superb advert for fans to follow the female game more, with Team GB beating Brazil.

I’ve partly not been bothering myself with Arsenal news because the Olympic Games don’t come to a nearby city very often. The wave of Olympic excitement in and around London has been brilliant, with sport bringing people together and making people proud to be British. Also, there has been a severe lack of media coverage of football ahead of the new season, which is probably a good thing as it’s stopped me fretting and starting to worry about Arsenal too far in advance of the season. We go through enough emotions during the season so avoiding some of them in pre-season should be welcomed.

The major Arsenal interest was in the women’s football tournament. The Team GB 18 player squad featured six Arsenal players, all of whom featured in their impressive 1-0 victory over favourites Brazil in front of a record UK crowd for a women’s match in this country at Wembley. Arsenal have been flag bearers on the pitch for women’s football for many years, however despite the success of the team, the women’s game has struggled for coverage and popularity.

July 5, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/05/2012

Let's be honest, deep down we all feared that Robin van Persie wouldn't sign a new contract. As Arsenal fans, we've seen these situations all too many times in the last few seasons. If Robin had decided to go quietly, we'd have accepted it and understood his desire to leave. He'd have gone with the respect of the fans for giving everything for Arsenal, and would have been remembered as a great player for the club. Yes, it would have been massively disappointing for fans, but we'd have lived with it.

Then there was this. Robin van Persie's statement on his official website was damning of the club, and horribly misjudged. I'll be surprised if van Persie wrote it himself, because I'm struggling to believe that he would be so blunt about the club when financially we don't have to sell him, when he's still club captain and when the statement wasn't expected by the club.

Most Arsenal fans have been through the mire enough times in the last few summers to not take van Persie's side of the story and not have sympathy for him. I can understand some fans siding with him about the different directions of the club, but ultimately Arsene Wenger is never going to spend the same amount of money as clubs like Manchester City. He never has done, never will do, and wouldn't want to compromise Arsenal's financial position. Wenger's stand point on this shouldn't have been news to Robin van Persie. He's been at the club eight years, and were it not for Wenger's policy, Robin wouldn't have been given the chances he had as a youngster, wouldn't have been backed despite his injury problems, and wouldn't have become the striker he is today.

Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/05/2012

Finishing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. In my first blog post of the day following yesterday’s events surrounding our captain, it’s time to rate the strikers.

9. Ju-Young Park

One on those rushed through the checkout during Arsene Wenger’s trolley dash at the end of the summer transfer window, Ju-Young Park hasn’t really made his mark on Arsenal Football Club. The Korean captain was cheap, and did score an excellent goal against Bolton in the Carling Cup, but he just wasn’t given the chance to prove himself for the first team. That was partly down to the form and fitness of Robin van Persie, but also because I don’t think Wenger trusted him to lead the line. Undoubtedly a strange signing.

July 3, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/03/2012

Continuing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. Moving up the pitch, it’s time to look at the midfielders.

2. Abou Diaby

The international man of mystery was only seen in fleeting glances during last season. His campaign was summed up by his cameo against Liverpool at Anfield. He came on in the second half, looked rusty in some of his runs forward but still showed he has some real talent on the ball, but then he tweaked a muscle and went off again. I can understand the argument for cutting our losses on Diaby and getting him off the wage bill because of his injury record, but we’ve seen with van Persie and Rosicky, that patience can eventually lead to a player flourishing at Arsenal. I think Diaby can still become an important part of our midfield, we just need him to stay fit for a prolonged period of time.

June 20, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/20/2012

Continuing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. Having analysed the goalkeepers, it’s time to look at defenders.

3. Bacary Sagna

The French full back had a season that was affected by two leg breaks, but when he was available, we were reminded how important he is to the team. Sagna doesn’t do the spectacular things, he does the important solid work. He loses marks in his end of season rating for missing a large slice of the season through injury, and for his crossing still being indifferent, however looking around the league, I can’t think of another right back I’d like in the squad.

June 2, 2012
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/02/2012

Now that I’ve completed my own exams this summer, it’s time for me to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. I’ll go through the squad over the next couple of weeks, and will start at the last line of defence; the goalkeepers.

1. Manuel Almunia

There really isn’t much to say about the Spaniard given he didn’t play a single minute for the Arsenal first team in 2011/12. He’s now been released and is without a club. It’s felt like he hasn’t been an Arsenal player this season, and he did spend a short loan spell at West Ham but returned quickly after they decided that Robert Green was better. The way Almunia was side-lined could seem a little harsh as he’s always come across as one of the nice guys in football, however ultimately he was too error prone. The two matches against West Brom in 2010/11 effectively ended his Arsenal career, but because of a lack of suitors, and injuries to Fabianski and Mannone, he hung around at the club last season and was on the bench a few times, however never made it onto the pitch. I hope his career doesn’t meander into nothingness; however I fear it might, which would be a shame.

Season Rating: 0/10

September 1, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 09/01/2011

After the Manchester United match, it was clear that we had to act in the transfer market. In the last two days before the window shut, it was a case of ‘better late than never’ as Arsenal managed to sign five players to bolster the squad after a poor start to the season.

Regular followers of the Arsenal will know that it takes a lot for Arsene Wenger to part with significant amounts of cash, so, regardless of player sales, to see Wenger part with over £50m in one transfer window is unheard of. Unfortunately, a lot of it was spent late, meaning our squad has looked seriously thin over the last couple of weeks, with the lack of strength and depth hideously exposed in the humiliation at Old Trafford.

As much as the 8-2 was horrific and painful to watch, the happenings at the club on Tuesday and Wednesday might not have been so extreme had we not been so badly thumped. At best, I was hoping for three players to arrive after the Manchester United debacle, however five arrivals represented good work from the club.

July 11, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/11/2011

Crisis? What crisis? After all the doom and gloom surrounding Arsenal, we’ve finally had a day with positive headlines for the fans to read. With some writing the club off before a ball had even been kicked in pre-season, some of that negativity can actually be put behind us as the Gunners kick off their friendlies this week.

In his first press conference as part of the Asia Tour, Arsene Wenger said that he expects both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to be at Arsenal for next season. Obviously that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stay, because clubs chasing the players won’t give up, but it is pleasing to see Arsene Wenger being confident and defiant about keeping our best players. It would be all too easy for Wenger to just accept that Fabregas will finally go back to Barcelona and decide that it’s better to sell Nasri before he runs his contract down, however he knows as well as anyone that the Arsenal squad will be worse off without Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

Given how a large number of supporters had just accepted that Fabregas and Nasri would leave, if one of the two stayed, that would be considered a boost. However should Wenger’s defiance result in both pulling on the red and white shirt next season, optimism would increase massively amongst supporters. That piece of good news was then complimented by Arsene Wenger confirming that we’ve finally made a major signing.

July 3, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/03/2011

As usual, the close season has sent transfer rumours surrounding Arsenal into overdrive. After last season’s failure, the obvious need for changes means there is even more speculation about who Arsene Wenger is, or isn’t, going to bring in this summer. It’s difficult to read much into all the tittle-tattle as Arsenal tend to keep very quiet about their transfer dealings.

After the initial post-season flurry of stories about arrivals and departures, there seemed to be a lull in the frenzy of transfer rumours. However, since reports have emerged of Barcelona bidding again for Cesc Fabregas, speculation about dealings with Arsenal have gone crazy again.

This has been a difficult post to write due to the constantly changing stream of information about potential transfers. It seems that one day Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy are staying, but then another day they’re all leaving. I’d prefer any sales of players to be finalised quickly, so we know what areas of the squad need strengthening. Obviously I don’t want to see those three players leave, but it would be detrimental for transfers to be drawn out over the summer before individuals are eventually sold. It is better for all involved to have sales sorted quickly.

June 26, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/26/2011

In the final part of my recent series of posts, I’m going to finish assessing the season for each Arsenal player. Fans at the moment have a lot of opinions on who should leave the club given the acrimonious finish to the campaign, so I’m going to give my view on everyone’s season and say if they have a future at the club.

As with the other positions, I’m sure some will disagree with my thoughts and ratings so please comment and give your views at the bottom of the blog.

I’m going to finish at the front by focussing on the forwards.

June 15, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/15/2011

Continuing my recent series of posts, I'm going to continue to assess the season for each Arsenal player. Fans at the moment have a lot of opinions on who should leave the club given the acrimonious finish to the campaign, so I'm going to give my view on everyone's season and say if they have a future at the club.

As always, I'm sure some will disagree with my thoughts and ratings so please comment and give your views at the bottom of the blog.

Moving up the pitch, I'm going to look at the midfield.

June 6, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 06/06/2011

Following on from my post last week, I’m going to continue to assess the season for each Arsenal player. Fans at the moment have a lot of opinions on who should leave the club given the acrimonious finish to the campaign, so I’m going to give my view on everyone’s season and say if they have a future at the club.

As with last week, I’m sure some will disagree with my thoughts and ratings so please comment and give your views at the bottom of the blog.

Next up for my ratings; the defence.

May 30, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/30/2011

Now the season has finished, I’m going to assess the season for each Arsenal player. Fans at the moment have a lot of opinions on who should leave the club given the acrimonious finish to the campaign, so I’m going to give my view on everyone’s season and say if they have a future at the club.

I’m sure some will disagree with my thoughts and ratings so please comment and give your views at the bottom of the blog.

I’ll start at the last line of defence; the goalkeepers.

May 20, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/20/2011

Being a football fan is often compared to following a religion, and right now Arsenal fans need to renew their faith in the club as much as in the individual players and the manager.

Whilst many just want the last game of the season on Sunday to be over and done with, the match against Fulham represents a good chance for the players to lift some of the doom and gloom hanging over the club.

Another abject performance will see Arsenal fans spend the summer struggling to find positives about the club. However, should all the players actually show some fighting spirit and win the game, the negative feeling around the club will potentially improve.

May 12, 2011
Posted by Sam Limbert on 05/12/2011

Hello and welcome to my first post on ESPNsoccernet. After taking over Arsenal blogging duties at this time of the season, I’d love to be writing about how the Emirates Stadium trophy cabinet has been filled and how project Wenger has finally produced the success we’ve been waiting for. Instead, I’m left to write about a club that is coming to the end of another trophyless campaign with fans who face a significant price rise to watch the team next season.

An outsider looking at some of the things written about Arsenal in recent weeks might think the club is in crisis with complaints about the manager and some players. In reality, not everything about Arsenal at the moment is doom and gloom. The problem is, things aren’t how they used to be both on and off the pitch.

This week saw the 42nd birthday of the greatest player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. Given he was my first real football hero, I tend to hold Dennis Bergkamp in high esteem anyway, but the way his arrival brought a change in style and a period of success at Arsenal means Bergkamp is the man for me. I’ve got a sense amongst Gooners this week that Dennis typified what the current side are missing.

April 4, 2011
Posted by David Young on 04/04/2011

It's been a good while since an Arsenal team has been boo-ed off after a home performance. Though the chorus of dissent that greeted the final whistle of Saturday’s goalless draw against Blackburn wasn’t a unanimous outpouring of disgust, it was loud enough to let both the manager and the players know that what they had produced during the match fell well short of what is expected from a team who, up until that point, still had the title in their own hands.

Things started well enough. In the opening exchanges, the Gunners looked lively and had their visitors up against the wall. However, the longer the game went on, the slower the tempo became and the less likely any sort of break-through seemed. By the middle of the second half, the match resembled something more akin to an end-of-season stroll rather than a game which had a bearing on Arsenal chances to win the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger - In Danger of Losing the Faith of the Fans©Getty Images
March 18, 2011
Posted by David Young on 03/18/2011

Last Saturday's defeat at Man Utd in the FA Cup ended a dismal fortnight which saw Arsenal eliminated from three of the four competitions they were contesting this season. Only one remains.

The performance at Old Trafford brought to the surface all the niggles and flaws of this current squad. Missing a couple of key players, the team still managed to conjure up some sumptuous approach play. However, their cutting edge was nowhere near sharp enough and defensive errors cost them dearly.

Mad Jens is Back!©Getty Images

March 9, 2011
Posted by David Young on 03/09/2011

Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say you were beaten by a better team. It's not often that Arsenal have to admit that but Wednesday night's 3-1 defeat to Barcelona was one such occasion.

There is far to much hyperbole and exaggeration in football coverage but when the current Catalan team are described as "one of the greatest club sides in the game’s history”, it is hard to disagree. Whatever you may think of the club itself, the way it is run and the disgraceful way it sometimes behaves in the transfer market, there is no doubt that the current crop of players representing it are up there with the best of all-time and they certainly are the benchmark by which all teams at the top of today’s game have to measure themselves.

A Dejected Cesc After Barca'a First©Getty Images

March 3, 2011
Posted by David Young on 03/03/2011

It has been a rough week for Arsenal and their supporters. Losing any final is always hard to bear and Sunday's Carling Cup Final was a huge disappointment. It has to be said though that some of the reaction to that defeat has been ridiculous and it seems that perspective has been lost in certain quarters.

You would be forgiven for thinking that some pundits (and some Arsenal supporters) assumed that it would just be a case of the Gunners simply showing up at Wembley, coasting through 90 minutes and it would be more or less a foregone conclusion that Birmingham would roll over and we would pick up a cup at the end of the afternoon.

That was never going to be how it was. This was one of the biggest days in the Blues’ history and it was inevitable that they would be up for the game and be a far tougher prospect than they may be on a week-by-week basis. Credit and congratulations to them, they played well and with a lot of heart. However, the game was lost by Arsenal because of an accident and not because they were overwhelmed by their opponents.

Disappointment at Wembley©Getty Images

February 24, 2011
Posted by David Young on 02/24/2011

Arsenal maintained their challenge at the top of the table last night with a pragmatic win over Stoke. The match was more notable for the injuries sustained by Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott than it was for the football on offer but, nonetheless, it was a massively important three points.

After an early flurry of attacking play from Arsenal which produced Seb Squillaci’s headed goal, the first half settled into a soporific tempo in which Stoke parked the bus in front of their goal and the Gunners strung together endless passes as if it were a training session. In truth, much of the home team’s momentum was lost when Fabregas departed after quarter of an hour.

Squillaci's Header Was Enough To Take The Points©Getty Images

February 17, 2011
Posted by David Young on 02/17/2011

What an unbelievable night! Rarely does the reality of football match the hype that surrounds it these days, but Wednesday night's encounter between Arsenal and Barcelona was a spectacle of the highest quality and the Gunners produced a victory that will be talked about for years in the red half of North London.

After the facile win over Wolves at the weekend, Arsene Wenger’s team couldn’t have been in better fettle going into this match. The absence of Bacary Sagna excepted, and unlike in this match-up last season, the manager was able to field a full-strength side. Any fears that the Gunners would be blown away by a force-nine Barca hurricane in a repeat of last year's first half were soon allayed as the team made a bright start carving out a couple of good early chances.

Arshavin Sparks Mayhem at The Grove©AFP
February 8, 2011
Posted by David Young on 02/08/2011

Since Arsenal's calamitous second-half capitulation at Newcastle, the last few days have felt like walking around with the worst sort of hangover. The kind that gives you flashbacks to the whatever appalling antics you were up to in your stupor and leaves you questioning: did that really happen?

Well, it did and it is still hard to believe. A family member texted me after the game to ask how on earth the Gunners could allow a four-nil half-time lead to be canceled out? The only response I could offer was “gross incompetence and lack of bottle?”

Turning Point: Diaby Asks To Get Sent Off©Getty Images
February 2, 2011
Posted by David Young on 02/02/2011

It was a pulsating night's entertainment at Ashburton Grove on Tuesday night. Nothing gets the blood pumping like overturning an injustice and coming from behind to win.

Everton’s record against teams near the top of the table this season meant they were always going to be a tough nut to crack. The task was made harder by the referee and his assistant who ludicrously allowed Louis Saha’s 24th minute effort to stand. It was offside. Forget all the nonsense about “active” and “inactive”. It was offside.

Laurent Koscielny Heads Arsenal's Winner©Associated
January 26, 2011
Posted by David Young on 01/26/2011

3-0 home victories against Wigan on Saturday and Ipswich last night have seen Arsenal go second in the Premier League and book their spot in the Carling Cup Final. Last night’s semi-final win took a little time coming but second-half goals from Bendtner, Koscielny and Fabregas saw the Gunners into their first cup final since losing to Chelsea in the same competition at the Millennium Stadium in 2007.

Ipswich deserve a huge amount of credit and praise for the way they played last night. In the face of an almost constant onslaught they had an awful lot of defending to do but for an hour they held firm and, for the most part, looked reasonably comfortable. Though the Gunners held the upper hand in terms of possession throughout, they seemed to find it difficult to plough their way through the Tractor Boys’ massed defences. Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas both came close in the first half but, at the interval, it was the visiting fans who were the happier.

Cesc Fabregas Celebrates His Goal Against Ipswich©PA Photos
January 20, 2011
Posted by David Young on 01/20/2011

After the debacle at Ipswich last week Arsenal needed to show more professionalism and they did just that in the games against West Ham and Leeds. Both were beaten comfortably with the minimum of fuss and bother. If only it could always be like that against inferior opposition.

West Ham are a club in crisis at the moment - and it showed. It is hard to know what is going on behind the scenes there but what is happening on the pitch is evidently not of Premier League standard and it hasn’t been for most of the season. Trips to West Ham have often been hard work in recent years but there were no such concerns this time round. Goals from Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott in the first half put the Gunners firmly in the driving seat and, after the Walcott had been felled in the area by Wayne Bridge, it was Van Persie who also stepped up to convert a 76th minute penalty to seal the game.

RVP Heads Arsenal's Third at Elland Road©Associated
January 13, 2011
Posted by David Young on 01/13/2011

If Leeds gave fair warning about the dangers of complacency and dropping your level of application when playing lower league teams in the Cup, it was not one that was heeded by the Gunners.

On Saturday, Arsenal had a let-off. Last night they were deservedly punished by Ipswich in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final.

Yes, believe it or not, it was a semi-final. One step away from Wembley and the chance to, you know, actually win something. You might have thought that this would have negated the need for any sort of team-talk. The players, professionals that they are, would rise to the occasion and dispatch Ipswich in the same ruthless manner that Chelsea did at the weekend in the FA Cup. What we actually got was one of the most flaccid, toothless and woeful performances of the season - and there have been quite a few similarly lame displays to compare it to.

Tamas Priskin Celebrates His Winning Goal Last Night©PA Photos
January 6, 2011
Posted by David Young on 01/06/2011

Well, everyone expected City would come to Ashburton Grove to play for a draw but who knew that one of the most expensively-assembled teams in the world could be quite so negative and technically bereft?

Waiting for the players to emerge from the tunnel before last night’s match, I looked to the stadium’s away section and wondered why the visiting fans had only taken half the allocation normally afforded to traveling supporters. It was very odd. I know it was a Wednesday night but, for such a big game, you would still expect a team like City to fill the full corner where the Clock End and East Stand meet. They had always done so on recent visits. But, by the end of the 90 minutes, it was perfectly evident why their fans weren’t there in any great numbers. Who would travel half the length of the country and pay good money to watch their team intentionally play like that?

Alex Song Tackles Yaya Toure©PA Photos

• Wallace Poulter gives the Man City view

January 1, 2011
Posted by David Young on 01/01/2011

Arsenal completed their trio of festive fixtures and rung in the New Year with an emphatic win at St Andrews which keeps them well up with the pace at the top of the table.

The Christmas and New Year period is always a testing time as the games come thick and fast. Going into the three games over the holidays, most Arsenal supporters would probably have settled for seven points from a possible nine but, after the team produced such a magnificent victory over Chelsea, it was disappointing that they let themselves down at Wigan two days later. The win at Birmingham today though got the team back on track and was a great confidence booster ahead of the visit of Manchester City to Ashburton Grove on Wednesday night.

Robin Van Persie Hits Arsenal's First at Birmingham©PA Photos
December 14, 2010
Posted by David Young on 12/14/2010

Before last night's match, Arsene Wenger called on the Arsenal players to "make a statement" with their performance. The statement they made was that they didn’t have the drive, energy and belief to beat United on their own patch for the first time since 2006.

Though the Gunners held plenty of possession they barely mustered much of an attacking threat and were unable to rock United back on their heels let alone land any sort of killer blow. More worrying though was general lethargy that pervaded the whole Arsenal performance. Considering what a huge game it was - and that Arsenal went there as league leaders - it was mystifying as to why they looked so sluggish throughout.

Another Trip to Manchester Ends in Despondency©PA Photos
December 5, 2010
Posted by David Young on 12/05/2010

Two moments of sparkling brilliance from Samir Nasri were just about enough to see off a determined Fulham team at Ashburton Grove and send Arsenal top of the table.

It was hardly a classic performance. In fact, it was another stuttering home display which saw the Gunners look completely on top one moment and nervously under the cosh the next. They started both halves brightly and purposefully but Fulham had their moments. And, in fact, for the larger part of the second half the visitors looked the most likely team to grab a second goal and the more probable winners - that is, until Nasri’s second intervention.

Samir Nasri Brilliantly Turns in His Second Goal©Getty Images
November 28, 2010
Posted by David Young on 11/28/2010

Arsenal bounced back from their defeats against Spurs and Braga to claim a vital away victory at Villa Park yesterday. It was a match that they largely dominated and yet they still seemed to make hard work of dispatching a very average-looking Aston Villa side.

It seems a little ridiculous that the Gunners had to score four goals to truly put this match to bed when, again, leading 2-0 at the break, the game should have been shut down in the second half with Villa never getting anywhere near any sort of result.

Samir Nasri Celebrates His Goal©Getty Images
November 24, 2010
Posted by David Young on 11/24/2010

The theory, (or was it just a hope?), that Arsenal had finally found some collective resilience was blown to pieces by back-to-back defeats at the hands of Spurs in the North London Derby on Saturday and Braga last night in the Champions League. As weeks go, this one couldn’t have been much worse.

Saturday’s capitulation to Spurs was the first home league loss to our North London enemies since 1993. And anyone who was at that match 17 years ago will remember that it was a game staged a week before Arsenal’s appearance in the FA Cup Final and George Graham fielded a very much weakened team in the days when “squad rotation” didn’t happen and the FA routinely fined anyone who didn’t put out what was perceived to be their strongest team. The Spurs victory that night was a hollow one - Arsenal fans mocked their visitors for the length of time it took them to break down a near youth team.

How Did We Lose That Game?©Getty Images
November 15, 2010
Posted by David Young on 11/15/2010

Two very big away wins at Wolves and Everton, coupled with Chelsea being stunned at home by Sunderland yesterday, has seen Arsenal jump to second place in the Premier League sitting just two points behind the leaders.

On the back of the home defeat to Newcastle, those two matches were a real tests of resolve and the Gunners passed them with flying colours showing the sort of grit and determination that has so often been lacking in recent times away from home.

Bacary Sagna Celebrates a Rare Goal©PA Photos
November 8, 2010
Posted by David Young on 11/08/2010

Lessons that were learned from the home game against Newcastle on Sunday:

- Lucasz Fabianski is still an accident waiting to happen the moment he is asked to make an actual decision rather than be called upon to make an instinctive save.
- Cesc Fabregas is badly out of form at the moment. Every player suffers dips in form; but if it is a player whom the team rely on heavily, then it is harder to paper over the cracks.
- When Theo Walcott comes up against a full-back who is at least as quick as him, he doesn’t have much in the way of a Plan B up his sleeve.
- On the evidence of his appearance yesterday, Robin Van Persie is not ready to be “rushed back”. He looked miles off the pace.

Poor Decision-Making by Fabianski Leads to Newcastle Goal©Getty Images
October 25, 2010
Posted by David Young on 10/25/2010

Arsenal notched a highly significant and vitally important win at Eastlands yesterday. Though Manchester City were reduced to ten men from the fourth minute following Dedryk Boyata's sending off, it was a victory that was achieved through composure, focus and some style.

Boyata gave referee Mark Clattenburg little room for manoeuvre when felling Marouane Chamakh who was clear through on goal. Who knows how the match might have gone had it stayed eleven-men-per-side? We’ll never know. But playing against ten men presents its own challenges. Fortunately, City did not simply try to put ten men behind the ball and actually turned in a creditable performance with their reduced numbers. On the day though, Arsenal were too strong for them and the Gunners maintained their tempo and concentration levels to see the job through.

Samir Nasri - a Man in Form©PA Photos
October 17, 2010
Posted by David Young on 10/17/2010

Arsenal got back to winning ways on Saturday by beating Birmingham 2-1 at Ashburton Grove. It was a performance that was more workmanlike and pragmatic than it was stylish but, with it having been just over a month since all three points were taken in a Premier League game, the result was the most important thing.

The Gunners had the better of the early exchanges without necessarily summoning the required tempo and impetus to make a break-through. Even so, several chances were carved out, none of which were taken. Too often, the frustratingly familiar option of an extra pass was chosen instead of a shot.

Nasri Converts His Penalty Kick to Level the Match ©Getty Images
October 5, 2010
Posted by David Young on 10/05/2010

The result at Stamford Bridge at the weekend had a depressingly familiar ring about it. In the last eighteen encounters between Arsenal and Chelsea in all competitions the Gunners have only come out on top twice. It is a dismal recent record.

However, the manner of Sunday's defeat was bemusing rather than infuriating. Arsenal actually played alright. They held plenty of possession and created enough chances to have won the match. For once, they didn’t look over-powered by their hosts and looked the better side for long periods of the game. They pinned Chelsea back without, it has to be said, necessarily stretching them to breaking point and produced some good football. And yet, "playing alright" wasn’t good enough and they lost 2-0. So what was missing?

Defensive Lapses Cost Arsenal Dearly at Stamford Bridge ©Getty Images
September 26, 2010
Posted by David Young on 09/26/2010

Carling Cup hangover? Or a grossly complacent and sloppy performance by a group of players that thought they only had to turn up to win? Seeing as Arsene Wenger made eight changes from the team that started against Spurs midweek, let's go with the latter, shall we?

Before talking about Arsenal’s display, it is only fair to say that West Brom were magnificent yesterday and thoroughly deserved their victory. They competed from the first whistle to the last. They took their game to the Gunners and looked the better side all afternoon. They attacked with pace and real intent and were organised and focussed in defence.

Arsene Wenger Put His Head in His Hands at The Grove Yesterday - He Wasn't The Only One ©Getty Images
September 19, 2010
Posted by David Young on 09/19/2010

It has been a contrasting week for the Gunners. On Wednesday night they comprehensively demolished Braga in the Champions League but were then brought back down to earth by Darren Bent's late equaliser at the Stadium of Light last night.

As gutting as it was to drop two points to virtually the last kick of the match, there was a certain air of inevitability about Sunderland’s late strike, particularly after Tomas Rosicky’s 73rd-minute penalty miss. Arsenal had taken a fortuitous lead through probably the best deflection you will ever see and, in an incident-packed match, they had their chances to put a final nail into Sunderland’s coffin. But, as we have seen too many times before, they just couldn’t apply the killer blow and let their opponents off the hook in the final moments.

Cesc Scores from Freak Deflection ©Getty Images
September 13, 2010
Posted by David Young on 09/13/2010

Arsenal continued their impressive start to the season with a convincing 4-1 victory over Bolton at Ashburton Grove on Saturday. Rather like the win up a Blackburn a couple of weeks ago, it was a performance that suggested that Arsene Wenger's charges are becoming more mature.

The Gunners took a while to get into their stride despite holding the lion’s share of possession throughout the opening period. During the first half Tomas Rosicky impressed the most. The Czech made numerous penetrating runs and picked out some fantastic passes - most notably the one that put Andrey Arshavin through for a glorious one-on-one opportunity. He also still found time to track back and cover his defensive duties.

Chamakh Majestically Heads Arsenal's Second ©PA Photos
September 1, 2010
Posted by David Young on 09/01/2010

So, the transfer window slammed shut for another few months on Tuesday evening and there was no late activity to report other than the loan moves of Armand Traore and Nacer Barazite to Juventus and Vitesse Arnhem respectively. That there was no new goalkeeper signed will be the biggest talking point amongst Arsenal fans.

The "goalkeeping situation" was not just a figment of fan-talk or internet hysterics, it is clearly an area that Arsene Wenger recognised needed addressing due to the fact that a formal bid was tabled for Fulham's Mark Schwarzer. Personally, I am not that disappointed that the Australian has not come. At his age, he was never going to be a long-term solution and the fact that it has taken until this point in his career for a big club to take a real interest in him rather suggests he is not actually that much better than what we already have.

Walcott Strikes Again at Blackburn ©Getty Images
August 22, 2010
Posted by David Young on 08/22/2010

Arsenal were expected to beat Blackpool easily at Ashburton Grove yesterday and they did just that. Racking up a 6-0 victory, it was a fine way to kick off their home campaign and was a critical early boost to their goal difference.

Theo Walcott was the star of the afternoon, notching the first hat-trick of his Arsenal career inside an hour. It crowned one of his more assertive displays for the club. The Seasiders couldn't live with his pace and a far more direct approach from the young winger reaped dividends. After the match, Arsene Wenger praised Walcott's decision-making in delivering his final ball. It was better, but there still is room for improvement. However, it was a performance that he can build on and the real test will be whether he can replicate producing this sort of threat week in, week out over the course of the season and against sterner opposition.

Hat-trick Man Theo Walcott ©Getty Images
August 15, 2010
Posted by David Young on 08/15/2010

Arsenal snatched a late draw at Anfield courtesy of Pepe Reina's 90th minute goalkeeping howler and it was no more than the Gunners deserved after a solid but somewhat workman-like away performance.

Last-minute equalisers are always enjoyable but it was particularly satisfying to see Reina throw the ball in his own net. He has not endeared himself to Arsenal fans after ring-leading the now infamous incident where a Barcelona shirt was forced over Cesc Fabregas’s head at Spain’s World Cup homecoming and it really was a pleasure to watch his agony after the goal.

Pepe Reina - Not the Future of Barcelona or Spain ©Getty Images
August 2, 2010
Posted by David Young on 08/02/2010

Arsenal fans got their first sight of the team at Ashburton Grove over the weekend as the Gunners staged, and won, the Emirates Cup.

As much as the club might try to hype the tournament, these were still preseason warm-up games and, as good as it is to get an early look at the players, there is not much we can deduce for the coming season from these matches. Still, the stadium was pretty much sold out on both days which only goes to show the appetite of the fans as we all wait for the Premier League to get going again. There are only two weeks to go but it still feels an age away as the close-season drags on interminably.

Marouane Chamakh Get His First Home Goal ©Getty Images
July 17, 2010
Posted by David Young on 07/17/2010

After a World Cup that will be better remembered for the achievements of the organisers than by the performances of the players who participated in it, we can finally begin to look forward again to the new domestic season. Arsenal began their preparations today with their now-traditional leg-stretch and pipe-opener at Barnet.

On a sunny afternoon, where North London meets Hertfordshire, Arsene Wenger gave pretty much everyone who wasn’t involved in the World Cup a run out. The most notable absentee who didn’t spend the summer in South Africa was Eduardo and there were whispers around the stadium of a possible imminent deal that would see him leave Arsenal for Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barnet's Underhill Stadium ©PA Photos
May 27, 2010
Posted by David Young on 05/27/2010

So, the last area to look at is the forward line and Arsene Wenger has already taken steps in strengthening this part of the team by recruiting Maroune Chamakh from Bordeaux. Despite the fact that this transfer has rumbled on for the best part of a year now, it is good to have a new name to conjure with so early in the summer.

Chamakh’s scoring record with Bordeaux was solid rather than spectacular with 79 goals from 293 matches - a strike rate of a goal every 3.7 games. However, he has experience and age on his side and he does score a goal every other match when playing internationally for Morocco. Time will tell as to how quickly he adapts to the Premier League but there is nothing supporters like more than a goalscorer who is an instant hit and everyone will be hoping he turns out to be just that.

Van Persie - The Spearhead of Arsenal's Attack ©Getty Images
May 18, 2010
Posted by David Young on 05/18/2010

In considering how Arsenal's midfield might shape up next season - or rather, how we would like it to shape up next season - one question looms large over all others: will Cesc Fabregas still be at the heart of matters come August or will he have departed for Barcelona?

Earlier in the season, there were a few rumours coming out of the club that he could very well be off this summer. Those mutterings seemed to dissipate as the Gunners maintained their title challenge for far longer than most pundits had predicted. However, we still had to cope with the insidious drip-drip-drip of Barca players coming out in the media, saying how much they wanted Fabregas to come and play for his hometown team. In the past few days though, the temperature has risen once again on this particular matter and the portents don’t bode well for the Spaniard continuing to lead the Gunners next season.

Will He Stay? ©ESPN Soccernet
May 11, 2010
Posted by David Young on 05/11/2010

On the final day of the season, Arsenal comfortably beat a much-changed Fulham side that had its mind elsewhere by four goals to nil to clinch third place and automatic qualification to the group stage of the Champions League. Even though Spurs threw away a two-goal lead losing 4-2 at Burnley, it was good to see the Gunners ending the season with a win in front of their own fans.

The match itself was not worthy of much comment. It was real end-of-season stuff and all a bit bloodless. Still, after a run of poor results, it did put a bit of a smile back on supporters faces as we all head into the summer. And what a crucial summer it is going be.

RVP Hits Finds the Net Against Fulham ©PA Photos
May 6, 2010
Posted by David Young on 05/06/2010

You do have to wonder at the intelligence levels of some Arsenal players. With a summer ahead in which Arsene Wenger has already stated that changes will be afoot, you would imagine that some of these guys are currently playing for their places as the season winds down. Well, there is precious little evidence of many of them seeming that bothered about that as they turned in a spineless performance at Ewood Park on Monday and got turned over by Blackburn.

Yes, there are no longer any trophies to play for, and maybe it is inevitable that there will be a natural drop in application because of that, but one point from their last four games is a pitiful return that shows a total lack of pride, passion and professionalism. The Gunners have been so feeble recently that they have now actually given themselves something to play for in the last game against Fulham having allowed Spurs within touching distance of third place following their victory at Eastlands last night.

April 27, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/27/2010

There is nothing much to say about Saturday’s match against Manchester City because nothing much happened. It was possibly the dullest game that Ashburton Grove has seen in its short history.

With nothing to play for, Arsenal lacked the passion and impetus to turn their possession into goals. City, who do have something to play for, seemed content with a draw. The hapless Lukasz Fabianski kept a clean sheet, largely because he had nothing to save. Such was the impotence of the visitor’s attack that Mikael Silvestre had what could be described as "a solid game" at the back.

Theo Walcott Attempting Something ©Getty Images
April 22, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/22/2010

At the end of my last post I said that the players needed to show pride and professionalism in their remaining performances of the season. Well, there was precious little of that on display in the final ten minutes at Wigan last Sunday as the Gunners squandered a two-goal lead to slump to a humiliating 3-2 defeat.

The match itself wasn’t much of a spectacle but, having got themselves into a winning position, there can be no excuse for throwing it away in the manner they did. Credit goes to Wigan for not giving up but their first goal came courtesy of some lackadaisical Arsenal defending. The second was yet another Lukasz Fabianski howler. Charles N’Zogbia’s winner was a goal worthy of winning any game but the Latics should never have been allowed to get anywhere near landing such a knockout blow.

Eboue's Demeanour Says It All ©Getty Images
April 17, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/17/2010

It has been a rough few days following Wednesday night's defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane. Not only did we have to witness the last embers of our season go up in smoke but, on returning to our places of work and local pubs, Arsenal supporters had to endure jubilant gloating from any Tottenham fans that they might happen to know. Still, it took Spurs over a decade to beat the Gunners in the Premier League, so I suppose it is understandable that they were happy with the victory.

For Gooners though, it was a painful evening. Losing to our fiercest rivals, even in friendly matches, is always a bitterly jarring experience. They might not have been able to match us for honours over the past twenty years but North London Derbies still have an edge that clashes with Manchester United and Chelsea just don’t. There is a very personal hatred between the supporters of the two clubs that stretches back nearly a century and, sadly, this time Arsenal got on the wrong end of the result.

RVP's Long-Awaiting Return ©GettyImages
April 7, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/07/2010

Last night, a four-goal Lionel Messi master class put paid to Arsenal's Champions League adventure for this season and sent Barcelona to the semi-finals. The young Argentinian might have had a relatively quiet match at Ashburton Grove last week but on home soil at the Nou Camp his ruthless finishing won the match and the tie for the home team.

Arsenal had started the game well enough and, when Nicklas Bendtner made a silk purse out of Theo Walcott’s sow’s ear of a cross to score after 18 minutes, life was breathed into dreams of winning the game. All hopes were soon dashed though when Messi equalised with a dazzling drive three minutes later and then went on to notch a hat-trick before the break.

Bendtner Momentarily Keeps the Dream Alive ©Getty Images
April 5, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/05/2010

Nicklas Bendtner's winning goal in the depths of injury time against Wolves at Ashburton Grove on Saturday not only kept Arsenal’s title hopes alive but also - and so very importantly in the short-term - kept the team’s momentum rolling ahead of the trip to Barcelona on Tuesday night.

After the thrills and spills of the home tie against Barca, it was inevitable that Saturday’s home game against Wolves would be subject to a bit of a Champions League hangover. The Gunners enjoyed the majority of possession and created plenty of chances but couldn’t find a cutting edge until the big Dane got on the end of Bacery Sagna’s cross to steal the three points in the 94th minute of play.

Bendtner Nicks It ©Getty Images
April 1, 2010
Posted by David Young on 04/01/2010

Twenty four hours, a few beers and a long lie-down in a dark room later, it is still difficult to process the whole gamut of emotions that were run watching last night’s match against Barcelona. It was an encounter that had almost everything football can provide as a spectacle.

Inside the stadium we experienced the terror of the first half as Barcelona totally dominated the opening stages, the relief of reaching half-time without conceding, the disappointment of Ibrahimovich’s two goals, the hope that Theo’s strike provided and the joy and relief of Cesc’s equalising penalty. When the final whistle came everyone knew they had witnessed an astonishing game of football. Thierry Henry was the last player to leave the pitch and he received a warm reception as he made his way to the tunnel. On other days his homecoming might have been a talking point but, after witnessing the previous ninety minutes, it was barely more than a footnote to an evening that will live long in the memory.

Almunia Heriocs Keep Arsenal Afloat ©Empics
March 28, 2010
Posted by David Young on 03/28/2010

Having become late-goal specialists over the past couple of months, Arsenal got a very unfortunate dose of their own medicine at St Andrews. Samir Nasri looked to have sealed the match for the Gunners with a rasping drive in the 81st minute but a deflection off Kevin Phillips that Manuel Almunia could only parry into his own net denied them all three points and put a dent in their title hopes.

It was a maddening outcome to a game that could - and should - have been won. After a lacklustre first half, Arsene Wenger’s side looked the more likely outfit in the second period. Birmingham City have one of the meanest home defences in the league but, having breached it with only nine minutes remaining, the Gunners really should have held on. Several other chances to put the match beyond the home team went begging and these misses were punished in the cruellest way.

Pantomime Time at St Andrews ©Empics
March 21, 2010
Posted by David Young on 03/21/2010

Arsenal produced a victory to be proud of at Ashburton Grove on Saturday that sent them top of the table. Controversially reduced to ten men just before half time, the Gunners dug deep, applied themselves and produced a second-half display that was a serious statement of intent with regard to their title aspirations.

The afternoon had gotten off to a great start when Denilson and Bendtner interchanged passes and the Brazilian fired home from just outside the area after five minutes. For the remainder of the half Arsenal wove together some neat attacking moves but couldn’t find the cutting edge to extend their lead.

Manuel Almunia Saves Diamanti's Penalty ©Getty Images
March 14, 2010
Posted by David Young on 03/14/2010

A late, late strike from Nicklas Bendtner saw the Gunners take all three points at the KC Stadium yesterday afternoon and keep their title aspirations well-and-truly alive. Sometimes there are moments that turn a season - or at least seem to nudge it in the right direction. The injury to Aaron Ramsey and the resultant response by the players to go on and win the match at Stoke was one and the big Dane's winner late in injury time at Hull could turn out to be another.

Arsenal started the afternoon well enough and took the lead after 14 minutes through Andrey Arshavin. The build-up to the goal was a fantastic sweeping move that showed the best of Arsene Wenger's team. Crisp passes were inter-changed until Bendtner fizzed a final assist into Arshavin’s path. The diminutive Russian still had plenty to do but managed to fend off the attentions of two defenders before firing off a shot into the net.

Arshavin Fires Arsenal's Opener ©Empics
March 10, 2010
Posted by David Young on 03/10/2010

In the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal swept aside Porto with a five-goal victory to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. It was a wonderfully determined performance by the Gunners, the highlight of which was a hat-trick from Nicklas Bendtner who made amends for his striking horror show against Burnley at the weekend.

Samir Nasri scored the goal of the night, finishing a mazy run in the box that left Porto defenders in his wake with a rifling shot into the far corner of the net. Emmanuel Eboue also got on the scoresheet by rounding the keeper at the end of a thrilling breakaway.

You have to admire the way Bendtner bounced back. Some of the criticism he received from the media after the Burnley match was completely over the top to the extent that by yesterday morning BBC Radio Five Live reported that Arsene Wenger was keeping faith with his young striker after he had missed "six open goals" on Saturday.

I don’t know about you but my definition of an open goal is quite literal - there is no opposition player between the striker and the goal and all he has to do is place the ball into the empty net. As bad as the Dane’s misses were on Saturday to report he squandered half a dozen open-goal opportunities was a scandalous and grossly exaggerated distortion of the truth that does the player no favours at all.

Hat-trick Man Bendtner ©Getty Images
March 7, 2010
Posted by David Young on 03/07/2010

Arsenal made heavy weather of seeing off Burnley at Ashburton Grove yesterday. Though they dominated the match, a host of missed chances meant the three points could not be considered safely banked until Andrey Arshavin drilled home a third goal for the Gunners in stoppage time.

After the events at the Britannia Stadium last weekend, Aaron Ramsey was very much the focus of the pre-match proceedings. Several banners were unfurled around the stadium and the players came out of the tunnel wearing “Get Well Soon” t-shirts over their kits. One would have thought that fuelled by righteous indignation and the desire to “Do it for Aaron”, as one of the large flags exhorted, that the Gunners would really tear into Burnley from the kick-off with some real blood and thunder. In reality, their first half performance was measured, patient and, at times, a bit pedestrian.

Get Well Soon Aaron ©Getty Images
February 28, 2010
Posted by David Young on 02/28/2010

Yet again Arsenal’s fans and players had to witness the sickening sight of one of their own being horrifically injured by a reckless tackle. With the memory of Eduardo's broken leg at St Andrews in 2008 still fresh in the memory, Aaron Ramsey suffered a similar fate at Stoke yesterday, marring what should have been a victory to savour.

Arsene Wenger was understandably furious and called the challenge "unacceptable", citing that it was the third such injury inflicted on Arsenal players in recent years - Eduardo and Diaby being the other victims. The manager was right to be angry. Though Shawcross did not go in with his studs up, he was late and wild. It was the sort of tackle that would have disgraced a Sunday morning game at Hackney Marshes let alone a match in the Premiership.

February 21, 2010
Posted by David Young on 02/21/2010

Midweek away trips in the Champions League often lead to lacklustre performances the following weekend. Saturday lunchtime, Manchester United were humbled by Everton at Goodison Park and, later in the afternoon, the Arsenal made hard work of a somewhat easier assignment at home to Sunderland, eventually seeing off their visitors 2-0.

Though the Gunners dominated possession, it wasn't until the 27th minute that they took the lead when, after a strong run, Emmanuel Eboue danced through the Sunderland defence and presented Nicklas Bendtner with a tap-in. It was just the sort of confidence boost that the young Dane needed as he finds his feet again after a long lay off from injury but it was provided by some fine work by the Ivorian who was Arsenal’s stand-out performer yesterday.

February 18, 2010
Posted by David Young on 02/18/2010

"We know that when you go to Porto you need a solid defensive performance". So said Arsene Wenger following last week's victory over Liverpool. What we actually got was a horror show of a performance from Lukasz Fabianski that saw the Gunners go down 2-1 in a match that they really ought to have taken a result away from.

In the 24 hours since the final whistle Porto's goals have been shown innumerable times on the television and they don’t get any easier to watch with each viewing. The first saw Gael Clichy skinned on the right wing and Fabianski, with no one near him and caught in a bad position, fumble the resultant cross into the net. The second was a comedy of errors between Sol Campbell and the hapless Polish keeper, except there really wasn't anything remotely funny about it.

February 11, 2010
Posted by David Young on 02/11/2010

Victory over Liverpool at Ashburton Grove on Wednesday night, coupled with favourable results elsewhere, lifted the spirits of Arsenal supporters after what has been a frustrating and disappointing few weeks.

Abou Diaby's headed goal in the 72nd minute was enough to clinch the points in a scruffy game. The Gunners successfully held off a late rally by the visitors with Manuel Almunia pulling off a tremendous save by tipping a Ryan Babel strike onto the bar to provide the only other truly notable moment of the evening aside from the goal.

Before the match, the atmosphere in the stadium was subdued with the hangover from the defeat at Chelsea still having not worn off. The action in the first half - if you can call it action - did little to shift the gloom. It was as dreary and untidy a spectacle as you can imagine two teams at the right end of the Premier League producing. No tempo, a staggering number of misplaced passes and we had to wait until the 45th minute before Arsenal mustered a shot at the Liverpool goal that actually required Reina to make some sort of save.

February 7, 2010
Posted by David Young on 02/07/2010

Didier Drogba maintained his hoodoo over Arsenal by scoring two first-half goals that clinched all three points for Chelsea today at Stamford Bridge. His strikes gave the Gunners too much to do in salvaging something from what was a must-win match were they to keep any lingering title hopes alive. Frustratingly though, those two goals owed more to poor defending from Arsene Wenger's team than they did to the Ivorian's brilliance.

After a drubbing at the hands of Manchester United last weekend, a trip to Chelsea was probably the last thing Arsenal needed but that was the task the fixture computer set. One can almost imagine the team talk before the game being along the lines of: "Keep it tight at the back early on and then try to nick the first goal". Sadly, the Gunners did neither.

January 31, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/31/2010

They almost had us fooled didn't they? Two weeks ago the Gunners beat Bolton and went to the top of the table. At that point, even the most sceptical Arsenal fans must have dusted off that little box that all football supporters keep at the back of the cupboard marked "hope" and taken the lid off. After today's crushing defeat at the hands of Manchester United though, Arsene Wenger's team looked as far away from being genuine title contenders as they could be and that little box has been put away again for another season.

Today at Ashburton Grove, Arsenal were outclassed and out-played by their visitors and were lucky that they weren’t on the end of a heavier beating. In fact, it flattered them that Thomas Vermaelen’s late consolation effort got them on the scoresheet at all.

January 29, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/29/2010

After a disappointing exit from the FA Cup at Stoke at the weekend, Arsenal followed up with a goalless draw at Aston Villa on Wednesday night. This was the first of a run of four games that could very well determine whether the Gunners are serious challengers for the title this season.

In truth, the draw at Villa Park was probably a fair result. The home team had the single best chance of the match and the better of the first half. For their part, Arsene Wenger’s side looked more dangerous in the second period and hit the woodwork in both halves.

January 21, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/21/2010

Arsenal blasted back against Bolton at the Grove last night to turn a two-goal deficit after 28 minutes into a 4-2 victory by the final whistle. It was a result that sent them back to the top of the table for the first time since August and is a huge psychological boost for both the players and supporters. Two months ago, they looked like title no-hopers but their current position at the summit ought to give everyone belief that they are still contenders - at least in terms of the results they are producing.

The qualification at the end of the last paragraph is necessary because whilst the result last night was what everyone was hoping for, there were aspects to the performance that were less than pleasing and ought to be a concern for the manager. Firstly, for the second home game running, the team took an age to get into their running. Against Everton, only when they had gone a goal behind did the players find some appetite for the match. Last night it was worse as they supinely let Bolton go into a two-goal lead - and it was hard to argue that the visitors did not deserve it. Secondly, some of the defending last night was atrocious. Even in the second half when Arsenal were leading, Bolton mounted a serious threat with virtually every attack as the Gunners failed to cut off lines of service in midfield and struggled to mop up the consequences of that in the penalty area. On another day, against a team who were capable of smarter finishing, the result could have been very different.

January 18, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/18/2010

There was a time in the not-too-distant past that matches at Bolton regularly proved to be traumatic experiences for Arsenal. Yesterday though, the Gunners turned in an efficient and solid away performance to beat the Trotters 2-0 and hot up the pace at the top of the table.

A goal from the inspirational Cesc Fabregas put Arsene Wenger’s men in front and the lead might have been increased before the break had a couple of decent penalty shouts - both coming from challenges on Arsenal’s captain - been awarded. Bolton had their chances too but the visitors rode their luck and secured all three points with a strike from substitute Fran Merida in the 78th minute.

January 10, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/10/2010

Arsenal looked more like pretenders rather than contenders as they scrambled a home draw with Everton at Ashburton Grove yesterday. A last-gasp deflected effort from Tomas Rosicky rescued a point that the Gunners barely deserved having looked second best all afternoon.

After the match Arsene Wenger praised the team's fighting spirit in keeping going to salvage a draw. It might have been better if they had shown that level of urgency from the kick off though rather than trying to raise their game far too late on. To say the Gunners were slow to start would be an understatement. They looked disinterested and clueless. In the sub-zero temperatures in North London, most of the players gave the impression they would rather be anywhere else than running around in the cold.

January 4, 2010
Posted by David Young on 01/04/2010

Arsenal maintained their enviable record of not having exited the FA Cup at the 3rd Round stage during Arsene Wenger’s tenure by producing two late goals to beat West Ham 2-1 at Upton Park yesterday.

The Gunners found it hard to hit their stride against an industrious Hammers team. When the home team took the lead in first half injury time, it was hard-earned even if not necessarily deserved. The scrappy nature of the game continued until the last fifteen minutes when, following the introduction of Nasri and Diaby, Arsenal found some quality just as West Ham ran out of steam. Smart finishes from Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo, saw the one-goal deficit overturned and Arsenal safely into the 4th round where they will face Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

December 28, 2009
Posted by David Young on 12/28/2009

Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to make in inspirational contribution that proved to be the difference between the two teams at Ashburton Grove yesterday. Until his entrance into the fray it had been an even contest but, within the 27 minutes he was on the field, the captain had scored twice, turned the match and ensured that Arsenal took a vital three points from Aston Villa.

The only disappointment of the afternoon was seeing Fabregas pull up with a recurrence of his hamstring injury after his lung-bursting sprint on the way to scoring his and Arsenal’s second. It remains to be seen how much further rest he will require before Arsene Wenger feels comfortable with picking him again, but looking at the upcoming fixtures, it would seem understandable if he were to miss tomorrow night’s trip to Portsmouth. He would have been an unlikely selection for the FA Cup tie with West Ham anyway as the manager will almost certainly shuffle his pack for that encounter.

December 20, 2009
Posted by David Young on 12/20/2009

After a disappointing draw at Burnley, the Arsenal got themselves back to winning ways yesterday by comfortably seeing off Hull City courtesy of goals from Denilson, Eduardo and Diaby. With Chelsea and Manchester United again dropping points over the weekend, the Gunners have kept themselves in contention at the top of the table.

In freezing cold conditions at the Grove, yesterday’s first half was a scrappy forty-five minutes of football. Until Denilson stepped up to bend home a gorgeous free-kick on the stroke of the break, the most interesting thing that had happened was the minor scuffle that had ensued a few minutes earlier involving several players from both sides. It was nothing but handbags but it did spark a bit of life into what had been an otherwise flat half.

December 13, 2009
Posted by David Young on 12/13/2009

A sensational strike from Andrey Arshavin clinched a vital victory for Arsenal at Anfield that saw them make up ground on the top two and piled further misery onto Rafa Benitez's Liverpool. The little Russian's fizzing drive flew in off the post and was the one moment of true class in an otherwise forgettable encounter. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.

The Gunners had to come from behind to take the points after having been on the rack for much of the first half and they were somewhat fortunate to go in at the break only one down. Torres spurned a decent chance and Gerrard had a penalty claim turned down that would have been awarded most other weekends. Liverpool deservedly took the lead in the 41st minute when Fabio Aurelio floated an innocuous freekick into the box. Manuel Almunia came for it but could only ineffectually palm it out to Dirk Kuyt who steered the ball home. Despite having to wade through bodies, it was weak and indecisive goalkeeping from the Spaniard who still looks short on confidence and does not command the area as strongly as he should.

December 6, 2009
Posted by David Young on 12/06/2009

Arsenal got themselves back to winning ways at Ashburton Grove yesterday. Goals from Andrey Arshavin and Aaron Ramsey were enough to see off Stoke City and restore some of the Gunners' battered pride after a bruising seven days.

The victory was more workmanlike than it was brilliant. Stoke looked the livelier team in the early exchanges but gradually Arsenal imposed themselves on the match. In the 21st minute Cesc Fabregas missed a penalty and supporters began to wonder if it was going to be another one of those days. Five minutes later though, Andrey Arshavin freed himself from the attentions of the Stoke defence, fended off a challenge and hit a slide-rule shot into the far corner to give the Gunners the lead.

November 30, 2009
Posted by David Young on 11/30/2009

Sunday's encounter with Chelsea turned out to be an all-too-familiar story. After a purposeful start by Arsenal, the Blues soon settled into their stride and proved to be stronger and more powerful in every department, cantering to a victory that puts them firmly in charge at the top of the table.

In common with so many of the meetings between the two sides in recent seasons, at times, it was boys versus men and, despite the positive spin that Arsene Wenger tried to put on things after the game, the truth was that Chelsea were by far the better team and the Gunners looked a long way short of what is required in terms of being genuine title contenders.

November 22, 2009
Posted by David Young on 11/22/2009

After waiting two long weeks for another interminably boring international break to finish, Arsenal's return to Premier League action saw them disappointingly slump to defeat at Sunderland. It was the first time this season that the Gunners failed to find the net and their on-going struggle in keeping clean sheets meant that a 70th minute Darren Bent goal was enough to settle the match.

It was a scrappy game with neither side creating much in the way of chances. Arsene Wenger's men started purposefully enough but never quite managed to find the penetration and the cutting edge to break down a Sunderland team who were always going to be a tough proposition on their own ground. As the game wore on, the Blackcats energy and endeavour prevented the Gunners from getting a grip on the match and when Bent seized on little more than a half chance there was no way back for the visitors.

November 8, 2009
Posted by David Young on 11/08/2009

Sometimes you need a bit of luck and Arsenal were the recipients of two slices of good fortune to fire them into action at Molineux yesterday. Wolves had started strongly but two first-half own goals saw their early confidence evaporate and, from then on, the Gunners took firm control of the match.

The encounter was finished as a contest on the stroke of half time when a sweeping Arsenal move was capped with a sublime lay-off from Robin Van Persie into the path of Cesc Fabregas who calmly passed the ball into the net. It was a goal to light up any game and was a moment of genuine class in what turned out to be a relatively bloodless victory in tricky conditions. Andrei Arshavin made it 4-0 in the 65th minute and a late Wolves rally, coupled with some abysmal Arsenal defending, allowed the home side to pull back a consolation effort with a couple of minutes to go.

November 1, 2009
Posted by David Young on 11/01/2009

As an Arsenal supporter, there are few more exquisite and satisfying pleasures in life than seeing the Gunners giving Spurs the sort of good hiding that silences all the pre-match talk from their manager, players and supporters and sends them all back down the Seven Sisters Road well-and-truly put in their place. Yesterday was one of those days and it was a match to savour.

To be honest, Arsene Wenger’s team were not at their best yesterday but they didn’t need to be. Tottenham’s much-vaunted improvement this season failed to materialise at Ashburton Grove and they looked very ordinary indeed. Manuel Almunia, who was finally recalled to first-team action, only had one meaningful save to make all afternoon when he palmed a David Bentley free-kick over the bar. That aside, the visitors had no real attacking ideas beyond punting hopeful long balls up to Peter Crouch.

October 26, 2009
Posted by David Young on 10/26/2009

Arsenal completely failed to learn the lessons of the last-minute goal conceded against AZ Alkmaar and threw away a two-goal lead against West Ham at Upton Park yesterday. It was an exasperating outcome which meant that rather than finishing the day within striking distance of the top of the table, the Gunners had to content themselves with lurking in third, five points off the pace with a game in hand.

Yesterday's performance was arguably the weakest overall display the team has turned in this season. Even when they lost to United and City, they showed a good deal more spark and purpose in those matches than they mustered at the Boleyn Ground.

October 21, 2009
Posted by David Young on 10/21/2009

Just as it seemed that Arsenal had done enough to win an untidy match against AZ Alkmaar in Holland on Tuesday night, hesitant defending from a free kick allowed the Dutch side the opportunity grab a late equaliser. The Gunners had to settle for a point when they really ought to have taken three but it was an outcome that should not do any serious damage to their qualification hopes or, indeed, their chances of winning the group.

Though Arsene Wenger’s men dominated the ninety minutes and, for the most part, looked good value for a win, the late concession of a goal ought to serve as a timely reminder that, for all their sumptuous attacking play, defensive miserliness is just as important a facet for any successful team. The beautiful simplicity of Cesc Fabregas's goal underlined the team’s brilliance going forward but this was counter-balanced by the team's failure to defend a route-one set-piece at the death. From a speculative punt into the area, Granziano Pelle was allowed an unchallenged header and he nodded the ball into the path of Mendes da Silva who simply ran behind the static Alex Song to volley home. Though the players might have been looking around at each other after the ball hit the net, replays showed a catalogue of collective and individual errors.

October 18, 2009
Posted by David Young on 10/18/2009

After an interminably boring international break, it was a return to real football this weekend and the Gunners got straight back into their Premier League stride with a 3-1 victory over Birmingham City that sent them into the top four with a game in hand on the leaders.

Two first-half goals in quick succession from Robin Van Persie and Abou Diaby seemed to put Arsenal firmly in charge of yesterday’s match. From there, everyone expected the team to go on to rack up a score against a Birmingham side who spent most of the first forty five minutes penned in their own half. But, a combination of Arsene Wenger's men taking their foot off the gas and a moment of extremely weak goalkeeping from Vito Mannone allowed the Blues back into the contest as Lee Bowyer pegged a goal back in the 38th minute.

October 6, 2009
Posted by David Young on 10/06/2009

Six goals from six different players at Ashburton Grove on Sunday was the product of a sensational attacking performance by the Gunners as they thrashed Blackburn and signed off for the international break on a high. Any complaints about the Arsenal defending - which was well below par - were completely drowned out by the symphony of goals at the other end.

Despite Blackburn taking the lead twice in the first half, Arsenal had plenty in the tank by way of response. Their approach play and finishing was simply breathtaking at times and the performance - at least from an offensive perspective - was an appropriate one to mark a week that saw Arsene Wenger become the longest-serving manager in the club’s history after his 13 years in charge.

September 30, 2009
Posted by David Young on 09/30/2009

Two vital wins over the last four days have put the Gunners in control of their Champions League group and seen them head in the right direction in the Premier League too. In their different ways, the victories over Fulham and Olympiacos have shown that this Arsenal squad has developed since last year. On Saturday, the team proved they could "win ugly" and defend a slender one-nil lead and, on Tuesday night, they showed relentless endeavour in breaking down an Olympiacos side that had no attacking ambition whatsoever and defended with ten men.

After last season's debacle at Craven Cottage, many Arsenal supporters were looking to Saturday's match against Fulham as a barometer of whether this team has the heart required to come away from tricky away grounds with a result. Roy Hodgson's team are a different prospect on their own turf. They raise their game when hosting higher profile teams and are capable of overturning the formbook - as both Arsenal and Manchester United found to their cost last season.

Arsenal were a long way from their best, particularly in the first half, but when Robin Van Persie latched onto an exquisite pass from Cesc Fabregas and converted a sharp chance, it was enough to give the Gunners the edge. Some determined defending and a few decent saves from stand-in goalkeeper Vito Mannone saw the lead held and the three points safely banked.

September 23, 2009
Posted by David Young on 09/23/2009

After their victory in Belgium last Wednesday, back-to-back home wins were the perfect medicine to chase away the Manchester blues as Arsenal comprehensively brushed aside Wigan on Saturday and then a mixture of second-stringers and youngsters comfortably dealt with high-flying Championship leaders West Brom in the Carling Cup last night. All three wins were a great response from the squad to the two disappointing reverses at the hands of United and City.

If there had to be any criticism of the performance against Wigan it was that the margin of victory should have been greater. Only taking a one-nil advantage in at half-time belied the Gunners dominance and there was a sense that they were making hard work of a match that should have been over by the break. As it was, within three minutes of the restart, Thomas Vermaelen added to his first-half headed goal with a fabulous second - stroking the ball into the net from just outside the area. It was a strike that ended the game as a contest and from then on it was a cruise to three points as Eboue and Fabregas added a third and fourth respectively.

September 17, 2009
Posted by David Young on 09/17/2009

We wanted more ruthlessness from the team and last night we got it - just about. Having gone two goals behind in the first five minutes against Standard Liege, Arsenal fought back to win 2-3 and started their Champions League campaign with a valuable away victory. In truth though, it was one of the poorest displays of the season so far but, as we have found out in recent weeks, it is better to play badly and win than to play well and lose.

The start the Gunners made to the match could not have been worse. A defensive howler from Eduardo and a dubious penalty helped put Liege two up before Wenger’s players had even had the chance to settle into their rhythm and they looked rattled in the early stages. Once the opening flurry had died down, the home team sat back and attempted to soak up the building pressure as Arsenal began to dominate possession. It was a ploy that seemed to be working admirably for them and genuine goal-threats were restricted to a minimum throughout the half.

September 13, 2009
Posted by David Young on 09/13/2009

For the second time in two matches Arsenal returned home from Manchester with nothing to show for their efforts but a stinging sense of injustice. Whilst the 4-2 scoreline flattered City and the behaviour of Emmanuel Adebayor left a vile taste in the mouth, the Gunners can once again only blame themselves for not taking more from a game in which they were worthy of at least a share of the spoils.

Most of this morning's headlines rightly address the shameful performance of Adebayor. It is understandable that a player might think he has something to prove when coming up against a club that has discarded him but there are ways and means of going about that. The methods that Adebayor deployed to make his point only really served to prove what a classless and crass moron he is.

August 30, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/30/2009

Arsenal's luck was well and truly out at Old Trafford yesterday. Despite looking the far better team for most of the ninety minutes, they hit the bar, had a goal disallowed, were on the wrong end of some rough refereeing decisions and, essentially, gifted United the game with two stupid mistakes.

We were looking for a sign from this team that they are ready to take a step up and prove themselves to be true contenders this season and, for the most part, we got it. Without Cesc Fabregas, the squad's single-most influential player, the Gunners turned in an outstanding performance. They took the game to United, passed the ball better than their hosts and, overall, looked the far more fluent side.

August 27, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/27/2009

Goals from Eduardo, Emmanuel Eboue and Andrey Arshavin helped Arsenal to a straight-forward 3-1 victory at Ashburton Grove last night and booked the team's ticket into the Champions League group stage. It was a long way from being the most accomplished performance from the Gunners that we have witnessed this season. They were not at their best - and they didn't need to be to beat a Celtic team that barely created three meaningful chances over the two legs.

The main talking point of last night's match surrounded the awarding of the penalty which led to Arsenal's first goal when Eduardo was adjudged to have been brought down by goalkeeper Artur Boruc. The Croatian got back to his feet to convert the resultant spot-kick and effectively ended the tie as a contest with Celtic players still remonstrating with the referee long after the ball had hit the back of the net. Viewing the incident in real time at the stadium, it did not look a clear-cut penalty and not many Arsenal fans were appealing when Eduardo went down. Replays have since shown that any contact was very minimal and the Arsenal striker had made the most of the situation.

August 23, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/23/2009

Arsenal's early-season goal-rush continued as they ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over Portsmouth at Ashburton Grove yesterday. The victory was achieved with relative ease and saw the Gunners maintain their impressive start to the campaign.

After a somewhat lethargic opening to the match, the home team took control midway through the first half thanks to two goals in quick succession from Abou Diaby. Portsmouth replied just before the break when Younis Kaboul easily out-jumped Manuel Almunia to head home. It was poor goalkeeping from the Spaniard who appeared to be just waiting for the ball to come to him rather than proactively attacking the cross. Still, it was not an error that proved costly and the goalkeeping clanger was absolved by four goals at the other end.

August 19, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/19/2009

Arsenal hold the upper-hand going into the second leg of the Champions League play-off after beating Celtic 2-0 at Parkhead last night. Both goals were somewhat fortuitous - the first came from a deflection off William Gallas's back and the second was an own goal - but the overall performance was both comfortable and commanding.

After Saturday's romp at Goodison Park, it would have been too much to expect the Gunners to go to Glasgow and repeat that kind of showing. What they did produce though was a highly professional display that got the job done with the minimum of fuss.

Celtic were far more competitive and stronger in the tackle than Everton had been at the weekend but an unchanged Arsenal side coped with their physicality and dominated possession; controlling the tempo of the match and moving the ball with fluency. It was a measure of their supremacy that home support, who had cranked up the decibels inside the stadium around kick-off-time, quickly became subdued and were given very little to sing about for the entire match.

August 16, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/16/2009

Arsenal began their season in scintillating style with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. The players turned what looked to be a potentially tricky opening fixture into a cakewalk and sent out a message of intent to their doubters.

The game was effectively over by half-time courtesy of three goals before the break and the Gunners put the Toffeemen well and truly to the sword with three further strikes in the second half. Louis Saha's injury time reply was barely consolation for the home fans, most of whom had left the stadium long before the final whistle.

Last week, I suggested that the players needed to hit the ground running in the early games of the season. Yesterday, they did just that. It was a magnificent performance. The team attacked with fluency and style and they defended in numbers. The new formation that had been trialled during the pre-season looked to be highly effective as Everton were simply cut to ribbons by wave after wave of crisp, incisive passes and tireless Arsenal running.

August 12, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/12/2009

With the new season now within touching distance, clubs are making their final preparations for the big kick-off on Saturday - or, rather, they would be if FIFA had not organised a round of international matches just three days before the opening weekend. Even for an organisation that is renowned for making ludicrous self-interested decisions, this one is right out of their top-drawer of stupid ideas. Admittedly, there are a few World Cup qualifiers being played but the vast majority of fixtures are pointless friendlies that take players away from their clubs just at the time when their managers need them to be focussing on the start of another campaign.

From Arsenal’s point of view, Arsene Wenger has been deprived of 13 of his players - only four of whom are participating in meaningful fixtures. The Frenchman will be sitting at London Colney wondering how many injured players will return on Thursday and will undoubtedly be frustrated at only having one day to work with his full squad in preparation for the team’s opening match at Everton on Saturday. Already Johan Djourou has been sent home from Switzerland with an inflamed knee and, consequently, will be a doubt for the trip to Goodison Park.

August 3, 2009
Posted by David Young on 08/03/2009

Ashburton Grove got its first taste of football for the season as Arsenal hosted the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament. The Gunners took on Athletico Madrid and Glasgow Rangers in this semi-round-robin competition and took the trophy after notching up victories in both their games over the weekend. Whilst these matches tell us next to nothing about how the season will eventually turn out, there were a few interesting pointers and individual cameos for supporters to chew on.

On Saturday, it was fantastic to see Tomas Rosicky taking his place in the starting eleven and playing his first full half of football in front of his home crowd for what has seemed like an age. In fact, it has been an age. January 2008 was the last time Arsenal fans saw him in first-team action and it has been a long wait for both the player and the supporters to see him make his comeback.

July 29, 2009
Posted by David Young on 07/29/2009

Having had bids for John Terry and Joleon Lescott knocked back by Chelsea and Everton respectively, Manchester City have turned their attention to Kolo Toure and today clinched the signing of the Ivorian for a reported £16m.

This transfer is not the biggest surprise. There had been rumblings of a move to City from the start of this year which were heightened further when the player himself put in a transfer request ahead of the January window. It came to nothing then but whatever might have been going on behind the scenes has come to fruition now as one of Arsenal’s most popular players of recent years packs his bags and heads North having made 326 appearance for the Gunners since his arrival in February 2002.

July 19, 2009
Posted by David Young on 07/19/2009

So, Emmanuel Adebayor has been sold to Manchester City and it is hard not to enjoy the delicious appropriateness of one the greediest players to ever (dis)grace an Arsenal jersey joining the merry band of mercenaries heading off to Eastlands to take part in the so-called project being put together there.

It would seem to be a match made in heaven and it is one that will not lose Arsenal supporters any sleep. Nor will they shed any tears for a player who so shamelessly held the club to ransom 12 months ago in order to engineer an enormous pay-rise for himself but then contributed very little of note when it came to delivering on his end of the bargain during last season. His desparture looks to be a great deal all round. Arsenal are millions of pounds better off and have cut loose a player who had become a dead weight both on and off the pitch.

July 17, 2009
Posted by David Young on 07/17/2009

Arsenal began their season in scintillating style with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. The players turned what looked to be a potentially tricky opening fixture into a cakewalk and sent out a message of intent to their doubters.

The game was effectively over by half-time courtesy of three goals before the break and the Gunners put the Toffeemen well and truly to the sword with three further strikes in the second half. Louis Saha's injury time reply was barely consolation for the home fans, most of whom had left the stadium long before the final whistle.

July 6, 2009
Posted by David Young on 07/06/2009

Most of the squad will return from their summer breaks this week to commence pre-season training and it is not long now before we get our first taste of action with what is becoming a traditional stretch of the legs at Barnet on 18th July. After a very quiet close-season so far, it will be good to have some real football to watch and talk about, even if most of the team that day will be made up of second-string players and youngsters.

Following the purchase of Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax a few weeks ago, there has been no further transfer activity aside from some of the younger players either signing improved deals or being released. The tiresome annual circus of transfer speculation, gossip and rumour has been pleasingly muted this summer. A few new names have been linked with the club, but nothing concrete has emerged so there is very little point in indulging in any further dissection of that. Ultimately, potential new players only become interesting once they have signed on the dotted line and Arsene Wenger is not a man who tends to loudly advertise his targets ahead of time. All we can do is sit and wait patiently to see who, if anyone, might arrive between now and deadline day.

July 1, 2009
Posted by David Young on 07/01/2009

Has there ever been a group of people more singularly devoted to shamelessly trashing the club's identity for the sake of a few quid than the Arsenal Marketing Department and their counterparts at Nike? Yesterday, in their latest money-spinning wheeze, they launched a new third kit for the coming season. If you have not seen it, it looks like a dour version of the Spurs first-team strip. On top of a second kit that looks like Chelsea and a first team shirt that has virtually dispensed with our iconic white sleeves, one wonders if anyone will actually recognise Arsenal Football Club next season?

It is highly questionable why any team would need a third kit anyway if they have suitably contrasting first and second choice colours but, as football clubs try to eke out every last penny from their supporters to pay their players, there seems to be no depths to which they will not sink to in order to keep the cash rolling in.

June 21, 2009
Posted by David Young on 06/21/2009

There was a time when players and supporters used to get a summer break from football. For fans of other sports that take place during the warmer months it was an opportunity to focus attention elsewhere and, even for those who found the months of June and July interminably dull without football, at least one had the chance to yearn for, and look forward, to the new season.

Today though, football is a huge corporate machine and there is a need to keep the product firmly fixed in the minds of its "customers", even if there are no matches of any real consequence going on. FIFA try to fill summers without World Cups or European Championships with completely pointless international tournaments and the media manage to keep the back pages full with endless transfer speculation.

May 27, 2009
Posted by David Young on 05/27/2009

Arsenal rounded off their season in comfortable style on Sunday with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Stoke City at Ashburton Grove. Though nothing was riding on the match, it was a pleasing way for the team to sign off after a torrid couple of weeks.

It was heartening too that the crowd, the manager and players all headed off into the summer on good terms with each other. Throughout the game, Arsene Wenger’s name was sung loudly all round the stadium and any residual friction arising from the annual shareholders’ meeting appeared to be forgotten. The consensus seems to be that Wenger is still the man for the job but with the proviso that a few changes are made in the close-season. To his credit, the manager himself has acknowledged this in the interviews he has given so all we can do is sit back and wait to see what moves he makes before the new season kicks off again in August.

May 21, 2009
Posted by David Young on 05/21/2009

Arsenal turned in a creditable performance at Old Trafford last weekend and, despite not quite being able to find a goal to spoil the party, they did restore some of their battered pride. A nervous-looking Manchester United seemed happy to defend and hold out for a draw whilst the Gunners held the majority of possession and came close to nicking a goal on a couple of occasions. The score finished nil-nil which was all United needed to take the title and Arsene Wenger’s men could at least leave the stadium with their heads up.

Most of the talk this week though has been about the future of Arsene Wenger and Emmanuel Adebayor. Wenger was reportedly upset by some of the questioning he faced at the club’s annual shareholders’ meeting. This was followed by some interview quotes from the manager that seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be entirely averse to considering taking the job at Real Madrid. Only a matter of days later these rumours were dead in the water and all seems to be sweetness and light again as the team go into their final match against Stoke on Sunday at Ashburton Grove.

May 11, 2009
Posted by David Young on 05/11/2009

It was another lamentable Arsenal performance at Ashburton Grove yesterday as the Gunners crashed to a 4-1 defeat against Chelsea to finish off a dismal week on a low note. The visitors did not have to work too hard for their win and were largely content to sit back and pick the Gunners off on the break. It was a ploy that bore dividends as Arsene Wenger's team yet again struggled to find any real cutting edge. Nicklas Bendtner’s headed goal was the only high spot for the home team but it was a response that came too late to turn the tide. For the most part, Arsenal played like a team for whom the end of the season now cannot come quickly enough.

Yesterday’s display added further fuel to the fire of criticism of both Wenger and his players that has been stoked by semi-final defeats to Manchester United in the Champions League and Chelsea in the FA Cup. The Gunners seemed to be all too easily brushed aside by a physically stronger and more committed team. Another trip to Old Trafford awaits this Saturday and one would imagine that is last place either the players or the manager want to go right now.

May 6, 2009
Posted by David Young on 05/06/2009

Arsenal went into last night's Champions League semi-final with plenty of hope and belief but, despite starting the game brightly enough, the tie was dead after eleven minutes as Manchester United struck twice early on through Jung-Si Park and Ronaldo. In the second half, the Portuguese international applied the finishing touch to a sweeping breakaway move to give the visitors a three-goal lead on the night and banish any hopes of a miracle. Robin Van Persie's penalty strike was barely consolation for an Arsenal team that were well beaten over both legs.

In a way it was an outcome that was hard to be upset about. The Gunners were comprehensively outplayed and over-powered in both legs and sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and accept you were beaten by the better team. What was bitterly upsetting though was being forced to witness the gulf in class between the two teams. In the earlier years of Arsene Wenger’s reign, Arsenal were able to square up to Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and trade blows with them toe-to-toe like two bare-knuckle fighters. Both teams were physical but could also play football. Over the two legs of this semi-final though, Arsenal were unable to live with United’s power, ability and desire. It was painful to watch and is something to be very upset about indeed.

April 30, 2009
Posted by David Young on 04/30/2009

After last night's Champions League Semi-Final first leg at Old Trafford, Arsenal can consider themselves very fortunate to still be in the tie. In a traumatic first half, the home team created enough good chances to have killed the Gunners off but Arsene Wenger's young charges managed to somehow restrict United to only a one-goal lead. They came into the game a bit more in the second period but did not manage to steal a vital away goal. The best that can be said of last night’s match was that it could have been a lot, lot worse and, at least, Arsenal still have plenty to play for next Tuesday when United visit Ashburton Grove.

As the game kicked off the atmosphere at Old Trafford was tremendous. The 3,800 travelling Arsenal fans tried to make themselves heard over the tumult whipped up by the home support. When the match started it was United who flew out of the blocks catching their visitors cold. The home team started in a way that suggested they realised the importance and enormity of the match. In contrast, the Gunners sauntered around like it was a pre-season friendly.

April 26, 2009
Posted by David Young on 04/26/2009

On a sunny Sunday afternoon at Ashburton Grove, Arsenal cantered to a facile two-nil victory over Middlesbrough and virtually secured a top-four finish for themselves. The match had a real end of season feel about it and two goals from Cesc Fabregas - one in either half - clinched the result. With several injured players making their returns to action, this game was a perfect warm-up for the upcoming Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Even though Boro are in desperate trouble at the foot of the table, they seemed short of fighting spirit and barely mustered a single attack to worry the Gunners. Instead Arsenal were able to move the ball around at will and only had to raise their game slightly to provide Cesc Fabregas the two opportunities to take all three points. In the second half, Brad Jones in the Boro goal was called into action several times and kept the score down to a respectable level but, overall, this match was more like a stroll in the park than a full-blooded Premier League clash.

April 19, 2009
Posted by David Young on 04/19/2009

After a glorious night at Ashburton Grove on Wednesday when Arsenal coasted to victory over Villareal and booked their place in the semi-final of the Champions League, it was back down to earth with a very big bump yesterday at Wembley as Chelsea overturned a one-goal deficit and dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup. Defeats in semi-finals are always the hardest to take and it was a desperately disappointing outcome.

Many supporters arriving at Wembley yesterday were surprised to hear the team Arsene Wenger had picked. Though playing five in midfield has now become an accustomed formation when facing Chelsea, the absence of both Nasri and Arshavin was somewhat perplexing, particularly when the latter is cup-tied in the Champions League. Still, Wenger’s selection appeared to be justified when the team made a very positive start and took the lead through Theo Walcott.

April 13, 2009
Posted by David Young on 04/13/2009

With a satisfactory one-one draw at Villareal last week and an extension of an 18-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Wigan on Saturday, Arsenal have maintained their momentum and given themselves plenty to play for in the closing weeks of the season. Certainly, this coming week with the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday and Saturday's FA Cup semi-final again Chelsea presents the Gunners with two massive games that could see them press forward or kill their season stone dead.

Last week’s first leg match with Villareal in the Champions League was, rather like the Premier League victory with Wigan on Saturday, a game of two halves. Arsene Wenger set his team up in a defensive-minded fashion with five in midfield. For the first forty minutes, the system was less than effective. The Gunners found themselves under a good deal of pressure and when breaking did not seem to be able to get bodies forward in sufficient numbers to create a sustained threat. Despite their territorial superiority, it took a swirling long-range drive from Marcos Senna to give the Spanish team the lead.

April 5, 2009
Posted by David Young on 04/05/2009

Having built up a good head of steam prior to the international break, there was a concern that the interruption to the Premier League programme might disrupt Arsenal's momentum. Any worries on this score though were completely dispelled at Ashburton Grove yesterday as the Gunners cantered to victory over Manchester City. Making returns from their respective injuries, Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor combined twice with the Spaniard putting chances on a plate for the Togo player who scored both goals in the two-nil win.

Seeing Fabregas back in action was both a relief and a joy. He might be short of match fitness but it hardly showed. Immediately, he was at the centre of the action and kept the Arsenal machine ticking over until his late subsitution. His pinpoint freekick onto an unmarked Adebayor's head which led to the Gunners' opening goal was deadly accurate. This was only surpassed by the assist for the second goal. Fabregas's sublime, perfectly-weighted chip dropped into the Togolese's path and the striker was able to control the ball, take it around Shay Given in the City goal and tap it home. The Spaniard's pass showed the sort of vision, guile and quality that has been lacking in Arsenal's midfield during his absence.

March 23, 2009
Posted by David Young on 03/23/2009

When it mattered, Arsenal dug deep and summoned some true class to overcome a dogged Newcastle United and clinch a vital away win at St James' Park on Saturday evening.

With Aston Villa on the wrong end of a thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, it was a victory that consolidates the Gunners position in the top four going into next week's international break but, more importantly, it showed further proof that the team are beginning to rediscover their form just at the right time.

The first half at St James' Park was wide open and the action flowed from end to end from start to finish. It may have been entertaining fare for neutrals watching the match but for Arsenal and Newcastle fans it was simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-shredding. Neither midfield got to grips with dominating the game and, consequently, passages of play by both teams moved swiftly from back to front. The Geordies looked certain to take the lead when awarded a first-half penalty – Manuel Almunia having bundled over Ryan Taylor. The Spaniard immediately atoned for his error by saving Obafemi Martins' penalty. Arsenal also had their chances and only some desperate defending from Newcastle kept the scores level going into the break.

March 18, 2009
Posted by David Young on 03/18/2009

In the last couple of weeks, Arsenal's season has taken on a much rosier hue. The goals have started flowing, fourth place has been wrested back off Aston Villa, safe passage to the Champions League Quarter Final has been achieved and a first trip to the new Wembley has been secured to face Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final. After several months of frustrating results, the Gunners have chiselled out some important wins that give them plenty to play for between now and May.

Last Saturday’s victory over Blackburn was crucial. After the previous stuttering performances at Ashburton Grove against Fulham and Sunderland, three points were needed to exert some pressure on the faltering Aston Villa and these were duly attained with some ease. An early own goal from the visitors gave the Gunners the advantage. Andrey Arshavin opened his Arsenal account in the 65th minute cutting down the bye-line and smashing a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle. Substitute Emmanuel Eboue completed the 4-0 rout with two late strikes – the first a close-range effort and the second from the penalty spot.

March 13, 2009
Posted by David Young on 03/13/2009

On Wednesday night in Rome, Arsenal turned in a performance that may have lacked fluency, cohesion and a cutting edge, but when nerves of steel were required in the penalty shoot-out, Arsene Wenger's young team kept their heads and admirably navigated their way into the quarter finals of the Champions League.

The relief and joy that was unleashed when Max Tonetto skied his penalty over the bar was palpable. For a team that is often criticised for not being able to "win ugly", the victory achieved in this tie could not have come any uglier. It was a display to forget but an outcome to enjoy.

March 9, 2009
Posted by David Young on 03/09/2009

Arsenal made light of getting past Burnley in their FA Cup Fifth Round encounter on Sunday and this, coupled with the Gunners Under-18s knocking Spurs out of the FA Youth Cup at the Quarter Final stage last Thursday evening, made it a great week of cup action for the club.

Such is the interest in the FA Youth Cup and, indeed, the rivalry between Arsenal and Spurs that nearly 20,000 spectators turned up to watch the under-18s slug it out at White Hart Lane for a place in the semi-final of the competition. Though the Young Guns saw more of the ball in the first half, it was Spurs who took the lead in the 6th minute - Jonathan Obika finishing off a breakaway move.

March 3, 2009
Posted by David Young on 03/03/2009

After another highly frustrating nil-nil home draw on Saturday, nothing less than a win was required at West Brom on Tuesday night and, thanks to two goals from Nicklas Bendtner and one from Kolo Toure, a win was what Arsenal got.

It is a victory that heaps pressure onto Aston Villa ahead of their fixture at Manchester City on Wednesday night and was just what the doctor ordered after four successive goalless draws in the Premier League.

Last Saturday, Fulham came to Ashburton Grove and gave the Gunners a really stiff examination. On balance, the visitors were arguably the better team over the ninety minutes. That said, Arsenal had chances to win the match but, such has been the recent lack of belief in front of goal, a decisive strike never really looked like coming.

February 25, 2009
Posted by David Young on 02/25/2009

When questioned about whether Arsenal have any natural leaders within the squad this season, Arsene Wenger has often responded by talking about "shared leadership" and, after the victory against Manchester United at Ashburton Grove, even talked about the team containing "eleven leaders". The Gunners’ last two performances have shown that either this theory is total bunkum or the current squad is only able to raise its game for big matches.

Saturday’s encounter with Sunderland was frustrating in the extreme. With Aston Villa having been beaten by Chelsea earlier in the day, there was a real opportunity to make some ground on the top four. The Gunners started brightly enough. Debutant Andrey Arshavin produced a couple of near misses and Robin Van Persie lobbed a shot wide with the hard work seemingly all done. The Black Cats also had a few chances of their own in a lively first half.

February 18, 2009
Posted by David Young on 02/18/2009

In beating Cardiff City 4-0 in the FA Cup Fourth Round replay at Ashburton Grove on Monday night, Arsenal finally delivered a performance to lighten the recent mood and, more importantly, the goals started flowing again.

Unsurprisingly, it was Eduardo's two-goal comeback display that grabbed all the headlines and there was no doubt that his triumphant return was emotional for both the player himself and the supporters.

A year ago, everyone watching the aftermath of the challenge on Eduardo at Birmingham City was overcome with that sick feeling one gets when it is clear that a player is seriously injured. When the extent of the damage became evident, few imagined that the Croatian would have been able to play ever again.

Consequently, his inclusion in the team on Monday was the culmination of twelve months of hard work by the player and the Arsenal physios and the warmth of the reception he got when his name was read out by the stadium announcer was palpable. For him to then score two goals was the stuff of dreams. The joy that greeted both strikes exorcised all the ghosts of that dark day in the Midlands last year.

February 12, 2009
Posted by David Young on 02/12/2009

Sunday's encounter with Spurs at White Hart Lane was always going to be a tough assignment for the Gunners. On top of all the pride at stake, this game could have been significant in defining the course of the remainder of the season for both teams. A defeat for either side had the potential to be a disastrous blow to both confidence and point's totals with ramifications beyond any of the usual post-match banter or gloating.

As it was, a draw was a fair result and, from the Gunners' point of view, arguably represented the best they could have hoped for from a game that they had to play the majority of with ten men. Once again, Emmanuel Eboue let himself, the team and the fans down with two instances of petulance that earned him a brace of yellow cards and, thus, a sending off. What made his dismissal more frustrating was that in the opening stages of the match he had produced some of his most encouraging football of the season so far, even getting as far as putting the ball in the Spurs net only for the goal to be ruled out for a push.

February 1, 2009
Posted by David Young on 02/01/2009

A stout defensive display from West Ham kept the Gunners at bay at Ashburton Grove yesterday and earned the visitors a point in a match in which they had been pinned back in their own half for virtually the whole ninety minutes.

On Arsenal..s part, there was plenty of perspiration but precious little inspiration as they plugged away trying to prise open the Hammers.. defence but just could not whittle out enough gaps to claim a winning goal. Despite holding huge amounts of possession throughout, they failed to really work Robert Green in the West Ham goal to any significant degree and it was another disappointing outcome for the home supporters who, though refraining from noticeably jeering the team as they left the pitch, were entitled to a few grizzles at the final whistle.

The Gunners have only netted five times in their last six home Premier League fixtures. This statistic highlights where most of the Gunners.. problems have lain in recent months and emphasises how much the team has struggled without the creative contribution of Cesc Fabregas, the width provided by Tomas Rosicky and the pace of Theo Walcott. On the other side of the coin, the team are unbeaten in their last ten Premiership matches, which does at least suggest that the ship has been somewhat steadied from a defensive point of view. That said, even the most positive Arsenal supporter would have a hard time being convinced that the current back four have the potential to be as consistently mean as the famous "One-nil to the Arsenal" defensive line.

The injured players mentioned above will eventually recover, but with the earliest expected return of all three not being for at least a couple of months yet, (and depending on any late action in the last 24 hours of the transfer window), the opportunity for anything to be taken from this season could be long gone by then.

January 27, 2009
Posted by David Young on 01/27/2009

If any further proof was required that Gunners are severely lacking in midfield creativity during the absence of Cesc Fabregas, then Sunday's FA Cup tie at Cardiff provided a perfect illustration of this worrying fact. Though Samir Nasri is capable of making the occasional impact during matches, the likes of Alex Song, Aaron Ramsay and the hapless Emmanuel Eboue contributed very little towards Arsenal's attempts to break Cardiff down. In the end, the home team managed to keep their visitors at bay with relative ease.

It was a rough day for Ramsay in particular. Selected by Wenger in the centre of midfield against his former club, his display was one to forget. From the outset his passing was poor and he squandered possession time and time again. He is still a young player and maybe he will develop but right now he looks a long way from being the finished article. He was substituted on the hour for Abou Diaby who, in turn, showed very little in the way of being an improvement. Over the ninety minutes Alex Song had his usual ineffective game and how Emmanuel Eboue has managed to secure so many starts for the club this season is a mystery that only Arsene Wenger can answer. The Ivorian's form has been nothing short of abysmal for months now.

January 19, 2009
Posted by David Young on 01/19/2009

After their stunning victory at Ashburton Grove back in September, Hull City were always going to fancy their chances of completing an unlikely double when the Gunners visited the KC Stadium last Saturday. Certainly, the home team started the match full of intent and held plenty of possession in the early stages. Arsenal soon eased themselves into the game though and took the lead on the half hour when Emmanuel Adebayor emphatically headed home a Robin Van Persie corner.

From this point the Gunners should have gone on to dominate the match. But, as we have seen so many times this season, they allowed their opponents back into the match and sloppy defending from Gael Clichy presented them with a chance for an equaliser in the 65th minute that they duly took when Daniel Cousin got on the end of a Bernard Mendy cross, thumping a header past the flailing hands of Manuel Almunia. For reasons best known to himself, Clichy had backed off Mendy, failed to close down the cross and afforded the Hull winger the time and space to pick out his man.

January 13, 2009
Posted by David Young on 01/13/2009

It was a grim encounter between Arsenal and Bolton on Saturday afternoon at a freezing cold Ashburton Grove and the action on the pitch provided little to warm the hearts of the crowd. The visitors seemed intent on playing for a draw and lined up ten players behind the ball from the outset. Though the Gunners held the vast majority of possession, without the guile of Cesc Fabregas in midfield, they could not find a way through until the 84th minute when Robin Van Persie finally managed to slip behind the Bolton defence to deliver a delightful cross that was slammed into the net by Nicklas Bendtner. It was the only real moment of inspiration in the whole match and it delivered all three points and much relief to the Arsenal supporters.

The goal would have also come as a great relief to Bendtner himself. The young Dane has had a difficult second season even though his scoring record so far suggests he is well on-track to better his solid efforts of last term. Sadly though, for some reason, he has become a target for some sections of the crowd and his every mistake is greeted with howls of derision and complaints to the manager. It is true that he has struggled to show his best form so far this season but why he should be singled out for rough treatment is a mystery, particularly as there are plenty of other players in the squad who have been well below par since August and who are arguably more deserving of criticism.

January 8, 2009
Posted by David Young on 01/08/2009

Arsenal made their way through to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with a comfortable but uninspiring victory over Plymouth Argyle at Ashburton Grove last Saturday.

The first half of the match was eminently forgettable with both teams failing to get the collective pulses of the crowd racing. The game sparked into life though in the early stages of the second period when Robin Van Persie headed home a Samir Nasri corner following virtually the Gunners' first attack of the half. The lead was doubled three minutes later when Nicklas Bendtner turned in a Van Persie cross. Within a matter of five minutes Arsenal had seemingly put themselves in control of the tie but before the home supporters could begin to relax Plymouth struck back in the 52nd minute when Karl Duguid lashed home a shot from ten yards. In recent months, Arsene Wenger's team have found it almost impossible to keep regular clean sheets and the spectres of so many leads thrown away this season reared their ugly heads.

December 30, 2008
Posted by David Young on 12/30/2008

The Christmas period is usually a hectic time for football with games coming thick and fast and the tone being set for teams as they face New Year and the crucial second half of the season. The way the fixture list has fallen this year, the Festive programme has not felt so congested but the three matches that Arsenal have played were all vitally important.

The Sunday before Christmas, Liverpool came to Ashburton Grove. Matches between the so-called "Big Four" have a huge bearing on the outcome of the title and sometimes there is the tendency to try to avoid defeat rather than actually go for the win. Certainly, Liverpool lined up in a formation designed to do just that and the game failed to ignite until Robin Van Persie scored with a spectacular effort midway through the first half. The visitors' long-ball game caught out the Gunners shortly afterwards though as the ever-unpopular Robbie Keane latched onto a howitzer of a pass from his defence that was completely misjudged by both William Gallas and Johan Djourou. The Irishman race clear and fired his shot into the roof of the net giving Manuel Almunia no chance.

The remainder of the match was notably only for two incidents. Firstly, the loss of Cesc Fabregas at the end of the first-half with an injury to his medial ligament sustained when block-tackling Xavi Alonso. He is scheduled to be absent for four months - though, based on the record the Arsenal medical team have on getting players back quickly, it would be a surprise to see him before next August. His absence cannot be understated and Arsene Wenger must surely take steps to find a creative midfielder during the January transfer window.

December 18, 2008
Posted by David Young on 12/18/2008

It was another frustrating Arsenal performance at the Riverside last Saturday as the Gunners let slip a one-goal lead to draw with Middlesbrough. The home team started brightly and put Arsene Wenger's men under plenty of early pressure. Emmanuel Adebayor gave the visitors the lead though in the 16th minute heading home from a Cesc Fabregas corner. Boro hit back a quarter of an hour later when Jeremie Aliadiere headed an equaliser. The second half was a scrappy affair and neither team had the guile or cutting edge to find a winner and take all three points.

This was a match that the Gunners could have, and should have, won and the disappointment at not leaving the north east with the spoils was compounded by results elsewhere as Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd all drew and Villa blew away Bolton at home to leapfrog into fourth place. A huge step in catching the pace-setters at the top of the table could have been taken but the opportunity was squandered.

December 12, 2008
Posted by David Young on 12/12/2008

It has been another up and down week in Arsenal's Jekyll and Hyde season. Last Saturday they scraped a one-nil victory over Wigan at Ashburton Grove but on Wednesday evening went down two-nil at Porto in the Champions League. Neither performance instilled much confidence that some sort of corner had been turned after the victory at Stamford Bridge and the notion of picking up a trophy at the end of the season still feels very much like a faint hope rather than an expectation.

The main talking point from Saturday's game was the barracking of Emmanuel Eboue as he was substituted off towards the end of the clash with Wigan. The Ivorian had himself earlier come on as substitute for Samir Nasri who had picked up a knock. The media have levelled much criticism at the supporters who booed him as he came off but there appeared to be a lack of understanding of the full context of what happened from observers who may only have been there that day.

December 8, 2008
Posted by David Young on 12/08/2008

Arsenal's victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend was as vital as it was unexpected. Dogged by injuries and inconsistent form, even the most optimistic supporters might have been forgiven for thinking that a draw was the best that could be hoped for prior to the match. Certainly, expectation levels dropped even further when Chelsea took full advantage of a poor throw from Manuel Almunia and Jose Boswinga's cross into the danger area forced Johan Djourou to put the ball into his own net. It was an unfortunate goal to concede and made the Gunners' task seemingly impossible.

The tide of the game turned though on the hour when Robin Van Persie scored an equaliser out of nothing. The Dutchman received the ball in an offside position and, as the Chelsea defenders looked to the linesman, he rifled the ball past Petr Cech into the top corner. The home team felt rightly aggrieved that the goal was allowed, but every team suffers and benefits from decisions like that over the course of the season and these things tend to even themselves out. It was a slice of luck for Arsenal but in a season where fortune has been in short supply for the Gunners, they did not look a gift horse in the mouth and helped themselves to an equaliser.

November 26, 2008
Posted by David Young on 11/26/2008

Following his ill-advised comments in the press last week, William Gallas was relieved of his duties as Arsenal club captain as Arsene Wenger moved swiftly to quell the storm and resolve the situation. In his place, Cesc Fabregas was appointed as the new permanent choice for skipper. It was a selection that many supporters wanted to see and the Spaniard was the leading contender of what could have only been a minimal short-list of candidates for the job.

It will be interesting to see how Fabregas takes to the role. He is a young man aged only 21 but he is already vastly experienced in the worlds of English, European and international football. There is a concern that the responsibility of captaincy may distract him from his key role within the team. Certainly, one suspected that having to worry about other players detracted from Thierry Henry's individual performance during his tenure leading the team. But, different players will handle situations in their own way and this could be an appointment that only makes Cesc's stature and confidence even greater - only time will tell.

November 20, 2008
Posted by David Young on 11/20/2008

After the joy of beating Manchester United and seeing the youngsters dismantle Wigan in the Carling Cup, Arsenal's schizophrenic season took another turn for the worse with an abject defeat at the hands of Aston Villa on Saturday. It was the Gunners' second loss of the season at Ashburton Grove and their fourth overall. With a third of the season gone, they are already nine points behind the league leaders and it would seem than any lingering hopes of challenging for the title have now been snuffed out. The way they played on Saturday, they cannot even be confident of finishing in fourth place.

In fairness to Aston Villa, they entirely deserved their victory. They showed more desire and strength than their hapless hosts and outgunned them in virtually every department. In the first half Villa missed a penalty and squandered arguably the best chance of the match. The half-time whistle came as a relief to Arsenal and they were fortunate to go in at the break with the scores still level.

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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