Hammer Time

West Ham opens 2008 as the visitors to The Emirates, still the only team to have won there. The win at Everton has revived a buoyancy surrounding Arsenal that had become unnecessarily deflated following a tough run of fixtures in the Premier League. The team deserve considerable credit for amassing enough points to be top of the division at the turn of the year.

Arsene has announced some changes to the team that took the field on Merseyside. Bacary Sagna will be replaced by Justin Hoyte with Emmanuel Eboue and Theo Walcott returning to the squad. Bendtner is likely to drop to the bench or out of the sixteen completely; irrespective of his upcoming suspension, my feeling is that Arsene had the switch planned although his thinking may alter with Walcott taking his place on the bench.

It is the last time we shall see Eboue and Kolo Toure in an Arsenal shirt until probably mid-February. The latter’s departure is going to be a huge hole to fill, Arsene commented yesterday,

Toure is a real rock, consistently motivated, consistently up for it. He is highly focused every day and in every game

Equally, Eboue will be missed. Not the theatrics that sporadically surface but the defensive cover in midfield. On the right with Sagna, there is a solidity that you notice when he is not there. For example, Everton enjoyed fruitful endeavours on Saturday as they were not pressed in possession in the midfield. That said, if we win 4 – 1 in every game who is going to complain about either’s absence?

Johan Djourou returns to the club once his match at Old Trafford is completed; a good performance there would instil some confidence in the player and support that we might be in good hands for next six weeks.

Arsene said in this morning’s Daily Mirror,

We’ve known about this since the start of the season and I’m confident we can come out of it in a strong position. I’m confident the players who come in are strong enough and have enough experience to make sure we don’t pay with points

There will be little surprise in how West Ham line-up in terms of their formation. They opted for 4-5-1 at home to United at the weekend; they will do the same today. Despite the fact that their goals came with two forwards on the pitch, enough chances were created beforehand for them to be considered dangerous on the break. Freddie Ljungberg is fit to return and deserves a warm welcome this afternoon, which I trust he will get. The memories ought to be fond enough for it is only in his last two seasons that the goals per game ratio dropped to something like one in five from one in three. For a midfielder, that is an excellent return. Arsene though got it right in the timing of his departure because I do not think Freddie would have got a sniff of a place in this side. In his prime, yes he would, for his goals and all-round team play was greatly appreciated.

I suspect Arsene will field

Almunia; Hoyte, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Rosicky, Fabregas, Flamini, Diaby; Eduardo, Adebayor

With the bench being

Lehmann, Senderos, Hleb, Diarra, Walcott

There may be a case for starting Walcott to add some dynamism to the flanks but he has been missing for a while and the first few games back are likely to be tough for him, the risk of muscular injury higher. Robin van Persie is the warning in that respect, still ten days from returning according to Arsene. With the next match against Burnley on Sunday, I do not think it too onerous on those who played at Goodison Park to turn out today for Arsene will probably field an almost Carling Cup-tie side at Turf Moor.

Hleb meanwhile has played a lot of football since returning from injury and perhaps is due an afternoon off. That said, Rosicky was rested to the bench at the weekend and I can see the same for Alex this afternoon. If that is the case, Bendtner would come into the bench.

Some criticism emerged in the fallout from Everton concerning the partnership of Adebayor and Eduardo. There was some merit in the observations regarding how they worked together compared to the Croat and Bendtner. That misses two crucial points. Eduardo has yet to play in a 4-4-2 with Adebayor; every time he has started with the Togolese international, Eduardo has been put into the left hand midfield position. Playing him centrally has brought obvious benefits with nine goals in eighteen appearances this season in all competitions. My observation about him a while back, in the Premier League at least, was that he needed a goal and then the floodgates would open. They are slightly ajar at the moment with the two on Saturday being a trickle.

Robert Green and the woodwork were key reasons for West Ham’s win last season. Time for some payback.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ‘til Tomorrow.

45 thoughts on “Hammer Time

  1. I dont think Arsene will go with Hoyte..It will be Eboue in Right back position..Hleb on bench and rosicky starting I agree..Eduardo a forward is good too..

    What worries me is we lost our passing game in everton match..the result was good..but we need to get back that passing flair..that is must for consistency..

  2. I think this is a tricky one. Hammers will be high on the back of completing a hatrick against United. And I agree, Hoyte shouldn’t be in the right back position, it should be Eboue. He is well versed with that position and can easily adapt. No offense but Hoyte just doesn’t have it in my opinion and should immediately be sol or loaned out and someone else should be brought in as cover.

    As for Eduardo.. i agree, he is more effective in the central position and i feel he and ade will sparkle in the 4-4-2 formation. Ade has the tendency to drift towards the sides rather than in the box. And Eduardo can fill that gap.

    However, I am most looking forward to RvP’s return and also more utilization of Walcott. And I HOPE, Djourou or Senderos are up to replacing Toure once he is gone …

    All Hail the Gunners till then…

  3. I disagree with most on the Hoyte issue. He will play ahead of Eboue. Eboue is the one who must be sold. Secondly, the future of Arsenal’s attack is Bendtner, Eduardo and RvP, with Ade a distant 4th. Ade makes front partnerships difficult in the way Henry used to do because he has no discipline and cannot pass or link up with a partner. Bendtner on the other hand is an intelligent striker with good passing and decision-making.

  4. Happy New Year Yogi

    Its interesting your leaving Hleb out because of too many games played. I feel he is yet to come back to his best form since injury and actually needs the playing time to get back to the pace
    I feel your correct about Hoyte to play right back, to be honest i would not have rested Sagna, the two cup games would have been a better option.
    Eduardo deserves a start and it would be brilliant if he gets to score. I feel we have a special player about to explode on the scene.

    Finally Yogi i want to thankyou for all your excellent blogs in 07, if there was an award for the best blog on the planet – you deserve it!

    God bless Yogi wishing you and your family a great new year.

    I wish all my fellow Gooners a great new year wherever they are around the world-lets hope its a great one!

  5. Morning all,

    I personally agree with the last two comments but think Yogi has got it right, in that Wenger will probably go with Hoyte.

    Wenger, will rightly feel that with Eboue heading off, he needs to show Hoyte, his confidence in him. Calling back the departing right midfielder may seriously undermine that confidence.

    I’ll be surprised if we don’t seriously miss the two Ivorians. King Kolo is a formidable defender, almost invincible to being beat by the ball at his feet. It will be up to Gallas to carry a few more youngsters now, but he is an able leader and his relationship with the younger players seems to bring the best out of him. So heres to Djourou at Old Trafford, go make a claim for Kolo’s shirt son!

    If Eduardo does not start, I’ll be very dissappointed. The lad deserves two league games in a row. Any goals here for the Crozillian may just enliven the lion ego in soon to return Robin Van Persie.

    This is that time when squad players, whether here or elsewhere need to step up and grab top billing.

    Does anyone know how I can get the game on line for free??

  6. Feeling in the blood we should win this one. although they did the double last year(06/07) we are a different team this year(07/08) and feel the open spaces and our better overall ability will enable us to do the double this year. Not heard much about Vela thought he would become available in January or have I got that wrong?

  7. Folow the link on my name mate.

    You will need to download sopcast, just google it and it will be the first item on the list. install and click on onde of the sopcast links provdied and you are away.

  8. Some criticism against Hoyte playing in Sagna’s position is unfounded. Eboue’s poor positioning and lack of defensive abilities as Hoyte developed was the reason why Arsene went for Sagna.

    Sagna has brought solidity in that right back position and may be the cause of our better defensve play this season. Hoyte has shown that he is better defensively than Eboue in that position and has improved. Hoyte’s improvement is evidenced by his game against Blackburn in the CC match. In fact Hoyte and Song were the best defensively in that game and without them, we would have lost the game. I think Arsene wants to give him opportunities and see how he grows.

    I’ve read somewhere that Song has been included in the Camerounian provisional list of 23. This development puts us in a difficult position in our next 10 league matches which are winnable and we must win. I rate Song as the best CB after Toure and Gallas on current form and the fact that Arsene is not going for anyone in Toure’s absence is disturbing. The upcoming 10 matches are crucial to the title race. If we can grab all the 30 points then we will have enough points cover in case we slip in the final 8 matches where MANU and Chelsea will be waiting away.

    Can Djourou and Senderos’ current level of performances be enough to protect us in the absence of Toure during the crucial 10 matches run in? Well, let’s give Arsene the benefit of doubt.

  9. Hello Danny

    I watch Arsenal on the internet all the time as I now live too far away from London to go.

    The link Joseph gave is the best one, and Sopcast is the best player. If you have a good broadband connection the quality is very good although watching full screen is pushing it a bit. ESPN and Star Sports are the best links I have come across although sometimes I think people are streaming from their own homes. I am watching on True Sports today which is from Thailand.

    All I would advise is that you get yourself loaded up with the link about 30 mins before the game starts. this is because sometimes it gets oversubscribed and you then cant get the link

  10. I think we are placed ok in absence of Toure..we have Djourou, Senderos, Song and Gilberto..though not of the same quality as Toure..but then back ups can hardly be of 1st choice quality..

    Howard regarding 30 points from 10..it would be ideal..but football is hardly that way..win against all weak teams..incidently we have played well against top team this season and last..and slipped against lesser teams..1 game at a time against any opposition with similar intensity would do us good..

  11. Howard this new development with Song might just sway Arsene into the market.
    He has mentioned that if he did buy it would be in that position. A gut feel tells me he wont, but he wouldn’t tell anyone even if he was planning to.
    I agree with everything you say, Kolo’s absence is going to be massive it will be interesting to see it unfold.

  12. Veteran/Howard

    I think both Hoyte and Sagna can play centre half as well so I don’t see Arsene buying in that area.

    Effectively he would have Gallas, Senderos, Djourou, Bert, Sagna and Hoyte available – whatever we may think of some of those, Arsene obviously does trust them.

    Clearly to me Gallas and A N Other should be enough, but if Gallas gets hurt…

  13. 4-4-2 eh Yogi. I am not enthused as you know but we won at Everton despite horrible midfield play, particularly in the 1st half . But one cannot argue too much with success especially with Eduardo scoring two goal-poacher’s goals. It is hard to leave him out off the team so Wenger will be tempted to play to our strengths and hope that will compensate for our weaknesses. My remaining reservation is that Diaby is not good enough defensively, not as good as Eboue for example although they usually work on opposite sides of the park. (To be honest Diaby has to work hard on his offensive skills as well, especially his goal-scoring, if he is to become a great player.) Speaking of Eboue, we both concur, while he is away the doubters will truly discover his value in a 4-5-1 formation.

    Finally, happy New Year to you Yogi and all fellow posters. I find this blog to be the most thoughtful, balanced and reasoned when it comes to our beloved Gunners. No disrespect to the other bloggers; some are passionate and genuine but many are just plain biased and mean-spirited, especially to players who don’t fit their “profile.” My happiest football memory of 2007, apart from discovering this community, is putting the “scum” firmly in their place and ending their pretensions of surpassing us and becoming part of the big-four, none of which will happen this year. Long may it continue!

  14. Cheers guys, I’ll give it a try while i’m roasting the spuds.

    Joseph, I’m with you on the purchasing of a centre-back. Wenger is a patient man, who will give his young deputies a chance. We pretty much wrote of Song but funnily enough he is now most people’s choice if available to fill in.

    McLeish and Bruce have only good things to say about Djourou and Senderos seems to still have the boss’s belief. When you add to that list Bert, who is absolutely gagging for games and as you say, at a push Hoyte and Sagna with another player itching to come in and maybe filling in at right back in French international Diarra, we are all set to run the risk.

    If Gallas gets injured it will be an ubelievable test of those players, but that is the risk, the boss has to take.

    We have enough moody gits desperate for game time as it is. No one of sheer quality will be available at the right price. Plus they may need time to find their feet. Look at how highly rated Kaboul has been fluffing his lines.

    We have no choice, the boss has to go this way, knowing our luck Gallas probably will get injured. Then it will be up to the lads to step up. Bert and one of the youngsters have to put a brave face on it. The main problem will be simply that the percieved weakness will give our opponents a lift.

    Grin and bare it. The lads are good enough to shoulder this potential problem.

  15. ‘Hammers the only team to win at The Emirates’? maybe the only visiting team to have won there, but surely Arsenal are good enough to have won at home a few times??

  16. I expect Hoyte & Eboue to start this game with Eboue possibly making way for Walcott. There could be a Diaby for Hleb or Rosicky switch as well as an EDS substitution. Arsene might be tempted to start with 4-4-2 but I expect he’ll go 4-5-1, to factor in Eboue covering defensively for Hoyte. If he goes 4-4-2, then Hleb might indeed start on the bench to rest him and to test the Ade-EDS combo.

    All in all I expect a tight game which we should win with a 1 goal advantage.

  17. Anybody know whether these stories circulating about Carlos Vela returning to the squad have a substantive source ?

  18. West Ham have almost a team and a half injured –

    Nolberto Solano
    Scott Parker
    Freddie Ljungberg
    Craig Bellamy
    Kieron Dyer
    Bobby Zamora
    Julien Faubert
    Matthew Etherington
    Lee Bowyer
    Boa Morta (maybe)

    Saying that, I think the most threat will be from set pieces. They got both goals against ManU from headers, one from a corner, the other a free kick.

    Upson and Ferdinand scored. Up front they have Cole and Ashton, who are very tall and strong in the air. So thats at least 4 players taller than most of our squad who will be waiting at every crossing opportunity from a set piece.

    If we dont concede silly fouls near the box or unnecessary corners, I think we should be ok.

  19. Wenger is a genius! A 4-4-2 but with at least two defensive midfielders. With… Eboue on fire! Shotta – is on top of the world.

  20. 2-0 nil at the 1/2 …
    A Good reception for freddie , a definite contrast to cashly cole 🙂
    Despite an absolutely sensational goal from ade ,
    all his touches prior to the goal where again disappointing .

    Dudu for 2 more goals !
    and pray for a RVP’s fast return!..

    I think wenger will 100% be getting a defender
    we need it .. looking at hoytes performance .

  21. Great first half

    Eduardo’s touch and finish was World class

    Ade’s goal had a tad of luck, but he earnt the luck by getting into that position in the first place

    Only weak are for me was RB, obviously Hoyte is finding his feet and it nearly cost us an equaliser with a dodgy touch. He grew in confidence as the half grew though.

    Not happy with my Internet stream today though, I missed about 5 mins

    Come on Arsenal, Keep it up

  22. Wow

    Happy with that, probably should have scored more given the attacking flare and chances, but it is a return to form and another clean sheet.

    I am not sure what the lads had for lunch but the energy levels were unbeleivable, even at 2-nil up in the 89th min Arsenal didn’t let West Ham breathe and the chasing back from everyone was outstanding.

    not sure about who was our best player, as they all played well, but I would probably give it to Ade, who definately did not frustrate me today. EDS was unlucky to come off on the hour but I guess he is still getting up to speed, but another gem of a goal from him will keep up the confidence.

    Well done Arsenal, 21 played and 50 points

    Happy new year guys

  23. ethan, Hoyte will be fine; he’s match rusty. He’s not been getting games and he picked up his game in the second half. He’ll grow to be a big player. He’s got another chance coming up in the CC match and I know.

    I had wished Arsene would give Song some minutes but it never happened.

    Good win, great play, entertaining and 50 points.

  24. I’m just trying to understand: why did you guys not want Hoyte to stand in when Sagna could benefit from a rest, just for one game? He’s more solid than Eboue defensively, Eboue goes forward better, both of which Sagna does well and that’s why he’s our first-choice RB isn’t it? For a stand-in RB, would you not go for a defensively sound option than the more attacking one, facing West Ham with high confidence on the back of beating ManU?

    Like Pat said, Hoyte’s finding his feet – the guy’s been playing in CC and FAC only for the best part of the past year really. Now with half a season gone, he only got his 1st start, actually 1st appearance, in the league today. And I agree with Pat in saying that he’s improving. Let’s cut the guy some slack.

    And you see Old Timer – not sure if you’re like on this site everyday but I think the other posters here know I’m not part of that “continued attack on our players” you said, here or on other Arsenal blogs. Respect your opinion all the same though. Comments on this site are mostly reasonable and calm and we get listened to.

    Great game. Do you guys think Eduardo will get more starts now? Arsene said “optimistically 10 days away from being competitive” so home against Birmingham on 12 Jan? Do you think he’d be given a run against Spurs at home on 9 Jan? As happy as I am for Eduardo, I still can’t wait to see RvP back!

    I also have a good feeling about the kids going away to do well in the cup games. What do you think?

  25. Hi Louisa – I agree with you, Hoyte was the right player to sub for Sagna. He is prepared to wait for and fight for his chance and he is more defensively sound albeit a little match rusty. This match experience will be good for him in advance of the CC game against the Spuds and possible FAC appearance too.

    Great to see Eduardo start and score again – he’s a great weapon to have. I just wonder how many times does Arsene have to prove that he knows what he is doing before some fans will believe him. He knew when to let Eduardo out and he knows his players better than any of us speculating from the outside. There is nothing wrong with having a view about the strengths and weaknesses of players and who should play where and when, but some people need to remember it is only an opinion and based on lack of full information about the facts. This is why I get annoyed by those who slate Arsene and call him ‘stubborn’ or lacking tactical awareness when they only know what is on the surface.

  26. Good result for the team today and a good start to the new year too.

    Apparently Alex Song is going off to the African Cup of Nations as he has received a late call up by Cameroon.

    We are going to be relying on Gallas, Senderos, & Djourou to provide central defensive cover until such time as Toure returns.

    Gilberto, & Hoyte may also be used to provide cover on an auxilary basis.

    Let’s hope & pray that all of the above stay fit, in particlar Gallas.

    I wonder who’ll play centre half during our carling cup games against Spurs. And is Djourou cup-tied?

  27. Good question Magneto. I’ve checked on the Birmingham website – Djourou did not appear for them in the 2 games they played in CC. FAC only starts on 5 Jan for them, I guess with the confirmation of him coming back to Arsenal, they should not have registered him in that competition. So yes, Djourou could be in contention, which is good news.

    But having said that, I still think Song and Senderos are ready for CC and FAC given the time they’ve spent together this season. We can use Djourou at later stages or as a sub for now.

  28. Howard

    Yes hoyte looked a bit rusty alright !.
    but a win is a win , and we look better
    since going back to a 4-4-2 formation..

    Our 2 wingers stayed out wide and created the passing space to dominate the center of the park ! .
    Great movement and work from our midfield !

    And again Man’ure had their 4th shite game in a row and got max. points for it ! !

    Their game is painful to watch , devoid of any class , and out of their last 4 games they probably deserved to win 1 of them ! draw 2 of them ,and definitely loose 1 of them !
    They say ‘a good team can grind out a result regardless ‘ .
    They probably based that quote on watching man’ure play !

  29. Louisa

    The problem is, Djourou has not been impressive at Birmingham, may be he needed more games to improve. The old problems of Senderos also persist and we’re losing Song. So what happens if Gallas is not fit? Arsene should get somebody because Senderos is not reliable, he doesn;t seem to be improving.

    I’ve watched two matches of aston Villa recently and watched today’s match against Spurs and Curtis Davies appear to be a good prospect.

    Arsene wanted to buy him last year but his price was 10+, for a championship player of 20 without much experience it was really on the high side, nonetheless, he’s a good player.

  30. “The old problems of Senderos also persist and we’re losing Song”

    Funny how things change, a year ago Song was not worth anything.

    What are the Problems with Senderos?

  31. Howard, yeah I know, saw a couple of Birmingham games and I wasn’t really impressed with Djourou. But the entire defence looked quite poor to me. Heard he had mixed performances there overall. But more playing time and experience will definitely do him some good.

    Senderos looked a bit better in CC this season so far, but still shaky at times. I tend to think Arsene and the coaches can work with him on the positional sense, but I don’t know if they could do anything about his lack of pace. Hope he keeps improving though. If he were to develop further at Arsenal, he has to try and grab this chance with both hands.

    We seem to have quite a few players who could stand in as a CB but none of them fills me with confidence to be honest – well, duh, they’re back-up and Kolo’s the 1st choice for a reason. Song looks like the closest one to me, based on current form, but he’s going away too. So we really need Gallas to hold the fort.

    I do want to cheer on Ivory Coast because of Kolo. But am I the only one who’s also selfishly thinking about the obvious benefit of them NOT reaching the ACN final…? With that strong squad, I won’t be surprised if they go all the way. If they do though, Kolo and Eboue won’t be back until after 10 Feb, missing 5 league games (assuming they won’t likely be involved in the cups anyway).

    Arsene insisted he’s not looking at buying anyone in Jan but that was said before the news on Song. Yes we only got 3 proper CB’s during those 6 weeks. But his problem is how to keep like 5-6 CB’s when Kolo and Song are back. So if he were to address this issue in Jan, maybe he’d only look at a half-season loan as he seems pretty confident with his squad in the long run.

    Again, Arsene knows best. Even if he sees it fit to entrust the central defence to a young Swiss pairing of Senderos and Djourou in the worst-case scenario of having Gallas injured (knock wood!), with Havard Nordveit on the bench, I’ll have no complaints.

  32. Howard

    G’day to you. Curties Davies is not the answer and AW will not buy him for more that 3 mio let alone 10 mio and he is certainly not better than Djorou and may be even Senderos. But that said if Gallas gets injured the other two pair of Djorou and Senderos may not be enough against better teams. But this is always going to be problem, how do we get players of the same quality Toure or Gallas to cover for them and then drop them to the bench after Toure comes back. More importantly is that type of player available and at a price that old tight wad AW will dish out money to buy. I figure similar quality would be at least 15 mio pounds and above.

    Not such an easy job my friend and we will leave it to Wenger.

    Any ways I agree on Hoyte, we should give him more time. Yes there was a mistake or two but these things happens to any defender. He has an excellent attitude and I believe will improve to be a fine right back.

    EDS- not enough can be said about his finishing and AW has done it again. 8+ odd mio and now by far more golas than Bent at double the price and not even half the value. That said he needs the right ball and now more than ever he will be a marked man. Good that opens up space for Ade and others to put them in.

    I am truly excited this time round. Just praying that Gallas does not get injured.

    Up The Arse!!!!

  33. Heard a rumor that vela will get his passport in jan. 08 . and the boy is eager to link up with us in this transfer window. It will definitely ease the striker problem if it does .

    Also just would like to thank Alan for winning against man’ure last week and loosing against us..

    your check is in the mail son !

  34. Best thing about today’s win was that we got a great result with the least amount of effort. Never stepped beyond 2nd gear imo. Perfect game for such a congested schedule period.

  35. I’m sorry to come down on Ade, again, but his ego is starting to worry me.Not for the first time has he not passed to Eds when the goal was open.
    This man refuses to help his competition look good
    to protect his own hide.I am certain he loves the 4-5-1 role when he can shine on his own.He most certainly did not run to Eds after he scored.And his own celebrations when scoring are totally the ‘look at me’ types, running away from the team.Sorry, Bendtner and Eds is my favoured pairing and maybe RVP with eds or ade.Eds would have been underway 2 months ago had Ade not been a glory hunter and deprived him of a certain goal.This man is determined to make sure he’s first choice at the club, he’s stated that himself recently didn’t he? I will do whatever it takes to play regardless of which striker is at the club,whether it be Eto or Henry.I’m not coming down on him as a player, just the ego that’s developing rather quickly.

  36. Yes, Ade’s ego is becoming worrisome like someone I know who left the club recently. Sir Alex came down hard on players who even celebrate without involving their team mates.

    It’s a development that needs to be checked; as you said, I also saw it, like the Newcastel game, he refused to pass to Eduardo. He’s also began talking to the press about himself and Henry not fitting into the team if he comes back and so on.

    All this ego driven behaviour will not help the Arsenal. Arsene needs to talk to him. Eduardo does better with Bendtner and because Ade wants to score all goals he doesn’t want to release the ball to Dudu even when Dudu is in a better position to score. So far Dudu hasn’t scored any goal from Ade’s pass.

    Well, its really no problem if Ade improves and score all the goals but denying a team mate in a better position to score, the ball is not a good attitude.

    13 match appearances in all competitions and 10 goals with only seven starts shows Dudu’s finishing ability. Compare that with Ades 12 goals in all competitions; its clear who’s the better finisher, however, for the Arsenal sake, a way has to be found for them to work together.

  37. a quiet talk with arsene will do trick for ade..i reckon if arsene feels what u guys feel..i would like to give benefit of doubt to ade..he may not be malicious in his actions..it ucd have just happened..

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