Set-pieces, Adebayor + the return of the Africans

Preparations for the FA Cup game with Manchester United are underway but there is still a stream of comments coming from the camp about the club’s performance in the weekend win over Blackburn. Philippe Senderos, who scored the opener at the weekend, gets the ball rolling with the admission that Arsenal has been paying a lot more attention to their set-pieces this season.

“Offensively and defensively we have really concentrated on set-pieces. We have scored more goals and we are attacking the ball really well, so hopefully we can score a few more this season.”

Senderos’ goal was a perfect example of Arsenal’s improved aerial strengthIt’s been good to watch a number of goals fly in from corners and free-kicks and the fact that they are going in is a pretty obvious sign that the extra focus is paying off. Some supporters – and you can put me amongst them – will probably feel that it’s about time this was the case. I don’t have time to be bitter about it right now though, so let me finish on a more positive note and simply echo Senderos’ final comment in hoping there will be more to come before the end of the season.

The man who has been Arsenal’s dominant force in the air this season has undoubtedly been Emmanuel Adebayor, and he has recently praised the influence of ex-teammate and club captain Thierry Henry in his development as a player. The Togolese striker has been banging them in from all over the place this season and revealed his close friendship with Henry as well as how the Frenchman’s words of encouragement and advice have greatly impacted on his mental strength.

“Thierry to me is like a big brother. He already sent a message to me after the game to congratulate me. He talked to me a lot during the summer when he was leaving, he calls me and we have a lot of chats. I’m trying to listen to the advice and at the moment it’s working so I’m very happy.”

I guess when you’ve danced together the way they’ve dance together AND enjoyed it you’d expect there to be some sort of a friendship, but I have to say I’m still a little surprised at just how close the pair seem to be. Regardless, Henry’s influence seems to be helping Adebayor because there’s no question that his finishing has improved and he is starting to iron out the rough patches in his game. The big man has always had the pace, power and determination to be a good footballer and it’s been a pleasure to watch him develop the parts of his game that were missing this time last season. A few more goals and I think that golden boot is as good as his.

Just finally today is the news that both Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure are back from the African Cup of Nations in Ghana and should be available for Saturday’s epic FA Cup tie away to Manchester United. The manager revealed that both players as well as Tomas Rosicky are a chance of participating in the match given they pass fitness tests, while also commenting on the status of Robin van Persie’s injury.

“Kolo and Eboue came back today [Monday] so we hope to see them tomorrow to see if they’re not injured. Rosicky, he looks better. Van Persie looks better, but he is still a few weeks away. But Rosicky maybe has a little chance for Saturday.”

It’s certainly good news to hear that both Toure and Eboue should be available but it does sound to me like Rosicky will miss out. Assuming that Eboue does pass a fitness test you would expect him to line up on the right and perhaps the Czech midfielder will be made available for the important Champions League clash with AC Milan just a few days later. As for the news on van Persie’s injury, well, I’m not even going to comment. Can you blame me?

I have to say with Manchester United in the FA Cup and Milan in the Champions League on Thursday next week it’s pretty exciting times to be an Arsenal supporter. There will be heaps more previews and news before the two clashes but I’m looking forward to hearing your pre-game thoughts on the matches as the days roll on. Have a good one.

What do you think?

Have your say on set-pieces, Adebayor or the Africans by leaving a comment.



  1. YE van persie is stupid! Arsene always says his not far away from a return then the week after he seems to say ” Van persie is looking better but he’s still a few weeks away”. This is starting to be rediculous! Why dont we sell RVP and buy a striker that can play more often!! (Berbatov would be good).

  2. I aint surprised the red nosed/faced has started the mind games by taunting arsenal can slip just as in 2003.he has forgotten his senior players Scholes and giggs are 5 years older and hence the legs may not be so fast. In fact it could be a drag.
    Suffice to say he is unlikely to win all or ten out of twelev .Indeed if the manure were to do so, I would congratulate them but on a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate it as 2.5.
    Yhe gunners of 2008 are differnt from the 2003 lot.They are younger more competent and faster.
    Indeed he must be thinking he can beat Chelsea and Arsenal in the league. I say DREAM ON.
    In fact I expect the gunners to win 5-1 in the fa cup.

  3. Hi SF,
    Nice article again.There are over 40 million Nigerian Arsenal fans and I inform them about your blog.Beating blackburn and going 5 points clear is the beginning of pressure if you ask me. Sanderos goal was a classic header it got me screaming considering the fact that he has improved so much is a big plus.My happiness in the Man u and Milan game is that Arsene will have a selection headache.Toure/Sanderos, Eboue/Diaby/Roscisky, etc.However we need to break the york of disappointment this season. This time last year we were out of all competitions but this time around we need to focus. My preferred line up on sat will be Lehman, Sagna,Gallas, Sanderos, Clichy,Helb,Gilberto, Flamini, Fabregas, Eduardo and Ade.

  4. Bendtner’s only 19 and if you’ve ever watched him play for Denmark you’d know he’s a great prospect. If berbatov is as good as everone says why isn’t he top of the scoring charts?
    Personally I think he’s a lazy, sulky twat.

  5. There is a nice article on Gunnerblog about Barcelona. The media will just want to hype everything and you will not be suprised next week before the Milan game them claiming how Milan want to switch Kaka for Adebayor now that Drogba will be either going to Barcelona.

    Wenger will not leave but he needs to field a strong team. I see him using Van Persie as a secret weapon for Milan. You remember a few weeks ago he said Van Persie has started training and is not far away from return.

    Overall Arsenal should win at Old trafford to have the pyschological advantage of beating the other big teams and win the EPL and Champions League. Remember we started the season by winmning two trophies and with the arrival of Sagna and Eduardo Arsenal has completely changed.

    We expect more new signings in summer with the exit of Gilberto who is good for nothing and ‘may be’ Lehmann.

    We will have new signings like Quaresma and Palladino amongst other gems that Wenger continues to scout on…..


  6. The Senderos stats are (in the Prem)

    Played 10 games, 6 goals conceded (0.60 goals/game), 4 points dropped (0.40 ponts dropped per game)

    Didn’t play 16 games, 12 goals conceded (0.75 goals/game), 11 points dropped (0.69 points dropped per game).

    2 goals now, better than Toure, same as Hleb. When will people start saying he is good?

  7. Actually it is funny you mention set pieces, for the past few seasons people have (rightly) noticed that Arsenal seemed defensively vulnerable from set pieces (Jermaine Jenas injury time free kick against the gunners in a game last season particularly comes to mind!). They seem to have rectified this situation. Woohoo!

  8. darragh actually it was not a freekick , it was open play. They scored to 2-2 in injury time.

    To be honest Wenger will definetely field a weaker side against United, but not that weak.

    He will want to save his very important men for the Milan game on wednesday.

    It will be interesting to see if United will do the same. I think they will go all out for the win to erase the last couple of games from their minds.

    Im looking more forward to the Milan game

  9. SAF will field the best squad he has available, which isn’t much changed from the losers of this weekend. Losing to Arsenal now will be a big blow so he is going to go for blood. That will play nicely to our strength. The more desperate they become in/or before the match the better for us. I am leaning strongly towards a win for us.

  10. Wang Sheng, in my mind it isn’t age that is working against Man U. More importantly, Tottenham and Man City have shown teams a way to neutralize Man U by conceding the middle of the park and hitting them with rapid counter-attacks. Okay, that is a pretty classic strategy, but they don’t have much time to figure out an answer to it. It has been interesting to see Ronaldo dribbling around uselessly in the middle of the park while Vidic has definitely lost some of his assuredness at the back. Enough about Man U…

    I had noticed the set-piece thing as well although we could still use somebody to take free kicks in V.Persie’s absence. Last year it was absurd how many points were lost from conceding set-pieces. I can remember Gallas complaining about zonal marking over the summer.

    Finally, what is up with Song? If they are healthy, I would play both him and Diaby on Saturday…

  11. I don’t think Manchester United will play a full strength side against us. I think both sides will probably play a blend of their best players and their fringe players. You have to remember that United have a very important game away to Lyon on the same day we play Milan and, as much as they’d love to win the FA Cup, the focus for them will be the Champions League. They have the side to win it and they won’t throw it away by playing a full-strength side against us.

    That’s not to say that both sides won’t have great players playing. It’s going to be a cracker, regardless of who starts on the pitch because it’s Manchester United v Arsenal and that is always a great contest. Cannot wait to hit the pub this Saturday night and check it out.

  12. United will come back with a bang and knock arsenal out of the fa cup…one thing united do well is they put bad results behind them and move on…

    Possible United Line up-

    Brown Rio Vidic Evra/oshea

    ronaldo carrick anderson park ji

    rooney tevez

    could possibly see tevez getting a rest with parkji upfront with rooney as i notice they always play well together and nani starting on the left…

    spanish fry what do u think ?

  13. Darragh – That is pretty exciting news I have to say. My mate who lives at the Gold Coast will be absolutely thrilled if the license gets through and Kanu joins.

    Ronaldo7 – You really think United will play that strong a lineup? I can’t see it happening. I have a feeling at least one of Rooney, Tevez or Ronaldo will be rested. I think there will be quite a few more fringe players starting but maybe I’m just deluded. How can you say one thing that United do is put bad results behind them and move on when they followed up a poor draw against Tottenham with a loss to Manchester City?

  14. Rooney will play cause he was suspended last game…..Ronaldo will play cause united need him..
    Tevez will come off the bench..

    united will play a strong but not too strong of a side….both teams will play strong sides…too much pride at stake

    i feel they didnt have time to reflect on the tottenham draw due to international duties…

  15. I guess so. When you put it like that it’s probably 50/50. United are in some poor form though and if Arsenal play relatively defensively then I can’t see them being broken down.

  16. Well, Man Utd might have a bit more freedom with the players the pick, seeing as Lyon are a less dominant team than AC, but i suppose well have to wait and see.
    Some good news for Our guys tho, the brazillian Ronaldo (Not the winger that plays for man utd) has been injured, and is out of the wendesday clash. Any news on Pato tho?

  17. Spanish Fry, I do think Ferguson will play full strength against us. I also think Wenger will play a stronger team than most people expect. Flamini will have to on top of his game if Ronaldo plays, I doubt anyone else will be able to handle him.

  18. I hope you guys are right. With a weakened Man U side, I sense a win for us. Our fringe players fits more in our setup than theirs fit in their setup. ie, the gap btn our A and B teams is significantly smaller that Man U’s. Although it is not the prem, If and in the manner of the loss for Man U could prove to be too costly for them. This is because teams that usually rolls over for utd will have a whiff of blood and they may start to turn up for a win. Whether or not they get it, is another matter though.

  19. United will have to go 4 a win to avoid coming to the Emirates for a replay. Although for us a replay will add to fixture congestion, we could welcome it as we would be favs to go through. That means if we play defensively, we can still nick a goal or two on the counter which we are very good at and Man u are struggling with.

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