Arsenal’s rotten week ends on a high

Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal

The sight of Arsenal sitting atop the league table – albeit briefly, until Turkey Rovers twizzled over at Old Trafford – was as much as anything conformation that this is no ordinary season. On Thursday’s Football Weekly podcast we were told that 28 points after 14 matches (which is what Chelsea had yesterday morning) was the lowest points total of the top-placed side since time began. The fact that Arsenal are up there, scrapping away, says a bit about Arsenal but also a bit about the inconsistency – or is that equality – among the top teams this season.

Yesterday’s trip to the Villa was – as most league games seem to be at the moment – crucial for Arsenal. After two truly rotten defeats, a win was much needed to steady the ship. That we got it and went top is, as I mentioned, a bit nuts.

We absolutely deserved it though. In the first half, we were utterly dominant and should really have scored long before Arshavin’s very Arshavinesque right-foot daisycutter. Nasri’s second, from the excellent Russian’s corner, prompted an outpouring of gallows humour on Twitter. Surely we couldn’t keel over like we had done last weekend?

Cue a Villa goal on 51 minutes and some painful memories of the weekend before. It was a lovely finish but the Arsenal defence backed off for so long that Clark had time to stop, do his hair and floss his teeth before letting rip. [A bit harsh perhaps – the goal should never have stood as Carew was offside and interfering with play by blocking Fabianski’s line of sight.]

Fortunately, Chamakh eased the nerves with a deft toe-poke but this being Arsenal, we were pegged back again when Clark rose unmarked in the box and nodded it over the line. After that it was a little bit frantic but Jack Wilshere rounded things off with a headed goal, his first in the Premier League.

Going forward, we were a joy. Arshavin had a superb game, ably helped by Wilshere and Nasri, both of whom were again excellent. But at the back we were less convincing when put under pressure, and the fear when we concede is palpable. I’m not sure I need go into it any more detail. We have not defended very well all season, and if there are any dances or sacrificial beasts that can be offered up to the gods of Achilles heels, I will happily perform them to ensure Vermaelen comes back firing on all cyclinders. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But it also makes the defence defend worse.

A quick word about Nasri and Chamakh. It is very doubtful had you placed a bet on the opening day of the season that you would have tipped those two to top our scoring approaching Christmas, but with 10 and nine goals respectively, they have exceeded expectations. It’s no surprise that in a formation where only one striker starts, van Persie is struggling to get off the bench.

Nasri scored just five goals last season, and even if you’re being conservative you’d now expect him to hit 15 this time round. Some improvement from a player who is comfortably our stand-out performer of the season.

So a very good win sets us up well for three important but very winnable games – Wigan in the Carling, Fulham in the league and Partizan in Europe – and from there it’s a trip to Old Trafford on Monday 13th.

Dear Father Christmas. Please can I have a month of consistent winning. Thanks, bye.

An Arsenal-heavy interlull delays my derby nerves

Before we can all properly address the tightening stomach muscles associated with Saturday’s derby showdown, we have for once got an interlull containing no little Arsenal interest to contend with this evening.

Not only has that serial ignorer and arch hater of English talent, Arsene Wenger, gone and quietly provided England with three players – Gibbs, Walcott and Wilshere, the latter since withdrawn through injury – but the opposition is France and one thing we haven’t got at the club is a deficiency of Frenchmen. The French national side even trained at London Colney, and as far as I can ascertain, they didn’t go on strike or have a strop.

I’m not quite sure how many of our French boys will start tonight but I’ll pop a guess that we’ll see all three of Clichy, Nasri and Sagna begin the game.

Looking forward to it as I am, it also has a rather combustible air to it and with five Arsenal players on the same pitch, the miserable sod in me has started panicking about injuries. We are told that Gibbs will start, which is fantastic news. To be honest, in his case it is a much needed game. He’s had a miserable run of injuries since having his foot broken almost exactly a year ago. By my money playing for England tonight will be his third comeback from injury this season, so of all our players on view tonight, he is the one for whom I will be clutching the lucky rabbit’s foot.

Across London, Chelsea appear to have been Arsenalled somewhat, with their first-choice centre-half pairing both now crocked long-term. Seemingly untouchable this season, Chelsea have in recent weeks wobbled somewhat and Arsenal’s two excellent consecutive away wins mean we have capitalised on it. However, we have had a dismal run of injuries at Arsenal for several seasons now, so you won’t catch me ner-nerring in the general direction of Fulham Broadway. Although many of our walking wounded are back in action, we’re still missing our best centre-half.

Koscielny has had a steep learning curve since he joined, and on current form you’d have to say our first-choice centre-back pairing is Djourou and Squillaci. The lofty Swiss had in recent games found his football boots after an absurdly long absence and is being talked of as another Arsenal renaissance man.

If talk in August had been of potential renaissances, who’d have put their money on Fabianski and Djourou?

For what it’s worth I reserve judgement – principally because he’s only been back a few games and he seems to be clad in various bandages every time he steps out onto the pitch.

As an appendix, my players of the season so far are Nasri (up a massive notch), Fabianski (purely for rising from the ashes), Chamakh (better than Bendtner) and Wilshere (staggering talent coming of age).

Right, I shall enjoy tonight. Tomorrow I might get in there early and endulge myself with a few pre-derby nerves.

Few links here I couldn’t be bothered to shoe-horn in:

Blanc’s new French revolution
Ashley Young to Arsenal [believe that when I see it]
Manu Petit on football life in London [in French]

Match report: Arsenal step up a gear

Manchester City 0-3 Arsenal

For much of the week just gone I’ve been muttering – sometimes, but not always to myself – that yesterday’s match was pivotal.

Pivotal because, firstly, we’d not beaten either of the Manchesters or Chelsea for something like ten matches, which is a pretty substantial mental block for a team that has title ambitions. Secondly, simple maths tells us that had we lost, we’d have been eight points behind the leaders, leaving us a huge mountain to climb. And thirdly, for me it was a rather simple question: Is this team actually good enough to make that next step from third/fourth to winning trophies? I’ve long had my doubts, and I don’t suppose I am the only one.

Well, we passed with flying colours. And this morning, sitting in my remote northern coastal outpost, I am basking not only in sunshine but also rekindled excitement about the season ahead.

OK, I accept that sounds a bit absurd, given we were already romping our Champions League group and larking about at the top end of the league table, but I really do think yesterday’s win is a milestone – or should that be millstone – overcome.

For a while now not been bullied on the pitch – something we have been justifiably accused of in the past. What we have at times still lacked though is ruthlessness and maturity, and I think we showed more of both those attributes yesterday, particularly in the second half.

Sure, we were helped by the early red card, but it was as clear a red as you’ll ever see – despite Mancini’s protestations. What I feared could then become an attritional battle to get past a blue defensive wall in fact developed into an open, really enjoyable game. Nasri’s one-two with Arshavin was a lovely piece of football and a superb finish – Nasri scoring his seventh goal of the season.

According to today’s Times, Nasri has never scored more than seven goals in a season either for Marseilles or for Arsenal, so for him to hit that at the tail end of October tells you all you need to know about the season he’s having. He should have been man of the match (Cesc: “I missed a penalty – how can I be man of the match?”)

City, to their credit, fought hard and Arsenal racked up the yellows during the remainder of the first half fighting them off. It should have been two, mind you, Fabregas’s penalty well saved by Hart. To have already had 12 penalties in games involving Arsenal is extraordinary. Why is this? Chamakh has earned a fair few of our nine, but not all. Speed of thought and movement? Coincidence?

Fortunately, the yellowed players calmed down in the second, or else we’d have been looking at ten-man parity. When Song scored our second – a rasper – the match was as good as over and it was left to the returning Bendtner to seal it. Three goals scored, clean sheet: Bargain.

Also deserving of credit is MM* Fabianski. His display was pretty much flawless and included two or three very good reflex saves. It’s true that there’s a long way to go before we can unfurl the goalkeeping bunting, but he’s doing everything right at the moment and if there’s going to be any movement in that department in January, it won’t be him doing the moving. Long may it carry on.

With Walcott, Rosicky, Bendtner, Gibbs, Eboue and Koscielny on the bench, Wilshere back in the compound and van Persie edging towards fitness, we have options too. The squad is looking primed.

There’s no doubt there’ll be more learning curves and teething problems to come – but we’re improving and we’re in a good place.

* Much-maligned

More goals from Arsenal’s wings required

Scattering my eyes across the Sundays and the general theme hasn’t changed much: there’s the rustle of keeper talk and a persisting link to Everton’s Phil Jagielka. The latter story has been lingering long enough that the fee is now being quoted at a very un-Arsenal-like £15m. At that price, I can’t see us getting involved.

As for the keeper talk, well it appears to be a case of ABA – Anyone But Almunia. Akinfeev? Stekelenburg? James? You can never second-guess Wenger but I think we might still shop within the Premier League, on the basis that we cannot afford a costly bedding-in process. On that basis, do all roads still lead to Schwarzer?

As for our attacking options, it was noteworthy that Wenger said we wouldn’t be replacing the departed Eduardo. If this is true, then we will essentially have three central strikers (van Persie, Bendtner, Chamakh) and a substantial array of wide or deep attack-minded players to back them up (Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott, Vela, Wilshere).

I can see why he thinks that might be enough, especially allied to the goalscoring prowess of Fabregas. But if that is to be our lot, it’s worth returning to a theme I picked up at the tail end of last season – the need for more goals from those wide men.

We all know that van Persie has a good 20 goals in him, and Bendtner at least 15, but Chamakh, at least until we can judge him, remains an unknown quantity. Given the injury records of the first two of those, we need more from elsewhere.

Arshavin is exempt from the criticism about to come. With 12 goals scored despite playing up front on his own at times last season, we know he can pack a goal or two.

But look at the record of the others: Rosicky, Nasri, Walcott and Vela scored just 14 goals between them, of which only nine came in the league.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect better contributions from all four of those. For the two younger players, Walcott and Vela, they at the right age and cannot now hide behind the excuse of youth. They will also have Wilshere breathing down their necks (and both Diaby and Eboue can play wide too).

Nasri – ditto Walcott – should be hungry following their World Cup snubs and Rosicky will be fighting for his future.

To them all I say: More goals, chaps.

Missed chances, dropped points

Birmingham City 1-1 Arsenal

At the risk of repeating myself, a draw yesterday did indeed end up feeling like a ‘hammer blow’. Wenger merely called it a ‘big blow’, but if you squinted you could read the word ‘hammer’ in the furrows of his brow during the post-match interview.

The nature of the draw made it that bit worse too. Had we been the team that equalised in the last minute having been 1-0 down then it would have felt like something had been plucked from the embers. As it was, an avoidable last minute equaliser made it feel almost like a defeat. It was two points dropped with bells on. Twitter was a gloomy place to be at 5pm last night.

We’re now three points behind, but with the goal differences of our rivals disappearing over the horizon, it feels more like four.

Still, I’ve made the mistake of writing us off on more than one occasion this season and I won’t be so stupid as to do it again now. With Utd and the Russians playing next weekend, there is a guarantee of dropped points from at least one, and maybe both of them. The picture changes so fast, even if the room for wiggling is diminishing.

Almunia is the one getting the negative headlines this morning. Despite improved recent form, including that excellent penalty save against West Ham, he retains the ability to take backwards steps right after taking forwards ones. Goodplaya doesn’t blame him for the goal but I think he’s being a bit generous. The Spaniard should have done better.

Almunia’s a lucky boy though, unlike Lehmann before him, because there’s nobody else good enough to give him a run for his money. Someone with more experience and fewer nervous tics than Fabianski would might well have displaced him by now.

Not that his late intervention was the only crack in our armoury. To blame him entirely for the dropped points is too simplistic.

Walcott did very little. Far too little. City were tough opponents – their home record is there for all to see – and they disrupted our rhythm to good effect. But even taking that into account, we did not get going until the second half – not until Walcott and Rosicky were replaced with Nasri and Arshavin in fact – and had we taken one of our two very good late chances, then this morning we’d still be moaning about Almunia but in the context of a win.

It wasn’t to be of course.

Positives? Of course there were. The spirit is there for all to see. Nasri and Diaby are in the form of their Arsenal careers. We didn’t lose against a decent, committed side.

The great thing of course is there’s no time to dwell, as it’s Barcelona on Wednesday.

Is Iniesta really out? I’ll believe it when I see it.

The form factor

Arsenal 5-0 Porto

24 hours late, this. Just like the old days, when you went abroad, burned in the sun to cinder and had to wait a day for the papers to pitch up from blighty. Cast yourself back to 1985 and it won’t feel so late.

Anyway, we were the first English club through to the European Cup quarter-finals this season, it was the first comeback from a first-leg deficit since Hajduk Split in 1978 and… was it the first goal we’d scored in the first 15 minutes of the first half all season?

I have a thirst for more firsts if they’re anything like that.

5-0 is perhaps more of a thrashing than at times it felt, especially during the first quarter of an hour of the second half when Porto woke up and a single goal would have left things finely balanced, but as soon as Nasri’s unbelievably mazy dribble and tonking tight finish made it three, it was party time at the Grove.

But there were some eye-opening performances, and if there’s ever a good time in a season for three or four players to come into form, that time is now.

The issue of form is always an interesting one, because so much depends on state of mind, confidence and so on. So while only a month ago we were lamenting the form of Clichy, Almunia, Arshavin et al, now we can talk of a quartet of players who have suddenly found theirs.

Clichy and Arshavin, incidentally, are among those who suddenly look menacingly good. We all knew Arshavin was world-class, but playing as the lone frontman seriously curtailed his effectiveness. Freed to play where he is more comfortable, he suddenly looks terrifying. Henry Winter’s line summed it up very well: Arshavin was “a box of fireworks that kept exploding in Porto’s face.”

I’m pleased for Clichy too. Coming back from injury, he was a pale shadow of the Clichy of old. But hard graft and a run of games have turned that round, and last night his workrate was exemplary.

Diaby and Nasri are the other two whose form has been building impressively. The former, to be fair, has been steadily improving for a while, but has been struck down by his usual temporary ailments all too frequently. Nevertheless, he’s looking fantastic at the moment.

Then there’s Nasri, a player whose injury – though I barely need to preface any description of an Arsenal player by mentioning the ‘I’ word, it’s a given – set him back months. It’s all clicking now though, and last night he was superb, scoring a mesmeric goal and creating space all over the pitch.

And I’ve not even mentioned Bendtner.

So form breeds confidence, which creates momentum. As a result we’re fizzing along now.

That’s Bendtnertainment [Part 2]

Arsenal 3-1 Burnley

As I was heading to the game with my brother, crossing Highbury Fields, we saw a clown driving a car. He was in full clown regalia, including wig, make-up and huge red nose (though I assume he’d removed his oversized shoes by that stage, unless he had 2-foot wide clutch, brake and accelerator pedals as well).

At that stage, it seemed unlikely that we’d see anything more comedic before the day was out, but as it turned out we did – in the form of Nicklas Bendtner’s Incredible Goal-Missing Circus.

Now, had that kind of performance come mid-way through last season, you wouldn’t have been able to move for tuts and groans in the stands. But yesterday, the fans’ reaction to Bendtner’s afternoonus horribilus was one indication – the other I shall come to – that this season is very different from the last.

As gaping net after gaping net went unruffled, the groans (which were of amazement more than anything else) turned into chants. Bendtner merely got a rousing song. He immediately reciprocated with appreciation of his own, and was not long after subbed off to great applause.

It was just one of those days for him.

The other indication that things this year have changed in subtle ways was the immediate post-match actions of Emmanuel Eboue. He bounded over to our end of the ground on his own, leapt over the hoardings, took off his shirt and gave it to (I think) a young girl. It was a top gesture (no pun intended) and again, one that was responded to with huge applause.

Two players who had difficult seasons, now firmly back on track and enjoying what they do. How nice that is to see.

The game itself was great fun, but very Arsenal. We contrived to miss hatfuls of chances, let in a bad goal, conceded the initiative briefly when only 2-1 up and only made it secure right at the death.

The two most noteworthy performances – aside from Bendtner’s, of course – came from Nasri and Walcott. Both players have had their own critics this season, but pulled performances out the hat that threw their form out the window. Nasri was my man of the match – direct, probing and dangerous. Walcott though was not far behind, with a second half of real quality culminating in an excellent goal. It says a lot that a player who was already being airbrushed out of some people’s final 23 for the World Cup suddenly catapulted himself back into the frame in just 45 minutes. On that form, he’d make it easily; the trick now is to keep it up.

Pre-match, the banners and the songs for Ramsey were class, as expected. As for the first 45 minutes, they started well but fizzled out. The thing that struck me most for the first 30 minutes – in fact, until Diaby came on – was that there were almost no tackles of note at all. It felt like a pre-season match. Not surprising I suppose given the last 10 days, just as Walcott’s reaction to a hard but fair tackle by a Burnley player was not surprising either.

The only stain on things was of course the injury to Fabregas. We’re far from a one-man team but someone like him – head and shoulders above most of his peers – will be missed in any side, so clearly we face an anxious wait to see whether he will make Tuesday.

Anyone got any magic plasters?

So long, Alex Song, and a Happy New Year

Portsmouth 1-4 Arsenal

A thoroughly comfortable win on the south coast saw off 2009 in style and makes the prospect of 2010 more than a little interesting for those of us of red and white persuasion.

I’m oop north at the moment, and without Sky on the TV I watched the game live on my iPhone. Infuriatingly, the stream buffered like the dickens, in particular coming to a shuddering halt right before Nasri’s goal made it 2-0. I like the idea of the Sky app that lets you watch live games without the need for a fat TV-sized monthly wedge, and I think £6 a month is a reasonable price to pay for the privilege, but until they sort out the quality (the stream, as well as buffering, veers between pixel-perfect and fuzzy), then I will pass.

It was an easy win. Certainly, once Nasri rifled in our second, it looked completely over as a contest. Pompey’s fans are getting increasingly militant at the way their club is being tossed around like a plaything by faceless owners – it’s desperate stuff and I feel sorry for them. There are plenty of salutary tales to be told about overspending, bad management, murky ownership and a lack of effective regulation from the game’s hierarchy, but as ever, I am thankful that our club is properly run. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Perhaps fittingly, it was Alex Song – our most improved player of 2009 by some distance – who scored Arsenal’s final league goal of the decade. A quick look online tells me our first goal of the decade, on 3rd January 2000, came in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday and was scored by Emmanuel Petit. I can’t remember it to be honest; it feels like a hundred years ago rather than ten.

Song’s current worth to the team can be directly measured by the increased quantity of furrowed brows among fans caused by his forthcoming absence. He’s really grown into that role, and doesn’t have a direct replacement who mops up quite so vigorously. Although our squad is less hit by the call-up of African players than some, there’s no doubt he will be missed (we’ve got him for one more game, the FA Cup tie at West Ham, but not in the league now for the next month).

The pick of the goals though came from another midfielder, Fabregas’s replacement Aaron Ramsey. It was a real gem, as was watching his patience with the ball, and his eye for a pass. One for the future? Not really – with seven starts and 16 sub appearances, he’s one for now but he’s being dropped into things gently, and besides, he has quite a good player ahead of him in the shape of Fabegas. For an 18-year-old, he’s bang on track and getting as much playing time as he could ever have hoped.

As for reinforcements, well when does a football fan ever say no to the possibility of an additional player? In our case, I’m with the 99.9% of Arsenal fans who clamouring for a new pair of legs up front. Wenger gives the game away, despite a bit of water muddying, when he says:

“It’s true that we have problems with our strikers. Even I say that. Everybody tells me to buy strikers, but when I look at the League, nobody has scored more goals than us.

“We have players who move the ball well and everybody gets in dangerous positions. And that’s why, with the confidence high, everyone can score goals. But we are still in the market.”

We are still in the market, that’s the bottom line. As I said in my previous post, it would be verging on the criminal not to make the most of the situation we find ourselves in. With just one experienced striker (and he’s operating on only three cylinders), we cannot hope to outscore our opponents purely from midfield. We’re bang in there at the top. If we brought in a new face or two in January and still faded away, then fine – that can happen. But the chances are, a new recruit could make a huge difference. So let’s go for it.

Finally, a happy New Year to you all. I hope the year brings you all everything you could hope for (a new striker being a good start on that front).

It’s been an all-round pleasure. Thanks for reading my increasingly infrequent posts, for chatting on here (occasionally) and on Twitter (more frequently). Here’s to more of the same in 2010.

Arsenal take a point but don’t make one

Burnley 1-1 Arsenal

Was this really a bad result?

Given Burnley’s home record it’s not. Burnley, for all their sieve-like qualities on the road, are a strong side at at Turf Moor. We all knew that and so it proved.

But compared to the results across the rest of the league last night, then it is a blow. We’ve edged further away from the top two, and nearer the teams below.

And for those who desperately hoped that the 2-1 win at Anfield would be a springboard to more consistency, and a genuine sense of chasing the leading pack, then it’s a massive disappointment. We blow so hot and cold as a side that the fans are getting chill blains. The inability to push on is probably the most infuriating thing for me.

It’s very frustrating. Wenger, in the post-match interview, went through the repertoire to explain it – lacking physical sharpness, taking the foot off the gas at 1-0 – stuff we hear all too often because it happens all too often.

Nevertheless, Burnley do of course deserve credit for taking the game to Arsenal and bumping us out of our stride. It often works – and not just against us. We had some chances to win it, but we didn’t really deserve to and 1-1 seems about right.

There are clearly some players struggling for form. Walcott is one, but then he’s only played about 200 minutes all season. He needs more games but last night he was again ineffective. You could say the same for Nasri and Diaby – neither of whom have had many consecutive match minutes. How can we expect any of these players to reach their peaks when they play so intermittently?

Almunia is another – he’s really having a rotten year. His early-season wobble has not given way to mid-season sturdiness as you might have hoped. He’s flapping all over the place and it’s horrible to see.

Our best player, Fabregas, succumbed to injury in the 43rd minute and that made things harder yet. He’s about the nine millionth Arsenal player to hobble off this season. We can only hope it’s not a long layoff though he’s out for Saturday.

Despite all that, we have taken 4 points from 6 at two tough away venues, without having set the world alight in either game.

So not a bad result, but neither was it any kind of affirmation that this side is going to charge headlong for the title.

AZ thoughts/App review

Points dropped, not a big deal

I was very close to lauding Alex Song to the heavens last night when he dropped his guard – as to be honest did the rest of the Arsenal defence – in the 93rd minute, enabling AZ Alkmaar to equalise.

He did have a terrific game, but he’s not the polished gem we would yet have him to be, even though his improvement has been spectacular. It’s easy to forget how metronomically average he had been before the middle of last season – when he took a magic potion – so I’d rather big him up than little him down.

And he was hardly the only culprit. Sagna today admitted that “tonight we switched off because we thought maybe that the game was over and they scored a nice goal.”

“With injury time, we have to concentrate 95 minutes these days”, he added, though of course that’s not quite correct – at Man Utd it’s 97 minutes.

Dropping two points once the game is meant to be over is annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re still well placed, and if anything, it’s a reminder (as if one was needed) that the very worst thing we can do right now is get carried away.

Seven wins in a row has the habit of doing that. Yes, we’ve done well, but the ramshackle defending in our penalty area at the death last night should sharpen the mind.

Of course, we’re still talking about injuries too. Walcott is now out for a while – it’s been a seasonus horribilus for him – and Rosicky, Bendtner, Eduardo etc were all missing too. It’s one of the themes of the modern Arsenal era. What are the odds of having all our players fit, even for a slither of time, this season? It’s seemingly a mathematical and scientific impossibility.

On the bright side, Samir Nasri made a comeback for the reserves last night, (alongside Wookash) and he’s another attacking option – though perhaps not yet ready to be thrown into action. It says a lot for how Rosicky has started the season that Nasri has not really been missed, but the added competition for places is crucial.

As for the goalkeeping situation, well I’m as intrigued as the rest of you. Was it simply a loss of form, or was there more to it?

I have a theory: Almunia must have applied for his British passport. As soon as he became a British citizen, Wenger probably thought he’d go out on the lash and wrap his motor round a lamp post, so he dropped him.

Or maybe not.

It’s certainly an intriguing situation though – Mannone has shown oodles of promise, but he’s still so raw. Fabianski cannot be guaranteed a shot at it. What price a dip into the transfer market in January?

Arsenal app

The folks over at Arsenal asked me if I would be prepared to give their new iPhone app an honest review. So as an man who likes iPhones, apps and Arsenal – I agreed.

They’ve gone big on it, haven’t they? There were ads in the urinals at Arsenal on Saturday, and it was given pride of place in the app store for a while after it was launched.

The first thing I am compelled to bring up is the £2.99 cost. So what do you get for the money?

Well on an iPhone, the main Arsenal website has always been of a slow loader, so for that alone then the cut-down news, fixtures and squad biogs are a definite improvement.

Perhaps its best current feature is video highlights – good quality match highlights, and free (ie not attached to a separate Arsenal TV Online subscription), though not as lengthy as the highlights you get online. There are also stills galleries – again, decent quality.

That’s pretty much what your money gets you at the moment – nicely cut-down iPhone-ised key sections (news, fixtures, table, gallery, squad and match highlights/other video news), plus a bunch of additional links that just go straight to the main Arsenal website.

What I’d like to see (apart from better O2 or wifi coverage at the ground – but that’s another matter) is more emphasis on the live coverage, such as match stats, audio and the Arsenal TV stuff for subscribers. Interestingly, that’s apparently “coming soon…” – I’m told there’s more to come.

So a decent first release, I would say, with a nod in the direction of the video highlights in particular.