Friday roundup: Greece / Book launch / 125

So Friday rolls round again in a flash, apparently seven days after it last did. That doesn’t feel quite possible.

Olympiacos on Tuesday started badly and never really picked up, but if you haven’t yet filed that one away under ‘nothing to dwell too much on’ then I shall politely recommend that you do. The final – and even penultimate – Champions League group games have the habit of throwing up matches that mean the world to one side but not a whole lot to the other, and this was one of those. The outcome will not affect the pecking order of many of the players: Fabianski, Squillaci, Chamakh & Arshavin are benchwarmers and showed why, while Coquelin, The Ox and Frimpong did themselves no harm.

On Wednesday it was of course the Arseblog book launch, with the evening in the Tollington being a memorable and lively number. Arseblogger was ensconced in the corner getting wrist-ache (you at the back, stop tittering – he was signing his book), and the pub bubbled and fizzed with gooners aplenty. One of the most enjoyable things for me was putting real faces to virtual ones, with many of us introducing ourselves with the name of our blog or twitter handle first, and our actual names second. It really did put the social into social media and confirmed what a top collection of folk inhabits this sometimes peculiar online world we live in. Hats off to the driving force behind the whole thing too: the book is a tremendous achievement. Also impressive (and I have yet to ask him how he did this) was the fiddling of the night’s Champions League action, rapturously received via the pub’s many screens as you might imagine.

Finally, today starts a weekend of memories for the club with the unveiling of three statues at the stadium ahead of our 125th anniversary match against Everton. There’ll be legends and nods to tradition and panoramic photos and the Royal Artillery band and I’d be massively looking forward to it if only for the fact that I can’t make it. I was desperate to gurn into the panoramic photo for posterity, but there you go, it’s my son’s birthday party (he was founded more recently, though not in a pub in Woolwich) and that’s just the way it is.

Finally, back to Arseblog, and I’m on the arsecast today discussing a bunch of stuff. Always fun to do, so tune in.

So yes, it’s Friday. Wonderfully, marvellously Friday. Have a great weekend.

Minimum blip, minimum fuss

If drawing 1-1 at home to Fulham and losing in the Milk Cup with an understrength team can be described as a blip, then our blip was batted away with that assured win at Wigan.

Nice too that the goals were scored not by one man, but by four. Particularly pleasing too that Gervinho netted one: I think he’s had a big effect on our attacking potency, even if he’s not sunk as many goals as we might have liked – though three league goals in ten starts is hardly a drought, either. He made a huge impact against Fulham (especially when you compare him to the Arsh, whose form remains consistently baffling) and wobbly one-on-one’s aside, I’m not sure we can fault the beginning of his Arsenal career too much.

So we’re creeping stubbornly up the table, with our form guide for the last six league games exactly the same as the leaders, Man City: WWWWDW. Our league form over that period is better than Utd’s, better than Chelsea’s, better than Liverpool’s. The only one grating thing – yes, I am about to moan, though not about Arsenal – is that while we have strung this excellent run together, City & Spurs have maintained theirs. You can’t have it all though.

And while all three of the other English Champions League protagonists sweat it out to stay in the competition this week, we have the luxury of naming a pared-down squad to travel to Greece minus nine fit first-teamers: Szczesny, Ramsey, van Persie, Arteta, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Walcott, Gervinho and Song. I am often sceptical about coming first or second in a Champions League group, but one thing you can never be too pleased about is a breather, especially with the usual sapping Christmas schedule, during which we play five games in 21 days, ho-ho-ho’ing over the horizon.

So all told, things are pretty rosy (for a Monday). Long may it last.

An inexperience of a lifetime

Anyway, I’m back again. I spent the weekend looking after small children, and as anyone who looks after small children can attest, there’s not a lot of scope for blogging on the side when you’re in charge. Not a lot of scope for anything, in truth.

So I looked on at the Stoke win in semi-detachment, marvelling in the main at the ability of Andrei Arshavin (5ft 7½in) to lead the line.

Remarkably, he’s scored seven goals in fifteen starts this season. This is all the more impressive given the fact he’s not – by his own admission – been firing on all cylinders. Russia being knocked out of the World Cup clearly didn’t help his frame of mind, but even without that, he’s hardly been player-of-the-monthing it. He might not be sizzling hot, but he’s the kind of player who can make something happen nevertheless. I guess that’s what you get when you shop for experience and are prepared to pay £16m.

Heaven only knows what we would do without him at the moment. Our injury concerns have gone beyond worrying about – laughing and inappropriate gags about balsa wood and muscle strains caused by nothing more than the referee blowing his whistle seem to be the order of the day now.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today (@eastlower), someone should put their technical hat on and create a twitter feed from Arsenal’s Injury News page. I don’t know how to do it but I’d certainly appreciate being kept abreast of the latest knocks and knacks. It’s the most consistent thing about our season at the moment.

Naturally, a win against Stoke was much needed, especially considering the next game is at Anfield. Last year’s game was the astonishing 4-4, and I confess that, while I tend not to go back over old games that much, I have drooled over Arshavin’s four strikes once or twice since then (while conveniently ignoring the four goals that came in the other direction, the last one in particular).

How we could do with a repeat performance from him.

In the meantime of course, we have the dead rubber against Olympiacos in Athens tomorrow night. In fact, it’s not entirely a dead rubber seeing that Olympiacos need a point to guarantee their place in the last 16, but for Arsenal its merits are a) experience for the Ramseys, Eastmonds and Randalls of this world, and b) the rehabilitation of players like Walcott (who might get his customary 13 minutes on the pitch before he succumbs to the next niggle).

Wilshere on loan? I can see the logic in this, even if the timing, given our general medical calamities, feels a bit odd. He’s 17 and has played just five times this season. He needs games.

Right, that’s it for now. Olympiacos should be, if nothing else, interesting. I mean, look at this:

Vela, Walcott, Ramsey, Song, Silvestre, Wilshere, Fabianski, Mannone, Merida, Bartley, Coquelin, Cruise, Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas, Gilbert, Ayling, Randall, Sunu.

10 British players there – another nail in the coffin of those who claim home-grown talent gets overlooked.

But can they realistically come away with something?

One last thing

I promised to pass on some info from the gents over at The Gooner Review. They’ve got limited edition Christmas bundles, such as signed Bob Wilson caps, signed Peter Marinello books and ‘The Gooner Review 08-09’ DVDs, so for those looking to tuck into some Christmas present purchasing, you can find out more by going to their website.