Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham City

February 28, 2011

I won’t go into how the game played out or what we should have done or where it went wrong. It was just one of those days where we sadly didn’t take the initiative and suffered. Bad luck for us as it came in a final where we had a chance to end our six years wait for a trophy.

I will say one thing though that most of our players did felt the pressure of playing in the final and also playing under pressure of a lot of fans expectations. Although, it should never have been the case but they will have learnt a vital lesson. I just hope we bounce back from this.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (5): Made one excellent save and did well on most occasions. However, one wrong decision and one mix-up, not entirely his fault though, and two goals. Not what I was expecting from him. Experience does matter and this will be a great lesson for the youngster.

Sagna (5): Defensively wasn’t that commanding. Provided good support upfront as he delivered in a couple of good crosses.

Djourou (4): I think he felt the pressure of the final the most. Made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. Missed a few headers, misplaced a few passes, lost his man on the first goal. Need I say more? Also wasn’t expecting a performance like this from him.

Koscielny (5): He was much better than Djourou. He was solid on most occasion and made a lot of important interceptions but then went on to make a mistake he will never forget. What on earth was he thinking, I will never know and I will leave it at that.

Clichy (5.5): Did well on most occasions on the left side. Was good in the one-on-ones. Didn’t provide much support upfront.

Song (4): I guess he is tired after all. Wasn’t up to his best as he misplaced a lot of passes and never looked at ease in the middle.

Wilshere (7): One of our best players. He was great in the middle, gave his heart out. We needed more like him yesterday.

Rosicky (3): I don’t want to point fingers at any one but I feel he was the weak link for us. Was way too casual as if he was sure we will win. Misplaced a lot of passes in the first half as he failed to make an impact. Improved his game in the second but still not enough. He should have won it for us if he had been simple and not gone for a deft back heel near the end.

Nasri (7): He too was great out there. Took some time but he also gave his heart out. Made excellent runs, showed good close control, had shots on target. I guess it just wasn’t our day as there were very few playing like him.

Van Persie (7): Scored an excellent goal. But I guess luck always desert us in such time. Should never have gotten injured and should never have been substituted.  

Arshavin (6.5): Excellent assist for the goal and was one of the better players in the first half. Went missing in the second half as he was substituted.

Subs:

Bendtner (6) had a couple of good moments but still lacks that extra quality Van Persie has. Chamakh (6) defensively provided good support. Upfront produced a good chance for Bendtner and Rosicky but both of them failed to utilize.


Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham: Heartbroken! Yes, but we have to move on!!

February 27, 2011

We could have lost any other way but not like that, just not like that. I don’t know what to write or what I feel after what just happened. We had the game in control. That kick from Foster was going nowhere. How did the ball end up in the net, I just don’t want to know or want to think about what happened in those few seconds, I just want to forget it. I am heartbroken and I feel like I have been crushed just like every Gooner but we have to move on from here and get behind the team.

But the question is where do we go from here? Will it be the end of our season or will we be hungrier for success? What will the effect be on the players? We will know the answers to these questions in the next three games for sure. We can only hope the team doesn’t crumble after this.

What ever happened out there, well done to lads for the performance and let’s just hope for the best. There is still a lot to play for and this is not the end of the world…….

Will come up with the player ratings tomorrow.


Arsenal vs Birmingham City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 27, 2011

So, the day that we all have been waiting for has finally arrived, the day which hopefully will be the start of a new era, the day which hopefully will be start of many great things to come and the day where we will hopefully end our almost six years wait for a trophy.

I know, it sounds all dramatic but still you cannot deny the importance of today’s game. It won’t be wrong in saying that this game will define the rest of our season. Everyone including the players are pumped up for this. We have done all the hard work and today is the day to get the reward for it. This is the final hurdle in this competition that we have to cross and hopefully all our hard work will bear fruit in the shape of a trophy and more will follow when this season comes to an end. 

On paper this looks like a game that we will win easily and hopefully we will after what we did to them in the New Year. However, it is a Cup final and Birmingham surely won’t go down without a fight. They themselves will be looking for a trophy of their own and you can expect a very tight game and a match that will go till the very end.

Birmingham’s tactics will be clear. They will hold their lines and try to frustrate us as they know they can’t win by playing football against us. They will rely much on set pieces and counters. They have players that can play dirty and we will have to be wary of them.

As for us, we will have to start with a high tempo and look for an early goal or two. If we play the way we approached the game against them in January, this game will be easy. Possession again will be the key as we will have to remain focused and resilient through the 90 minutes. Our team will have to defend well because a goal for them is going to increase their confidence.

As for the starting eleven, Wenger will need to select the best possible options because today there is no room for mistakes.   

The backline and the keeper for me all pick themselves up.

It however becomes tricky in the middle. Will Diaby be a wise enough choice to start with? Who will play the Fabregas role? I have been thinking about two line ups. One consists of Wilshere in the play making role with Song and Diaby, if he is 100 percent fit, behind him. The second option is to play Nasri in the Fabregas role and with Song and Wilshere in support. Wilshere and Song are the key to our midfield today and we will need both of them to play their best games. I prefer to start with Song, Diaby and Wilshere in the middle.

Nasri to start on the right and Arshavin on the left with Van Persie to lead the attack and also the team.

If, however, Nasri starts in the Fabregas role; I will then bring in Rosicky on the right. Many will prefer Bendtner due to his performance against Stoke but I have my doubts about him on the flanks. He plays better in the lone striker role.

So my starting XI would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin

And please Arsene just don’t start with Denilson and Almunia.

I won’t make any predictions for a fear of jinxing it.  A win by any means is necessary today because anything but a win today is going to be critical for us. I just don’t want to think about anything else.

My everything is telling me that we will win this for sure so I have everything crossed for this one. Do so yourself and have a great day and hopefully we will all have a night to remember. Go Arsenal, we are all behind you!!

p.s. I hope the referee doesn’t spoil the game with incompetent or biased refereeing. With Mike Dean you can expect the worst.


Arsene Wenger on signing Jon Miquel Toral Harper from Barcelona

February 26, 2011

Arsene Wenger has confirmed the signing of Jon Miquel Toral Harper from Barcelona’s youth setup.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Wenger expressed his delight in signing the highly rated youngster who is half-English (English mother) and half-Spanish and has an English passport with the manager expecting him to arrive in the summer.

The news of his signing surfaced a few days back that left Barcelona fuming and which led Barcelona’s president Sandro Rosell calling the move ‘a little immoral’.

On Rosell’s comment, Wenger responded by saying that he doesn’t want to go any further on it as he explained how there isn’t anything illegal in signing a player who wants to join Arsenal in the first place. The manager further added that many of their payers leave under the same rule and if it weren’t legal he would have himself not signed the player.

On signing Jon Miquel Toral, Arsene said:

“You forget that this boy is English. He has an English passport, his mother is English, and hopefully he will join us in the summer.


[Rosell’s Comment]I do not want to go further on that front because it is very difficult. If you go in the academy of Barcelona and you look where all the players come from, come back to me and we can talk about it.

We have done what is legal. I love Barcelona, I love Catalonia. I have nothing against them. But when a player who is half-English and half-Spanish wants to join us, why should we turn him down if it’s all legal? If we have done something illegal, I will say ‘sorry, my boy, we cannot do it’. But plenty of players leave us under exactly the same rule.”


Arsene Wenger: Van Persie will be the Captain, Fabregas out for two games and Walcott likely to miss Barcelona game

February 26, 2011

With Fabregas out of the Carling Cup final, Van Persie is going to lead Arsenal on Sunday against Birmingham city.

Arsene Wenger at his pre-match press conference on Friday confirmed that Van Persie will be the captain for the Carling Cup final as the manager was delighted with his return and added that the team is determined and will do everything to win the final.

On an update on Fabregas’ return, Wenger said that the Spaniard will miss at least a couple of games due to a small injury which could have been worse as he added that how it is important he doesn’t miss more games with so much to play for still.

As for Walcott who will also miss the final, the manager added that he is out for two to three weeks and admitted that he is likely going miss the Barcelona return leg.

Wenger concluded by saying how it is imperative now for the squad to focus on the final on Sunday as injuries are part and parcel of the game and added that even without Fabregas, Walcott and Vermaelen they have enough quality players to deal with the game.

On Van Persie, Fabregas and Walcott, Arsene said:

“The vice-captain, who is Robin van Persie [will be captain]. He is back and I’m delighted. We have belief, confidence, we are committed and we are determined to get over the last hurdle of the Carling Cup and will do absolutely everything to achieve it. That’s what we focus on.

He [Cesc Fabregas] is injured and is out. We had a scan yesterday. He is out for one or two games, maybe. Cesc is sad and disappointed of course. It could have been worse and the injury is a very small one. But we have so many targets in front of us, it is important that he is not out for longer.

Theo Walcott will be two to three weeks for an ankle problem. I would say today it will be very unlikely he will be fit for the second Barcelona game. I imagine the worst so maybe I will be surprised in a positive way but I just give you the gut feeling at the moment that I have.

What is important now is that the team and the squad focuses on the game we want to play on Sunday. Ideally you want everybody fit but before the season starts you know you can have some players injured. We can deal with that.

You never want accidents to happen but we can deal with the fact that Cesc will not be there, Walcott will not be there and, of course, Vermaelen will not be there. When you look at the squad we have and the number of players we have available, we have enough quality players.”


Arsene Wenger’s injury update on the squad including Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Koscielny

February 25, 2011

Arsenal are going to be without Cesc Fabregas in the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City  this Sunday.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online on Thursday, the manager confirmed the bad news by saying how it is a very small injury through which he will miss the game. On a question for his return, Arsene added that it is impossible to give a deadline for his return even after Sunday’s game .

Fabregas was withdrawn early on in the game against Stoke on Wednesday due to a hamstring concern.

The manger continued by saying how Fabregas is disappointed for being side lined from the final and added that the best way to help him  now is to win the Carling Cup for him for his contributions to the team in this competition.

Fabregas joins Theo Walcott on the list of players who will miss the final as Walcott was ruled out after the game against Stoke for his ankle injury.

The manager gave an update on his injury by saying how he has a classic ankle sprain which is going to rule him out for at least two weeks.  

Arsene Wenger also gave good news in the shape of Koscielny, Van Persie and Diaby’s return to the squad after recovering from their respective injuries as the manager added that everybody else form the Stoke game are alright.

On Fabregas, Walcott and the recovering players, Arsene Wenger said:

“It is a very small injury but certainly Cesc will be out for Sunday. For how long [beyond that] I don’t know but for Sunday he will be short. It is very difficult to give a deadline. It is impossible.

He is [disappointed]. We all feel sorry and sad for him. The only way we help him now is to win the Carling Cup as he contributed a lot in this competition.

I saw him [Theo Walcott] this morning. He has a classic ankle sprain. We don’t think there is any more damage to it. But it is still a sprain. We are sad for him too. He is out for Sunday and maybe one or two more weeks.

[Van Persie, Koscielny, Diaby] All the three will be available. That’s the good news. And everybody else is all right from the Stoke game too.”


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City

February 24, 2011

Massive massive win for us as again we were left to play against not only Stoke but the referee, who made his intentions very clear when the second half started. I know no one is going to talk about the biased refereeing in this game because we won the game.  Still it was so evident that I was wondering whether the FA is blind or just incompetent. The ref did all he could to help stoke, except yes he didn’t get the chance to gift-wrap Stoke a goal but credit to Arsenal who kept it tight at the back through some brave defending. I also know most will not agree but as soon as the second half started, the attitude of the Stoke players and referee changed all together. Here again credit to Arsenal for not conceding a goal because had we conceded, the ref will have continued with his biased refereeing and our complaints would have meant nothing. For example, Carew’s foul on Djourou in the second half was late and I felt it was deliberate and IMO that was a red card and anyone not agreeing needs to see it again with open eyes. There were many others including fouls on Walcott, Nasri and Sagna where the ref did nothing. The commentary itself was unbelievable as they made the Stoke player look like angels. It was like no one wanted us to win match.

Anyways, I will come to the performance as this will end up somewhere else if I continue.

It was again a game where we dominated the possession but upfront we didn’t create much. In the middle we moved the ball around well but just couldn’t open Stoke up as they defended well at times. We also didn’t finish the few chances we created. Fabregas’ departure IMO opinion affected our game plan a lot.

The defenders did a great job out there as they held up against Stokes rugby. The midfield and the forwards played their part in it as well as we showed great character in the second half to thwart the tactics of Stoke and the help they were getting from the ref.

Coming to player ratings:

A solid 10 to all the players for being resolute till the very end and for getting another win against a side being helped blatantly by the referee.

Szczesny: Great keeping from the young man. He commanded his area well and made a couple of excellent saves. Was confident on the set pieces and throw ins. Made an error on one occasion but thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Sagna: Excellent defensive display as he made several important tackles and blocks. Upfront provided the necessary width but didn’t influence much.

Djourou: Great game from him as he demonstrated again his aerial dominance and reading of the game. Was alert on the set pieces and showed good awareness.

Squillaci: He also had an excellent game. Defensively was superb with his positioning and showed good strength as he didn’t allow anyone to get past him easily. He also scored the important goal as again his positioning was very good on that occasion.

Clichy: Solid again. A couple of times was caught out of position but overall did well. He too provided the necessary width upfront but couldn’t influence the game much.

Wilshere: Another outstanding performance from the young Englishman. He is impressing with every game as he showed his defensive intelligence and how well he is in taking corners.  Moved the ball around well and didn’t give away possession and showed good work rate.

Song: Another typical Song performance, strong and full of energy. Did give away possession a few times but overall did his job. Upfront didn’t get things going.

Fabregas: I hope he makes it for the final on Sunday as he was substituted in the opening minutes. Still in that very less time, he delivered in some excellent balls. When he was on, we looked more threatening as a team as we went a bit flat after his departure

Nasri: Was impressive in bits and pieces as he failed to make much impact. However, kept the ball well especially in the final minutes when we were under a lot of pressure.

Bendtner: A great response by the Dane as he gave an improved performance from last time. Rather, yesterday he did show some end product for his talks off the pitch. His positioning was good and showed good strength against the Stoke defenders. His assist was both excellent and intelligent.

Walcott: As always was a continuous threat whenever he had the ball. Struck the post in the opening minutes but should have scored on Arshavin’s pass in the second half. However, his decision making was not good at times. As for his injury, he is going to miss the final but I hope he returns for the Barcelona match.

Subs:

Arshavin: The first of the forced substitutions made by Wenger. He did very well after coming on. Made a couple of very good runs and should have had an assist had Walcott scored on his pass. In the final minutes combined really well with Nasri in keeping the ball. He could have also gotten a goal had he been alert to Nasri’s pass in the final minute of the stoppage time.

Denilson: The second of the forced substitution and as usual he continued with his side ways passing. Not complaining much as it helped us keep the possession last night.

Chamakh: Provided defensive cover but had little time to make an impact upfront.

That’s it for now. Have a great day and keep the faith as this title race is going to have many twists and turns.