Arsenal vs Stoke City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 23, 2011

Stoke City are visiting us today ahead of the Carling Cup final and a win will take us closer to a point of Manchester United at the top in the Premier League.

It seems like ages ago when this fixture was postponed back in December, with the prospect of facing Barcelona getting more attention at that time. We have now come a long way from that. Snow and bad weather saved Stoke at that time, today however they are in line for a lesson in football. 

It isn’t difficult to predict how Stoke will approach this game. From the very onset they will be looking to unsettle us. They will use the long balls, free kicks and long throws to their advantage and their forwards will use any mean necessary to gain advantage over us in our danger area.  Their midfielders and defenders, no doubt, will use the ‘committed’ approach of the English game to their full benefit. So, expect a lot of fouls and very less cards for them and if I am not wrong the opposite for us.

Our game plan, as Wenger very rightly pointed out, will be to keep possession and control the game. If we play the game to our speed, Stoke will have no chance of getting into it. The midfield will have to play a very big role in this and with most of our regulars set to start, it shouldn’t be difficult.

We will have to score goals and with no Van Persie, whosoever starts in his place will have to be really creative and clinical in front of goal. Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott will have to lead by example.  

As for the starting eleven, Szczesny will return in goal along with Clichy at left back and Djourou at centre back. With Koscielny injured, Squillaci will keep his place and Sagna will remain on the right flank.

In the middle, Fabregas and Wilshere will return and Song will keep his place.

Upfront, I would have started with Walcott in the middle if it wasn’t Stoke, as we will require someone with strength up there today. With Chamakh under-performing, Bendtner is the most suitable option and I hope that today he performs well as he will be playing at his favored position. Nasri and Walcott will be on either side of him. 

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.

This game can get difficult if Stoke score the first goal because they are much disciplined at the back. The first half, therefore, will be very important and the more quickly we get the game in control, the easier it will be.

As always, we need a win to keep the pressure on Man United. It will be a tight game but I expect nothing short of three points.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the match and have a great day.


Arsene Wenger on Aaron Ramsey’s return and Ignasi Miquel’s potential

February 23, 2011

Aaron Ramsey is going to return to Arsenal after his loan spell at Cardiff City expires this Saturday.

Speaking to the official website, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Aaron Ramsey will return to Arsenal and will be available for the replay against Leyton Orient on Wednesday. The manger said that the reports on his progress from Cardiff are good and added he will be utilised when he returns to the club.

Aaron Ramsey, on Tuesday, scored a goal for Cardiff against Leicester City as he played the full ninety minutes.  He is set to feature for Cardiff on Saturday again before he says his farewell to a month-long loan spell.  

Arsene Wenger, on Ramsey’s return, said:

“He is on loan until Saturday. After that he comes back. He could be available for the second game against Leyton Orient on Wednesday.

I have had good reports from Cardiff and I intend to use him. He could not play last Saturday because he had a little hip problem and we demanded that he rest. I think he will play this Saturday again and then we will see if he comes through that game well. After that he is available for Arsenal.”

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has praised Ignasi Miquel by saying that he has the potential to be a top-level player.

Ignasi Miquel made a promising start to his Arsenal career when he made his first team debut on Sunday against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup 5th round clash.

On his performance, the manager told the official website that how he has a lot to learn before he will be able to play in the top Leagues as he added the most important thing is that he has shown the talent to play at the highest level.

On Tuesday, Arsene said:

“He is not yet ready [for Premier League or Champions League] but he did enough to show that he will play in the Premier League and the Champions League. I feel that is the most important thing.

He has some aspects of his game that he has to work on, a bit more committed in the challenges, better in the air. But overall he has shown that he has the potential to play in there.”


Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Stoke City

February 23, 2011

Arsenal is going to be without Van Persie and Koscielny as we face Stoke City at home today.

While speaking to Arsenal TV Online on Tuesday, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Koscielny, Van Persie and Diaby are not available against Stoke while everyone else is fit.

Koscielny has a minor back problem, Van Persie is having a hamstring problem while Diaby, although suspended, has a calf injury.

However, Arsene added that the injuries to Van Persie and Koscielny are short term and they have a chance to be available for the Carling Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Djourou, on the other hand has recovered from his back injury as Wenger confirmed he will start today.

Today Arsenal play their 3rd game in as many competitions in just seven days as the Carling Cup final draws ever closer.

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, said:

 “We don’t have Van Persie, Diaby and Koscielny available. Everybody else is fit. Diaby is suspended. Van Persie has a hamstring problem and Koscielny a back problem. Both are short term and they have a chance for the game on Sunday.

Johan Djourou is better and will play”


Arsenal outdo Barcelona again as Eden Hazard speaks about his future and Nasri is going nowhere!!

February 22, 2011

With the media busy in making up stories of Arsenal players joining Barcelona, it is Arsenal , who have signed another young Barcelona talent for €300,000, so it seems.

Sky Sports reported today that there is news circulating in Spain that we have signed a young midfielder named Jon Miquel Toral Harper from Barcelona’s youth setup. The 16 year old is a technically gifted midfielder who currently plays in Barcelona’s Cadete A.

Now I don’t know how true this is. However, if it is, we have outdone Barcelona again. And it seems Barcelona are not happy to lose another one of their promising players to Arsenal. I don’t want to predict anything, but if he arrives here, Wenger will surely mould him into a great player and in the next 5 to 6 years there will be talks again of Barcelona DNA.

In other news, Eden hazard has come out and spoken about speculations regarding his Lille exit. He has been constantly linked with a move to Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. However, it seems it will be some time before he leaves with the player saying that he is happy at Lille. The player, however, spoke of Arsenal as an ‘interesting club’ and was pleased with Arsene’s complement regarding him. These were his words:

“It’s nice to be complemented by Arsene Wenger. Arsenal is a very interesting club. But I’ve never been in contact with clubs seriously. How will I choose my future club? It would be on sporting reasons. A club that plays good football – and does not kick and run pointlessly – is very appealing to me but if I had the desire to join a big club that, I would have gone by now. For now I’m under contract until 2014 and I’m good at Lille.”

So, he wants to play for a team that plays good football and not kick and run. A very few clubs fall in that category and Arsenal is one of them. I don’t know if we have made any contact with him but I would like us to make an offer for him in the summers as he is a talent to be secured.

The media has also not stopped short of making Nasri’s comments, about his contract extension, to be turned into talk of quitting Arsenal in the summer. Arsene Wenger had already told that Nasri’s contract will be decided in the summers. However, when Nasri said the same thing, it has been turned into ‘Nasri hints of quitting the club’. This is what he said:

“I’m always flattered when my name is mentioned in connection with any big club, but I also know how things work. As things are right now, I am happy here and I have ­confidence from the manager. But things can change quickly in football, and then we may have a new situation. We promised each other to speak about this subject after the season ends. For now all my focus is on winning the league title and also getting as far as possible in the Champions League. All I can say is that I am enjoying my time at Arsenal and in London, and I feel there’s still a lot for me to contribute. One of the reasons I came to Arsenal was to win titles, and I’m not expecting to leave this club without one.”

So, in the above where do you see that he has said he wants to leave the club? He is enjoying his time at the club and wants to win trophies. The contract will be settled in the summers and he is going nowhere and that’s that. End of the subject. There is nothing more to read in between the lines. It would be nice if we as supporters not delve much into it because the media will always make things up. They just a need a reason to conjure up irrelevant stories and we are better-off without them.

That’s all for now. It’s Stoke tomorrow and will come up with the preview later.


Player Ratings: Leyton Orient 1 – 1 Arsenal

February 21, 2011

Well, that was very very disappointing from Arsenal after what we have seen in the past couple of weeks. I didn’t even want to write anything about the match as I felt that a team who is going for all trophies don’t show up to face opponents like that. Nonetheless, after having a good night sleep and analyzing, I guess there are a few positives to take. One, Ignasi Miquel is one for the future, two, we are still in the FA Cup and three, Rosicky scored a goal.

The negatives I will leave for you as it was a night to be forgotten to say the least. I tweeted after the game that maybe we need a performance like this after every great win just to get back on the ground (if you know what I mean). One thing is for sure, the players who started yesterday have to step up exponentially if they are to help the team achieve something because Wenger can’t play our regulars in every match.  

Coming to player ratings:

Almunia (4): I didn’t want him to start yesterday as I said in my preview that we must keep Szczesny in goal. Why? Almunia demonstrated it with the manner he let that ball go past him. Didn’t have to do anything for the whole game and when the time came….. you saw what happened.

Sagna (6): Nothing special from the Frenchman. At the back wasn’t tested much and up front didn’t contribute significantly.

Squillaci (6.5): A good game from the centre back as he was composed and didn’t make his usual mistakes. A good block with his face to deny Orient a clear goal although he didn’t knew much about it.

Miquel (6): He is one for the future as I said before. Was calm and comfortable on the ball and did well on most of the occasions. Should have done better when Tehoue went past him to score the equalizer. I won’t blame him, though, because Gibbs was the senior player there and he should have done better than him.

Gibbs (5.5): I have a feeling that he needs a lesson in ‘how to defend’ as he demonstrated with his naivety in letting Tehoue go past him to score the goal. Upfront, however, he was useful as he made a couple of good runs and should have had an assist. Needs to improve his crossing through.

Song (4): He just moved up and down without any positivity.

Denilson (5): Did what he mostly does. Enough said.

Rosicky (7.5): He had a good game as he was one of the two better players out there for us. Moved around well and dropped deep to make things happen. Scored a very well taken goal and could have had another if not for the Orient keeper. Had the players around him been better, he would have had a very influential game. Keep it up Rosicky!

Bendtner (6): Poor finishing, poor first touch and add to that selfishness and arrogance (some may call it confidence) you get Bendtner. Again no end product.  May be I am a bit harsh on him as he isn’t playing at his favored position but still, he needs to play for the team. I thank him for the good assist though.

Chamakh (2): No comment.

Arshavin (7): The second of our two better players. Despite not at his best he looked lively at times and moved around well. Could have gotten a goal, as he hit the post, and had an assist, keeper saved Rosicky’s effort.

So, another extra fixture that we have to play now and I hope, if similar players start again, they will play better at the Emirates. I would not want them to start together again but the timing of the fixture is such that we cannot play our whole first team. I hope when the time comes, Wenger puts up a good balanced side that can finish the job.

Time to turn our focus on the Stoke game now as we cannot drop points in the League.

Have a great day!


Arsene Wenger on Jack Wilshere: ‘He can fight and play’

February 20, 2011

In the past few days Wilshere has been praised highly for his performances and rightly so. He was praised for his performance in the national colours against Denmark then for his display against Wolves, playing for his club. However, the most applaud that he got is for his superb performance against Barcelona, where he shown amongst players like Fabregas, Xavi and Iniesta on the pitch.

Manager, Arsene Wenger, has also come out and commended his ability as he compared him with players like Patrick Vieira and Manchester United’s Paul Scholes.

Speaking to the Arsenal TV Online, the manager said how Wilshere is an exceptional quality of player in having the ability to play strongly in both the offensive and defensive departments as most players are only strong in one part of the field.

For England, Wilshere played in the holding role recently, while for Arsenal you may see him play in a freer role.

Further elaborating his ability, the manager said how he has a committed side to his football in addition to his technical ability and aggression won’t be the right word in describing it as Wenger added that he likes the part of his character where he will fight for the cause without hiding.

Arsenal are up against Leyton Orient today  and Wilshere might be rested for it.

On Wilshere, Wenger said:

“He has the side of players like Scholes. He can fight and play. Jack has what you want from a midfielder, both parts of it. He is good in the defensive box and good in the offensive box. We are used to players being only strong on one side more than the other. He can have both.
 
More than aggression, I would say commitment. Aggression is something negative. He has a committed attitude and he needs to keep that. He doesn’t look like the sort of man who will back down in a fight, a bit like Patrick Vieira. That is what I like about him. You can go into a fight with him. Sometimes he can be a bit too much but I like the side of his character that is committed. You know he will not hide.”


Wojciech Szczesny on what he wants to be for a decade

February 20, 2011

Wojciech Szczesny has set himself the target of being an Arsenal number one keeper for a decade.

The keeper, on his goal, said how he will be happy to continue with the number one spot for ten years if given the chance but knows he will have to remain at his very best to do it as he added how due to a lot of competition at the club, a slip up in performance is going to let others get the chance, the same way he got, which he seized.

Arsenal are to face Leyton Orient today and Szczesny admitted that the League One side cannot be taken as easy opponent even after beating Barcelona.

On the game against Leyton Orient, Szczesny added how they will have to perform at the very best to qualify because the lower league teams always perform well in the FA Cup. He said how they want to win every game and being favourites most of the time demands them to be focussed for all matches equally.

Szczesny concluded by saying how he is hoping for a good result as he reminisced the last time he faced Orient, when at Brentford, where he got a clean sheet and a win.

On his goal and the game against Leyton Orient, Szczesny said:

“That’s my target really [a decade], that’s my goal. I would love to [do that] but I know I have a few others that want to have the No 1 shirt. I’m going to have to be at my very best to keep it. If I am given the chance to stay the No 1 I would be very happy to [continue]. There is very good competition at the Club so I can’t say there is no threat. I know that I have to be at my very best because if there is any slip up or drop in my performance, other goalkeepers will be happy to take my place.

I can’t demand playing time at a Club like this being 20-year-old. I know that when my chance came I had to take it with both hands and try to take the No 1 spot.”

“It’s the FA Cup, it always has something special about it and lower League teams seem to do very well. We are going to have to be focused and be at our best to make sure that we get through. We just want to win every single game, every game is the most important. Yes we beat Barcelona and we are very happy but we are going to have to focus on Leyton Orient and treat every game in the same way.

We are Arsenal Football Club and we are favourites in most of the games we play, we have to make sure we are focused. I played against Orient [when I was at Brentford], I actually kept a clean sheet and we won 1-0, so I’m hoping for a good result at the weekend.”