Do we need to sign a new keeper this summer?? | Robin van Persie injured, I hope not!!

March 30, 2011

It has been a week since the last time I updated my blog as my final year project and catching up on university work has kept me busy. During this time much has happened in the football world and I can’t make up my mind on what to talk first.

Anyhow, I will be quick and short over here. To start off with, the thing that I feared the most to occur in this International beak, I am afraid, has come to pass, which is an injured Robin van Persie returning to Arsenal. Van Persie got injured in the 5-3 win against Hungary on Tuesday after scoring the opener. He got a knee to his thigh and was substituted before half time. However, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk believes that van Persie could be back for the weekend to play for Arsenal. He said:

“Robin got a knee to his thigh. With luck he could play for Arsenal this weekend.”

I really hope he does make it and that it isn’t a serious injury because without Van Persie, our chances of challenging for the title will surely be over. We are already in chaos at the back and if we lose our top goal scorer, I can imagine what the results will be in the final games. Last season when van Persie got injured on International duty, which ruled him out for half the season, similar things were said only to be revealed that it was a more serious injury. I hope this time it is not like that and he starts against blackburn.

The other bit is related to the goal keepers getting linked with us. Talks of Ajax keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg and Juventus keeper, Gianluigi Buffon to Arsenal have erupted after what happened in the Arsenal’s game against West Brom. Now, I am not sure if Stekelenburg is as good as he is rated. Although, I haven’t seen him play much except during the Football World Cup where frankly speaking he didn’t impress me much. He wasn’t the only one with Hugo Lloris also a high profile keeper who didn’t impress.   However, these are Stekelenburg’s words regarding a move to Arsenal:

“If Arsenal make an offer, I will leave Holland.”

Will we make an offer for him? I think that is a big NO! And I will leave the matter as it is.

Similarly, Gianluigi Buffon’s agent has also not ruled out Buffon’s move to Arsenal at the end of this season, although, we haven’t yet contacted him. I would have really liked to see Buffon come in as number at the start of this season and even right now when we need a keeper. However, after seeing Szczesny’s performance this season, I am not sure. The question that needs to be asked is that do we need to sign Buffon or any other keeper this summer? No doubt, Buffon is a top class keeper and he is an asset for any team, I feel a move to sign him or any other keeper will hamper Szczesny’s progress. We also have Fabianski, who has done well and we have Mannone in line and they will all be back next season. And hopefully next season we will not be in a similar situation, with three keepers injured, as we are now. Bringing Buffon or any keeper in for a high price I believe will be a waste of money when we can always spend that money to sign players in position we do need to reinforce, defense and defensive midfield to be precise.

The thing about which we should be concerned right now is that we have Almunia in goal and Lehman I feel isn’t yet ready to replace him, after his outing in the reserve game against Wigan. Sadly we cannot do anything but only hope we don’t suffer much because from now on till the end of the season, each game is a must win and if more goals are let in like the one Almunia conceded, it will bring an end to yet another season of ours which promised so much.

In other news, there was talk of Barcelona not having enough money for Fabregas or something similar and Xavi opening his mouth again to show how smelly it is. I won’t link to both the news. There is also talk of Clichy’s contract and him leaving us this summer, I hope he doesn’t because, Gibbs, I feel is not ready to take over. Also Arsenal has decided not to appeal Wenger and Nasri’s ban, a good decision and one I was hoping for. Also, we are going to have Fabregas, Song, Diaby and Walcott back for the Blackburn game. Szczesny and Djourou may yet feature for us before the season comes to an end. The international break is over (almost) and as of now we only have a doubt on van Persie. So, all is not lost yet. A winning streak from now till the end of the season and we will lift the trophy, fingers crossed!!

Have a good day.


Update on Wojciech Szczesny’s finger injury as he works on his fitness

March 23, 2011

After getting good news on Djourou’s injury, Szczesny has also given us a boost after he revealed that he is in training despite being injured.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online, the young man revealed that he is daily working on his lower body in the gym and improving his distribution which is going to be useful for him and the team as he added there is plenty to do to keep him occupied.

Szczesny is disappointed that the injury came at a time when things were going well for him but added that the best way to deal with it is to move on and work hard, so that one can return stronger than ever.

Szczesny also confirmed that he will return to the squad in six weeks.  On his recovery, the keeper said that the tendon is ruptured which has to be kept in splint for 4 weeks after which it will be two weeks before he can join the squad.

Szczesny, on his recovery, said:

“I work in the gym everyday, working on my lower body and my distribution as well which will be very good for me. I’m not getting bored, I can still do a lot of stuff. There’s nothing you can do when it happens – you have to move on, work hard on your fitness and make sure you come back stronger than ever. It’s very hard, especially at a time when it was going well for me. We have got some big games coming up.

There’s not a lot of joint damage, the tendon is ruptured. So basically I have to keep my finger in a splint for four weeks and let the tendon heal. From then it will be a couple of weeks before I can be back in the squad.”


International break: Djourou to return in 4 weeks, Lehmann must start, UEFA’s Ban and Pictures of Leaked Arsenal Home Kit

March 23, 2011

The problem with International breaks is that nothing exciting happens in it. This International break is no different as it is already getting boring and only two days have passed with 10 more to go. Also these breaks usually don’t turn up good for us with mostly our important players returning injured at the end of it.  This season, however, we have been quite lucky on that front except on a couple of occasions. Theo Walcott  got injured on International duty but he recovered. Vermaelen’s injury, however, has really bitten us in the arse as his absence has been felt throughout the season. Other than that, the breaks have gone well, for our team has benefitted in the shape of added rest and also our injured payers have recovered without missing games.

This International break has come for us at the right time as we have been going through a very bad patch of results. We have been knocked out of two competitions, failed to win a final and on the trot drawn two games in the Premier League, which has opened up the debate regarding our players’ mentality and lack of trophies. I won’t go into that because at the end of the season, we will know clearly where we stand and as to what we have learnt and achieved. We still can win the league, no doubt. If we fail, many questions will be asked and this time Arsene will have to answer them because hiding behind lack of experience will not be an option. We have to sort out our problems during this break and make sure our injured players recover in time.

As with most International breaks, there isn’t much happening. Players have been linked here and there as always. In the past couple of days, however, most blogs have come up with the players that Arsenal need to sell at the end of the season. There are a few players that need to released as they have been given too many chances, yet they have shown no improvement or consistency. I will be coming up with my list at the end of the season because right now it doesn’t feel right. We also need a few reinforcements but again I will discuss it at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, there have been a few developments. The first bit is good news in the shape of Djourou’s recovery. The official Arsenal website has revealed that Djourou has undergone an exploratory surgery on his shoulder, with no need for a reconstructive surgery, and is expected to return to training in four weeks. If we are lucky, we can have Djourou back for the United game, which will be a big boost because at the moment that game looks to be the title decider. Before that, however, we have to win our 5 games, including matches against Liverpool and Tottenham to really have a chance to challenge United for the title. With plenty of our regulars also destined to return at the end of this break, we can remain hopeful that this title can still be ours. And here is to hoping that the 14 gunners that have been called for international duty return in one piece, especially Nasri and Van Persie.

The second bit is the keeper situation, which is giving me nightmares. We have lost Fabianski for the season already and we have lost Szczesny for quite some time. As for Almunia, I have lost my trust in him after yet another howler against West Brom. I was excited with Lehmann joining us but that excitement has been short-lived after what Wenger said to Arsenal TV online.   

“Lehmann is like a guy who has not been in goal for a long time but who has kept his body fit. He has the basic physical fitness, he needs little bit of decision-making practice in goal.”   

After Almunia’s mistake, I don’t see any reason for Lehmann to not start the next game but this point of him not being ready is leaving many doors open. If he wasn’t ready, why was he signed in the first place!? And I am not complaining here because he can guide us through to the finish line with his experience but he would have done that even without signing. We needed a cover and a keeper who was in practice should have been signed, if Lehmann was out of practice. As nothing can be done now, Lehmann should be made ready to start the coming games because to be honest, we can kiss goodbye the tile if Almunia stays in goal. Here again the International break can come to our help because two weeks time IMO is enough for Lehmann to get ready. And hopefully he will start in goal against Blackburn (my fingers are crossed).

In other news, Arsenal will be deciding next week on whether to appeal the UEFA bans against Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri after they receive the detail reasoning from UEFA. Now, one match ban is not a big problem and as is the case most ban appeals end in extension of it. So, I feel that it will be better for us if we don’t appeal and just serve the one match ban.

Finally, here are some of the leaked pictures of what is believed to be our home kit for next season to celebrate our 125th anniversary.

That’s all for now. Have a great day!


Player Ratings: West Brom 2 – 2 Arsenal

March 20, 2011

Well, the game did play out to some of my expectations. I expected that the match wouldn’t be a walk in the park but I never expected a draw or drop of points.  I expected a bad performance from Denison but not a freak goal and mistake from Almunia and Squillaci. I expected any one of Arshavin, Van Persie and Nasri to produce a big moment but I never expected four goals to be scored. As it stands, we are now five points behind Manchester united with a game in hand.

As far as the performance is concerned, it was below par for like an hour and only when Arshavin scored the first goal out of nowhere, we became alive. The more alarming thing is that it took two goals for our players to wake. But that can be taken as an improvement because when we played them last time at the Emirates, it took three goals for us to realize that we were losing, and eventually we did lose that game.

The defense today was in shambles as everyone made mistakes after mistakes. No communication, no coordination, no positioning, everything was erratic to say the least. In the middle also we failed to create much. Our movement and passing wasn’t sharp enough. Upfront, we had very limited chances to score from.

And as for learning from our mistakes, that we will never do. We again had plenty of possession but we created very little opportunities. We again conceded by giving away an unnecessary corner, by a mistake of the keeper and defender and by not closing down the opposition or attacking the aerial balls.

West Brom on the other hand scored two goals with their two shots on goal and looked threatening every time they were in our half.

However, I am disgusted the most with Denilson’s performance and Almunia and Squillaci’s mix up which sums up our failings of the season very nicely. Denilson for me shall never start for Arsenal again. He has been given chance after chance and everytime he disappoints. It’s becoming unbearable to watch him trot at a snail’s pace and then give away the ball when under no pressure. Simply not acceptable if we want to win something.

Same goes for Almunia. He may produce a couple of good games but mistakes such as the one committed today are a telling us quite clearly that he never will be a good keeper and will always cost points. Squillaci too needs to step up exponentially or he will be joining them soon enough. He is just a step behind.

The only positive if it can be taken as a  positive is the way we came back. We could have even won it in the end. However, if we had started playing from the first minute it would never have come to that and I see this as two points dropped and not one point gained.

Coming to player ratings:

Almunia (1): I don’t know what he was thinking when he came out of goal like that. Horrible piece of keeping that spoilt the game. It is mistakes like these that he will never be a good keeper as I said before.

Sagna (5): He made a lot of uncharacteristic errors as his positioning was not good and left his side exposed a lot. The corner which led to West brom’s first goal should never have been conceded had Sagna not lost his man.

Koscielny (5): He also made plenty of uncharacteristic mistakes. Needs to improve his partnership with Squillaci or else we will be seeing more performances like these.

Squillaci (3): Horrible mistake for the second goal. Did produce a great block late in the game to deny West Brom a win. Needs lots of improvement.

Clichy (5.5): Upfront delivered in a few good crosses, one of which should have been a goal, had Ramsey done better. However, he did give away the ball on more than a few occasions which led to nervous moments at the back.

Wilshere (6): Nothing much from the youngster as he did well in the second half alongside Nasri in the middle of the park.

Denilson (2): My temper with him has crossed the boiling point.  He was in the lineup today as we have no other defensive midfielder. Showed again that he doesn’t want to play.

Nasri (6): Again nothing much from Nasri but similarly to Wilshere did well in the midfield in the second half.

Arshavin (7): Anonymous for like 75 percent of the game. However, produced a magical moment for the first goal and then crossed the ball which led to the second goal.

Van Persie (6.5): Tried his best even without support. Scored the vital second goal.

Ramsey (5.5): He isn’t ready to start games. Lost his man for the first goal and missed a simple tap in the first half. Not going to judge him much as he hasn’t played football at this level for a year.

Subs:

Chamakh (6) and Bendtner (6) provide good support to van Persie and increased our presence in the box. Bendtner provided the assist for the second goal.


West Brom vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 19, 2011

I had taken some time off from football after what happened last Saturday. The negativity, however, that has followed ever since Arsenal’s exit from three competitions has been immense and highly uncalled for. No doubt the departures have been frustrating and disappointing but to completely overlook what the team has achieved this season on the basis of two weeks result is not logical. No doubt we have our liabilities and I do agree with some of the points that have been raised but the way people have gone about it is not right. And also now isn’t the time to be discussing the weaknesses of the team. When the season is over, there will be plenty to talk about. What we need to do right now is to get behind the team because the media will always find reasons to ridicule us. No doubt, everyone is entitled to their own views but we as fans would do better if we stick to supporting the team.

Coming on to today’s game, it is against West Brom at their home and after what happened the last time we faced them, this won’t be a  walk in the park. The game had plenty of goals the last time and if I am not wrong, Almunia didn’t have a good day. Ironically he is making his return in the League against the same oppositions and after his brilliant display against Barcelona and Manchester United, I am gunning for another good performance.

Today I also feel there won’t be many goals. One reason is that West Brom are under Hodgson and the second because we will also approach the game a bit more cautiously. And with plenty of our regular starters missing, we will have difficulty in the opening them up, as we witnessed the last time.

We will have to be disciplined in the middle of the park and move the ball around with precision and pace and only then we will be able to open them up. Much will depend on how our regulars play. No doubt to win the whole team will have to perform but Nasri and company will have to produce some magical moments that will lead to goals.

At the back too, Squillaci and Koscielny will have to stay alert. These two have had their weaknesses exploited when playing besides each other and with Almunia also not playing regularly with them, the problems can be compounded. Communication among them will be key and the midfield will have to do their job if we are not to concede. And please Arsenal no half hearted attempts in defense and middle of the park, like we witnessed against Manchester United last Saturday. Fight for every ball and close down opposition players early so that they don’t create goal scoring opportunities.

Upfront, we will have to ensure that we don’t waste chances. I don’t want another opposing keeper getting the man of the match.

For the starting eleven, we don’t have many good options as there are a few injuries in important positions. Arsene Wenger again will have to make some bold decisions.

In goal it has been confirmed that Almunia will start. The back line picks it up itself with Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy and Sagna.

In the middle, Wilshere and Nasri are the easy picks. However, with no Song and Diaby, we have Ramsey and Denilson to choose from for the third spot. To be honest, the more I wish for not seeing Denilson in the starting lineup, the more likely it is that he will start. As it will be today because Ramsey I fear isn’t yet ready to start a game.

Upfront too Van Persie and Arshavin are easy picks. On the right we have the options to start with Rosicky, Bendtner and Eboue. Eboue doesn’t add much while Bendtner also doesn’t impress when he starts on wings. And although Rosicky has also been poor, I will start with him on the right because he will help us keep the ball better (if he plays well).

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Denilson, Rosicky, RVP, Arshavin

If everything goes according to plan we will be level on points with Manu by five o clock and hopefully top of the table (if Manu lose their game). We have only the league to focus on and after a weeks break I want to see a good display from our team. Please Arsenal give your best, show that you want the title by winning today and rest of the remaining games. We all are behind you or else it will be hard not only for you but also for us to keep believing in you. 

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the game where ever you are. Tonight we start the final lap of the season which hopefully will end with the League title in May (after which we can start sorting out the weaknesses of the team).


Arsene Wenger’s latest injury news ahead of West Brom

March 18, 2011

Arsenal are going to play West Brom at their home on Saturday in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger gave the latest injury news ahead of it on Thursday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger put the rumors to rest, of an early return for Johan Djourou, as he confirmed that Djourou is out for at least 6 weeks with a very little possibility to feature again this season. He will have arthroscopy on Monday to get more details on the extent of the injury as Wenger hoped for good news.

Cesc Fabregas has also been ruled out for Saturday as Wenger revealed that he will be back after the International break. Walcott is also not available for this weekend and also for England in the International break.

Alex Song with a knee, Wojciech Szczesny with a finger and Abou Diaby with a groin injury are all ruled out for their respective times.  

Arsene Wenger on Thursday said:

“Johan Djourou is out for at least six weeks. There’s a little chance [he will play again this season], he has an arthroscopy on Monday and we will know more about the damage in his shoulder. We hope we will have good news but no matter what happens he will be out for six weeks.

Cesc Fabregas is out for the game on Saturday. He should be back after the international break, maybe, he has a chance, but he is not available for the weekend. Walcott is not available for the weekend and he has no chance [for the international break]. He is not available for England.”


Arsene Wenger on the game and Johan Djourou’s injury

March 13, 2011

Last night Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United after Fabio and Rooney scored the vital goals.

Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger explained how they couldn’t score goals after controlling the game and how United got their goal by being clinical which made it easier for them to play on the counter and how subconsciously he believes that Tuesday’s defeat had a part to play with the team suffering from low confidence.

The manager admitted they weren’t dominated but lost to a side that was clinically better and added that things aren’t going Arsenal’s way at the moment as he didn’t blame the effort put in by the players.

With the premier league the only trophy left for Arsenal to win, Arsene Wenger was positive that they can win the title as he said that it is now a test of the metal strengths of the team.

Johan Djourou also got injured during the game after Sagna collided with him. Arsene Wenger confirmed that he has a dislocated shoulder that will see him ruled out for the rest of the season.

After the game, Arsene said:

“We had good control of the game. Manchester United had very few chances, they scored with almost their first attempt on goal. After that, we put them in a position they like to be [in] – on the counter attack. They are strong and they are clinical in front of goal. In the second half we had a good opportunity to come back to 1-1 and two minutes later it was 2-0. As long as you cannot come back to 2-1, they are comfortable. In the end, I cannot fault our effort.

Things do not go our way at the moment. We have to keep going, support each other and come back strong. It was a strange game, we put a lot of effort in. At the moment, every goalkeeper against us is Man of the Match. I still believe, subconsciously, the disappointment of Tuesday night has played a part today. You could see something has gone, not in our effort or our attitude, but confidence wise.

We were not outplayed today but we were punished by a team who were more clinical than us.

I believe that we can do it. It is a good test for us now, to show that we can regroup, show our mental strength and respond quickly. We have a week without a midweek game, that is the first time for a long time. Unfortunately, we lost Johan Djourou for the rest of the season. [He has a] dislocated shoulder. His season is over.”


Player Ratings: Manchester United 2 – 0 Arsenal

March 13, 2011

When I wrote the preview of this game, I said that after tonight we will get a clear picture of what’s left of this season. Well we have the picture and it is not looking good at all.

Two weeks, out of three competitions, injuries in important positions, fringe players performing crap, the League is still to play for with 10 games to go and the big question remains that will we be able to finish the season with a trophy? The season for us has gone from bad to worse in a jiffy in the last week and I don’t know what to expect next. As things are shaping up, I have prepared myself for the worst. However, to remain positive I have hope that we will win the League but as I said in my preview, we will need to show massive character, not what I saw today.

As far as today’s game is concerned, it was typical. Manu flooded the defense and midfield, they stayed deep, invited us to attack them, which we did. We had plenty of chances and plenty of possession, we failed to score. United played on the counter and got their goals on the rebound. Denislon had his usual evening jog, Gibbs had a nice time watching Denilson, Almunia saved our blushes, Sagna collided with Djourou, who is out for the season with a dislocated shoulder (coumpounding our misery) as Manu got through and we return home with another disappointment and our season going down the drain.

After watching today’s game, I am still at a loss as to what we learned from the Barcelona win because frankly speaking some of the players today looked like they had no belief, they showed no tenacity, no hunger and looked lost. What’s more frustrating is that these players talk big off the field but when it comes to performing, they always end up short. It hurts every time I see the same player’s underperforming and I don’t know for how long I can take it.

Coming to player ratings:

Almunia (7): Made some good saves to keep the score respectable. Cannot be faulted for the goals. Nothing much to do as mostly we had the ball.

Sagna (6): Upfront had a good game as he delivered in some excellent crosses which our forwards failed to utilize and we suffered in the end. Defensively did  enough.

Djourou (7): Played well for most parts. Too bad he is out for the season.

Koscielny (6.5): He was solid at the back but should have done better on the first goal. The thing I have noticed from the last two games is that he is very capable of moving forward and is good with the ball at his feet. His passing is accurate and today he created a good opening. Van der Saar saved his shot though.

Gibbs (3): Many people were saying that Gibbs is Clichy’s replacement. Today he showed us that he isn’t and it is not for the first time. He can be a wing player who can cross but not a fullback. His positioning, game reading and decision making is poor to say the least and he was awful at the back today. Look at the buildup of how we conceded the second goal and the countless other opportunities that Manu created from his side. Unbelievable!!

Wilshere (6.5): Another decent game from our best player so far in the past couple of weeks. He plays every game with passion, only if the players around him would show 50 percent of that, we will not be disappointed after every game.  

Diaby (4): I don’t know what has gotten into him. How many more games does he want??

Denilson (3): My patience is over with him. He isn’t good enough wasn’t good enough and never will be good enough. Wenger please stop playing him. He is a liability and nothing else. Look at how he is jogging alongside Valencia and not closing him down before we concede the second goal. Unbelievable again!!

Nasri (6.5): Nasri to me looks frustrated because game in game out he is trying hard but his team mates around him aren’t. Had two good shots on goal but Van der Saar produced  saves on both occasions. However, I still expect more from him.

RVP (6): Didn’t get enough support and clear chances. Tested Van der Saar with a few shots. Other than that couldn’t influence the game much. I was expecting much from him too only to be disappointed.

Arshavin (5.5): Got in and out of game. Misplaced a few passes. Didn’t make much impact as he was substituted.

Subs:

I was delighted to see Chamakh (5.5) when he came on, only because Denilson was taken off though. Added nothing much as he had a shot saved by Van Der Saar. Rosicky (5) missed a sitter in stoppage time, as he also didn’t add much when he came on. Was good to see ramsey (no ratings) come on. Moved around well and I hope he gets the go ahead of Diaby and Denilson in the coming weeks.

As has been the case with the games in the past couple of weeks, we have to move on from this one too. We have found it difficult but the League is now our only opportunity to get some silver ware and we cannot make mistakes.  If we can’t win it, this season will go down as a failure and nothing else. No doubt this season we have certainly improved but no one will remember it if we don’t win something. We are in with a good chance and it’s time now for the players to forget what happened in the last two weeks and deliver the EPL.

It starts for us again in a week’s time, keep your fingers crossed!!


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