Arsene Wenger on Lehmann’s performance, Almunia’s Knee injury and Szczesny’s return

April 10, 2011

Jens Lehmann did well during Arsenal’s win over Blackpool after his surprise start due to an injury to Manuel Almunia in the warm ups.

Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger praised the performance of Lehmann by saying how his decision making was spot on and how his authority helped the team on set pieces.

The manager added that he wasn’t concerned about starting the game with him but admitted that the only problem was of replacing Lehmann, if something had happened to him during the game, due to having no keeper left on the bench.

There did come such a moment during the game when Lehmann could have been sent off for bringing down DJ Campbell in the danger area but Blackpool scored the goal, when the referee played the advantage, and Wenger admitted that it was an important split second of the game.

Regarding Almunia’s injury, Wenger said that he has a knee injury which needs to be assessed and added that he doesn’t yet know If he will be available for the next match. However, Wenger concluded by saying that Szczesny is not far away from returning.

Arsene Wenger, after the win, said:

“[Jens Lehmann] did well. His decision-making was spot on. In fairness, he didn’t have a lot to do because we controlled the game quite well. He is commanding and his authority helped us on set-pieces.

I was not concerned because I replaced a good goalkeeper with a good goalkeeper. The only concern was not having a goalkeeper on the bench anymore. If something had happened to Jens, because he had not played for a long time, we would have had a problem.

Yes. That was the important split-second of the game. I felt Jens played the ball, even if [the referee] gives a penalty he can give a yellow card because he tried to intercept the ball.

{Manuel Almunia] has a knee problem, we have to assess that. I don’t know [whether he will be ready for the next game]. We have [Wojciech] Szczesny who is not far away.”


Player Ratings: Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal

April 10, 2011

That was one good win even if it wasn’t convincing at times. We put ourselves in a spot of bother on more than a few occasions but overall it was a win we deserved and what we needed after so many draws.

To start off with, it was good to see Lehmann in goal and it seems that he is ready after all. He didn’t have much to do in the first half but made one massive save in the second half that helped us stay in the game. To be honest, I was happy that Blackpool scored the goal or else Lehmann would have been shown a red and we would have been down to 10 with no keeper to replace him.

We did score three goals but we should have had at least 8 if not more. I am not being negative but we need to change our habit of taking 5 chances to score one goal, we will need this against Manchester.

At the back too we need to improve our positioning or else we will be having difficult times in the coming games. The way Blackpool got through on a few occasions was alarming and resulted in some nervous moments for us.

Despite all that I am relieved that we got the win and as I said in my preview, hopefully this will prove to be a catalyst for us and we will go on a winning streak from now till the end. At the moment we are still unbeaten in 2011 in the league, so that is saying something.

I would also like to point out that we were lucky today with a couple of decisions that should/could have been penalties. Where I stand, I would say that after plenty of decisions going against us throughout the season; it is a nice change that we got some going our way. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Blackpool had at least one clear penalty not given. Blackpool has been at the end of many wrong decisions going against them this season and imagine what their fans will be feeling right now. Most likely similar to what we were feeling with wrong decisions going against us. And as I said in my preview, I hope they are not relegated.

As for Diaby’s yellow, that was deserved and it will be good if someone tells him to show some common sense when we are winning. He needs to be reminded about the Newcastle draw if he has forgotten it.

Coming to player ratings:

Lehmann (7.5):  An overall good game from Lehmann. His decision making was awesome and made one massive save as mentioned before. It was good to see that he was communicating with the defenders.

Eboue (7): Offers us more while going forward but at the back he is still lacking discipline. Scored a very well taken goal after a good one two with Wilshere and always provided good width on the flanks.  He needs to improve his positioning at the back and his decision making though.

Squillaci (7): Played one of his better games today. Looked composed and made some good tackles especially in the 76th minute which then led to our third and vital goal. He needs to continue with such performances.

Koscielny (6): We were lucky today that some of his clumsy challenges didn’t result in penalties against us. Besides that, he did well.

Clichy (5.5): Clichy did leave his side exposed a lot today but dealt with the dangers nicely. He provided good support upfront too. However, as always, he made one stupid error which could have resulted in a goal. Thanks to Lehmann, we weren’t punished for it. Was also partially at fault for the first goal.

Diaby (7): Opened up our account after he finished a good move involving Fabregas and Van Persie and which was started by him. Initially he failed to make his presence felt but improved as the game went on. As for his booking, stupidity is the word that comes to my mind. Diaby needs to be reminded what happened the last time he acted like that.

Wilshere (6): Good work rate from the young man. Was all over the pitch and combined well with Fabregas. Tried his luck with a good chip that was saved by the keeper. Did get an assist for the second goal.

Fabregas (7): It was good to see him back today with his delightful passing. His vision is just out of this world and the way he coolly executed the passes was awesome. Should have had 4 assist to his name today had our forwards been clinical. And still he is a long way from his best.

Arshavin (5): Was anonymous for the entire time he was on the field. Nothing went for him today but we all know he can produce something out of nothing. Hopefully, next time.

Van Persie (7.5): Was good to see him finally getting on the score sheet after he possibly missed three open chances. Got an assist on the first goal too.  My only gripe, he needs to be more clinical, despite his 12 goals this year.  

Nasri (6): I was disappointed that he didn’t score today. Otherwise, he had a normal game.

Subs:

Walcott (6.5): Brought pace to our attack and made a good run to assist for the third and vital goal that secured the win for us.

Ramsey and Gibbs had very little time to make an impact. No ratings for them.


Blackpool vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 10, 2011

This past week has been too long for my liking and I have no doubt it will have been the same for many Gooners. I have missed most of what has happened in the football world in the last week due to my work. Nonetheless,  the team and the manager have come under lots of criticism from all quarters, which was bound to happen after so many bad results, and which has left me wondering what the players would have been going through with nothing but one game a week to look forward to. Arsene Wenger made it clear in his pre-match press conference on Friday the way he sees this season and I am sure that it will have further infuriated a lot of fans.

There a few other things worth discussion from the conference and the post conference talk (the transcript is here) which I will in one of my next posts. For now I will come to the game, which is a must must win if we want to keep some little hope of taking the league title. Blackpool is the only team that has impressed me the most with what they have done this season. They have had some very good results and some very close losses but most of all they have played good football. Their position in the league doesn’t justify how they have done and I will certainly not want them to be relegated.  

However, as this is a must win game for us, we will have to play our best football and make sure they don’t play their game because they can surprise any team. Every game is straight forward from now onwards, perform and win or else start preparing for next season. We don’t want another flat performance like the Blackburn game because if we play the same way, Blackpool will surely damage us more than we can sustain right now.

Their defense is vulnerable but we will need to be clinical in front of goal, which we have failed to do recently, if we want to win this one. Most of all, the team will have to show the desire that they really want to win it 

As for the starting team, Almunia is in goal and the players at the back are likely to remain the same as against Blackburn. As for Sagna’s knee problem, if he doesn’t pass the test, Eboue will come in for him.

In the middle of the park, with no Alex Song, Diaby will come in alongside Wilshere. Fabregas has also been declared fit and is more than likely to start.

Upfront, I will start with Nasri, van Persie and Arshavin. Walcott wasn’t hundred percent and is facing a late fitness test. If he makes it, I will start with him on the bench and bring him on in the second half.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Diaby, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin

Despite all the negativity, I expect a resounding win today and hopefully it will prove to be the catalyst for us. There is still a minor chance that we will win the league, but I have that in the back of my mind. All I want from the team right now is to win all of the remaining games and give their best shot. We are more than capable of doing it but the question remains will we?

I will be utterly disappointed if we don’t try and take the chance, which somehow we have failed to do in the past couple of months. Hopefully, today it will be different and maybe Manu will give us a favor when this season comes to an end. If not, I will know that we did try even if a bit too late.

As always I have my fingers crossed and I am gunning for a win. Have a good day!!