Arsenal vs Olympiacos: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 28, 2011

Just a quick preview as time is short.

Tonight we play our second group game in the Champions league and we are hosting Olympiacos. After a decent first group game against Dortmund, we lost to Blackburn before notching up a couple of wins. Tonight we need to follow it up with another win just to get the confidence and momentum going.

Games are coming in thick and fast which can only be good for us if we can manage to perform well in them. With our third game in a row at home, we need another good performance if we are to beat them. Although we have won all our games at home this season bar one, we still need to make the Emirates a fortress and that can only be possible by giving nothing to the opposition. Our home record in Europe is also good but that shouldn’t make us complacent. As Ramsey told the Official Matchday Programme:

“We have a good record at home in Europe, and I think we need to approach every game here the same. We need to say ‘this is our home pitch and this is where we are strongest’. Hopefully the win against Bolton will help us do that, and we want to go on an unbeaten run now.”

This game won’t be a walk in the park as Wenger was right when he said there is no such thing as an easy game.

“For me, it is difficult to beat anybody. We have a lot of respect for Olympiacos. I have seen their game against Marseille and they played well. You never win easy in the Champions League – when you give absolutely everything, you have a chance to win. If we have not learned that from 14 consecutive years in the Champions League, then we are really stupid. If you do not prepare properly, then you have no chance.”

While they are pretty good in attack, their defending is questionable (not very different from us). So, today it will be a matter of who best exploits the other team’s weakness. We shouldn’t under estimate them at any cost as RVP said:

“We know that tonight’s match will be a very difficult challenge. I was looking at their record and they have been champions in Greece 13 of the last 15 years. That’s pretty amazing and they will provide a really tough challenge, just like they did a couple of years ago.”

So hopefully the team is prepared to give them a lesson in football.

Injury wise, we are short in plenty of bodies in vital positions. With Gervinho, Walcott and Koscielny joining Vermaelen, Wilshere, Diaby and Squillaci (there are a few others!) on the side lines, we will have to play some young players today.

Among the injured, loss of Wilshere for five months is a big blow. Questions will always be asked as to why we always lose our best players to mysterious injuries for long durations, but I know we will never get to know the answer. It is very easy to blame some one but it won’t do us any good. Whether the fault is with our medical staff, or the way we train or the manager’s, in the end it doen’t matter as we will miss him for more than half an year. I am only hoping that we do see him in five months and he does not suffer the same fate as Vermaelen and Rosicky. We will have to cope without him with the burden falling on lots of young players eventually. Hopefully, we will come out on top!

As far as the team is concerned for today, I will go with Sagna, Mertesacker, Song and Santos at the back. We will have to go with Song as all other centre backs are injured. I shudder just imagining who will we play, if one of Mertesacker and Song get injured.

In the middle, I will keep Arteta and Ramsey and bring in Coquelin, who really impressed me in the Shrewsbury game. Frimpong is also not a bad option. Any one of them will do but personally I would like to see Coquelin tonight. Arteta and Ramsey will have to provide creativity today with Song playing as centre back. Ramsey was excellent in the second half against Bolton so hoping he repeats that same performance.

Upfront, I will go with van Persie, Arshavin and chamberlain as we are missing our regulars. Arshavin, according to Wenger just needs a bit of confidence, so today’s game might be a good opportunity to get some of it back. As for Chamberlin, he was phenomenal in the Carling Cup game, so looking forward to see him dazzle Europe today. As for van Persie, I will play him for at least an hour to get some goals in before substituting him. He will need some rest before the game against Spurs.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Santos, Arteta, Coquelin, Ramsey, Chamberlain, RVP, Arshavin.

We can always bring on Chamakh, Park and Miyaichi to mix things up.

As for the result, I am confident that we will win this one. The pressure will no doubt be on us but playing at home, we will have the advantage of home crowd. We also need to show consistency and winning this game and next are crucial to really get us back on track.

Looking forward to a sound defensive performance and goals from Van Persie and Chamberlain. Keep your finger crossed!

Enjoy the game!


Wenger’s injury update on Koscielny, Gervinho, Walcott and Squillaci

September 28, 2011

It is back to Champions League football this midweek, with Arsenal up against Olympiacos at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger, speaking at his press conference on Tuesday gave the latest update on the injury front.

According to the manager, Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Gervinho are all out of today’s game through minor injuries and will have a chance against Tottenham coming weekend.

Koscielny is going to miss today’s game through an ankle problem as a consequence of a Nigel Reo’s tackle in the game on Saturday. Gervinho is out due to a muscle problem.

Theo Walcott, who was substituted on Saturday due to an injury, later revealed to be a knee problem, is also going to sit this game out but has more than a fifty-fifty chance for Tottenham game.

On an update on Squillaci, the manager said he will join the group on Friday or Saturday.

Arsene Wenger, ahead of the game, said:

[Laurent] Koscielny is not fit. He has an ankle problem which is a consequence of the tackle by [Bolton’s] Nigel Reo Coker, which was a fair tackle but a bit late. Gervinho is not fit, he has a minor muscular problem that is very, very mild.

[Theo] Walcott is not fit, he has a minor knee problem. He got a kick, but there is no damage in the knee. All three have a chance for the weekend. I would say Theo has a more than 50-50 chance.

Squillaci is not completely fit, he should be back in the group on Friday or Saturday.


Arsenal vs Bolton: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 24, 2011

The win against Shrewsbury Town in midweek was a welcome change. It wasn’t unexpected but we did have few scares and I am glad that we came out with a win, no matter how unconvincing we were through some of the patches.

Fast forward and here we are up against Bolton at the Emirates. While we haven’t yet lost in other competitions, the start to the Premier League for us has been nothing short of a disaster. The league table is not a good sight at the moment for us; losing three games of the first five, conceding 14 goals in the process and sitting just outside the relegation zone. However, the important thing is we have to recover from here as we can’t let it get any worse. Today, we have another opportunity to get our momentum going. Hopefully, we will have a good response from the team.

Bolton like us hasn’t had a good start to this season. Winning just one of their first five games, they sit two places below us at 19. It isn’t a good place to sit and we can be down there ourselves if we don’t win today’s game against them (It does feel odd just to be one place out of the relegation zone) Anyways, Bolton won’t be pushovers as Wenger mentioned in his press conference. They are a good side; know how to play and how to mix things up. We will have to fight hard to get a result.

We have got some mixed injury news ahead of the game. While Sagna, Ramsey and Rosicky have made it into the squad, Benayoun is going to be missed for a week. The biggest blow, however, is the news of Wilshere to undergo a surgery this Monday which is going to rule him out for at least three months. Which means, he won’t be playing this year! Well, who saw that coming? Hands up if you did!

Anyhow, Wilshere was already out for this clash and we can’t really do anything about what’s happened. For today, we need to go out there and get a result. Nothing short of a win will be a disaster, if nothing else.

We made eleven changes in the game against Shrewsbury, so I expect another eleven changes to the team. I will go with another 4-4-2 formation. The backline will see the likes of Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna and Santos return. Wenger may start with Gibbs but I would prefer Santos over him because we need to get our first choice backline sorted.

In the middle, I would go with Arteta and Song flanked by Ramsey and Arshavin.

Upfront I will start with Walcott just in front of van Persie, in the central role, just as he has been asking Wenger to do all this year.

Szczesny will of course return in goal.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos, Ramsey. Arteta, Song, Arshavin, Walcott, RVP. (4-4-2)

If we, however, go with 4-3-3, replace Walcott with Gervinho and bring Walcott on later. At some point, I would also like ot see Chamberlain involved as he was on fire against Shrewsbury.

We need to take today’s game by the scruff. We have already crossed the limit of making mistakes and any more will blow us apart completely. The Blackburn game saw us having a good first half where our team looked liked finally stepping up. We were, however, brought down very quickly in the second half. We need to avoid that today. A game is played for 90 minutes and we need to give our best for the 90 minutes today.

I am worried about our defense though as we have not yet found the right solution to our problems back there. Even against Shrewsbury, we had some very scary moments. Today we need to really step up our game in defense in particular and all the other areas in general. Hopefully, the team won’t disappoint.

A win is a must as I said before or we are going to end up in the relegation zone by the end of this weekend.

While the manager has been talking about going for all trophies, for me it will be an achievement if we make it in the top four this season and end up wining any of the domestic cups. We are only going to make it there if we win our games. We cannot any more live on excuses.

What Wenger is saying here has really disappointed me. We still are making excuses for our start when in the first place it has been our own fault.

“I still believe we paid a very heavy price for the Udinese game, where we didn’t get any credit at all. Today, they are top of the league.

“We had to give absolutely everything at Dortmund and in the second half at Blackburn you could see that. Our start of the season was disturbed by the transfers and by the fact that we had to qualify for the Champions League. We lost a lot of energy in these games.”

Any ways, we need to concentrate on the game and not think too much about what should have happened. Enjoy the game form where ever you watch and keep your fingers crossed. We will hopefully win today!


Wenger’s injury update ahead of Bolton: Ramsey, Sagna and Rosicky back, Benayoun out!

September 24, 2011

Arsenal host Bolton today at The Emirates after the midweek win against Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup. Arsene Wenger gave the latest injury update ahead of the game on Friday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager gave positive news on Aaron Ramsey and Bacary Sagna’s scheduled tests. Both passed their tests and are included in the squad to face Bolton. Tomas Rosicky, who has been out since the International break, is also back in the squad.

Meanwhile, Yossi Benayoun who scored his first goal for Arsenal on Tuesday will be out at least for a week with a thigh strain. Johan Djourou will join him on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

Both of them will be missing today’s game plus the midweek clash in the Champions League against Olympiacos. They have an outside chance against Tottenham next week.

Arsene Wenger on Friday, said:

“[Tomas] Rosicky is back in the squad. [Bacary] Sagna and [Aaron] Ramsey had positive tests this morning, so overall it is alright.

[Yossi] Benayou has a thigh strain and [Johan] Djourou has a hamstring [problem]. Both of them are very minor muscular problems.

They could play with a risk of making it worse. But we will not take the gamble. As I told you, we only play players when they are 100 per cent.

Both of them are out with muscular problems in the short term. One week so Bolton and Olympiacos for sure. They have an outside chance to play against Tottenham”

 


Arsenal vs Shrewsbury Town: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 20, 2011

The loss at Ewood Park left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Three days on, it hasn’t lessened but as it has been the case for the last 7 months, we have to move on and get on with the games as they come. We definitely need to break this chain of bad results as Wenger very nicely put it while talking about the loss against Blackburn.

“Our season depends now on how well we respond to this disappointment and how quickly we can cut out the mistakes we made on Saturday by giving away goals that we should never give away. I personally want to focus on the positives because there is huge potential in this team. We had 22 shots on goal, 61 per cent of the possession. It’s very important [to break the cycle]. The Blackburn game is very disappointing and frustrating. We feel that we have given this game away, not that we have lost the game. There is nothing worse in our job than having that feeling.”

Tonight is one such opportunity against Shrewsbury Town in the Carling Cup. A win in this game might not turn any corners but at least it will give something to cheer about.

While Wenger has made it clear he will be giving a chance to the young players with a balance of experience, looking at the eighteen-man squad announced, I don’t see much in it in terms of experience. It is good to see some of the names of the young players and I am looking forward to their starts today but I am a bit disappointed to not see Santos, Mertesacker and Koscielny. The reason is that we will start with another set of defenders tonight which is not going to help the new defenders settle. Wenger said it himself that the new defenders need time to gel and tonight’s game was a perfect opportunity for all the names I mentioned to have some more playing time together.

“I believe there is a little question of time and timing. Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker are new, but they were not especially guilty on the goals. But maybe as a unit we need more time to work. A lack of concentration, a lack of communication, a lack of coordination and individual urgency [is behind the goals we have conceded]. When you score an own goal, you have to look at yourself. It is never completely out of your reach where you have no chance at all. All the rest, you have to look at yourself.”

Anyways, Shrewsbury Town shouldn’t be much of a problem even if we start with 11 changes from the team that started against Blackburn.

Half the team has already been announced by Wenger. Jenkinson, Chamberlain, Miyaichi, Coquelin, and Frimpong are all in for a start. As for the rest, you don’t have to think too much.

The only question is the formation that we will start with tonight. I have a feeling that we will finally go back to the old days and play a 4-4-2 with both Park and a Chamakh starting ahead. Chamakh looked good in the Blackburn game with van Persie playing just behind him. He does need game time to get his confidence back. As for Park, we at least deserve to see him play and tonight’s the perfect opportunity to see what he can offer. Wenger was full of praise for him while talking to the official Arsenal site.

“Park is good in every area. He is good in the air, good technically, he is mobile and that’s why he is an adaptable striker who can play up front behind the striker. That’s why we went for him. What I like with him is that he is very mobile and that’s the basis of our game.”

I am sure of one thing that he will have excellent work rate and if he can do all what Wenger has said, we might get to see some good partnership between him and Chamakh. Maybe I am looking too much into it, but he certainly has got me excited for tonight’s game.

In the middle, if we stick to 4-4-2, two places will go to Frimpong and Coquelin. For the other two, I am caught between Benayoun, Chamberlain and Miyaichi. Looking at what Wenger said, Miyaichi and Chamberlain will start but if were up to me, I would go with, Miyaichi and Benayoun, just to have some experience on the field.

At the back there is also nothing much to ponder on. Djourou needs playing time and so does Miquel. Both are in the squad, so I am expecting them to start with Jenkinson and Gibbs to flank them.

And as there is no Szczesny in the said, Fabianski is surely going to start.

Probable starting eleven: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Djourou, Miquel, Gibbs, Frimpong, Chamberlain, Coquelin, Miyaichi, Park, Chamakh (4-4-2)

As far as the game is concerned, I am looking forward to Park, Chamberlain and Miyaichi’s performances. I know they will shine tonight.

To be realistic, I also believe that the domestic cups are the only options for us to get any trophy this season. We need to make a good start and maybe this will turn the things for us. Not looking too much ahead, I am at least hoping for a big win tonight.

Enjoy the game from where ever you watch.


Wenger on who will feature tonight: Jenkinson, Miyachi, Chamberlain, Coquelin and Frimpong set to start

September 20, 2011

Carling Cup is going to get underway tonight with Arsenal hosting Shrewsbury town. Arsenal are set to stick to their youth policy for the Carling Cup, as has been done over the last few years. 

Arsene Wenger, speaking ahead of the game to the official Arsenal site, revealed he will give a chance to his young players while keeping a balance between experience and youth. 

The Manager, adding he had the team in his head before the Blackburn game, confirmed that Ryo Miyaichi, Francis Coquelin, Frimpong, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chamakh, Jenkinson and Ju-Young Park will all feature tonight.

Arsene Wenger, on Monday, said:

“We have a big squad now and we want to make use of that. I will give a chance for young players to shine and find the right mixture in this competition between keeping our faith in young players and, of course, winning the games.

“That means having the right balance between experience and youth.”

“I had my team in my head before the Blackburn game and it will remain exactly the same. We will have Frimpong, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ryo, and maybe one or two more. There is an also opportunity to see Park for the first time.

“Chamakh will also feature. You will also see Jenkinson start in his position. We will try to find a mixture between youth and experience.”


Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 17, 2011

It is very hard to write something about a game that seems all too familiar now. Hours have passed since it ended and it is still painful and embarrassing. I thought I had the worst of it against Manu but this is in the same league.

What’s the count for us now in giving away leads after yet another farce? Starting from the season before last, it has now become a norm for us to give away leads. We are hardly over one loss when Arsenal ends up with yet another show of comedies.

I don’t have it in me to go over what happened in the game. In a nut shell, we scored, we conceded, we scored again, we scored (this time at our own end), we conceded, we scored at our own end again! (By this time we had scored 4 goals and were losing by two goals), and then we realized we have to score against the opposition, but it was all too late.

In between all his, we squandered a lot chances either through bad finishing or selfish play. We played the best first half that we have played all this season, despite some bad moments, yet we turned up in the second half as if Blackburn were going to give us the win gift wrapped. Why Why Why do we always do this?

Highlights of the game were we again showed how inept we are at defending and how leads can be squandered away by simply switching off after the half time break. We again showed how easy it is to make the same mistakes because it is quite difficult to correct them. We again showed that our problem is not individuals but the system we play. Although the individuals do amplify all the problems.

I know I am being too negative but tell me what the point of staying positive is when every other game we are going to witness is like this!? Yes, we had a great result against Dortmund, yes, we had a good first half today, but then you don’t have a one-game-season and you don’t have a football game with only one half. You have to fight for the whole season; you have to fight for the whole 90 minutes to have something at the end of it. One great result, one great half doesn’t make a difference in the long run.

The saddest bit is that we usually play like this at the end of the season, like we have done in the last couple of seasons. This time we are doing it from the start and if things are to continue like this, we are heading for a bottom half finish, forget the top four.

When will the team realize this is beyond me. As for Wenger, I am at a loss for words as to what has gone wrong with him. Why has he allowed the things to go wrong this much? Every defeat like this is going to be the final nails in his coffin. Or not!? Personally, I can’t seem to make up my mind on Wenger, one half of me wants him to stay and do well, and the other says his time is over. One thing is for sure, we need changes at the club, be it in the back room staff or the whole management, it should be done fast.

Looking ahead, I don’t see anything at the moment. It is going to take a season long time to finally get over this and that too if we end up in the top four.

I will now come to the player ratings:

Szczesny: (6) Made a couple of good saves but made a few school boy errors too like the one where he came forward in the first half and was caught in no man’s land. Wasn’t at fault for any of the goals, though, could have done better on the fourth.  

Sagna: (6) Going forward produced some good crosses. At the back was solid but did lose his man a couple of times. I hope the injury is not bad

Mertesacker:  (6) Can’t blame him for anything except for not putting the ball in the back of the net in injury time late on. We knew he was slow when we bought him! It is more of a fault with the way we defend.

Koscielny: (4) He produces a game like this every now and then which highlights the problems we face as a team. Nothing went for him today and he ended up with an own goal. Unlucky or incompetent you decide!

Santos: (5) Wasn’t the start I expected from him. If I had my way, I would not have started with him in this game. At fault for the first goal and not good with his positioning. Although his crosses late on in the game were great, defensive stability is what we need right now and he didn’t provide that today.

Ramsey: (6) Surprised to see him start today. Looked lively while going forward and was involved a lot. Produced a great assist for Arteta’s goal. Disappeared in the second half like most of our players did.

Arteta: (6) Opened his Arsenal account with a good finish. Was at the heart of every good thing in the first half. However, he needs to do much more as he was nowhere in the second half.

Song: (6) As I said in my preview that his ability to pick a pass can be useful. He proved it today with his assist on the first goal and started the move that led to the second. A great first half from him but in the second had the complete opposite. Was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he scored that own goal. Should have also done better on the fourth and rightly substituted later in the game.

Arshavin: (6) Looked lively and had a couple of good shots on goal. Created a few openings but it was his needless foul that led to the second Blackburn equalizer. Needs to do more in terms of creating opportunities and improve his finishing which has gone way off.

RVP: (6) He needs to be passed the ball if we want him to score. Had a couple of shots from tight positions late on that were saved and provided the assist for the third goal. Otherwise he wasn’t given the support required.

Gervinho: (6) Scored a good first goal and looked dangerous throughout the match. However, was frustrating at the same time with his selfishness and bad decision making. He needs to learn that the team is more important than individual goals. Needs to learn when to pass and when to go for goal.  Had he found van Persie late on in the first half, things might have been different.

Subs:

Djourou: (2.5) Don’t have anything to say about him as he has forgotten how to play football. Is it his entire fault!? Wenger will know the answer to this!

Walcott: (6) Produced some excellent crosses but then again we don’t attack the ball. Can’t blame him.

Chamakh: (6) It was a welcome change that he found the net with his head today. Should have scored another but really can’t blame him for the dropped points.