Manchester United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 12, 2011

I am over with the disappointment of not qualifying for the next round in Champions League as we travel to Old Trafford today for the important FA Cup quarter final clash. To be honest, I wasn’t that much bothered by the elimination, yet, I wanted to see Barcelona beaten. Barcelona got through; we failed, fairly or as some are pointing out through unfair means. The result is what matters at the end of the day and it won’t do us any good in blaming others. We have to move on from it and I hope the players will have moved on because today we need a response.

We are already out from two trophies; we cannot go out from FA Cup today as it will be detrimental to our morale. Please Arsenal, no more mistakes and no more half hearted attempts. If all the players believe so much while they talk off the pitch, it’s time now to do the talking and showing the belief on the pitch. Stuff like saying this game will define our season won’t help us much if we don’t perform. It is time to prove and I would be more than happy if the players give their all today.

Coming to the game, whose result  is vital to the rest of our remaining season. A win today and I see us taking the double. A loss, I still see us taking the Championship, although it will be very close and we will need to show massive character. However, we cannot think of anything but a win today.

Manchester will approach this game as they always do against us. They will flood the midfield and play a lone striker upfront. They will try to catch us on the counter, using the flanks and by delivering in crosses. They don’t have Nani, but they have players who can damage us very quickly. We will have to ensure that we don’t give them any chance.

The last time we played them at Old Trafford in December; we failed to impose ourselves on the game and eventually lost. In that game we failed to bring the ball out from defense and thus failed to create chances and United, despite playing poorly went on to win the game. I thought that we gave too much respect to United in that game and today I don’t want to see the same. If we control the midfield, they will have problems and with their defense not as good as it was in recent years, we can open them up. Nonetheless, everyone will have to put in a good shift.

Defensively we will get to deal with lots of crosses. After seeing us perform remarkably in defense against Barcelona, I believe that if we want to, we can deal with crosses too. We did well if I remember the last time.  Again alertness of the back four and support from midfield will be essential. And I hope we don’t miss Szczesny and Almunia has an excellent game. 

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, Arsene Wenger has said that he will put the strongest team.  So I expect only a couple changes from the Barcelona game.

Almunia of course will be in goal with the back four remaining same as they were against Barcelona.

In the middle we don’t have Fabregas and Song. I would have started with Wilshere in the free role but then the defensive role will go to Denilson, whom I don’t want to see start. We have the option of Ramsey but it will be too much to ask from him in such a game and in such a position. Nasri can play the free role, so can Diaby, so can Rosicky. However, considering all the option, I will start Wilshere, Diaby and Nasri, with Wilshere staying deep. And I hope Diaby has a good game today.

Upfront Van Persie will start along with Arshavin, who was missed dearly against Barcelona. On the right we have the option of starting with Rosicky, Eboue and Bendtner. I am thinking about putting Ramsey on right. If things aren’t going our way, we can shift Nasri to the right, Diaby in the free role with Ramsey taking his place. I know it’s not a game to check such a lineup and too much to ask from Ramsey but I believe he will be more than geared up to show that he is ready to start in big games.  And this can also be the perfect game for him to make his return. Otherwise, put in Bendtner on the right.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby, Ramsey, RVP, Arshavin

So that’s it. We can win today’s game but so can United. It will be a race as to who puts up good show and take the initiative. I am gunning for Arsenal and as always expect us to win.

Keep the faith and keep your fingers crossed. Tonight we will get a clear picture of what’s left of this season.


Arsene Wenger’s injury update on Cesc Fabregas and Wojciech Szczesny

March 11, 2011

Arsene Wenger on Thursday gave the latest injury news ahead Arsenal’s match against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal this Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference, Arsene Wenger gave good news in the shape of Robin Van Persie’s availability for Saturday after confirming no recurrence of injury. Van Persie made a surprise start on Wednesday against Barcelona after making a quick recovery from a knee injury, which had him ruled out for three weeks.

Meanwhile, Cesc Fabregas has been ruled out for this Saturday and even for next week’s match after the manager confirmed the bad news of a recurrence of Fabregas’ hamstring. Wenger added that Fabregas is obviously disappointed due to it as it’s becoming a problem for him.

Szczesny has also been ruled out for an indefinite time after scans have shown a dislocated finger with a tendon problem. Wenger added that an assessment form a specialist is going to be taken for what’s to be done next.

On Thursday, Arsene Wenger said:

“Van Persie will be available for Saturday. [Fabregas], no. He had a recurrence of his hamstring problem and he will be out for the next game. Maybe for the next two games. He is, of course, very disappointed because it is becoming a little problem for him to [keep] having a recurrence of his hamstring. But it’s a very superficial one.

Szczesny has a dislocated finger with a tendon problem. We need the assessment of the specialist to see where we go from here. He had a scan last night. He is out for a while, for how long? I couldn’t tell you.”


Arsene Wenger on UEFA’s charge against himself and Samir Nasri

March 10, 2011

Arsene Wenger has strongly defended his actions and denied UEFA’s charge against himself and Samir Nasri.

Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri were both charged by UEFA for “inappropriate language” towards Swiss referee Massimo Busacca after the game against Barcelona where Van Persie was controversially sent off. 

Speaking at his press conference on Thursday, Arsene completely denied the charge as he admitted he was baffled by it being made. He continued by explaining how it’s a shame that a wrong decision by the referee destroyed a very good game of football and how UEFA should show some humility and apologize for what happened rather than punish people who have done nothing wrong.

Wenger further added how the decision frustrated everyone who loves football and how Arsenal has suffered the most from it as it ended one of the club’s ambitions. Wenger firmly clarified that they have done nothing wrong and added how UEFA are being arrogant with their actions.

When asked about what happened, Wenger refrained from giving details of the incident by saying that he will give it to UEFA himself. However, Wenger openly said that he is ready to accept any charges if his statement on television after the game were wrong.

On Thursday, Wenger said:

“I deny completely any charge, I don’t understand where that comes from. It is a shame the referee took the decision to send Robin van Persie off because it was the wrong decision. The first game was a fantastic advert for football and the second game has been destroyed. The only thing that people remember is that the sending off killed the game. A bit more humility would do UEFA some good, to apologise for what happened would be much better than charge people who have done nothing wrong.

This decision frustrated us and frustrated everybody who loves football. Who has been punished is Arsenal football club. We are out of the Champions League, we have lost one of our big ambitions, we have been punished with a lot of damages and on top of that, we have to say sorry to UEFA. We have done nothing wrong. They organised the competition, they named the referees who come to the games. When you have a football game of that stature, you cannot come out with decisions like that and show a lot of arrogance on top of that. We can all understand that we can make wrong decisions, but after that it becomes dictatorship. Its not any more common sense.

I will keep that for UEFA if they really want to know because I will have some interesting statements to make about some statements made by people who were not supposed to say what they said.  You can check any statement I made on television after the game. If I have done anything wrong I am ready to be charged. As for what is said in the tunnel, if you can get only one thing where I have come out on what has been said against me or against the referee during my 15 years in England, I will pay for you to have a big holiday.”


Player Ratings: Barcelona 3 – 1 Arsenal

March 9, 2011

So, finally our Champions League campaign for this season has come to an end and in a fashion I certainly wouldn’t have wanted. To begin with, I would like to congratulate Barcelona for qualifying and showing why they are the best team in the world. They truly were remarkable and made us look like spectators and they truly desreved to go through. However, I also believe that they would have had to work much harder had it remained 11 vs 11. The referee’s decision completely ended the competition. They were dominating the game with 11 all but our defense was putting up a great show. With a man down the job was gigantic. Not blaming the ref for the loss but that decision did change the game and we can only wonder what would have happened had Van Persie remained on.  

Nonetheless, credit also to us for putting up an overall good effort and a good defensive performance. We held them for like 48 minutes and only a mistake by Fabregas led to their goal. In the second half again we held them till the time the numbers were equal. I won’t fault the defenders for the goals because they were down to some brilliant movement of Barcelona players and as well as individual mistakes by our players that allowed them to continuously attack us.

The players who shone yesterday were Almunia, Wilshere, Nasri, Koscielny and Djourou. They played with their hearts and looked like they really wanted to go ahead. Koscielny for me was massive as he played really well under pressure and even with a yellow card. Wilshere showed why he is in the starting eleven for Arsenal after yet another inspiring display of football. Nasri again showed that he is quality. If only Rosicky, Diaby and Fabregas had played with the same effort, as they were all poor, this game would have been different.

Tactically, I think we should have played to our strengths and going all defensive invited in too much pressure. However, I know one thing now that if we want to we can defend very well, which is one of the biggest positive from yesterdays defeat. Also our passing was poor as under pressure we gave away the ball as soon as we got it. But here credit to Barcelona as they pressed our players in threes and fours. I am though dissapointed with having no shots on goal. 

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (no rating): Was on for like 18 minutes during which didn’t have to do much. Made one save from a free kick which also led to his injury. I hope he comes back quickly.

Sagna (6): Did his job very well even though he wasn’t supported enough by Rosicky. Should have done better with the ball when he got it because gave it away very easily every time.

Djourou (7): Made some remarkable blocks and interceptions. Partnered well with Koscielny as both of them gave their best to keep us in the game.

Koscielny (7.5): He too was excellent with his tackling, interceptions and blocks. Did well the whole match as Barcelona created chance after chance. Gave away a penalty but otherwise his defensive performance was excellent.

Clichy (6): His side was exploited as he was at times caught out of position. At times drifted back from the off side line that allowed Alves to make a few diagonal runs. His decision making was also bad. However, credit still to him for restricting the Barcelona players most of the times.

Wilshere (7.5): Top performance defensively as well as the few times we went ahead. Played with his heart out as he demonstrated with a tackle made early in the game. Tried his best to take us forward every time he got the ball.  His pass to Bendtern in the dying minutes should have been a goal.

Fabregas (4): He had one of the worst games yesterday. Even he acknowledged it himself. His passing was off, didn’t provide anything in defense and made a colossal mistake that I didn’t expect from him, which opened the scores for Barcelona. Maybe he wasn’t fit but then he shouldn’t have started.

Diaby (4): Poor, as he was one of the weak links for me. Even looked lost at times as he would remain rooted to the spot. Didn’t give enough support in defense and whenever he got the ball he would lose possession. I was expecting much more from him.

Nasri (7): Another one who gave his heart out. Defensively was massive as he saved Clichy’s arse time after time. Looked lively whenever he got the ball and made a few good runs but was always triple teamed with no one in support. Earned us and delivered an excellent corner that led to the own goal after yet another strong run.

Van Persie (4): I don’t know what he was doing when he went for Alves rather than the ball. That first yellow was deserved but the second was just an incomprehensible decision. However, during the time he was on, should have done more to help the team. I am still of the view had he stayed on the game would have been different.

Rosicky (4): Poor again from him. Gave away possession every time he got the ball which led to continuous attacks from Barcelona. If he had played like Nasri did on the left, we could have created a few chances down the right side.

Subs:

Almunia (8): I must admit, wasn’t happy to see him come on. However, he demonstrated again that he is a good shot stopper as he made save after save to keep us in the game till the final minute. Massively excellent performance and I hope he gives the same in the match against Man United at the weekend.

Bendtner (no vote): Got the chance of his life and had he scored in the 87th minute, right now we will have been praising him. Didn’t do anything else as Barcelona played keep-ball later in the game and we didn’t get to create much.

Arshavin (no vote): Tried hard but couldn’t do much as we had very little possession. 

The best thing now is to move ahead and concentrate on the two domestic tournaments. There is still plenty left to play for and now I am more than certain we will win the League and hopefully end our trophy drought. However, we will need all to perform and please Arsenal, no dropping of points. This season has promised too much and we cannot stop now to end the season with nothing.

The final run in starts this weekend with the FA Cup quarter and if we beat United, we are in for the double.

Keep the faith!!


Barcelona vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 8, 2011

Well, it’s been very hectic as we have moved from one tournament to another in the last 10 days with tonight our fourth game, in as many tournaments, against after-all-not-so-mighty-Barcelona. This fixture no doubt has been in the minds of every football fan and Gooner  after we beat them at the Emirates three weeks ago. Even our players will have had this in their minds in the past week.

So, what’s the fuss about a match which many believe we will lose and as a result be kicked out of Champions league. Well, the fuss is due to the fact that we beat them and some still believe we can do it again. For me, I don’t care what many believe because I believe in my team and if we play good football then there is no stopping us. Even Barcelona knows we can beat them. A win, loss or a draw, we can and we will qualify.

So, how can we then qualify for the next round? We know they will score goals. So we just have to restrict them from scoring plenty and make sure that we score as many as them or at the most one less. We have to ensure that the game stays within our reach. It’s easier said than done because we all know if Barcelona goes on a goal spree, this game will be over in no time. We just have to make certain that we don’t give them too much time and space with the ball and take our own chances upfront. How this can be achieved? By playing twice the times better than what we did at the Emirates, yes, only then it will be possible. It is difficult! Yes, but to beat the best we have to give our best, our whole team will have to give in a top performance defensively as well as offensively.

So, who to play then? There can be no doubts about the backline and keeper for this one. Szczesny, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna and Clichy will surely all start.

Big decisions are to be made in the middle and upfront. Wenger’s tactics were spot on at the Emirates; I hope his tactics are spot on here as well. I will go with Diaby, Wilshere and Fabregas in the middle as they are the best possible options available. I hope Fabregas is hundred percent fit for this because losing him now would be a disaster. And please Arsene don’t consider Denilson to start this one.

Upfront, it’s even trickier. We received great injury boost yesterday with van Persie traveling with the squad. He has made a quick recovery from an injury that had him ruled out for atleast three weeks. Now, I don’t care how he did it, I am just glad he is back.  However, I still won’t start with him. According to Wenger, he will start only if he is hundred percent fit and I hope Wenger sticks to it. We cannot risk a recurrence of an injury with him with many important games to come. Bendtner and Chamakh on the other hand have been doing well. However, they won’t score goals out of nowhere. So, who should we play upfront? I think it will depend on how we tactically approach the game. For me, I will go with Chamakh for his good work rate and his defensive capabilities. Not because to be defensive but because we will need someone to defend as well as attack. Van Persie is an asset on the counter but so can Arshavin be if utilized in that role and that’s why I will start with Arshavin too. He will have to put in a lot of effort at both ends of the pitch though. Nasri to complete the starting eleven.

Bendtner has been playing well but I will keep him on the bench with Van Persie and bring them on later if the game is within our reach. Although, I won’t be surprised if either of Bendtner or Van Persie starts.

Probable starting lineup: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin

I guess there isn’t anything else to discuss. The bottom line is we have to keep the score line wthin our reach and then we can damage them with whatever chance we create or get. I have everything crossed for tonight and I am gunning for a qualification.

Have a great day Gooners and hopefully tonight will be a great night. Only a few hours left to kick off.  Before signing off, I will say again, no matter what the result, we will always be behind you Arsenal. Go Arsenal Go!!

p.s. I will like to add that if, and that is a big if, we don’t qualify despite playing well, it won’t be a disaster and I won’t be bothered much as there will still be plenty left to play for.


Arsene Wenger’s injury update and Van Persie’s inclusion in the squad

March 8, 2011

Van Persie and Fabregas were part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Barcelona on Monday morning with Alex Song left behind.

Arsene Wenger, while speaking on Monday morning confirmed that Fabregas will travel with the squad with him being 90 percent fit as the manger added that his presence for the squad is vital with him being the captain and also the focal point of the attack.

While, Alex Song failed his test on Sunday and is ruled out, the manager confirmed that all the other players that were in the squad on Saturday are fit along with Wilshere, who also made a recovery from his injuries from Sunderland game.

Meanwhile, the surprise was of Robin Van Persie travelling with the squad, whose injury had him ruled out for at least three weeks.

Regarding Van Persie’s inclusion at the UEFA press-conference, the manager explained how he wasn’t fit enough to travel but added that he made a quick recovery in the last three days and that his test on Monday morning was very positive after which it was decided that he will be travelling with the squad.

However, Wenger made it clear that his inclusion will be decided on Tuesday morning and no gambles will be taken as he added that he will play only if he is hundred percent fit.

Arsene Wenger on Monday morning said:

“Fabregas will have a final test today. It is 90 per cent he will travel and be fit. It is vital for us because he is important in the transition between attacking and defending. He is also the leader of the team so we want him there. Alex Song is completely out. He had a test on Sunday morning and it was negative. Wilshere will be fit. Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available.”

Arsene Wenger, regarding Van Persie on Monday Evening, said:

“He is here as a player. He will have a possible test tomorrow. We are 19 here in the squad. Whether Van Persie will be included has not been decided yet. He has made quick progress in the last three days. When I spoke [with him] this [Monday] morning he was really unlikely to travel. [But] he wanted to have a go. We made a test and it was quite positive. We will see how he responds to that and I will make a decision tomorrow [Tuesday] morning. We will not take a gamble in a game of that importance. So he will have to be fit or not fit.

I am very bad at mind games. Whole truth is what I have given you here. We’ll see tomorrow morning. The medical team will assess him and I would like him to play. But I will only play him if he is 100 per cent fit. OK, I will consider 99.5.”

The 19-man squad that travelled is as follows which will be reduced to 18 after final decision on Van Persie’s inclusion on Tuesday:

Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Robin van Persie


Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Sunderland and Aaron Ramsey’s inclusion in the squad

March 4, 2011

Aaron Ramsey is in inline to be included in the Arsenal squad for the match against Sunderland this Saturday with Koscielny having a small chance to feature.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online on Thursday, Arsene Wenger admitted how there is a chance for Aaron to be included in the squad with him getting better every day as he praised the midfielder’s passing ability and ability to score goals and added that it will be good to have him back.

Meanwhile, the manager said that there have been no new injuries and added that how only Koscielny has a small possibility to make the Sunderland game with the Frenchman having a good chance for Barcelona.

Regarding Alex Song, the manager revealed that he isn’t available for Saturday and is also doubtful for Barcelona and added that his knee will be assessed on Monday.

Cesc Fabregas also has a possibility to feature against Barcelona as the manager said his injury is being assessed every day and as things are going, he has a good chance for Tuesday.

Ahead of the Sunderland game, Wenger said:

“There is a chance Aaron could be available in the squad for Saturday. It will be very good to have him back. He is getting better and better now. We know he has a great engine, has great passing ability and can score goals as well.
 
We did not lose anyone last night. There is a meager chance we could have Koscielny back for Sunderland. But he is the only one we can hope to have available. Koscielny has a good chance [for Barcelona] though. His hamstring is getting much better and he is not completely out for Sunderland yet.
 
However Alex Song is out on Saturday and he is doubtful for Barcelona. At the moment he has not practiced at all. He has this knee problem that gets better everyday. But we’ll assess it on Monday. As for Cesc, we go day-by-day. We assessed him today and he is positive about his injury. We feel he has a chance. I do not want to disappoint people so I say he has ‘a chance’, I strongly believe that.”