Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 13, 2011

I really like it when there is football every two-three days. You always have something to look forward to and it also means that Champions League is back. Champions League football officially kicks off today with the group stages and we start our campaign away at Dortmund. Last season, we started off the Champions League brilliantly with three wins and in the process notching up 13 (or was it 14!) goals. What happened after that is not a good memory and I don’t want to go over it. And I don’t expect the same amount of goals this time; I would, however, be content with topping the group. Before that, we have to play six games though, with the first one today.

Our opponents are the defending Bundesliga champions, who themselves are going through a not-so-good patch. Having recorded only two wins in five games this season, including a loss to a newly promoted side, they might be low on confidence. However, they shouldn’t be taken lightly under any circumstance because when they play, they mean business. They are an attacking side who are not afraid to pass the ball around and go for goal. They are also great at defending having only conceded 22 goals last season, lowest in their league. So, whatever they are going through right now, we will have to be at our best to get the three points.

Their star player and main creator is Mario Gotze, who has both trickery and pace. Being on the radar of top team at the age of 19 is proof enough that he is quality. Our defenders will have to be on their toes to stop him. Wenger knows this as he spoke about him in his press conference.

“He is the provider. He is the one who had the best assists in Germany and is the most dangerous player. He links well with his strikers and is the player we have to keep quiet. The best way to keep him quiet is for us to attack.”

Attacking is one option. But we will have to do some exceptional defending against him. Mertesacker can be an advantage here having played against him before. However, I believe Koscielny is the key as he is great at closing down opponents. Even Song can make a difference in the middle of the park but he will have to be careful in not giving too many free kicks.

If we can keep the ball effectively, we will keep them on the back foot and in the process get chances to score. Arteta had a decent start at the weekend and I am sure he will be more at home today. He has the ability to create openings, only our forward line has to make sure when the chances arrive, we take them. We can always use the flanks and with Gervinho back, van Persie will have the added support. Lately, we haven’t been scoring many goals but that might be due to the pressure and having won the game on weekend, I feel there will be goals from us today.

Coming to the team news, we are going to be without Ramsey, the latest to join the injured list, and Rosicky, failing to recover in time from his knee injury. Nobody has joined us from the injured players but we have Song and Gervinho returning after missing the game against Swansea through suspension.

Considering this, I expect the same backline that was out against Swansea. In the middle, I would go with Song, Arteta and Benayoun and bring on Frimpong in the second half, if need arises. As a team, we look more balanced with Song in the defensive role due to his work rate and passing. I do have a feeling that Wenger will start with Frimpong in the defensive role with Song shifted ahead of him and Benayoun on the bench.  

Upfront, I would go with van Persie flanked by Walcott and Gervinho.  I would have started with Arshavin but I don’t think he would be there physically having played a good game on the weekend.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Benayoun, Arteta, Song, Walcott, RVP, Gervinho

It won’t be an easy game of that I am certain. However, I do expect a good performance form our team. A win would be great but I won’t mind a draw as they seem the toughest opponent in our group. I don’t expect clean sheets on either side because both play attacking football and there will be goals today. We will have to make sure that we score as many or one better.

Having won the game against Swansea, the team will have some of the pressure lifted. If we can follow it with a win away from home, it will really give us a boost for the EPL games coming up. Wenger was right when he said this on Monday (we do need to build up our confidence!)

“It would create a certainty that we have a good chance to go through. For us to get a positive result tomorrow night would be a big lift. It’s a good opportunity for us to get positive vibes and we need a bit of that. Every team, no matter how good they are, needs confidence and I believe my team needs that at the moment.”

Whatever the result, we can be sure of one thing though, it will be an exciting game. So, from wherever you watch, enjoy it.

Have a good day!


Wenger’s team update ahead of Dortmund: Gervinho and Song back, Ramsey out injured!

September 13, 2011

Arsenal will today play their first group match in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund. Arsene Wenger on Monday gave an update on the squad that will be available today.

Speaking at his press conference, Wenger confirmed the ankle problem of Ramsey’s from Saturday’s game due to which he will not be available today. Rosicky, who was in-line to be back for today has also not recovered from his knee injury in time.  

Returning to the squad is Gervinho and Alex Song, who missed the game on the Saturday due to suspension. Jenkinson is also back from suspension but not included in the squad.

Arsene Wenger, on Monday, said:

“We have lost [Aaron] Ramsey from Saturday because he has an ankle problem but we have Gervinho and [Alex] Song back in the squad. [Tomas] Rosicky (knee) is still out, Jenkinson is back from suspension but he is not in the squad.

Aaron has been very influential in our team since the start of the season, but it is a good opportunity now to show that we have a big squad and cope with it. We have three midfielders out in [Abou] Diaby, [Jack] Wilshere and [Aaron] Ramsey, but we will still hopefully have a strong midfield tomorrow.”

Below is the squad that has travelled to Germany:

Andrey Arshavin
Mikael Arteta
Yossi Benayoun
Marouane Chamakh
Johan Djourou
Gervinho
Kieren Gibbs
Lukasz Fabianski
Emmanuel Frimpong
Laurent Koscielny
Per Mertesacker
Ju Young Park
Andre Santos
Bacary Sagna
Alex Song
Wojciech Szczesny
Robin van Persie
Theo Walcott

 


Transfer Window thoughts, Wilshere’s injury, Arsene banned for two games, Vermaelen to be sidelined for two months?

September 5, 2011

So, it’s been almost five days since the end of the transfer window and the excitement of the dead line day. My one week leave are also over with today being the first day back at work (heck! I could have used another week).

The last four days, I spent the time with family and friends away from football, the reason for no updates on the blog. And considering that the International break is underway, I don’t have missed much.

Today, it is going to be a bit of everything that has happened in the last few days.

First off, the final two days of the transfer window were the best that I remember in terms of signings for us in recent times. Five players having experience and quality were signed, a rare thing at Arsenal, which did somewhat make up for the summer of inactivity. The thrashing at United, however, still hurts and this does lead to the question why weren’t players signed earlier? Also one wonders had United not defeated us the way they did, would these signings be made then? I know these and many other questions have been discussed a lot already. However, one cannot help why were we led into such a situation by the board and management considering we had three months to sort out all our problems?

Anyways what’s done is done and cannot be reversed. Sanity was restored to the Arsenal board and management team after the humbling at old Trafford. I do wish now that this had happened earlier (on second thoughts, no I wish it had never happened, to painful and humiliating!)

The players that we have signed do bring something extra to the squad and certainly add enough quality and numbers to make us challenge for the top four. Benayoun and Arteta are both Premier League experienced and will greatly improve our midfield. Santos is also experienced and Mertesacker will add height and stability to our defense. Park, considering where he comes from will give nothing short of 100 percent. And all of these signings are winners having won trophies in different capacities (if I am not wrong!) All have a number of caps for their national teams and they certainly will bring stability to our team and the young player will learn a lot.

As for what can be achieved with the squad we have, we can challenge for the top four now and maybe end our trophy drought with the cups. If we can pull something extra, we might also be involved in the title race. However, for that, I feel, we will need to maintain a good run till January where we would at least need a couple of special signings. I am hearing that Hazard, Cahill and Yann M’Vila are still our priority. If we can manage that in January, I am certain we are in for an exciting finish to the season.

We, however, should not get ahead of ourselves.  A lot of work needs to be done still. We need to get back to winning ways and close the gap with the leaders. We certainly have made a start in the right direction with these signings and with time we can add more quality to bring the glory days back to Arsenal (we still need to replace Nasri and Fabregas by the way)

Moving on, I am glad we did get to sell or loan out the dead weights at the club. I still, though, hope we get Henri Lansbury back, because considering such loan moves, mostly the players don’t return. As for Bendtner, I am happy for him to have finally moved on, even on a loan. He was being wasted here by being used in the wrong position. What he said recently of not returning to Arsenal is justified in the sense that he wasn’t properly utilized. However, in terms of quality, we are better off without him. I feel he will be a success at Sunderland which will in return prove beneficial to both him and in return to us, as we can get a better value for him in time. If we could have only rid ourselves of Almunia, Squillaci, Diaby and to an extent Chamakh, this summer would have been close to perfect.

Life, however, isn’t that kind, always playing its joke when you least expect it. And in our case they are always the cruelest. After having a great first season, we are now going to miss our most talented player, Jack Wilshere for at least another two to three months due to injury. What started out as a rumor has been confirmed by Wilshere himself. Jack Wilshere tweeted this yesterday on twitter.

I can confirm I will be out for around 2-3 months! I am working hard in the gym to stay fit and I am gutted but I will be back stronger!

I don’t know whether to blame lady luck, the Manager or our medical staff. This is certainly the result of playing a player over his limits which is completely avoidable. And then we ask why it is that our best players suffer long term injuries? And this has happened so many times now I am starting to believe it is more than bad luck.

It was Vermaelen the season before last. Excellent first season, injury in the next, out for a year. I just hope Wilshere doesn’t suffer the same because voices raised now will surely have to be answered then.  

In other news, UEFA again showed that they are a bunch of oafs. They do this every now and then just to make sure people don’t forget. Anyways, Arsene Wenger’s appeal against the two match ban has been dismissed by UEFA. The two matches ban was given to Wenger for supposedly breaking a rule that every other manger has broken in the world of football. I guess, I don’t need to go over the rule and when it was broken. Wenger is now going to miss the Champions League group games against Borussia Dortmund, away, and Olympiacos at home. Our officials are also fined 10000 Euros for improper conduct. Below is the UEFA stamen that is available on Arsenal.com

“The UEFA Appeals Body has rejected the appeal lodged by Arsenal FC and Arsène Wenger against the two-match suspension handed to the manager in the wake of the English club’s UEFA Champions League play-off first leg against Udinese Calcio on 16 August.
 
“Wenger will now be suspended from carrying out his duties at Arsenal’s next two UEFA competition matches – the UEFA Champions League group stage games against Borussia Dortmund and Olympiacos FC on 13 and 28 September – in accordance with the decision taken by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on 22 August.

“The manager was awarded this suspension for not abiding by an earlier decision of the Control and Disciplinary Body during the Udinese home game – in which Wenger was serving a one-match ban imposed following Arsenal’s final UEFA Champions League game of last season.
 
“The Control and Disciplinary Body also fined Arsenal €10,000 for improper conduct by their officials during the match against the Italian team in north London.”

As for the International break, it continues in all its boredom. There have, however, been plenty of goals for our players. Van Persie bagged four, Park has had a hat-trick, Ramsey and Lansbury also ended up with goals. Chamberlain also impressed greatly. Possibly a sign of good things to come!

That is all for now. Swansea game is not far now and it will great to see how we line up against them. Good times ahead for sure!

p.s. While writing this, news about Vermaelen’s ankle surgery are circulating that can rule him out for possibly two months. It is not yet officially confirmed but twitter is abuzz at the moment with this news. More on this to follow!