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!

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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.


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

 


Arsene Wenger’s injury update: Rosicky, Djourou and Traore back, Wilshere has a setback

August 24, 2011

Arsenal are set to face Udinese today for the important second leg of the Champions League play-off, that is going to decide which team ends up in the group stages. Arsene Wenger on Tuesday gave the latest team news.

Speaking ahead of the game, Arsene Wenger revealed that Rosicky has been picked for selection in the squad; however, whether he will start is not yet confirmed. Djourou and Traore are also returning to the squad after recovering from their respective injuries.

Alex Song, Frimpong and Gervinho are back from suspension for the game.  Van Persie is also available who missed the first leg due to suspension.

On an update on Jack Wilshere, the manager informed he has suffered a setback and will not be available for at least two to three weeks.

As for Laurent Koscielny, he has a chance to be fit for Manchester United but he won’t be available today.

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, said:

“[Tomas] Rosicky is in the squad, he’s available, he had a test this [Tuesday] morning. We don’t know whether he will be fit to start but he is in the squad. Djourou and Traore are back as well. Alex Song and Gervinho are back from suspension. Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Frimpong are available too.

Unfortunately [Jack] Wilshere is not ready so that is bad news for us and adds to the players we miss with transfers and some through injuries. Of course at the moment the squad is short.

I don’t know if we are back to square one or for how long he [ Jack Wilshere] will be out. He’s in a boot again, so that means he will at least be out for two or three weeks.

[Laurent] Koscielny is out but he has a chance to be fit to face Manchester United.”

Squad to face Udinese:

Wojciech Szczesny
Lukasz Fabianski
Carl Jenkinson
Bacary Sagna
Thomas Vermaelen
Johan Djourou
Armand Traore
Ignasi Miquel
Andrey Arshavin
Emmanuel Frimpong
Gervinho
Aaron Ramsey
Alex Song
Theo Walcott
Tomas Rosicky
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Marouane Chamakh
Robin van Persie


Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 17, 2011

WOW! That was a massive win which is only going to improve the confidence of the team.

This is what happened; We started off positively, got the early goal, looked dangerous, Udinese replied with Di Natale hitting the cross bar, we tried again, were caught on the counter, Szczesny and Song came to the rescue, half ended with Gibbs getting off injured. We started again, Koscielny misplaced a pass, Djourou came to the rescue, got off injured, Jenkinson came on, Udinese were threatening our goal as our team went missing, Walcott missed a chance, we brought on Frimpong, Song rescued us again at the back, stoppage time started, Gervinho released Walcott again, their keeper produced an excellent save. The game ended with us having a goal advantage going into the second leg.

Overall, it was again a performance we can be proud of under the circumstances.  But we don’t have to get carried away. We were good in patches only and not entirely convincing. Our squad is, though, seriously lacking players. A presence of a quality midfielder was also felt as Rosicky and Ramsey are clearly not there yet. We didn’t build on the first goal and slowly went missing allowing Udinese chances to get into the game. It reminded me of the pre season games but thankfully we didn’t end up drawing or losing the game.

The first half was much better than the second for us. The second half rarely saw us having a shot on goal except near the end. Questions will be asked of the defense and midfield as we gave lots of room to Udinese and it won’t be wrong to assume, had the opponent been some better team, the outcome would have been different.

The positives from the game are many. We achieved our objectives which matters the most! We kept another clean sheet. Szczesny, for one, is going to be a great number one for us for years to come. The partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny is improving every game. Frimpong is going to be a big player. Walcott is gaining his form and confidence back. Song is a beast in the middle.

The only negative from the game are the injuries to Gibbs and Djourou. I hope they recover quickly.

Before I move onto player ratings, I want to categorically add that we do need signings. This team is good, still, not enough to challenge for the title. With the right tools added, this team can be great and we can surprise many. I just hope Wenger gives this team what it deserves!

Coming to player ratings

Szczesny: (7) One word to describe his performance, splendid! Commanded his area with authority and produced great saves whenever called upon, especially the one-on-one in the first half was brilliant. His positioning on the first free kick from De Natale was disappointing but he will learn with time.

Sagna: (7) Defensively was great bar one horrible mistake in the first half that led to Szczesny and Song saving the day.

Koscielny and Vermaelen: (6.5/6.5) As said above, their partnership is improving game by game. They both complement each other. Koscielny really impressed me bar a couple of misplaced passes. The first half hour was where he was contributing all over the pitch. Always kept his man in check and his ability to close down players is very good. Vermaelen did his part and led the team well.

Gibbs: (6) Till the time he was on, did his job well. His defending though still needs lots of improvement, as one of his clearances in the first half was very poor. His injury is what concerns me. I hope he returns soon.

Song: (7.5) He was immense last night and I am afraid, he is going to be missed in the next 3 EPL games. He got us out of at least three goal conceding occasions.

Rosicky: (5.5) He gives his all in the centre but still is not enough. He disappeared again in the second half and was substituted at the right time as he looked tired. We need a creative midfielder ASAP!

Ramsey: (6) He is more comfortable while going forward and last night produced an assist for the first goal. Did give away the ball on a few occasions and he needs to overcome this habit of his. And as I said last time, needs to improve his work rate.

Walcott: (7.5) He was amazing. Got the goal, was a continuous threat and his movement with and without the ball was great. Missed one great chance in the second half though, when he scuffed his chip. Gutted he didn’t get the second goal.

Chamakh: (3.5) At one point in the game, I was furious at him for slowing our passing and game. He is seriously lacking confidence. Did well in defense and linking up play though. We need more in front of goal from him and needs to come out of the shell he has retreated into.

Gervinho: (5.5) Again he showed his pace and movement with the ball. However, still frustrating with his final ball.  Lost the ball on more than a few occasions. Managed to produce a great run in the second half and one great ball for Walcott, who was denied by the keeper.

Subs:

Djourou: (6.5) His partnership with Koscielny didn’t look as strong as Vermaelen/ Koscielny. In the time he was on, produced one vital block to deny Udinese an open goal. It is a shame that he got off injured.

Jenkinson: (6) Didn’t look comfortable on the left but kept things simple and did the job. Was beaten a couple of times but shouldn’t be judged on that.

Frimpong: (6) Did give a couple of free kicks in quick succession when he came on. Once settled, showed his ability. He has pace and isn’t afraid to make a tackle. Made an interesting run down the left using his pace, later in the second half, which got me out of my seat.


Team news ahead of Udinese, Bendtner might be involved today | Arsenal, Newcastle and Alex Song charged by FA

August 16, 2011

Arsenal today will play the crucial first leg of Champions League play-off against Udinese.

Arsene Wenger on Monday gave an update on the squad in his pre-match press conference. He revealed that Rosicky faces a late fitness test ahead of the game despite being included in the squad. Apart from that we are going to be without Van Persie and Nasri through suspension.

Arsene said:

“We have an uncertainty from Saturday about Rosicky. He is in the squad and will have a fitness test on Tuesday morning. Of course we have Van Persie and Nasri suspended.”

Wenger himself is going to carry out one-match touchline ban.

On respecting the ban, Wenger said:

“I can be in the hotel with the team. I just cannot be in the dressing room pre-match so I watch the game from the stands like everybody else. I do not want to cheat with the rules but I can watch the game.”

In interesting bit of update, we might see Bendtner in action today after Arsene confirmed that he is still an Arsenal player. No club has until now acquired his services and the manager added that if things remains the same, he will stay at Arsenal and fight for his place.

These were Wenger’s words:

“In his interview Bendtner said he was gone, but I checked and he’s not gone at all! I promised I would let him go if he found the right club and that has not changed because when I make a promise I keep it. But if he doesn’t find the right opportunity he will stay and fight for his place like everybody else. He looks sharp in training.”

In other news, FA has pressed charges against both Arsenal and Newcastle in the aftermath of the game on weekend. The incident, during the game, involved mass confrontation between players from both sides that ended in Gervinho’s dismissal.

Also during the game, Alex Song acted out of order when he stamped on Joey Barton. He is separately charged for violent conduct. Both the clubs have to respond by 18th while Song has until 16th.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have also lodged a claim, following Gervinho’s straight red card.

following is the statement that was released by FA:

“Newcastle United and Arsenal have been charged by The FA with failing to control their players following Saturday’s (13 August) fixture at St James’ Park.

Both clubs have been charged following a mass confrontation of players following an incident in which Arsenal’s Gervinho was also shown a red card in the 75th minute.

Following Gervinho’s dismissal Arsenal have today lodged a claim that the standard punishment of a three-match suspension is clearly excessive. A regulatory Commission will hear that claim on 16 August.

Meanwhile Arsenal’s Alex Song has been charged separately by The FA with violent conduct following an incident earlier in the same fixture.

Both clubs have until 4pm on 18 August to respond to the charge, whilst Song must reply by 6pm on 16 August.”

As things stand, we are going to face Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea without Gervinho and Alex Song.