Final game of the season, Wilshere dropped form the under 21 squad? and another Fabregas Story!

May 22, 2011

To start off with, I would like all Gooners to stand up and give a great round of applause to the Arsenal Ladies for winning the FA cup yesterday. Congratulations to them!

Coming to matters at hand, only a few hours are left for EPL season to officially end. Except the relegation battle there is nothing exciting to look forward to. I hope that Blackpool does survive though. As for the Gooners, I believe many of you will be looking ahead to the long summer and hoping for some positive changes at Arsenal.

We are up against Fulham and to be honest there is nothing much to say about the game. It will be a nice change just to win and to end the season on a high. We may even finish third but don’t hold your breath.  

Arsene Wenger, however, is adamant that there is still something to play for.

“I feel there is something to play for because Man City still have a difficult game at Bolton. We know that through our own experience up there. So that means it is down to us to just try and win our game. If they win, they win. The most important thing is that we are responsible and fight for our future.”

I hope the players are on the same wavelength.

An interesting report has come up today. The Mirror is saying that we are prepared to sell Fabregas  to Barcelona if the price is in the range of £50 million. Whatever their source I don’t believe it. It is the final day of the season and it is the first of many stories that we will see this summer. Till the time Arsene Wenger comes up with anything, I am not buying any speculation about Fabregas.

The Mirror is also reporting some good news. They say that Stuart Pearce has finally omitted Jack Wilshere (and Andy Carroll) form the England under 21 squad. I cannot say what made him change his mind although I won’t bet on common sense. I hope it is true because Wilshere badly needs a rest as he has played insane amounts of football this season. He is only 19 and playing this much football without rest will be only harmful for him.  And we don’t want a tired player at the start of next season.

And then there were the usuall rumors of Gary Cahill and Chris Samba to Arsenal. I hope we sign Cahill though!!

That I guess is all for now. I want this season to end but I know I will miss the football badly.  The speculations and rumors will continue no doubt and there will be many surprises but it will take some time to adjust to weekends without football.

Have a good day and a great summer. For now just savour the final game of the season before the long summer starts!


Bolton vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 24, 2011

Are we still in the title race? Mathematically, yes! But considering the way we have played and failed to bolster our position in the last few games, we shouldn’t even be talking about the title. The objective now should be to finish the season on a high by winning all our remaining games and see where it ends for us. For me, right now the best way to approach games is to forget about the title and the past few weeks, forget what Manu and Chelsea are doing, forget that we have won only one game in the last six and forget what the media is saying. Arsenal! Play like you have nothing to lose and hopefully the wins will come, starting from today against Bolton.

With the negativity surrounding Arsenal at the moment, it is hard to concentrate. I have kept myself busy and away from football after the Tottenham draw. Most likely, I won’t be able to even watch today’s game due to work (I will try though). The best way to reply to all the negativity and questions being raised is as I mentioned above, play like there is nothing to lose.

Bolton are playing at their home today. They were battered in the FA Cup semifinal but it doesn’t justify the way they have played this season. Sitting at eighth position in the table they will offer more than a good resistance. They will play their game and won’t hesitate to attack. They can be physical too. It will be a difficult game but I believe we have enough quality to get the three points.

I don’t have much to say on our game. The problem in the last few games has been two fold. First of all we don’t seem to find goals but if we do, we concede the same amount in the process as well. How do you get over such a problem? By buying? By selling? By sacking the manager? No! This doesn’t mean we don’t need to buy in the summers. There are some players that need to be offloaded and we do need a few reinforcements. However, buying or selling won’t be the solution to the problem. We can only solve our problem by doing the basics of football right, which we seem to have forgotten lately. Keep things simple, keep the focus for the full 90 minutes and not switch off like we did against Tottenham and we will win games.

As far as the team is concerned, it will be straight forward to pick.

Except Diaby there are no injury concerns. To replace him Wilshere will come back into the middle alongside Song and Fabregas.

As far as the defense and forward line is concerned, it is going to remain the same as it was against Spurs.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, RVP, Walcott

To conclude, Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference comments regarding summer spendings have come under lots of scrutiny already. I will discuss that more in detail in later posts. However, I would like Wenger to stop explaining the world the mental strength of our team every time he talks to the media. It is doing us no good! Only performance on the field is going to help us.

That is all. Enjoy the game and have a good day!!


Arsene Wenger on the game and Johan Djourou’s injury

March 13, 2011

Last night Arsenal were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United after Fabio and Rooney scored the vital goals.

Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger explained how they couldn’t score goals after controlling the game and how United got their goal by being clinical which made it easier for them to play on the counter and how subconsciously he believes that Tuesday’s defeat had a part to play with the team suffering from low confidence.

The manager admitted they weren’t dominated but lost to a side that was clinically better and added that things aren’t going Arsenal’s way at the moment as he didn’t blame the effort put in by the players.

With the premier league the only trophy left for Arsenal to win, Arsene Wenger was positive that they can win the title as he said that it is now a test of the metal strengths of the team.

Johan Djourou also got injured during the game after Sagna collided with him. Arsene Wenger confirmed that he has a dislocated shoulder that will see him ruled out for the rest of the season.

After the game, Arsene said:

“We had good control of the game. Manchester United had very few chances, they scored with almost their first attempt on goal. After that, we put them in a position they like to be [in] – on the counter attack. They are strong and they are clinical in front of goal. In the second half we had a good opportunity to come back to 1-1 and two minutes later it was 2-0. As long as you cannot come back to 2-1, they are comfortable. In the end, I cannot fault our effort.

Things do not go our way at the moment. We have to keep going, support each other and come back strong. It was a strange game, we put a lot of effort in. At the moment, every goalkeeper against us is Man of the Match. I still believe, subconsciously, the disappointment of Tuesday night has played a part today. You could see something has gone, not in our effort or our attitude, but confidence wise.

We were not outplayed today but we were punished by a team who were more clinical than us.

I believe that we can do it. It is a good test for us now, to show that we can regroup, show our mental strength and respond quickly. We have a week without a midweek game, that is the first time for a long time. Unfortunately, we lost Johan Djourou for the rest of the season. [He has a] dislocated shoulder. His season is over.”


[Guest Post] Match Preview: Manchester United vs Arsenal

March 12, 2011

Note: This guest post is written by Hamza, a friend of mine, who is a Manchester United fan through and through. Here is how he sees today’s FA Cup game against us.

 

It’s that time of the year again where the best of English football comes into action. Within the span of three weeks, Manchester United finds themselves against another top rival. The last two encounters have certainly not gone according to the plan resulting in media blackout. So definitely, the Red Devils would be eager to end their losing streak after a breathtaking start to the season.

Today promises to be a fighting encounter as the FA Cup is at stake here. With Chelsea and Liverpool out already, today’s winner would be heavy favorites to lift the cup (though Man City might be favoring their chances as well).  Going by the records, Man United have still won their last eight games at home and have not lost to Arsenal at Old Trafford since 2006. The last encounter between the sides saw Manchester United prevail 1-0 at home courtesy Ji-Sung Park strike.

Coming into the match, Manchester United would surely be a little low but the gunners aren’t well off either. Although they have played quite an attractive football of any season, their recent blows in Carling Cup and Champions League states that they have failed to come to terms in the off-league games. Arsenal’s captain (Cesc Fabregas) is out which means Rob Van Persie would lead the side. Arsenal would also be without its first choice of keeper, Szczesny, leaving Almunia to wear the gloves. He has not had much of a game practice this season, playing hardly 10 games altogether. Theo Walcott and Alex Song are also on the injured list. Not that I am much concerned about them, but its (rival worries) always an added advantage one should keep in mind.

Manchester United comes into this match following an unconvincing 1-0 win over Crawley Town.  It was another forgettable encounter with the Red Devils failing to show their dominance over a non-league side. Injuries further add to the agony of the team with Nani tearing a tendon on his left leg in the game versus Liverpool. Ji-Sung Park still remains on the bench but on the positive side Antonio Valencia is back in the side after almost 6 months and is likely to get a nod today. Captain Nemanja Vidic would also be back after the suspension period, Darren Fletcher is expected to return to the side and Rio Ferdinand is also on the comeback trail, though it might still be too early to play him against Gunners. All these rejoining would be a huge boost to Sir Alex Ferguson, who might play it a little cautious considering the upcoming second leg against Marseille in Champion League, having settled for a nil-nil draw previously.  So don’t be surprised if some unexpected members get a go today.

Following the injuries, Manchester united are likely to come up with a different set of formation and if Antonio Valencia is kept back for later stages of the game, we might find Darren Fletcher playing the role of right-hand side midfielder. As Arsenal is keen to play on the wings, John’O Shea and Patrick Evra would most likely be retained at the back. The central midfield would probably be occupied by Michael Carrick and Darren Gibson as Anderson’s inclusion remains a question mark following a knee injury. Upfront we might see Javier Hernandez in place of Rooney after scoring the only United goal against Liverpool.

The game is also being viewed as a curtain raiser to the Premier League title race with both teams marginally separated. Hopefully for Man United, this is a glorious chance to shrug off their poor form and overturn the plunge. Along with the home advantage and decent record we are surely the favorites to nail this one. And if we play as per the start of the season, take our chances and make the most of Arsenal’s negligence, then there is no doubt we’d emerge victorious. Good luck Reds, here is hoping you bring the trophy home.


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.”


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!!