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.

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Player Ratings: Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona

February 17, 2011

The joy of wining last night was out of this world; it was an amazing feeling as we did what most have failed to do, beating Barcelona at their game.

The belief, determination, spirit, effort and brilliant team work were the key to this result. We never looked awed by their good play and possession in the first half and continued with our game plan in the second half which eventually worked in our favor.

While Barcelona were mesmerizing as usual, we weren’t behind. We defended, we pressed, we passed, we created and we finally scored. The defence was amazing as they bravely played a high line and played the offside trap really well. Once we were caught up which led to a goal but you can expect that with Barcelona playing so well. Overall it was a phenomenal performance.

Coming to the player ratings:

Szczesny (8.5): Confident and brilliant as he made a couple of excellent saves that kept us in the game. His decision making along with distribution was excellent. Cannot be faulted for the goal.

Eboue (7): Defensively did well throughout the match. Upfront wasn’t that good in the first half as he was losing the ball very cheaply and falling over time and again. Improved his game in the second half and made some good runs.

Koscielny (9.5): He was just magnificent. He was strong, quick and intelligent in his play. Made his usual important interceptions and tackles and I don’t remember he did anything wrong. Didn’t give space to any of the Barcelona players. Was early to every ball and covered up well for Clichy and Djourou. Simply phenomenal!!

Djourou (7.5): He too was excellent but made some errors by misplacing some of his passes but thankfully we weren’t punished for it. Otherwise he was solid and partnered well with Koscielny. Covered up well for Eboue.

Clichy: He was decent at the back but the Barcelona players exploited his flank throughout match. Was caught on the wrong side of the offside-line as Villa scored the opener. Made some important interceptions in the second half as he did well to cope with the situation. His pass to Van Persie that led to the equalizer was perfect.

Wilshere (9.5): Wilshere has certainly grown in the last couple of weeks. Last Night he was magnificently outstanding (if it makes sense). The way he dueled in the middle of the park with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets was amazing. He didn’t look intimidated by any of them as he played his game, looked confident, showed good work rate and linked up the play brilliantly. He also did well in breaking the play of Barcelona.

Fabregas (7.5): He wasn’t at his best yesterday yet he produced some amazing balls. His through ball that led to the second goal and his pass to Van Persie in the opening minutes was a delight to watch.  Combined really well with Wilshere, Nasri and Van Persie.

Song (7): He got booked early on in the game but still didn’t stay back and played his game. His work rate was good as he broke up Barcelona’s  play many times and distributed the ball around nicely.

Walcott (7.5): A continuous threat on the right as Barcelona players would always surround him whenever he would get the ball.

Van Persie (8.5): That goal he scored was one of its kinds. Forget that he missed a couple of good chances as he got the goal at the right time which matters the most. His movement was excellent and did his defensive duties well.

Nasri (8): His start was slow as he was returning from injury. Yet he was a threat and in the second half he was excellent. The way he coolly created the goal for Arshavin was impressive. His passing and movement was excellent and did his part in defense by helping Clichy on the right flank.

Subs:

Arshavin (8): He is getting back to his best as he made that goal look so simple. Looked confident and helped in defending when required. He made a mistake near the end but again thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Bendtner (7): Did his job and looked good. He just needs to be quick in making his decisions.

To conclude, the whole team deserves a standing ovation for their efforts. And let’s continue with what we did last night in all the other competitions we are in. The second leg can wait for now….just enjoy this moment!!


Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona: Awesome result!!A great comeback as we were just brilliant

February 16, 2011

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! stuff by Arsenal as we came back from a goal down to beat Barcelona at the Emirates.

Goals by Van Persie, who scored from a very tight angle in the 78th minute and Arshavin, after a brilliant counter attack involving Nasri and Fabregas in the 83rd minute allowed us to finish the game on a high and take a slender lead in to the second leg.

Earlier, David villa had given the lead to Barcelona after he was released by Messi in the 26th minute.

However, despite Barcelona dominating the first half in possession and looking in control, we turned the match upside down in the second half. We were the better side in the second half as we stopped Barcelona from playing. We looked solid at the back, composed in the middle, and creative up front. It was the complete opposite of the first half where we had dominated the proceedings in the opening minutes.  

In the first, after Barcelona took the lead, they didn’t give us any space and dictated the play. However, we showed great resolve and excellent work rate as we stopped Barcelona from scoring more goals. Add to that some brilliant saves by Szczesny.

And this is where this win is remarkable and all the more sweeter. We won the match by playing better than them in the second half. It wasn’t that they had an off day and weren’t playing good. We kept our focus and we beat them at their own game and we never looked intimated. An excellent result and this had further increased my belief that this season we are going to change everything.

Hats off to the team for an excellent display of football and an awesome result. The second tie can wait for now as we savor this moment.


Arsene wenger: Nasri and Rosicky are back in the squad

February 16, 2011

Tonight we face Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16’s first leg at the Emirates.  Last time we were beaten convincingly by them over two legs but not before giving them a scare by coming back from two nil down to lead three goals to two.  

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, gave the latest injury news ahead of todays match in his pre-match press conference.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online, Wenger confirmed the good news that Nasri is fit and back in the squad for tonight. Wenger went onto add that how it is good to have him back after recovering quicker than expected, but won’t take unnecessary risks with Nasri when deciding the team on Wednesday.

Wenger also revealed that Diaby is still out with a calf problem which he got while on duty with the French team. Rosicky, on the other hand, has recovered and is included in the squad.

The rest of the squad is going to remain the same as it was at the weekend. However, Sagna will not be included as he is suspended.

Wenger said:

“Samir is in the squad. But the starting line-up will be decided tomorrow. He’s recovered quicker than expected. I said it will be 21 days but it will be only 17 days.

Everybody’s absolutely adamant that he’s completely medically available. It’s down to me to make the decision. I will take no medical risk but it’s good to have him in the squad.

Rosicky is available. He’s in the squad. But there’s no Diaby. He has a calf problem. He did it with the French national squad against Brazil.”


Arsenal vs Barcelona: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 16, 2011

Well, this is it! The match that we all have been waiting anxiously for the past two months is finally upon us. Barcelona, labeled by many as the best football team, gives us a visit at the Emirates tonight.

Now many have already sidelined us and yes we are the underdogs but believe me, we show our best when we are underdogs (remember Real Madrid and AC Milan). No doubt Barcelona is playing the best football but so are we. We have our weaknesses but so do them and if we play to our strengths Barcelona will never know what hit them. And the way we have been playing, I have no doubt that we will give them a lesson in football and we have more than enough quality to do that.

Coming to the starting eleven, Wenger for sure is going to put out the best team available.

Szczesny for sure is going to start and the backline will remain the same as at the weekend with only Eboue coming in for Sagna who is suspended.

In the middle we will see Cesc, Song and Wilshere and upfront Arshavin, Van Persie and Walcott will take their places.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

Nasri is fit and in the squad for tonight but what Wenger said yesterday, it is more than evident he won’t risk him. Last time we had risked Fabregas and Galas and it backfired very badly as we missed them for rest of that season. And also even without Nasri, we have enough players to give Barcelona a hard time.

I won’t go into the tactics. We know Barcelona is very good in possession and they also press very well as a team. They play football how it should be played but so do we. We know we have to give them no time on the ball, we know we have to give them no space, we know we have to keep possession, we know we have to press as a team, we know we have to defend as a team and we know we have to score goals. And we all know that if we play the way we have played the last few weeks, Chelsea, Birmingham, Wolves, to name a few , we will kill Barcelona, and that is what I expect today. It isn’t an easy task but achievable.

However, I am not that concerned with the result of this tie as I consider Champions League to be a bonus. This is a no pressure game as there is nothing to lose but everything to be gained.  We can beat them yes but if we don’t succeed there will be no regrets. We are in more than a good position to get a domestic treble and for me that is more of an achievement. Whatever the result, I will be behind this team and for me Arsenal is the best team in world.

To conclude, Le Grove has initiated a new song and with the help of many other Arsenal blogs and social websites asked the fans to sing it at the Emirates tonight to show Fabregas what he means to us and send a message to Barcelona that they can p*** off.  The song is:

“Hands off Cesc Fabregas” (to the regular tune of “We’ve got Cesc Fabregas”)

This is how we as fans can make an impact and it is my request to everyone going to the Emirates tonight, to sing this at the loudest.

Have a great day and enjoy the match from where ever you are watching. Tonight Barcelona will be the spectators!!