Wenger: We first have to qualify, Van Persie might start, Djourou is out and Koscielny returns

December 8, 2010

Speaking ahead of the all important, must win, game against Partizan Belgarde, Wenger wasn’t concerned about the oppoenent in the next phase. He said that we should not look ahead at which team we encounter in the next round. The focus first should be to qualify and see what happens next. Be it Barcelona, Bayern or even Real, to go ahead, we have to beat them. Be it in the next round or further ahead. Wenger said it’s even not a guarantee we will get these teams as there are other possibilities. What happens will happen. We simply have to proceed with it.

“If you want to win it, you have to play against these big teams. What is important is not to focus on the teams we might play, we first have to be very pragmatic and qualify first. We will see then who we get. First of all, it is not a guarantee that we play Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the next round – there are some other teams we can play and what happens, happens.”

Wenger further said that he expected to win every game before this, but as it is you have to be prepared for every situation and still the most important thing will be to qualify.

“I expected to win all the games before but you have to be ready for every possibility in our job and the most important thing is to qualify.”

At the moment it’s not in our hands who we meet in the next round. Our job, as Wenger has said, is to go out tomorrow and qualify. Who knows, If results go our way we might even top the group.

In team news it has been revealed that there is a possibility that Van Persie will start the match. Speaking about him, Wenger said if you would have asked him two weeks back he would have said he was ready to start. At the moment he is getting better by every match. As he has been out for a long time he needs more games to get back to match fitness. There is a chance that he will start tomorrow as Wenger hasn’t yet decided the starting lineup.

“He is getting better and better and ready to start. He was ready to start two weeks ago if you ask him. He is a player who has been out for a long time and wants games. I haven’t decided the starting line-up but it is a possibility [that Van Persie will be in it].”

Finally, for  a change we have good news on the injury front. Koscielny, who till yesterday was out for three weeks, has been remarkably declared fit. He is in the squad and will start tomorrow. 

As for Djourou, he will not be available as he has a minor thigh injury. He was very dominant against Fulham, but Wenger says we have to be cautious as risks cannot be taken with him.  

As for the rest of the squad it will be available as it was against Fulham with Emmanuel Eboue to be included.

“Koscielny has been declared fit to play and will play tomorrow. We lose Djourou, because we are a bit cautious with him. He could have played with a risk, but we did not want to take a risk. Emmanuel Eboue comes back into the squad, the rest will be the same against Fulham.”


Wenger on dealing with high balls, Fulham’s approach, Djourou’s contribution and regular starts

December 5, 2010

Despite the fact that we have won our game, there were some tense moments where we could have easily dropped points. The way we dealt with the high balls was not entirely convincing. We improved a bit with the inclusion of Djourou but still there needs to be work done.

When asked about this Wenger replied that there were times we looked vulnerable but he expected it. He said that when you are ending with five strikers you tend to suffer from corners. He also said that in the second half the team did better in dealing with the aerial balls.  

“I agree with you that at some stage we looked a bit vulnerable in the air but don’t forget we finished the game with five strikers on the pitch, so I expected to suffer from corners. Overall I believe in the second half our defenders dealt well with the high ball.”

The match was difficult not just because of us failing to keep it tight at the back but also due to some good pressing play by Fulham. They took the game to us and tested our resolve. Wenger quickly acknowledged the fact that it was a good game as both teams played well.  Fulham were efficient in the middle as they put lots of pressure on our backline. He said that the combination of Gera and Kamara worked for them. To win today’s game resilience along with quality was required and the team delivered on that.  

“It was a good game. Overall I think Fulham played well and we played well. They put us under pressure because Gera and Kamara combined well and their midfield was efficient, they played quite a direct game to expose us with balls behind our defenders. We needed not only quality but spirit and resilience today and we got it.”

Djourou: 'He was dominant today'

Djourou made the difference in the second half with some good defending. He led our backline very well and helped the team deal with the long balls. Wenger praised him in his comments and said that he is improving with every game this season.  On his performance he said that he was dominant in the air when our team was under pressure. Wenger was delighted in turning him into a promising centre back from a midfield player.

“From the start of the season he has gone from strength to strength and today, in the difficult period when we had to defend in the air, he was dominant. He has not only shown dominance but also personality. That’s why I am very happy. He came here as a midfielder and we transformed him into a centre back.”

When asked about his regular starts, Wenger said that the players know that they will be rotated so that everyone has starts. As Djourou is coming back after a year, he needs rotation every few games even though he is doing very well. Arsene doesn’t want to lose him by playing him in three matches a week.  

“The players know that from game to game we rotate and everybody will have to start in our squad. He is doing very well. He has been out for a year and as you have noticed I have rotated him a little bit. We do not want to lose him and a guy that has been out for a year you cannot play him three games a week.”


Player Ratings: Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham

December 5, 2010

Another hard fought game and another three important points won. At the moment we are not making things easy for our selves as we are not convincing. Still the result is what matters and the outcome has taken us to the top of the League.

Overall the team showed good spirit but we need to work on our niggling defensive problems. Our full backs were exceptional today along with the keeper. The centre backs position was where the mistakes were occurring. It was quite visible that there was no communication among the players at the back and no one took charge of the situation. The midfielders also failed to make impact today. They did well in patches though. Upfront, Arshavin and Nasri made the difference today. Nasri was splendid and his individual brilliance got us the goals whereas Arshavin created the chances. Chamakh helped  a lot  but failed to take his own chances.

Coming to player ratings:  

Fabianski: Made a brilliant saves near the end of both the halves. Not at fault for the goal and did well on most occasions. Made one bad judgment but thankfully we didn’t concede on that occasion. 7

Sagna: He was brilliant today again. Combined well with Nasri and at the back didn’t allow any penetration. Some of his crosses were also good. 7

Squillaci: After a good first few games, Squillaci really looks very nervous and shaky at the back. Was partially at fault for the goal. He does his job but at times he completely loses it.  He needs to be a leader at the back. He needs to communicate to bring calmness at the back. Some of his clearances were also not good today. 6

Koscielny: Was on for the time when we were dominating. Did his job, although, he too needs to communicate with the players around him. Hopefully his injury is not serious. 6

Clichy: Good performance by the Frenchman. He was early onto many balls and made some good interceptions. Defended really well under pressure and contributed going forward also. This is what we want from him in every game. 7.5

Song: Not a very influential game from Song. Committed a lot of mistakes and gave the ball on more than a few occasions. Lost quite a few battles in the middle too. 5.5

Wilshere: Also failed to make an impact today. The start was good by him but he switched off when Fulham started to press and put pressure on us. 6

Rosicky: Tried hard but couldn’t impose himself on the game. Dropped down deep to get the balls and helped in defending. Brought in players upfront into the game but at times made one pass to many. Needs to take his chances with shots on goal. 6.5

Nasri: Simply awesome! He was completely on a different level today. The way he took both his goals shows that he is intelligent, he has quality, he has skill, he has patience and above all he knows how to respond. Apart from that he also made some good runs and opened up spaces for others. He is by far our best and influential player this season. 9.5  

Chamakh: He worked hard and helped the team in defence. He also held up the ball nicely but didn’t do the job that he should do as a striker i.e. to let loose a shot when through on goal. In the first half he passed the ball back and the chance was lost. In the second he was waiting for a teammate before shooting the ball over the bar after realizing no one was there. Needs to work on taking his chances. 6.5

Arshavin: Apart from not scoring goals, he had a great game in terms of creating chances. The first thirty minutes of the game he was on fire. Every chance that was created was through him and he himself took his shots. Went anonymous in few parts of the game though. He helped in the defence too and importantly got another assist. 8

Subs:

Djourou: After a shaky start really did well at the back. Won almost all of his duels and aerially was dominant. Made some good interceptions and dealt with pressure nicely. Had one or two bad moments but covered up for them with nice positional awareness. He too is improving every game. 7.5

Van Persie: Wasn’t brought into the game much but when he was brought it produced a goal. An assist to his name as he needs more games to get back to his best. 6.5

Walcott: Failed to do anything when he had the ball. He is not looking confident and doesn’t know what to do with ball. No ratings for him.


Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham match report: We go top! A deserved win!

December 4, 2010

Another shaky performance as we come out with three points this time. We go top of the league and it doesn’t matter how we got there. What matters is we have to stay there.

The game had elements similar to what we have seen in the past few matches. Complete domination by us in the start, we score the goals but miss a lot more that should literally finish the game.  We then succumb to I don’t know what and concede goals. Then we look panicked and forget what we are supposed to do as the game opens up and it is for anyone’s to take.

The start as usual was very bright by us as we dominated Fulham. Arshavin was clearly on fire as he set up some beautiful balls and himself got chances to score. Arshavin had an early Volley saved by Schwarzer when we got a free kick. Rosicky had an opening to shoot but he chose to pass the ball to Chamakh and the chance was lost. Arshavin was involved in this move also.  Nasri then went just wide on a through ball from Arshavin. The breakthrough was not far behind though. Arshavin again picked up Nasri with a wonderful ball and he sidestepped two challenges before smashing the ball past Schwarzer. It was a goal to watch. Simply amazing as we got our early goal.

We didn’t stop there and Arshavin again picked up Chamakh with a great lobbed ball. Chamakh should have gone for goal but he chose to pass the ball back and the chance was spurred. Arshavin a few minutes later himself had a shot that was saved by Schwarzer. Nasri then made a brilliant run down the right and he squared the ball. Somehow Fulham kept the ball out of goal as the score remained one nil. Song then went wide with an open header from an excellent cross by Sagna.

By now not even 30 minutes had passed and we had created half a dozen chances of which three should have been scored on at least. As it was we were leading by a goal only. Then the moment of madness occurred at the back as Squillaci collided with Koscielny and Dempsey got the ball. He passed it to Kamara who made no mistake to put it past Fabianski as the score leveled up. Koscielny was stretchered off due to injury from the collision as Djourou came on for him.

The final 15 minutes of the first half were equally contested. We went flat after conceding the goal and started doing uncharacteristic mistakes. We were too casual with the ball. Our defence was opened up far too many times which weren’t good to see.

Near the end Chamakh headed the ball straight to Schwarzer. Fulham went close to taking lead themselves but Fabianski brilliantly denied Kamara in a one-on-one. We went into the break with the scores leveled.

The second half start was uncharacteristic by us. No one was holding onto the ball for long as Fulham were pressing nicely. However, slowly we started getting into good positions. Rosicky had a first time shot on goal that went just wide when Song found him on the edge of the area. Arshavin, similar to Nasri, did brilliantly to open up space for himself and had a shot that was again stopped by Schwarzer. These chances raised the tempo of the game as Fulham also looked dangerous on the break. They got a couple of half chances as we survived the pressure.

Van Persie was brought on by Wenger in place of Wilshere. Arshavin and Van Persie combined to set up Nasri.  He wriggled past challenges, the keeper and slotted home from the by line. Simply an amazing goal.

Fulham, however, were not to be stopped as they pushed for the equalizer. Etuhu had a shot that went just wide of the post. Chamakh at the other end had a chance to kill the game when Clichy found him with a cross. Chamakh although shot the ball over. Fabianski did his part near the end as he saved Gera’s shot that was heading towards goal. Near the end we did enough to keep Fulham from scoring as we ended the match with the three points secured.

Well one thing is confirmed from the match; we love to live dangerously and never go for the easy kill. These last few games have been really tense. However the spirit that the team is showing is worth the mention. We could have easily lost today had we not held our nerves. Although, we need to do it more convincingly. We could have easily finished the game in the first half had we taken our chances. We also could have easily conceded a couple after the scores got leveled. We survived the pressure and that was good to see. Let’s carry on with this on to the next games with more improvement.


Arsenal vs Fulham preview: Home win and going top + Starting lineup

December 4, 2010

After qualifying for the Carling Cup semi-final, we are back to Premier League. Today we face Fulham at our home for the first game of December. Having lost the previous two matches at home, we have to produce a win today as we would go top again (Depends on Chelsea’s result against Everton as Man Utd’s game has been postponed).

With no changes to the casualty list, the squad for tomorrow is the same as it was available against Villa.

Based on this, starting eleven that I would like to see is

Probable XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.

With another good performance by Szczesny in the Carling Cup, the situation of our keepers is certainly stable at the moment. Fabianski is also responding well and therefore he is going to start in goal tomorrow as Szczesny needs more games to wrestle the No.1 spot. The same goes for the centre backs. All are almost on the same level so it’s a question of who Arsene picks. I would go with Djourou and Koscielny as they both looked comfortable in the Wigan game although the opposition didn’t trouble us much. Djourou is improving with every match and he offers us more aerially than the other two so for me he must start. On the flanks Sagna to come back to his place and Gibbs to start on the left side. Gibbs had a good game against Wigan and he offers us more going forward. Although at the back he is similar to Clichy but more games will certainly improve his performances.

In the middle I would go with the same three players that started against Villa. Rosicky and Song were rested so they are going to feature tomorrow. The doubt is just of Wilshere’s start as he also played the Wigan game. Wenger might even surprise us and start with Van Persie again in the same role as he started against Wigan. The question is that will Wenger risk him by starting with him two games in a row?

Upfront Chamakh to return to the starting eleven after his rest. Chamakh is doing great and it will be interesting to see if Van Persie starts behind him. He should be partnered by Nasri and Arshavin as both of them were great against Villa and they also were rested during midweek.

The team is pretty much similar to the starting eleven against Villa and hopefully they will perform in the same way with improvement in the defensive department.

Fulham’s season isn’t going well as it should have been with plenty of drawn games. They are a good team and on their day can cause upsets. They are coming into this match on the back of a few injuries to key players. Still they have enough quality to give us a hard time.

We would have to be at our best as we have to start winning games at home. We have to stick to the basics and play our game. Defensively our whole team has to step up a gear. The midfield has to remain close to the defenders when under attack to challenge the second balls as there will be plenty of high balls into our area. The forwards have to combine well with the midfielders to press them effectively so that they can’t play their game. The midfield will need to keep balance as they will be the key in maintaining possession.

I am expecting us to win this but again no score predictions. It will be great if we can score an early goal or two and then go on to keep a clean sheet.

With the all important Champions League game against Partizan coming up, let’s hope none of our players get injured.

p.s. I hope the match isn’t called off due to bad weather.


Wenger on Almunia’s setback, Fabregas’ return, new keeper and Schwarzer’s deal extension

December 4, 2010

Speaking ahead of the match against Fulham, Arsene Wenger in his pre-match press conference gave his update on the squad. Everyone is available for tomorrow except Almunia. Almunia, he said, has suffered a setback in training and is out. The other injured players are still not back including Diaby, Vermaelen and Fabregas.

“The team news is that we have everybody available and not Almunia who had a little setback in training yesterday and is out of it. But apart from that, of course Fabregas, Vermaelen, Diaby are out.”

About Fabregas he said that it is still two weeks at the most before he can return. The initial sign for Fabregas are good but Wenger is unsure if he will be available for the Man Utd game. 

“The first signs [for Fabregas] look quite good. I still think two weeks. I don’t know [whether he will be available for the Manchester United game].”

On Vermaelen he said that he is with a protective boot on and it will have to wait before it can be confirmed if it helps and how early he can be back.

“At the moment [Vermaelen] is in a boot and we have to wait until he comes out of that to see if he has a reaction.”

Wenger also made it clear that there will be no new player or keeper coming in January unless injury forced him. When asked about a new keeper in January, Wenger responded that he has already come out on that. He said that they are not on the market for any player. The current keepers are all performing. Fabianski, he said, has shown quality in the last couple of months and that he has the ability. Szczesny also has done well in his appearances. As for Almunia he said that injury won’t keep him out for long and he will return soon.  

“No, I came out already on that.

That [Almunia’s injury] will not be for a long time, we have Szczesny coming up very quickly and we have Fabianski who has proven in the last two months that he has the quality.

At the moment we are not on the market.”

When asked about Schwarzer’s deal extension he said that he is pleased for him. He said that the deal doesn’t bother him as he has his own squad to focus on. He also said that he can understand the decision made by Schwarzer as a two year deal at his age is good and that it shows the club values him. On the interest of Arsenal he said that it is history and he would like it to remain discreet.

 “I can understand that decision. At his age a two-year contract is a great deal for him and it shows great confidence of the club for him. I don’t have a problem with that.
 
It is important that we focus on our players and the squad we have. I am pleased for him [Schwarzer] that he got an extension to his contract but all the rest is history that has to be a little bit discreet.”


Nasri is going to make it while Van Persie is a doubt for Fulham, Ipswich in Cup semi, Vermaelen should be captain and Schwarzer is not coming to Arsenal

December 2, 2010

Nasri: He is going to make it

Arsene Wenger has given the latest on the team’s status today. Speaking to Arsenal TV online he said that he has the same squad available for the Fulham game as it was against Villa last weekend. The only concern is of Nasri. On Nasri Wenger said that he got a knock on his knee in the Wigan game. Still he believes that Nasri will be alright and ready to face Fulham as it is a minor injury. Apart from this he said there are no new fresh injury concerns.

“Nasri has got a knock from Tuesday night. It is a knee problem but he should be alright. Apart from that, we do not have any fresh players injured.”

He further added that there will be no new players returning from injury as Vermaelen and Diaby are still out along with Fabregas. The squad he said will remain unchanged from the Villa game.

“There are no other ins or out. Diaby and Vermaelen are not available. Fabregas (hamstring) is still injured so it will be a similar squad to the Aston Villa game.”

Persie: Wenger unsure about whether to play him

As for Van Persie, Wenger is yet unsure on whether to give him another start. He said that he will look in to his recovery from the Wigan game before deciding. He said that with a strong squad available he is going to rotate his players from game to game to keep the players fresh.

“I will see how Robin recovers [before deciding whether to start him]. I rotate a bit from game to game at the moment. So I’ll see. But we have quite a strong squad available.”

Carling Cup Semi-final Draws: Arsenal to face Ipswich town

In other news we are to face Ipswich Town in the two legged semi-final of the Carling Cup. The semi finals first leg is going to be played on the 11th or 12th of January at their home with the return leg on 25th or 26th.  Ipswich town overcame West Brom in the quarters to face us. Birmingham has been drawn against West Ham in the other semi final.

Ipswich’s manager, Roy Keane, commented about the draw. He said that they have got the toughest of the draws. He further elaborated that Birmingham and West Ham would be delighted to have avoided Arsenal and play each other. As for the tie he said that they will look forward to it when it comes. About Arsenal he said that they are a top team and they will be happy with the draw.

“I think it is the toughest draw we could have had. Put it this way, West Ham and Birmingham will have been delighted to have avoided Arsenal. We will look forward to that when it comes. Arsenal are a top team and will be delighted with the draw.”

On his own teams performance against West Brom he said that they played well and was pleased for the fans and his team. He said that the players responded positively after Sunday’s loss in their local derby. The match he said would have been over before they scored had the West Brom keeper not made some great saves.

 “The performance was pretty good. That does not always guarantee the right result but we should have won by three or four goals. I am pleased for the players and the supporters because it has been a frustrating time. All the players did very well and responded well after Sunday. The game should have been over by the time we scored but their keeper made some great saves.”

No match is easy and as we have seen this season none of the teams can be taken granted for. It will be a good match no doubt but I believe we will win the tie and the tournament. Fingers crossed!

Vermaelen: Will he be a good Captain?

On to Other matters. Our former player, Ray Parlour, has spoken about Vermaelen to be given the captaincy of the team. Speaking on this he asks questions regarding Squillaci, Koscielny and Djourou that if they can deliver for the whole season and be leaders along with that on the pitch. He said that the centre backs position is very important to a team. They have a bird’s eye view of everything and as a result they can direct a team effectively from there.

On Vermaelen’s return from injury, Parlour wants that Wenger should give him the captain’s armband as he is a good player and that he has the leadership qualities. He believes that Vermaelen can learn from Tony Adams and Viera’s time at Arsenal to drive the team to success.    

“You look at the situation. You’ve got Squillaci, Koscielny, Djourou – are these good enough to go through the whole season and pick you points up. We all know goalkeepers can save you 12 points a year so can centre-halves. It’s a very important position, they can see everything happening, they’re the ones who can demand from other players. That’s why they’re so important. I think Vermaelen is going to be very important because he’s a good player. He’s got a great leap on him for 5ft 11, usually centre-halves are 6ft plus. I think it’s one of these times where if he thinks Vermaelen can do the job give him the skipper’s armband and say to him ‘these are skipper’s we use to have, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, who used to drive the team on, can you do that’ and see if he can do it.”

Schwarzer: He has extended his contarct at Fulham

We can also forget signing Schwarzer in the January window as he has signed a new contract at Fulham.

Schwarzer has said this on fulhamfc.com:

“Delighted to have finally signed a contract extension with Fulham after a great deal of speculation surrounding my future in recent months.”

Mark Hughes had this to say on Schwarzer signing a contract extension:

 “[Schwarzer] is an important part of my plans for the future and I am delighted to see one of the game’s finest current goalkeepers commit his future to the Club.”

Personnally I am not bothered with the news as much  as currently Fabianski and Szczesny are doing good. Although if we need to sign for improvement , we can have plenty better keepers than Schwarzer.  As a matter of fact I am delighted myself that at least one speculation has been settled.