Arsene Wenger on the ‘necessary’ Blackpool win and fight for the title

April 11, 2011

Arsene Wenger was clearly delighted after Arsenal ended their three match draw streak with a deserved win over Blackpool.

Speaking after the match, the manager said that it was a good performance as the players responded positively after a flat game last week. The manager explained that the win was necessary today despite being on an unbeaten run and added that it has to be continued from game to game now.

Arsene acknowledged to having nervous moments during the game but said that a determined performance out of Blackpool was expected as they are fighting to avoid relegation.

The manger concluded by admitting that only three points were important to keep their chances alive for the title as he said that Arsenal will fight for it till the end.

After the game, Arsene Wenger said:

“I think it was a good performance because we had a good response to the flat game last Sunday. What people forget is that we are on a long unbeaten run, even if we had not won recently. But it was important to get a win again and we now have to go from game to game.

That’s what you get with Blackpool and with a team [that is] fighting against relegation. I knew that, at 2-0, they would not give up. We missed some chances in the first half and, at 2-1, we had a little nervy period. Making it 3-1 killed the game because they had given a lot.

Today, only three points would help us keep our chances [alive]. We have promised ourselves to give everything until the end of the season. There are still seven games left and that is a long time.”


Arsene Wenger on Lehmann’s performance, Almunia’s Knee injury and Szczesny’s return

April 10, 2011

Jens Lehmann did well during Arsenal’s win over Blackpool after his surprise start due to an injury to Manuel Almunia in the warm ups.

Speaking after the game, Arsene Wenger praised the performance of Lehmann by saying how his decision making was spot on and how his authority helped the team on set pieces.

The manager added that he wasn’t concerned about starting the game with him but admitted that the only problem was of replacing Lehmann, if something had happened to him during the game, due to having no keeper left on the bench.

There did come such a moment during the game when Lehmann could have been sent off for bringing down DJ Campbell in the danger area but Blackpool scored the goal, when the referee played the advantage, and Wenger admitted that it was an important split second of the game.

Regarding Almunia’s injury, Wenger said that he has a knee injury which needs to be assessed and added that he doesn’t yet know If he will be available for the next match. However, Wenger concluded by saying that Szczesny is not far away from returning.

Arsene Wenger, after the win, said:

“[Jens Lehmann] did well. His decision-making was spot on. In fairness, he didn’t have a lot to do because we controlled the game quite well. He is commanding and his authority helped us on set-pieces.

I was not concerned because I replaced a good goalkeeper with a good goalkeeper. The only concern was not having a goalkeeper on the bench anymore. If something had happened to Jens, because he had not played for a long time, we would have had a problem.

Yes. That was the important split-second of the game. I felt Jens played the ball, even if [the referee] gives a penalty he can give a yellow card because he tried to intercept the ball.

{Manuel Almunia] has a knee problem, we have to assess that. I don’t know [whether he will be ready for the next game]. We have [Wojciech] Szczesny who is not far away.”


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.”


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!!


Wenger: Djourou and Denilson are back and Vermaelen to return in three weeks

February 12, 2011

Arsene Wenger, at his pre-match press conference, gave an injury update on the squad ahead of today’s game against Wolves.

Johan Djourou picked up an injury in the Newcastle game and there were rumors around that he was going to be out for some time. However, Wenger on Friday revealed that Djourou is fit and ready to play against Wolves as he passed a fitness test on Friday.

Wenger also revealed Denilson’s availability, as he missed the Newcastle game, and confirmed that the rest of the squad will be the same as it was last weekend.

Diaby and Rosicky, on the other hand, are not available as Rosicky has a groin injury, picked up on International duty, and Diaby is suspended.

Regarding Vermaelen, Wenger explained as to how his recovery is progressing well but it’s difficult to set a time for his return.

Nonetheless, Wenger gave a minimum three weeks time and added that when fit, Vermaelen will first play in the reserves to get his match fitness and then make a proper comeback to the first team.

Wenger, at his press conference, said:

“Yes, Djourou is fit. Diaby has a problem but anyway he is suspended. Denilson is available. Rosicky has a groin problem coming back from the Czech Republic so he is not involved but Denilson is coming back. The rest of the squad will be the same as Newcastle. Cesc and Van Persie will both be playing.

He is doing better and he is in the normal process of rehabilitation. When he will be fit again, I don’t know. It is very difficult to set any time on it. Something like three weeks.

When he [Vermaelen] is fit certainly we’ll play him in the Reserve team. [But] not before two or three weeks. You never know until he is completely fit to play again but we are hopeful [he is progressing well]. He feels he is over the problem but he played his last game in September and we are in February so it will take some time to come back to match fitness.”


Player Ratings: Newcastle 4 – 4 Arsenal

February 5, 2011

You can win with 11 men against 14, but 10 against 14 becomes a very daunting task. People will say that Arsenal should have done more in the second half, and I agree, but it doesn’t change the fact the standard of refereeing was just poor today and it’s not for the first time. It is there for all to see how much the ref can influence a game. And I know it will be forgotten in a minute and no one will talk about the refereeing as they will have Arsenal to talk about. And such pathetic standards will continue because the FA is incompetent to the very core of its existence.

Coming to the performance of the team, it can be divided into two halves.

In the first half we were very much in the driving seat as Newcastle were at times mere spectators. We controlled the midfield, our passing was sublime, the movement was excellent and the finishing was spot on. At the back we were comfortable as we dominated the game.

The second half, however, was very poor as compared to the first. Down to 10 men, we struggled to control the midfield as Newcastle attacked our goal aerially through set pieces and long balls. Upfront there was no movement as we were stuck up at the back.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (7): Was a spectator in the first half. In the second he was the centre of attention. Made some brilliant saves and cannot be blamed for the goals. Still needs to improve his distribution on kicks.

Sagna (6.5): Good first half as we dominated the game. In the second did well on most occasions while we were being showered with long balls. Good cross for the assist on the fourth goal.

Koscielny (6.5): Top performance in the first half. Made some very good interceptions and was strong in the air. In the second he continued with it but we had too many long balls and set pieces to defend. The penalty conceded was very soft; in fact the ref was in no position to award it. However, he must be careful in the future in making such tackles in the danger area.

Djourou (7.5): Also had a top game. Partnered well with Koscielny and did well on every occasion. Scored a good goal. I hope he isn’t seriously injured.

Clichy (6): He too was brilliant in the first half. In the second made only one mistake that led to goal. Otherwise did well.

Diaby (7.5 – not taking into account his sending off): Impressive first half as he broke up the play of Newcastle very easily and linked up nicely with the forward players. However, he should have kept cool when fouled by Barton. It was what Barton wanted and Diaby complied.  

Fabregas (6.5): Awesome first half. The number of delightful balls he delivered in the first half was just a treat to watch. However, in the second he couldn’t do much as the pressure mounted.

Wilshere (6): He too was very good in the first half and similarly to all, vanished in the second. Isn’t the answer to our defensive cover in absence of Song, Diaby and Denilson.

Walcott (7): Looked dangerous whenever he had the ball. Took the first goal very nicely and good cut back for the assist on third. Provided defensive cover in the second half before he was substituted.

Van Persie (6.5): Scored three goals, one of which was called offside though. Provide good cover in defense in the first half but didn’t do much in the second. Delivered in some good free kicks and corners.

Arshavin (7): Another two assist to his name. Helped the team overall before getting substituted.

Subs:

Squillaci (6) needs to improve his communication with Koscielny as we can’t go on like this forever. Didn’t do anything wrong but also didn’t help the team with his experience. Rosicky (3.5) failed to do for what he was brought. In fact he made things harder for us. The second penalty was never a penalty, it was just incompetent refereeing which will go unpunished as usual. Eboue (4) also failed to provide cover in defense.

Well, we have certainly dropped two points which after the first half none would have imagined that we would drop. As it stands, we have to move on from here and not let this result be our downfall. There is still a lot to play for and with United losing, it’s not that bad. And I hope the result doesn’t affect us psychologically.

And seriously, one can only win against 14 men once a week.


Andrey Arshavin on the match and his performance against Ipswich

January 27, 2011

Arsenal qualified for the Carling Cup final by beating Ipswich Town in the second leg of the semifinal.

Andrey Arshavin, speaking to his personal website, talked about the match, his performance and winning his first English trophy. He said that Ipswich came to defend their advantage and stop Arsenal from scoring whereas Arsenal approached the game very seriously with the sole objective to crush the opposition from the very first minute and score an early goal.

With the scores zero all at the break, Arshavin revealed that the manager asked the team to continue with the same high tempo and speed things further up to find the goal. He asked the team to keep patience and possession as there will come a time when the opposition would get tired and openings will be created.

Arshavin said that they played that way and it led to the first goal which came at the right time. He further added that the goal lifted the inner tension and the game became easier and eventually more goals were scored. He also acknowledged the skill of Bendtner in scoring the first goal and Wilshere’s great pass that led to it.

On his own performance and assists, he bluntly said that it wasn’t a super match for him but he is satisfied with the result. He added that he is glad he was useful to the squad.

When asked about being favorites to win the tournament, he replied that considering the names they may be but as it is the final anything can happen. He added that it will all depend on how Arsenal play. In the end he said that they deserved the victory and to be in the final and wants to win the first trophy of his English career.

Andrey Arshavin said:

“Ipswich came to London to try and defend their advantage. Maybe they tried to play in such a way so that they could score from a set piece while keeping us from scoring. If they had managed to do so, we would’ve had to score three goals in order to win this game. We took a very seriously approach to this game, tried to “crush” our opponents from the very first minute of the match. We expected to score a quick first goal. But after the first 45 minutes, the score was still 0:0.

During the break Arsene told us to play in the same high-tempo and try to speed up. He said that there would come a moment when the Ipswich players would get tired and then it would get more and more difficult for them to hold back our attacks. The coach asked us to keep our cool, not to make hasty, ill-considered passes, take care of the ball. He was sure that there would come a moment when we’d press them out.

Actually, we played that way and that led to the Nicholas’s goal. I would say that the goal came at the right time. Here it’s worth pointing out not only his skills in finishing this chance off, but also a Wilsheres’s great cross to Bendtner. This goal allowed us to lift some kind of inner tension from the team and our fans. Once we started to lead the score, the game became easier. Soon we scored a good goal from a set piece.

It wasn’t a supermatch for me. But I’m satisfied with the result. I’m glad that I was useful to the squad.

Maybe, considering the names, our club is the favorite. But, this is the final. Everything will depend only on us, on our game in this match … on February 27. We deserved this victory, we are in the final. Tomorrow we’ll find out our rival that we are going to clash with on Feb. 27. I hope for success, and I want to win the first trophy in my English career. It is time to win.”