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.


Cesc, Nasri, defending and Wenger: A look into the summer that has passed and what comes next!?

August 12, 2011

Here we are, almost three months after we ended the last season in dismal fashion, at the start of the next. A summer that was promised to be different has so far been the same.

Although a lot has happened since I last posted on the blog but considering what we needed and what was required to be done hasn’t been done yet.

Yes, we bought Gervinho, who looks impressive and give us a direct approach for a change, and we bought Oxlade Chamberlain, who will be a star in the next three years and Jerkinson, who also is one for the future. They all are welcome additions to our squad and in future they will turn out to be great players for us for sure. But in terms of preparing for the next season, we have  been where we ended last season. In fact, if you ask me, we are considerably weaker than before. And before everyone jumps at me, I am not being negative, it is the reality.

The Fabregas saga, the Nasri situation, the way our defense performed in the pre-season, these are proof enough that we have stood still in terms of improving as a team.  

I am not fussed about Fabregas or even Nasri leaving, heck I am because you seldom find a Fabregas. It is just that if they wanted to go, they should have been shown the door at the start of the window. Their replacements should have been bought to gel in with the team. We are less than 24 hours away from the start of our first game of the season and we still haven’t figured out what’s up with both of them. Even now is not too late, sell them and buy the replacements, that is, if we do want to replace them.

I am convinced for sure that we will lose both of them before the window closes, what I am dreading is that we don’t bring in the proper substitutes.

I know most will say that we have Wilshere and Ramsey and I don’t disagree. These two are going to be great players and one day they will be world class. Nonetheless, they still have a lot to prove and for this season they certainly are not the answer to the void that will be left by Fabregas’ departure.

Personally, I don’t blame Fabregas for leaving and don’t have anything against him. I would have liked him to stay. He has given us close to eight years of delightful football. His skill, vision and ability to change games won’t be forgotten and I will always remember him as one of our great players. And I believe we will never truly replace him with any kind of player.

I, however, don’t have many sympathies for Nasri. I know he is a good player and likely go on to be a big player. Still after having one good season where he was close to consistent doesn’t justify his attitude. If he were loyal to this club, he would have signed the contract back in May. He isn’t and he never will be. The best thing is to sell him and get done with it. He isn’t worth more time than what he has already wasted for us.

As far as defense is concerned, I was always on the edge of my seat whenever the opposition was attacking in the preseason games. No matter what people say, we just have forgotten how to defend or just don’t want to.  I know that when we want to defend, we can, the game against Barcelona last season is proof enough. Why don’t we do it consistently is a question only Wenger can answer.

Why haven’t we improved our defense or why haven’t we bought any defender is also beyond me. Squillaci clearly doesn’t know defending, Djourou and Koscielny are known to make the stupidest mistakes, Vermaelen is returning after a year and I hope he starts from where he ended, when he was injured. On the left, the situation is even worse. I know this has turned into a cliché but Gibbs is not ready. I have said before, he is not a defender at all. He can be a good winger and that is all. And his injury record is also not great. Traore is stable but he is not better than Clichy right now and we all know Clichy had his flaws. So why haven’t we got a replacement for Clichy yet? For me this is  relying too much on hope!

The irony is that, at the moment, I myself am desperately hoping for Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou to have a great season without injuries. I am also hoping for Traore and Gibbs to pull off performances worth player of the season awards. And, I know I am getting too far, but I am hoping Wenger will buy a defender and a left back.  

I am also off the opinion that the way we defend can only be improved if we change the way we practice. Right now, I am not convinced that what we are doing in training is helping. Is something wrong with our back room staff or is it just that we don’t give too much attention to it? Whatever it is, we need to solve the problem. And considering, we haven’t done it in the last two years, I know it will be much of the same this season, the pre-season showed that clearly. Still I am not giving up, there is always hope!

The thing that I am most pissed off on is that Wenger hasn’t kept true to his word. He said at the start of this summer that he will try to keep the best players and improve the team in places where it requires. He hasn’t done that yet. We have the same disastrous defense, we are about to lose Fabregas and Nasri, we have already lost Clichy. (I am grateful that we won’t be going to see Denilson this season though.)

Also If you remember, back in January Wenger said something about not buying a defender as we have too many of them already or something similar. Considering what we have bought this summer, doesn’t it seem ironic that he has brought in two wingers, when we already have a surplus amount of them but not a single defender which we need the most? And I am not complaining here. We do need them because we still don’t have enough depth in any position. We have many youngsters but they cannot be relied upon for the whole season. He also bought a right back but then went onto selling a left back and we are still stuck with Eboue.

He said that he will only buy players who will improve the team. As we don’t see any defender right now, does that mean there are no defenders out there that are better than what we have? Also except Gervinho, we can’t even be sure that chamberlain and Jerkinson will make it to the next level. I hope they will, but what is the guarantee that they will stay with us then. Nasri hasn’t committed yet after it took three years to develop him. Seriously! Sometimes I get really frustrated the way Wenger gives his justifications for not buying

Why the rant? Because I have to get these thoughts out of my mind. I know all is not bad. I don’t like the way we have dealt with the Fabregas and Nasri situation. I don’t like that we haven’t bought a defender and Left back. I don’t like that we are still stuck with Eboue (or not! a move to Galatasaray is on the cards)  and to some extent Diaby. I am willing to give Chamakh a chance. If I had my way, I would have sold him and played Bendtner in the middle, as there have been no buyers for him.

Despite all this, there are some great things to look forward to. I am delighted by Gervinho’s addition. He is the most direct player that we have bought in recent years after Arshavin. I just hope that he stays that way. He is quick on his feet, he can dribble and he has an eye for goal. He has adjusted nicely into the team and his partnership with Van Persie will be something to look forward to. Ryo Miyaichi has shown that he can play and he certainly has pace. He also got the work permit which is one of better news this summer. Frimpong is another one who impressed during pre-season. He certainly is going to be a great asset in the future. Jerkinson was also impressive and one day can be a replacement for Sagna. The partnership of Wilshere and Ramsey is what really excited me. Wilshere is certainly developing fast and his vision is improving. Ramsey too is doing great but he needs to take more responsibility. Both of them still need time though and they will get it this season. Van Persie is still on his goal spree and hopefully he will remain injury free. Szczesny is doing well in goal and no doubt he is going to get better. We have Fabianski and Mannone after him which leaves our goal keeping in good hands.

There are many other positives from the pre-season. However, for us to challenge for the top, we still are short on players in a couple of positions and if Fabregas and Nasri leave, we will need to add more. I just wish that before the window closes we will get the players we require and hopefully go on to have a great season and come out on top.

This season, the start for us is going to be what sets the tone to our season. With Newcastle, Manchester United, Liverpool and Champions league qualifiers in the next 15 days, we won’t have time to take a breather. We have to start on top from the first game and maintain that throughout the season. If we can get through these games with our heads held up high, than I will be convinced that we are there to challenge for the title. If we don’t, then I don’t even want to speculate on what will happen. Hopefully we will have a great season (I know there are too many hopes in this post but this is the only thing that will see us through the season, if things remain the way they are!)

Before I conclude, it was on this day last year that I published my first post. It has been one whole year for me since then and it has been a great experience. Going through all the games was fun, the wins and the loss, the delight and anger, the ups and downs, the happiness and frustration, it was just amazing. A big thanks to all who have visited this blog and still do and have been a part of it.

I have been busy for the last three, four months due to lots of reasons. However, I will try my best to posting regularly.  I love Arsenal and will continue writing about it. Thank you all once again! I have my fingers crossed for another great season, hopefully….


It is quiet out there, Fabregas might stay after all, Clichy gone? Fixtures shouldn’t be a concern!

June 22, 2011

When I had last posted on my blog we were close in on Gervinho, Cahill, and Samba.  A week later, a week into my vacations, we are still nowhere (or somewhere that only Arsenal can tell). Many have reported that they are done deals and I am hoping this really is the case but the silence from the Emirates is deafening. I have been waiting for an official Statement but nothing has come out yet. Do they want to give us a surprise? Or are they waiting for 1st of July? I do hope it is a good surprise.

Even the tabloids have gotten bored with the stories and now many have started asking questions. I believe in one thing though that if we have reached an agreement on the above players than there can be no stopping them in moving here. If, however, it was all speculation, we can forget them. Expect to see only Gervinho arrive as he is from the French League. While keep everything crossed for Samba and Cahill as their value has gone up and Man City and Tottenham are all also getting involved. And with 8 days to 1st of July, a lot can happen as within football things change within a day.

By the way, what were they thinking when they linked us to Barton, Odemwinge and Taarabt. Eto sounds interesting but I know it will never happen.

Coming to other matters, there has been a positive development for us in the case of Fabregas. Sandro Rosell’s, Barcelona president, comment regarding Fabregas’ value going down clearly speaks that they don’t regard him much and won’t go all out to buy him. Sandro Rosell said

“What is the limit for signing him? We’ll need to see. First we need to know what his salary is and what are his conditions. Everything is in relation to the salary and the transfer fee but, if last year we offered 40 million [euros], a year has passed, it is clear that this year his value is less. Since then there has been wear and tear and now he’s worth less. In the case that we were interested our offer would be reasonable. We would not go overboard.”

And added

“I don’t think he will go to another Spanish club. Cesc is of Barça, and if I were the president of another club I wouldn’t sign a player who holds dear the colours of another team.”

It also seems that they want Fabregas to put in a transfer request so that he can be acquired for less money. Well Mr Sandro, you can forget about Fabregas for now and forever for one, you don’t have the money and two, Fabregas is happy here and he won’t give in a transfer request. And after your comment no sane man will as you don’t appreciate his quality. I hope Fabregas does realize that Barcelona don’t want him and that the best thing to do now would be forget about Barca and play like a true leader for Arsenal and guide us to trophies. And in return Rosell will get to know the true value of Fabregas.

There has also been progress on Clichy’s situation with Roma showing interest in him. The value that is being quoted is £7-8 million. Although this is better than what Liverpool were offering but still in my view it is less. And I am astonished that the value of our players is so less considering a certain striker went for £35 million who isn’t better than Bendtner IMO.

The replacement for Clichy is a bigger concern though. Gibbs is in no man’s land, Traore is not better than Clichy, Enrique, with whom we are being linked, seems fine, Leighton Baines might do well. The rest is up to Wenger as to who he has in his mind. Else force Clichy to extend his contract as I have been saying all along.

Nasri’s situation has also gone quiet. And I still haven’t figured out what the real issue is. Is it money or trophies or is it his position? A month has passed since we played our last game of the season and still we haven’t sorted out one of our best player’s issue. And I can’t help it but ask what the hell are the people at Arsenal doing? We haven’t bought anyone! we haven’t been able to sell anyone! what really are we doing? Maybe I am getting impatient but seriously by now a decision on Nasri’s contract should have been taken!

Meanwhile, the fixtures have also been released for Arsenal for the next season and I had a smile when I went through the list. I was smiling because we have all the difficult fixtures in the first half of the season. No doubt the month of August is difficult but we always have a good start to a season and I am hoping we will be having another good start. However, it is a long way to go and  it shouldn’t be a concern as a season doesn’t depend on the fixtures, it depends on how you play. Before that we need to address the issue of our players and our team. Just over three weeks to our first game of pre-season before which we need to sign players so that they can gel-in and adjust with our style.

Before I end, WTTGT is reporting that Clichy has been sold to Paris St. Germain for £10 million. This seems bizarre to me. For now we can only wait and see what happens in the next couple of days. Have a good day!


Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy given deadline by Arsene Wenger to sign contracts

May 22, 2011

Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy are both approaching the final year of their current contracts and Wenger is hoping that they both will extend their contracts this summer to avoid what happened in Flamini’s case.

Mathieu Flamini left on a free transfer, three years back, after letting his contract to run down, a mistake Wenger is hoping to avoid with both Clichy and Nasri.

Arsene Wenger is aware of the importance of both the players and his priority will be to secure their services or else, I fear, they will be sold to the highest bidder. Both of them have already been linked with a few clubs.

Samir Nasri has been a vital player for Arsenal this season despite fading away in the latter stages of the season. It will be a hard time in finding a replacement for the Frenchman, if he doesn’t sign the contract.

The immediate danger, however, will be of losing Clichy as there is no one at the club to fill his place with Gibbs far from being the finished product. A replacement for him will be more than necessary if he doesn’t sign the contract.

Arsene Wenger said this to the official Arsenal website:

“We will sort that situation out quickly after the end of the season. We need to know very quickly. We do not want to do that [allow them to leave on a free like Flamini]. We won’t allow that to happen. It has to be resolved before the season starts again.”

Personally, I want them both to stay. If not, then they better decide it early so that we may have ample time to replace them. We suffered a lot by letting Flamini go and to be honest we haven’t yet replaced him.


West Ham vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

January 14, 2011

So it’s back to the Premier League after two disappointing cup ties. Before the Leeds game I said that these cup matches came at the right time as our players can have rest and some like Ramsey will get the chance to up their match fitness. What happened is in front of you all with no results in our favor.

But as always we have to move on and start afresh. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to bounce back as we face West Ham at their home. Despite them being bottom of the table, this won’t be an easy game. They are coming on the back of an impressive win against Birmingham in the other semifinal of the Carling Cup and they will be pumped up. They will no doubt fancy their chances after seeing us play the way we played against Ipswich Town.

However, if we take the game seriously and perform well, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Scoring goals will matter because lately we haven’t found the net. The more time we take to score our first goal, the more West Ham will grow in confidence. They will for sure park their busses and try to hit us on the counter, so it will be up to us to break them down and score and not give them chances to counter attack.  

As far as the team is concerned, there won’t be many changes for this one.

With Fabianski injured, Szczesny will remain in goal.

The back line will also remain the same as from last match with the only change that Clichy should come in for Gibbs.

In the middle, Song will return to partner Fabregas and Wilshere.

Upfront Nasri and Van Persie after their rest are also going to start and Walcott will retain his place.  

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

No matter how we played in the last two games, I, as always, expect us to win. We can’t afford to drop more points in the Premier league so this is a must win game. With Manu playing against Tottenham on Sunday, three points tomorrow will put more pressure on Manu.

Hopefully, we will get the three points and Tottenham will do the rest. Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the match!!


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 1 Leeds

January 8, 2011

The overall performance of the team was not up to what we have displayed in the last two games. Our passing and movement was slow and we weren’t decisive enough. We still had plenty of possession but it was of no use as Leeds easily defended whatever we created. We improved greatly when Fabregas and Walcott were brought on though.

The defence was not bad but there were few occasions where we were caught sleeping. Djourou clearly was a beast there and Szczesny was excellent.

In the middle, we did create a lot of chances but the passing tempo was slow.

While upfront, no one really made an impact despite presented with lots of chances. Walcott was the one who made the real difference.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (7.5): Great keeping. Kept us in the game when it was level and also when we were a goal down. Nearly saved the penalty and overall good decision making from him.

Eboue (7): He was a constant threat while going forward. At times however was caught out of position at the back. Some of his crosses were really good.

Squillaci (5.5): Not impressed by his outing today. He should be the one with experience and confidence and today he himself looked short of both. Some of his decisions were poor.

Djourou (9): This man impresses every game. We would have lost today if not for him and Szczesny at the back. Reads the game really well and was always present at the right place at the right time. Made some vital interceptions and clearances.Was strong in the air and on the ground. Top performance!!

Gibbs (6.5): A good game by him while returning from an injury. Some of his runs and crosses were good.

Song (6): Looked unimpressed by the proceedings. Still did most of the things correctly.

Rosicky (6.5): He started very brightly and helped our game flow. His movement and touches were good however lost it in the later parts and was rightly substituted. He also gave away the ball at the wrong place on a few occasions.

Denilson (5): I don’t know what to say on him. Some of his shots were great as they tested the keeper. However, he just doesn’t have pace and strength. Gave away a silly penalty too.

Arshavin (5): I am at a loss as to what has happened to him. He is a genius, a master in his game if he plays, sadly most of the times he doesn’t. Nothing went right for the Russian today as he did try on a few occasions. On others he simply didn’t. Should have scored the opener on Rosicky’s lobbed pass. However, showed good technique on a few shots.

Chamakh (4): Another bad performance from him. IMO he is feeling the rigors of the Premier League.

Bendtner(6): Started the game well but went onto miss plenty of chances. Landed most of his headers over the bar.

Subs: Fabregas (8.5) changed the game when he came on. His presence increased the momentum of our passing and we looked more of a threat. Great composure while taking the penalty. Walcott (8) also made a big impact when he came on. Made some good runs and used his pace well. Still should have scored at the end when he shot the ball straight to the keeper. Vela (no rating) had very less time to make impact.

I will conclude by saying that we have to put this behind for now and look ahead to our next game. We still have a chance to qualify for the next round and hopefully when we face Leeds at their home we will get the job done.


Arsenal vs Leeds: Preview and Starting Eleven

January 7, 2011

After playing four games in ten days in the League, it’s time for the third round of The FA Cup and we start this seasons campaign at the Emirates against Leeds.

This game comes at the right time as we need a breather from Premier League. Also most of our squad needs a rest and our returnees from injury an opportunity to up their match fitness. This in no way means that we should take this match lightly, as it is also one of the trophies that we can win despite tomorrow being just the start of it.

Last season Leeds were very impressive as they surprised United and took Tottenham all the way before bowing out. So we can expect nothing less than a determined approach to the game from them.

Still, I believe that whatever team will be put out , we will be able to get a result in our favor, provided we stick to our game.

For the starting lineup, Wenger has already confirmed that Van Persie and Nasri will be rested for this one and he will make plenty of changes. As far as I can see, it will be a team similar to the one against Wigan.

The back line will comprise of Koscielny and Squillaci, who was absent in the last couple of games. Djourou won’t be risked for this one for sure. As Sagna is suspended, Eboue returns to occupy the right back position and with Gibbs also back in the squad, he will occupy the left back.

Szczesny should start this one at least!!

In the middle, Denilson will return. To partner him I would go with Song, as Wilshere has played in almost all of the last four games. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see him in the starting eleven. Rosicky to occupy the playmaker role.

Upfront, Chamakh should start, and this time we need a performance like he was giving before December. Arshavin and Bendtner to flank him. Last time they didn’t connect well but I hope this time they do.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Denilson, Bendtner, Chamakh, Arshavin.

There are reports that Ramsey will also be in the squad, so maybe we will see him later in the game. I hope he does get a few minutes.

As far as the match is concerned, just keep to the way we have played against the likes of Birmingham, Chelsea and City and we will see this through without much fuss. One more thing, kill this game early, as the more we delay in doing it, the more Leeds will believe in getting something out of it.  A repeat of this is what we can avoid if we get a result and that will be one fixture less from the fixtures for January.

A couple of goals will be enough to seal this one and it will be good if we get another clean sheet.