Arsene Wenger’s positive injury update ahead of Liverpool, Wojciech Szczesny set to start in goal

April 16, 2011

Wojciech Szczesny is set to start in goal against Liverpool on Sunday as Manuel Almunia won’t be risked with his knee injury.

Arsene Wenger, at his pre-match press conference, confirmed that Szczesny has had a full week of training after recovering from his injury in good time and therefore might be in goal. Wenger, however, didn’t rule out the possibility of playing Lehmann as he said that Szczesny still has some tests to take.

On the injured players, Arsene Wenger gave positive update as he confirmed that Alex Song and Johan Djourou are back and available in the squad and also added that Thomas Vermaelen is in full training and a good chance to play this season.

The manager concluded by saying that except Fabianski all the injured players are back in practice with Bacary Sagna, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky the only doubts for Sunday.

Arsene Wenger, on Friday, said:

“We still have some tests to make but Wojciech is back in full training so it could be Szczesny [in goal]. It is a big surprise for us because we thought at the start [of his injury] that the season was over. But he was given the green light four weeks after the Barcelona game, so he had a full week of practice.

Jens wants to help out when it is needed, he knows the rule. If I decide to play him he will play without any problem and I can just congratulate him on the game he played. He saved a very important ball at 3-1 and overall his decision making was perfect.

[Manuel Almunia] is back in training, I have not spoken to him yet, how he feels, but it will be difficult to take a gamble after what happened to him in the warm up [against Blackpool].

We have plenty of players back, some are short of competitive edge but Johan Djourou and Alex Song are both available and even Thomas Vermaelen is in full training now. There is a good chance [he will play again this season].

We have some doubts still for Bacary Sagna, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky but overall there is no big injury any more. Apart from Lukasz Fabianski everybody else is able to practice again.”

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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.”


Player Ratings: Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal

April 10, 2011

That was one good win even if it wasn’t convincing at times. We put ourselves in a spot of bother on more than a few occasions but overall it was a win we deserved and what we needed after so many draws.

To start off with, it was good to see Lehmann in goal and it seems that he is ready after all. He didn’t have much to do in the first half but made one massive save in the second half that helped us stay in the game. To be honest, I was happy that Blackpool scored the goal or else Lehmann would have been shown a red and we would have been down to 10 with no keeper to replace him.

We did score three goals but we should have had at least 8 if not more. I am not being negative but we need to change our habit of taking 5 chances to score one goal, we will need this against Manchester.

At the back too we need to improve our positioning or else we will be having difficult times in the coming games. The way Blackpool got through on a few occasions was alarming and resulted in some nervous moments for us.

Despite all that I am relieved that we got the win and as I said in my preview, hopefully this will prove to be a catalyst for us and we will go on a winning streak from now till the end. At the moment we are still unbeaten in 2011 in the league, so that is saying something.

I would also like to point out that we were lucky today with a couple of decisions that should/could have been penalties. Where I stand, I would say that after plenty of decisions going against us throughout the season; it is a nice change that we got some going our way. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Blackpool had at least one clear penalty not given. Blackpool has been at the end of many wrong decisions going against them this season and imagine what their fans will be feeling right now. Most likely similar to what we were feeling with wrong decisions going against us. And as I said in my preview, I hope they are not relegated.

As for Diaby’s yellow, that was deserved and it will be good if someone tells him to show some common sense when we are winning. He needs to be reminded about the Newcastle draw if he has forgotten it.

Coming to player ratings:

Lehmann (7.5):  An overall good game from Lehmann. His decision making was awesome and made one massive save as mentioned before. It was good to see that he was communicating with the defenders.

Eboue (7): Offers us more while going forward but at the back he is still lacking discipline. Scored a very well taken goal after a good one two with Wilshere and always provided good width on the flanks.  He needs to improve his positioning at the back and his decision making though.

Squillaci (7): Played one of his better games today. Looked composed and made some good tackles especially in the 76th minute which then led to our third and vital goal. He needs to continue with such performances.

Koscielny (6): We were lucky today that some of his clumsy challenges didn’t result in penalties against us. Besides that, he did well.

Clichy (5.5): Clichy did leave his side exposed a lot today but dealt with the dangers nicely. He provided good support upfront too. However, as always, he made one stupid error which could have resulted in a goal. Thanks to Lehmann, we weren’t punished for it. Was also partially at fault for the first goal.

Diaby (7): Opened up our account after he finished a good move involving Fabregas and Van Persie and which was started by him. Initially he failed to make his presence felt but improved as the game went on. As for his booking, stupidity is the word that comes to my mind. Diaby needs to be reminded what happened the last time he acted like that.

Wilshere (6): Good work rate from the young man. Was all over the pitch and combined well with Fabregas. Tried his luck with a good chip that was saved by the keeper. Did get an assist for the second goal.

Fabregas (7): It was good to see him back today with his delightful passing. His vision is just out of this world and the way he coolly executed the passes was awesome. Should have had 4 assist to his name today had our forwards been clinical. And still he is a long way from his best.

Arshavin (5): Was anonymous for the entire time he was on the field. Nothing went for him today but we all know he can produce something out of nothing. Hopefully, next time.

Van Persie (7.5): Was good to see him finally getting on the score sheet after he possibly missed three open chances. Got an assist on the first goal too.  My only gripe, he needs to be more clinical, despite his 12 goals this year.  

Nasri (6): I was disappointed that he didn’t score today. Otherwise, he had a normal game.

Subs:

Walcott (6.5): Brought pace to our attack and made a good run to assist for the third and vital goal that secured the win for us.

Ramsey and Gibbs had very little time to make an impact. No ratings for them.


Arsene Wenger confirms Manuel Almunia’s start in goal against Blackburn

April 2, 2011

Manuel Almunia will start in goal when Arsenal resumes their Premier League challenge this weekend.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Arsene Wenger put an end to all speculations as he confirmed that Manuel Almunia will be in goal against Blackburn today. The manager revealed how both the keepers are looking sharp in training and how Lehmann has given good competition to Almunia. Arsene insisted that Lehmann is getting better every day but still needs time to be ready for the Premier league.  

During the International break, Lehmann did feature for the Arsenal Reserves against Wigan.

On who will start in goal, Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

“He [Almunia] will play tomorrow. I can announce that today, he will be in goal. He looks in good shape in training and Jens gives him good competition. The best thing [for Almunia to do] is put in a good performance in the next game.

Jens comes back to being very sharp, he is looking better every day. You do not stop at his age for seven months and you are straight away back but he’s getting better every day. They both look good in training.”


International break: Djourou to return in 4 weeks, Lehmann must start, UEFA’s Ban and Pictures of Leaked Arsenal Home Kit

March 23, 2011

The problem with International breaks is that nothing exciting happens in it. This International break is no different as it is already getting boring and only two days have passed with 10 more to go. Also these breaks usually don’t turn up good for us with mostly our important players returning injured at the end of it.  This season, however, we have been quite lucky on that front except on a couple of occasions. Theo Walcott  got injured on International duty but he recovered. Vermaelen’s injury, however, has really bitten us in the arse as his absence has been felt throughout the season. Other than that, the breaks have gone well, for our team has benefitted in the shape of added rest and also our injured payers have recovered without missing games.

This International break has come for us at the right time as we have been going through a very bad patch of results. We have been knocked out of two competitions, failed to win a final and on the trot drawn two games in the Premier League, which has opened up the debate regarding our players’ mentality and lack of trophies. I won’t go into that because at the end of the season, we will know clearly where we stand and as to what we have learnt and achieved. We still can win the league, no doubt. If we fail, many questions will be asked and this time Arsene will have to answer them because hiding behind lack of experience will not be an option. We have to sort out our problems during this break and make sure our injured players recover in time.

As with most International breaks, there isn’t much happening. Players have been linked here and there as always. In the past couple of days, however, most blogs have come up with the players that Arsenal need to sell at the end of the season. There are a few players that need to released as they have been given too many chances, yet they have shown no improvement or consistency. I will be coming up with my list at the end of the season because right now it doesn’t feel right. We also need a few reinforcements but again I will discuss it at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, there have been a few developments. The first bit is good news in the shape of Djourou’s recovery. The official Arsenal website has revealed that Djourou has undergone an exploratory surgery on his shoulder, with no need for a reconstructive surgery, and is expected to return to training in four weeks. If we are lucky, we can have Djourou back for the United game, which will be a big boost because at the moment that game looks to be the title decider. Before that, however, we have to win our 5 games, including matches against Liverpool and Tottenham to really have a chance to challenge United for the title. With plenty of our regulars also destined to return at the end of this break, we can remain hopeful that this title can still be ours. And here is to hoping that the 14 gunners that have been called for international duty return in one piece, especially Nasri and Van Persie.

The second bit is the keeper situation, which is giving me nightmares. We have lost Fabianski for the season already and we have lost Szczesny for quite some time. As for Almunia, I have lost my trust in him after yet another howler against West Brom. I was excited with Lehmann joining us but that excitement has been short-lived after what Wenger said to Arsenal TV online.   

“Lehmann is like a guy who has not been in goal for a long time but who has kept his body fit. He has the basic physical fitness, he needs little bit of decision-making practice in goal.”   

After Almunia’s mistake, I don’t see any reason for Lehmann to not start the next game but this point of him not being ready is leaving many doors open. If he wasn’t ready, why was he signed in the first place!? And I am not complaining here because he can guide us through to the finish line with his experience but he would have done that even without signing. We needed a cover and a keeper who was in practice should have been signed, if Lehmann was out of practice. As nothing can be done now, Lehmann should be made ready to start the coming games because to be honest, we can kiss goodbye the tile if Almunia stays in goal. Here again the International break can come to our help because two weeks time IMO is enough for Lehmann to get ready. And hopefully he will start in goal against Blackburn (my fingers are crossed).

In other news, Arsenal will be deciding next week on whether to appeal the UEFA bans against Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri after they receive the detail reasoning from UEFA. Now, one match ban is not a big problem and as is the case most ban appeals end in extension of it. So, I feel that it will be better for us if we don’t appeal and just serve the one match ban.

Finally, here are some of the leaked pictures of what is believed to be our home kit for next season to celebrate our 125th anniversary.

That’s all for now. Have a great day!