Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Tottenham, Bacary Sagna and Alex Song fit to start

April 20, 2011

Bacary Sagna is back in the Arsenal squad to face Tottenham today as Arsene Wenger gave positive injury news ahead of the North London Derby.

Arsene Wenger, while speaking to Arsenal TV Online on Tuesday, confirmed that Sagna has recovered from his injury and is back in the squad. The manager also revealed that Manuel Almunia and Denilson have recovered form their respective injuries and back in normal training but won’t be included in the squad.

On an update on Thomas Vermaelen, Wenger informed that he is working very hard in training to get back to competitiveness and it will be some time before he plays.

Alex Song, who made a substitute appearance against Liverpool,  has also completely recovered from his knee injury as Wenger said that he will be rotating players in midfield with everyone back. 

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, said:

“Basically on the injury news it is all going well. Sagna should be back in the squad and everybody else is alright. [Almunia and Denilson] will not be in the squad but they are available. Almunia is back in normal training, Denilson as well. It is more a question of decisions, of choice.

Thomas is still not competitive but he works very hard and we can give him a competitive edge in training because it takes a while. Thomas is a player who works very hard, he wants always to improve and he will get that from training.

There was a doubt about [Alex Song’s] knee but he should be alright to be available. He says he is now completely ready. We have now three midfielders – Wilshere played many games, Diaby and Song – so we will rotate a little bit from game to game.”


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.”


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.”


Blackpool vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 10, 2011

This past week has been too long for my liking and I have no doubt it will have been the same for many Gooners. I have missed most of what has happened in the football world in the last week due to my work. Nonetheless,  the team and the manager have come under lots of criticism from all quarters, which was bound to happen after so many bad results, and which has left me wondering what the players would have been going through with nothing but one game a week to look forward to. Arsene Wenger made it clear in his pre-match press conference on Friday the way he sees this season and I am sure that it will have further infuriated a lot of fans.

There a few other things worth discussion from the conference and the post conference talk (the transcript is here) which I will in one of my next posts. For now I will come to the game, which is a must must win if we want to keep some little hope of taking the league title. Blackpool is the only team that has impressed me the most with what they have done this season. They have had some very good results and some very close losses but most of all they have played good football. Their position in the league doesn’t justify how they have done and I will certainly not want them to be relegated.  

However, as this is a must win game for us, we will have to play our best football and make sure they don’t play their game because they can surprise any team. Every game is straight forward from now onwards, perform and win or else start preparing for next season. We don’t want another flat performance like the Blackburn game because if we play the same way, Blackpool will surely damage us more than we can sustain right now.

Their defense is vulnerable but we will need to be clinical in front of goal, which we have failed to do recently, if we want to win this one. Most of all, the team will have to show the desire that they really want to win it 

As for the starting team, Almunia is in goal and the players at the back are likely to remain the same as against Blackburn. As for Sagna’s knee problem, if he doesn’t pass the test, Eboue will come in for him.

In the middle of the park, with no Alex Song, Diaby will come in alongside Wilshere. Fabregas has also been declared fit and is more than likely to start.

Upfront, I will start with Nasri, van Persie and Arshavin. Walcott wasn’t hundred percent and is facing a late fitness test. If he makes it, I will start with him on the bench and bring him on in the second half.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Diaby, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin

Despite all the negativity, I expect a resounding win today and hopefully it will prove to be the catalyst for us. There is still a minor chance that we will win the league, but I have that in the back of my mind. All I want from the team right now is to win all of the remaining games and give their best shot. We are more than capable of doing it but the question remains will we?

I will be utterly disappointed if we don’t try and take the chance, which somehow we have failed to do in the past couple of months. Hopefully, today it will be different and maybe Manu will give us a favor when this season comes to an end. If not, I will know that we did try even if a bit too late.

As always I have my fingers crossed and I am gunning for a win. Have a good day!!


Player Ratings: Arsenal 0 – 0 Blackburn

April 3, 2011

Well, our season is going from worse to oblivion. It seems a distant memory when we were in four competitions and now it is more than certain that we will end this season without a trophy. Has the Carling Cup final defeat really caused more damage than it seems? It has all gone wrong since then. Every performance since then can be summed up by one word, pathetic! Only one win and that too against lower league outfit. Unbelievable!

Anyhow what’s done is done. Where we stand now is all up to our own mistakes and negligence of the basics of football. You can never win a football match by not scoring goals, by not showing urgency or desire and by not fighting for the win. And with the amount of talent we have, I am still at a loss as to how we couldn’t find one goal against a team that is just two points from relegation zone.  

Realistically it is over for us because I don’t see Man United dropping points even if we win all our games. And even if they do, I cannot honestly say that we will win rest of our games. If we can’t get a result against 10 men Blackburn, when Man United got a result by being down to 10 men themselves, says it all where the title is going this season. And here I will add that I will be glad to rue my own words if somehow we do win the title. Results matter in football, good play and off the pitch talk doesn’t. We can all come up with words that we have grown up and moved on but as long as we don’t perform, we will always be chasing shadows.

Yesterday’s game was the best example of what our season has been. We started positively, the opening 10 to 15 minutes, but then we all went into our nutshells. After which we never really tested the keeper, never showed any desire, or any urgency. Movement and passing was not incisive and it seemed we were waiting for Blackburn to score an own goal. Almunia tried his best to give all the three points to Blackburn but thankfully we escaped another embarrassment. The final 10 minutes were somewhat better but you cannot win a match by playing for only 20 minutes. You have to give your best for the whole 90 minutes. Whatever happened, we are ourselves to blame and no one else.

Coming to the player ratings:

Almunia (3): What can I say about him? Tried his best to do what he does best. Enough said

Sagna (5): One of his worst games. His positioning was not good and didn’t defend well at all. Upfront his crosses were either too long or too short and never once it went to our player in the danger area.

Squillaci and Koscielny (6): Had a better than normal game as there were no noteworthy mistakes. Koscielny made his usual interceptions and clearance and did get a header on target.

Clichy (6.5): He was better than Sagna in defense as well as attack on the left. Looked lively and tried to create things. It wasn’t enough in the end.

Wilshere (5.5): Was really disappointed when he missed a sitter and on another occasion went for a pass when he should have buried the ball into the back of the net. Was decent in middle of the park but needs to improve his game in front of goal.

Song (5.5): Showed good work rate but not yet back to his best as he failed to make his presence felt in the middle of the park.

Nasri (6.5): Made a couple of very good runs and showed great creativity. Went missing on a few occasions as well. I don’t know how much the knock to his head had played a part in it.

Walcott (6.5): Looked dangerous whenever he had the ball and in the first half was one of our better players. Also went anonymous in the second half before he was substituted.

RVP (5.5): Didn’t get the support required as he had to come back to get the ball. Had a couple of shots on goal, one near the end when his header went over the bar, but never really threatened the Blackburn goal.

Arshavin (7): He was our best player out there. Created most of the chances and looked dangerous whenever he had the ball. Even backtracked and helped in defense. Was astonished to see him get substituted but I think it was more down to him getting tired.

Subs:

Fabregas (5.5) failed to make much impact as he looked rusty. Bendtner (5.5) and Chamakh (5.5) did their part and both of them went close to scoring but not close enough.


Arsenal vs Blackburn: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 2, 2011

The last two weeks have been really boring to say the least and I am really looking forward to the games this weekend. The international break might have been too long for my liking but it did came at the right time for our team and I really hope that it will have given them a much needed breather from the League and time to move on from the disastrous three weeks of football we witnessed before the break.

From now onwards it is as straight forward as it can get. Perform and win each game and therefore lift the trophy come May or else prepare for the worst. And there can be no more excuses regardless of the fact that we have no keeper and no centre backs to rely upon. We have everything in our control and it is up to us to seize the initiative which we have failed to do throughout the season. We have been given countless opportunities and we have failed on all occasions. Thankfully we are still in it and things are still in our hands.  Hopefully we won’t make the same errors because a mistake now will be too costly and unrecoverable from.

We play the first of our last nine games today and it is at home against Blackburn. Before the United game at home we have 5 games to play of which two are at home and three away, including games against Liverpool and Tottenham. If we can go on a winning streak till the Manu game, the momentum will be with us and hopefully we will go on unbeaten (wins) till the end of the season. I don’t want to think about what will happen if we lose or draw even one of these games.

Today’s game won’t be easy at all because Blackburn are only a point from the relegation zone and they will do everything in their power to get points. It will be up to us to step up our game and play the full ninety minutes with passion and intelligence to get the win.  Goals will matter and if we keep the ball and produce some good scoring opportunities, they will come. The defense and midfield will have to do their part and keep Blackburn at bay. As long as we keep it simple, the three points will be ours.

As far as today’s starting lineup is concerned, the whole team picks it up itself as we have many regulars returning from injury. Fabregas, Song and Walcott are back in the squad and it would be foolish to not start with them if they are hundred percent. The thing of concern is the defense and goal keeper. I am desperately hoping that there are no howlers today because as long as we don’t concede we will not lose the match and I believe that upfront we will find the goals with the likes of van Persie, Nasri and Walcott.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Almunia is in goal. At the back, Squillaci and Koscielny will start and they will be flanked by Clichy and Sagna for there are no better options than them.

In the middle of the park, with Song and Fabregas returning, they will surely start alongside Wilshere, who has been superb during the internationals.

Upfront too the players pick themselves up. Van Persie has been declared fit to start. Nasri will be there on the left and with Walcott also back, he will be on the right.

Probable Starting lineup: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Before I end this, I want to add that Manu are playing before us and by the time we start the game, their result will be known to us. As I said before with things being  in our hands, any result for Manu shouldn’t be of any concern to us because we know our job is crystal clear, which is to win every game from now onwards till the end. Manu dropping points will be an added advantage, no doubt, but we cannot rely on their results for long. So hopefully when the game starts today, the team will be focused on their task.  

And as fans, all we can do is get behind the team and give them the lift needed to perform. 

That is all for now. Have a good day and enjoy the match. Today we will find out if we are ready to take the initiative. Fingers crossed!!