Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 11, 2011

So after a bad start to the season, we finally recorded our first win of the season, albeit some luck, a top class strike by Arshavin and some good keeping by Szczesny. As for the rest, it was a so and so performance.

We started off very brightly with Arteta creating the first opportunity in the opening minutes for Ramsey to miss the target. Soon after wards, Szczesny produced a great save to keep the score level. Arshavin then created an opportunity for Walcott only for the Swans to keep the ball form crossing the line after some good defending and keeping. The goal for us came in an unexpected fashion, when lady luck for the first time sided with us. It was a mistake by Vorm, Swans keeper that allowed us to take the lead. It was a great first time finish form the Russian from a very tight angle. In between all this, there wasn’t anything of worth created by both teams.

The second half was where we again faded as we have been doing lately. Except a solo effort by van Persie and a header by Chamakh late on, I don’t remember any decent shots on goal by us. Swansea on the other hand had a good second half. They did create a few openings but due to lack of quality upfront couldn’t score. They managed to hit the cross bar from a free kick. They also came close to scoring in the dying minutes of the game when Szczesny made a mistake only for the Swan’s player to miss the target.  Overall, the final 15-20 minutes were the worst for us. We didn’t concede though and the three points were secured, which matters the most. I will take three points any day over a good performance. However, we do need to improve our play if we want to seriously challenge for a top four finish.

As far the performance was concerned, I was always expecting a win, however, wasn’t expecting that we will go through the same scenario that we have witnessed in almost all the final games last season. I was rather hoping for a win with some margin. And that is why we need lots of improvement to really secure our place in the top four this season. It is also safe to say that had this been any other team, the score would have been different. It is going to be a very tough battle this season but we have taken the first stepsin the right direction and we can only go forward form here.

We need to take encouragement from the positives. Against Swansea we kept a clean sheet and ended with three points and 11 men on the pitch, something which we haven’t done till yesterday this season in the league. However we must not turn a blind eye on the weaknesses.

The problem, at the moment, is that we seem to have lost our creativity upfront. Is it our style of play or our formation or the fault lies with our players? I don’t know the answer but something needs to be done ASAP. How will it be solved is one tough question that Wenger needs to answer and rectify and he must do it quickly.

Much has been talked about changing the formation and even though I am a big supporter of the formation we are playing now, I am coming to the conclusion that it’s time now to change back to 4-4-2,  just to mix things up a bit. Van Persie does look isolated upfront and another striker will really help his game to prosper.

We also need to increase the pace of our passing because right now we are slow in releasing the ball. Our decision making in the final third is also not good. Our final ball lacks intent, pace and accuracy and so the opposition doesn’t have a hard time defending against us.

As for the new signings, they all had a decent debut for us. Arteta certainly looked at home with his passing and movement. However, all of them need to increase their pace. It is too early to say how much Arteta and Benayoun will help us in getting what Fabregas and Nasri could do but I am encouraged by the signs. As it was their first game, I hope they will gel in with our style of play quickly.

In conclusion, we got what we wanted. Performance will surely come in time as we have a few players out injured and the new players need time to adjust to our play. Technically we are in the building up process again, so we will have to be patient and make do with the points secured which are going to matter in the end.

This game is done and dusted and now the focus must turn to Tuesday, where a more formidable force awaits us.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny: (7) Made an excellent save early on in the game and commanded his box excellently throughout. Brought into action late on where he missed a ball only for the Swan player to miss the target from a few yards out.

Sagna: (6) Nothing special from the Frenchman. Kept things simple at the back, however, didn’t contribute much in attack.

Mertesacker: (6.5) He was calm, composed and kept things simple. Made a couple of great tackles and his positioning was also good. Does need to increase his pace though.

Koscielny: (7) Solid game from him. Made some good interceptions especially one at the end of the first half.

Gibbs: (6) The usual performance from him. Bad positioning and decision making at the back. He did make a few good tackles but he needs to improve a lot. Upfront he was great as he showed with his cross to Chamakh in the final minutes of the game.

Frimpong: (5) Nothing fancy from the youngster. Misplaced lots of passes but did provide decent support to defense. Still a long way to go for him.

Arteta: (6.5) Good debut for him. Started well and produced some excellent through balls. His passing, movement and distribution of the ball was good but he too needs to increase his pace. Disappeared somewhat in the second half as most of our team does. It was his first game for Arsenal so I am not going to be too judgmental.

Ramsey: (5.5) A decent performance from the Welshman after a weak start. Missed a good opportunity in the opening minutes and he was involved in the move that led to Chamakh’s header. He does give an aura of being lazy at times with his passing and movement. I have been saying after every game that he needs to take more responsibility and he needs to come out of the shell when he plays for us.  

Arshavin: (7.5) Great game! Looked lively, made some great runs and was always involved in the game. A great finish scoring the only goal of the game too. Back tracked a lot (by his standards) too.  Need more of this every weekend from him.

RVP: (6) Had one excellent shot on goal after some trickery where the side bar denied him the goal. Otherwise it was quiet for him as he looked isolated.

Walcott: (5) Besides having a couple of shots on goal, it was not a good game for him. His final ball was very poor and didn’t give the right support on the flanks.

Subs:

Benayoun (5), Coquelin (5) and Chamakh (no rating) didn’t make much impact. Chamakh did get a header on target though.


Arsenal vs Udinese: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 16, 2011

With everything happening to Arsenal in the last four days, the only thing left was a Champions League play off! We are going to face Udinese, tonight, in the first leg of the qualifier with a much depleted squad.

Udinese are a decent side and they will offer us more than what Newcastle did on the weekend. These fixtures before haven’t caused us much trouble before. Therefore, failing to overcome Udinese over two legs is not only going to be disastrous, we will also have a hard time in attracting players to the club this season.

Just like us, Udinese have also lost their best players. However, they still have a team that will give us a hard time. With Di Natale, they have a striker that can cause us all sorts of trouble if we are not on top of our game. They will test us on a more continuous basis than what Newcastle did and they will surely look for an away goal. Being Italians, they will also have a sound defence and give us very little space. This also will prove advantageous for us if we utilize our pace effectively. Therefore, quick and accurate passing will do the trick and open them up.

Still, I am expeceting a tight game so our first priority must be to not concede a goal and then find the winner.

With Van Persie and Nasri suspended and Wilshere out injured, we are without three key figures. Rosicky, it is now confirmed, didn’t pass his late fitness test and suddenly we have very limited options to start with.

We were short of ideas going forward against Newcastle, now with no Van Persie and Rosicky; I am hoping that the others will rise to the occasion and make their mark.

I am caught between Chamakh and Bendtner to take the striker role. Chamakh didn’t have a very good pre-season while Bendtner was busy trying to move out. Still, with the future of Bendtner not clear, I will start with Chamakh and hope he shows he is a striker. Bendtner can come on later, if required.

To partner him, I will go with Arshavin and Gervinho.

In the middle I will start with Song and Frimpong behind Ramsey. Song has the ability to produce great passes, so I will want him to play a bit up field. Frimpong should stay behind tonight and shield the back four. Ramsey will have to take more responsibility and make sure he doesn’t give the ball away in dangerous positions.

The backline will pick itself up. Sagna and Gibbs on the flanks, Vermaelen and Koscielny to partner as centre backs. Szczesny will of course be in goal.

We can then bring on Walcott and Chamberlain for their pace. I am also hoping that Arshavin will take over as the creative outlet for us today. He can carve open defenses easily and tonight his skill will be more than needed.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Ramsey, Frimpong, Gervinho, Chamakh, Arshavin.

Udinese’s Manager, Francesco Guidolin, admitted that this is the most important game in their history. So,we won’t have it easy any minute of the game, over the two legs.  If we want to qualify for the group stages, every player will have to perform. His words were:

“Udinese also has a tradition of playing in Europe before, but for the charm of the match and for the opponent then this is probably the most important game in Udinese’s history. I would probably compare it to the match against Ajax in the UEFA Cup some years ago but because it is the Champions League this is probably more important.”

As Wenger said:

“We want to be in the Champions League, we want to qualify, that’s what we want to achieve.”

And that is what we would all like. Despite being short in number, I am confident the team will give a great response. It is our first home game of the season, by the way, so a win will be a an ideal result.

Have a good day and enjoy game. Hopefully in a fortnight, we will be in the group stages of the Champions League.

 


‘The best defence in open play”….Open your eyes Arsene!!

May 16, 2011

“We have the best defence in open play”, this is what Arsene Wenger was saying before the Aston Villa match and look at what happened during the game. The best defence in open play was opened up so easily that it looked like our team wasn’t even on the pitch.

And on top of it, Arsene has an excuse for this as well:

“We were punished because we went into the game too tentative. We were not dominant enough in anything we did and we were on the back foot at the start.

We have been hit very hard by bad results and you could see that at the start of the game, we suffered a little bit. But we have to rise above that and overall you could see we were a bit nervous defensively.”

How can you go in to a game being tentative when you know you have to fight for your third position in the table to be confirmed? And when all of this occurs after Arsene is saying that quality-wise and attitude-wise this season has been excellent then there is something wrong.

I really wish now that the season was over.  No need to play the final game against Fulham. It is too much to take in. Frankly, it has been embarrassing.

We know this team can beat anyone but why can’t they do it consistently is beyond me. Why do they need to go down two goals to wake up?  

Although I wasn’t expecting anything from this game, I was hoping for a good response from the team with having Vermaelen back. The game was lost in those early 15 minutes when our team was having a nap and Villa so easily sliced opened our defence with Bent finishing expertly.

After that it was attack versus defence. We woke up from our slumber and did better in the second half but it was too little and too late. Villa just had to defend their goal which they did with some help from the referee, which by the way is getting a norm.

We could have drawn or won this game. Why that penalty wasn’t given and why was Chamakh’s legit goal disallowed, I will never know. Although I have a question for the ****** referee that if he has disallowed the goal scored by Chamakh for a push that was never there, why bringing down Ramsey, while he was going for the goal, not a penalty? And a question for FA, Why are the referee’s exempted from explaining their decisions?

Nonetheless, the problem still is our defence. If we don’t let in stupid goals, even the referee won’t be able to give away goals to the opposition.

And I believe that till the time we don’t change the way we train, our defending will remain the same even if we buy all the Cahill’s and Jagielka’s. We need someone in the backroom staff that can show our players how to defend. At the moment who  ever has the task is failing miserably. More than the new players, I will be hoping for a new face in the backroom staff.

There is nothing else from the game to discuss. It was good to see Vermaelen return. He grew in confidence as the game went on. It was good to see Van Persie score again.  

I won’t comment about Squillaci. He is going backwards game by game. By the way why was he picked ahead of Djourou? Same goes for Gibbs. I have been saying for a long time now that he doesn’t know how to defend. Why was Clichy left out when before the game he was declared fit? I will never know.

Man City now has an excellent chance to finish third. From fighting for the title to second then to third and now fourth, that is progress and in just over two months. Extraordinary! Even by our standards.

But then again we always have next season to witness more of the same!! Let’s hope Wenger opens his eyes this summer or he won’t have any one left in support!! 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.


Barcelona vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 8, 2011

Well, it’s been very hectic as we have moved from one tournament to another in the last 10 days with tonight our fourth game, in as many tournaments, against after-all-not-so-mighty-Barcelona. This fixture no doubt has been in the minds of every football fan and Gooner  after we beat them at the Emirates three weeks ago. Even our players will have had this in their minds in the past week.

So, what’s the fuss about a match which many believe we will lose and as a result be kicked out of Champions league. Well, the fuss is due to the fact that we beat them and some still believe we can do it again. For me, I don’t care what many believe because I believe in my team and if we play good football then there is no stopping us. Even Barcelona knows we can beat them. A win, loss or a draw, we can and we will qualify.

So, how can we then qualify for the next round? We know they will score goals. So we just have to restrict them from scoring plenty and make sure that we score as many as them or at the most one less. We have to ensure that the game stays within our reach. It’s easier said than done because we all know if Barcelona goes on a goal spree, this game will be over in no time. We just have to make certain that we don’t give them too much time and space with the ball and take our own chances upfront. How this can be achieved? By playing twice the times better than what we did at the Emirates, yes, only then it will be possible. It is difficult! Yes, but to beat the best we have to give our best, our whole team will have to give in a top performance defensively as well as offensively.

So, who to play then? There can be no doubts about the backline and keeper for this one. Szczesny, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna and Clichy will surely all start.

Big decisions are to be made in the middle and upfront. Wenger’s tactics were spot on at the Emirates; I hope his tactics are spot on here as well. I will go with Diaby, Wilshere and Fabregas in the middle as they are the best possible options available. I hope Fabregas is hundred percent fit for this because losing him now would be a disaster. And please Arsene don’t consider Denilson to start this one.

Upfront, it’s even trickier. We received great injury boost yesterday with van Persie traveling with the squad. He has made a quick recovery from an injury that had him ruled out for atleast three weeks. Now, I don’t care how he did it, I am just glad he is back.  However, I still won’t start with him. According to Wenger, he will start only if he is hundred percent fit and I hope Wenger sticks to it. We cannot risk a recurrence of an injury with him with many important games to come. Bendtner and Chamakh on the other hand have been doing well. However, they won’t score goals out of nowhere. So, who should we play upfront? I think it will depend on how we tactically approach the game. For me, I will go with Chamakh for his good work rate and his defensive capabilities. Not because to be defensive but because we will need someone to defend as well as attack. Van Persie is an asset on the counter but so can Arshavin be if utilized in that role and that’s why I will start with Arshavin too. He will have to put in a lot of effort at both ends of the pitch though. Nasri to complete the starting eleven.

Bendtner has been playing well but I will keep him on the bench with Van Persie and bring them on later if the game is within our reach. Although, I won’t be surprised if either of Bendtner or Van Persie starts.

Probable starting lineup: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin

I guess there isn’t anything else to discuss. The bottom line is we have to keep the score line wthin our reach and then we can damage them with whatever chance we create or get. I have everything crossed for tonight and I am gunning for a qualification.

Have a great day Gooners and hopefully tonight will be a great night. Only a few hours left to kick off.  Before signing off, I will say again, no matter what the result, we will always be behind you Arsenal. Go Arsenal Go!!

p.s. I will like to add that if, and that is a big if, we don’t qualify despite playing well, it won’t be a disaster and I won’t be bothered much as there will still be plenty left to play for.


Arsene Wenger on Bendtner’s hat-trick and importance of Chamakh scoring

March 3, 2011

Arsene Wenger was delighted with both Bendtner and Chamakh ending up on the score sheet against Leyton Orient. Bendtner got a hat-trick and Chamakh opened the scores for Arsenal as they beat Leyton Orient comfortably.

Speaking after the match, the manager admitted the importance of Chamakh and Bendtner rising to the occasion and scoring after Van Persie’s injury as he added how confidence of both the players will be needed to be successful in the big games coming up.

Wenger was pleased with Bendtner in taking his chances yesterday as he said how it now puts Bendtner in contention to start in the vital game against Sunderland and added that all the focus is now on beating Sunderland as it will put Arsenal in a strong position.

Regarding Chamakh, Arsene added that he too will be required in the games coming up as he explained how fatigue caused his good start to the season to be disrupted and how he is now coming back to his best and how scoring will improve his confidence.

Arsenal will play Sunderland this Saturday before they head to Nou Camp for the 2nd leg against Barcelona on Tuesday.

After the match, Arsene said:

“We have lost Van Persie so for Bendtner and Chamakh to score is very important, they now have a level of confidence that we need to be successful in the big games.

You need your strikers to take any chance and tonight Bendtner did that very well. It puts him in contention to play against Sunderland. That for us, is a vital game. We have to make our decisions game by game, if we beat Sunderland we are in a great position so all our focus is on that game.

We need Chamakh with the games we have in front of us. He had a great start to the season until the end of November and after he had a little bit of burn-out. Now he looks, even in training, to be coming back. For a while he looked very tired but now it is good for him he has scored”


Player Ratings: Arsenal 5 – 0 Leyton Orient

March 3, 2011

That is more like it now. A good response by Arsenal after the disappointment on Sunday.

It was an unnecessary fixture to start off with but it proved useful as it was the right game for many of the players before the, now important, match against Sunderland on Saturday.

Overall, it was a very good performance by the whole team. The movement, passing and finishing was at times excellent. There were a few moments where it seemed that we lost our focus, especially after scoring the first goal and when the second half started where Orient looked like scoring. However, credit to the team for responding with a goal every time.

One thing I wasn’t impressed was with the defense although they did keep a clean sheet. there wasn’t much to do yet whenever Orient were on the attack we looked vulnerable. Our fullbacks also need to get their decisions right of when to make a run and when not to as they were caught out of position most of the times.

With a lot of important players injured, Bendtner, Diaby and Rosicky for me were the players that needed to show they can be relied upon and they didn’t disappoint at all.

Coming to player ratings:

Almunia (6): Had nothing to do throughout the match. Still not convinced with his positioning, however, he did catch the ball cleanly on the few occasions it went his way.

Eboue (6.5): He spent most of his time upfront as he was involved every now and then in attack. He did get an assist on the fifth goal but needs to improve his crossing and decision making. Defensively was almost always caught out of position but thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Squillaci (6): He had a normal game as there wasn’t much to do. Lost his man on a couple of occasions and needs to improve his reading of the game.

Miquel (6): Another decent game from the youngster as again he was comfortable and composed with the ball. Still a lot to learn as his inexperience was exposed at times yesterday.

Gibbs (7.5): He too spent more time in attack than in defense. Upfront was amazing as he created the second goal and earned the penalty for the fourth with an excellent run. If only he can improve his defensive side of the game, he will be a top class left back.

Denilson (7): Played his usual game as he helped us keep  possession and played his part in the linking up the play.

Rosicky (7):  A very good game by Rosicky. He moved about all over the pitch as he was involved in everything thing that happened.  A brilliant run and pass to set up Chamakh for the first goal. We need more performances like this if he is to prove his worth.

Diaby (7): A good performance by Diaby as he returned after a month. He combined well with Rosicky as he showed what he can offer us last night and I hope he stays fit till the end of the season. Made some good runs but he still needs to improve his decision making in the final third.

Bendtner (8.5): Excellent. We needed someone to take Van Persie’s place and last night Bendtner showed that he is ready to fill-in in his absence. A powerful and accurate header to open his account, a clinical shot to get his second and scored a very well taken penalty to complete his well deserved hattrick.

Chamakh (7): Chamakh had a good game but he needs more time to improve his confidence. It was good to see him score after almost three months. His movement was good and he was involved in a lot of one-twos. However, he needs to take his chances in front of goal as last night again he hesitated to take shots.

Henderson (6): Was anonymous for major parts but he had a decent game. Did lose possession on more than a few occasions but it was good to see him complete the ninety minutes as he also kept things simple. His delivery on the free kick was good if not perfect.

Subs:

Clichy’s (6.5) strike was sweet as he scored only his second goal for Arsenal last night. Adjusted well in the advanced role as he was involved most of the time after he came on. Wilshere (6) had some good moments along with Nasri (6) as both of them increased the tempo of our game and created half chances.