Arsenal vs Liverpool: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 20, 2011

So, onto the second League game, the first at home for us and it’s against none other than the revitalzed Liverpool.

With no Gervinho, no Song, no Wilshere, no Gibbs, no Djourou, no Rosicky and no Diaby (when was the last time he played?!) you start thinking that this game is over before it even kicks off. However, no need to be alarmed, you may if it do you any good, as we have Miyaichi, Jenkinson, Frimpong and Nasri (might be his last game for us before he departs) available to replace all of the above.

While Liverpool may have Suarez, Carroll, Adam and Downing, they also have Carragher, Enrique and Flanagan.  The Scousers might be favorites to edge this one out but they won’t have it easy themselves, unless we make it for them.

This will surely be a game where one team exploits the others weaknesses and comes out on top. At the moment, we are losing the battle in terms to having more problems. However, games are not decided on paper and the team that best utilizes its resources on the field may get the maximum today.

For us, the biggest problem today will be to find the right starting eleven. With having so few options due to injuries and suspension, one wonders what Wenger will be going through right now!

Who will play in the centre? Who will be at left back? Who will start on the wings? Are just a few questions every Gooner will be thinking about.

If I have my way, I will go with Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna and Jenkinson at the back.

In the middle I will go with Frimpong to do the job of Song. He will be partnered by Ramsey. The central role I will give to Nasri. Playing Nasri might not go down well with some of you, I also don’t like it, but at the moment we need to use all our options. Nasri prefers the central position and I am more than certain he will give his best. Not because he will want to stay but because he would want to show the world he still can play. (And if he doesn’t perform, we will have more reason to hate him, when he does leave)  

Upfront, van Persie will of course lead the line and on the flanks I will go with Walcott and Arshavin. Bringing on Miyaichi and Oxlade Chamberlain later in the game to terrorize Liverpool’s fullbacks further.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Ramsey, Nasri, Frimpong, Walcott, Van Persie, Arshavin

What we have witnessed in the last two games is missing the creative spark in the middle. With Nasri we can solve some of the problem today. If he, Arshavin and van Persie can combine well, we will have some good openings. And with Walcott and Ramsey, I am confident we can have a game on our hands. We will need to exploit their full backs by using our pace on the wings as it is their week area too. With quick passing and movement we can catch them by surprise. Chances might be few for us, so, whatever comes up will need to be taken.

At the back, Jenkinson will need proper cover as he wasn’t comfortable back there against Udinese. And against Liverpool he is in for a much difficult time. To counter, I will keep Frimpong close to him and ask him not to venture forward unnecessarily. Vermaelen too will need to provide him support. The midfield will have to stay close to the defense when under attack.

Liverpool, we know, will use the pace and skill of Suarez, the height of Carroll and the intelligence of Adam in the midfield to expose our backline. We may have kept a clean sheet in our last two games but today will be the first real test of our defense, even though it is a makeshift one. So, we will need to put in more of the good stuff today.

As far as the result is concerned, a win will really make my day; however, I won’t mind a draw under the circumstances. A loss will be bad but not a disaster and it may prove a blessing a disguise, as it will surely make Wenger realize this squad needs players. ( I hope it doesn’t come to this)

Before I conclude, I want to add that if Nasri does start for us, we will have to keep our feelings towards him in check for the duration of the game as he will be out there to help us win the game. And unsettling him during the game will not help us much. Not an ideal situation but we will have to go with it.

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the game. Have a good day!

 


Team news ahead of Udinese, Bendtner might be involved today | Arsenal, Newcastle and Alex Song charged by FA

August 16, 2011

Arsenal today will play the crucial first leg of Champions League play-off against Udinese.

Arsene Wenger on Monday gave an update on the squad in his pre-match press conference. He revealed that Rosicky faces a late fitness test ahead of the game despite being included in the squad. Apart from that we are going to be without Van Persie and Nasri through suspension.

Arsene said:

“We have an uncertainty from Saturday about Rosicky. He is in the squad and will have a fitness test on Tuesday morning. Of course we have Van Persie and Nasri suspended.”

Wenger himself is going to carry out one-match touchline ban.

On respecting the ban, Wenger said:

“I can be in the hotel with the team. I just cannot be in the dressing room pre-match so I watch the game from the stands like everybody else. I do not want to cheat with the rules but I can watch the game.”

In interesting bit of update, we might see Bendtner in action today after Arsene confirmed that he is still an Arsenal player. No club has until now acquired his services and the manager added that if things remains the same, he will stay at Arsenal and fight for his place.

These were Wenger’s words:

“In his interview Bendtner said he was gone, but I checked and he’s not gone at all! I promised I would let him go if he found the right club and that has not changed because when I make a promise I keep it. But if he doesn’t find the right opportunity he will stay and fight for his place like everybody else. He looks sharp in training.”

In other news, FA has pressed charges against both Arsenal and Newcastle in the aftermath of the game on weekend. The incident, during the game, involved mass confrontation between players from both sides that ended in Gervinho’s dismissal.

Also during the game, Alex Song acted out of order when he stamped on Joey Barton. He is separately charged for violent conduct. Both the clubs have to respond by 18th while Song has until 16th.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have also lodged a claim, following Gervinho’s straight red card.

following is the statement that was released by FA:

“Newcastle United and Arsenal have been charged by The FA with failing to control their players following Saturday’s (13 August) fixture at St James’ Park.

Both clubs have been charged following a mass confrontation of players following an incident in which Arsenal’s Gervinho was also shown a red card in the 75th minute.

Following Gervinho’s dismissal Arsenal have today lodged a claim that the standard punishment of a three-match suspension is clearly excessive. A regulatory Commission will hear that claim on 16 August.

Meanwhile Arsenal’s Alex Song has been charged separately by The FA with violent conduct following an incident earlier in the same fixture.

Both clubs have until 4pm on 18 August to respond to the charge, whilst Song must reply by 6pm on 16 August.”

As things stand, we are going to face Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea without Gervinho and Alex Song.


Gazidis assures signing players, Arsenal to have talks over Gervinho, Arsene interested in Emmanuel Riviere

June 14, 2011

Just a quick update today as I am busy somewhere else. Yesterday, Ivan Gazidis had a question and answer session with the Arsenal Shareholders Trust. I haven’t yet seen the session due to not finding time so can’t really comment on what happened. Ivan did, however, assure the fans that Arsenal will be making new signings this summer and a few of the current squad will also be asked to leave.

He was off the opinion that despite a massive disappointment the season cannot be seen as a disaster.

“Coming off the end of the season, I share with you a sense of profound disappointment. We had a season that promised a great deal and looked like it could turn into a very special one but in the end a familiar story began to tell itself. I understand the feelings that we all felt.

It is very clear we had some shortcomings and in this close season we are going to see some turnover of players. Some new signings will be coming in and some of our existing squad will be going out. As Arsène has said, it will be a busy close season for the Club.

But also it is important to recognize that it has not been a disaster. We have a young squad and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The trick will be identify which parts to keep and which parts to turnover. And we will do that within our financial capabilities.”

I don’t want to sound negative but if finishing fourth in a two-horse title race isn’t disaster than I am afraid Ivan has lost me. It might have been disappointing if it was happening for the first time but to happen for four years consecutively is quite worrying. I will be discussing more of this after I have seen the whole session. For now, I am grateful that Ivan considers buying and indeed selling a few players, hopefully not to include Nasri and Fabregas.

In other news, Lille’s general manager Frederic Paquet has confirmed that they will be holding talks with Arsenal for a possible transfer of Gervinho. The general manger said

“He [Gervinho] wants to go and has developed contacts with Arsenal. We will soon have talks with them and see what they offer. He has expressed a desire to go to England and we will see what happens.”

With news coming out on daily basis related to Gervinho, it seems that we really are interested in him. let’s hope the talks are fruitful.

There is also talk of Arsene’s interest in Saint-Etienne striker Emmanuel Riviere. He has been compared to Thierry Henry and is valued at around £4.5 million. In the player’s own words

“I am flattered to be linked with the clubs mentioned. I am a young player, so to be linked with Arsenal is fantastic for me. If Arsene Wenger is interested in you it means you have potential to be a very good player. People compare me to Thierry Henry and that is a big compliment. If I can achieve half of his career I will be happy.”

With Bendtner on the verge of leaving, we do need to sign a striker this summer. Who will we get can only be answered by Wenger.

Today there were also reports that revealed Tottenham as the possible challengers to us in acquiring Christopher Samba. Blackburn themselves will do their best to keep Samba but my gut feeling is that if Wenger truly moves for him, we will get him this summer.

The biggest surprise of the day for me, however, was the news of a possible swap deal between Chelsea and Tottenham involving Drogba and Modric. My initial reaction to this was WTF! As for the rest, we will find out in the coming weeks.

By the way the media has already started speculating who will be the team to replace us in the top four next season. At the moment many are favoring Liverpool. Don’t the media love writing us off? Although I can’t say anything about titles at the moment, I am sure we will finish in the top four.

Have a good time!!


Tottenham vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 20, 2011

Manchester United has given us another lifeline after their stalemate against Newcastle. With us drawing against Liverpool on Sunday, it looked as if it was all over for us. However, the title race is back on and we have a slight hope. Even so, our hopes will be over soon if we fail to get the three points against the Spuds tonight. Even our top four spot will be in jeopardy if we fail to win the game.

After the Liverpool match, I said that it was very unlikely that Manchester will draw two games then lose to us before we take the title ourselves, by winning rest of our games. After last night, Manu have drawn one game and hopefully there will be more. The question still remains; will we win the rest our matches? (we will find out tonight) Man United have given us countless opportunities by slipping up on many occasions. Only that we haven’t been able to capitalize on them. We again have a chance now and I hope the team gives it their all tonight against Tottenham.

Coming to the game, Tottenham are playing at home and they will approach the game as if it is a Champions League final, they wouldn’t know the feeling though, what it is to be a in a CL final. Nonetheless, they will do their all to take the three points and they surely have a few players that can make things difficult for us. Their approach will be straight forward, deliver in as many crosses as they can and hope for Crouch to head in. With RVD Vaart and Modric they can also mix things up. So our backline will have to be alert and on their toes at all times. We have already made too many mistakes and it is time now that we deliver.

As for us, we will need to play our game and never slack-off, even for a second and even if we are winning by two goals. Chances will come to us and we will need to capitalize on them. Their keeper is prone to mistakes but at times he produces excellent saves and I don’t want their keeper to be the man of the match.

Upfront, the combination of Fabregas, Walcott and Van Persie will be the key. In the middle, Song and Diaby will have to play a massive game. We can’t afford to make any mistakes today and we can’t afford any more slip ups. And please Arsenal! don’t make things complicated. Keep possession, keep it simple and shoot whenever the opportunity arise and we will get the three points.

As for the starting lineup, Sagna will join the backline in place of Eboue as he has recovered form his injury. The rest of the defense will remain the same as it was against Liverpool.

Alex Song has also fully recovered from his injury, so I expect him to start alongside Fabregas and I will also keep Diaby for his strength and height. Wilshere for me will be on bench because he has already played a lot and Wenger hinted of rotation.

Up front. the trio will remain the same as it was against Liverpool. However, I won’t be surprised to see Arshavin in place of either Nasri or Walcott. Nasri is going through a quiet patch but considering how he played in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, I will start with him.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Diaby, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Similar to the Liverpool game, it is difficult to predict what the outcome of the game will be. We haven’t scored many goals in the last few games and we have been quite ordinary in the final third. Still, away from home, we have delivered. And considering Spurs, there will be goals today. Hopefully, we will score more and get the three points. Come on Arsenal!!

Have a nice day Gooners and enjoy the game while keeping your fingers crossed. Tonight, we will resurrect our title chances!!


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool

April 17, 2011

Well, the game ended in heartache for me as it would have done for all Gooners around the world. To be winning a game one minute and then to draw it in the fashion it happened is frustrating to the very core of existence. Liverpool returned the favour that we did them two years back, the title is out of our reach now. Didn’t anyone tell Liverpool that Manchester United now is in line to get the 19th title!! If not, someone should have.

To start off with, that penalty to Liverpool was never a penalty. It was a dive by Lucas which conned the referee into giving it. Eboue was at fault not for the penalty but for getting close to Lucas, who took full advantage of it. The ball was going away towards the corner, there was no danger, it was 4 minutes beyond the stoppage time then why the hell would you put yourself in a position where the opposition can take advantage. Lucas played it intelligently and the referee fell for it. It did make one thing clear, ‘LUCAS, YOU ARE A CHEAT!!’

Coming to the free kick conceded in the 98th minutes, that was our own fault. Szczesny had the ball with him and he should have passed it on to his own player, the way he did all game. Only when it was needed most he tossed into the air, the ball came back towards our goal and bam a free kick, which later turned into a penalty. This is where experience comes in. We only needed to defend for a minute and we couldn’t do that. We shouldn’t have relaxed at all after scoring the goal which now has cost us the chance for a title.

However, the penalty and free kick incident shouldn’t have taken place at all if the referee had blown the whistle when the time was over by 98 minutes. Or even if he has given the free kick after 98 minutes, he should have blown the whistle as soon as the ball hit the wall. It was 102 minutes on the clock and the ref is still playing on. THAT WAS PLAIN RIDICULOUS!!

As for the rest of the game, it was all Arsenal with a bit of Liverpool in the second half. Liverpool defended well for major parts. However, I am surprised that with the amount of talent we have we couldn’t open up Liverpool easily who had teenagers in their backline. We were wasteful with our possession and never created anything of worth. Van Persie missed one glorious opportunity which should have been a goal, Koscielny hit the bar once, other than that it was all possession by us with no penetration and only defending by Liverpool.

I would also like to add here that we sure have our problems but most of the points that have been dropped this season have been stolen from us. Bad decisions have cost us too many games. Should I blame the players for always being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the referees, whose job is to make sure the game is played fairly? I will leave it for you to answer.

As it stands, the title is well beyond our hands now but the season is still not finished. Chelsea is right behind us and we need to at least finish second. Heck we may, may, may, win the league only if we win all our games and Man United draw at least two. I know that is too much to ask for!!

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (6.5): A good performance returning from injury. Didn’t have much to do but when called upon, he did well. Made a good save on a Suarez shot in the second half. Only one gripe, as I said before he should have passed the ball to our player in the 98th minute as he had done all game and not lobbed it into the air.  Experience matters on such occasions!!

Eboue (6): Well, what can I say?! As always provided good support upfront and had a decent game at the back. He did his usual theatrics which was frustrating to see. I won’t blame him for the penalty as explained above but he should have kept his distance from Lucas. Cost us more than points today.

Djourou and Koscielny (7): Decent game from both the defenders. Had a couple of odd moments but thankfully we weren’t harmed. Other than that cleared whatever danger came their way. Koscielny also hit the bar in the first half.

Clichy (6): Nothing much to do at the back and provided good support up front.

Wilshere (5.5): Moved the ball around well and made a number of good interceptions. Didn’t add much in final third though.

Fabregas (6.5): Didn’t produce the amount of delightful balls as he did against Blackpool. He did drop deep to get the ball and most of our openings were created through him. And of course, it was his run that won us the penalty, unfortunately not the game.

Diaby (6): Made good use of his strength in the middle of the park. Made good interceptions but again on occasions kept the ball with him for too long.

Nasri (6): He has lost his touch in front goal but makes it up with his brilliant runs with the ball. However, he didn’t create much today. Did misplace a few of his passes as well.

Robin van Persie (6.5): His movement was good but didn’t get enough deliveries to find the goal. Did miss a chance that should have won it for us. Scored an excellent penalty but unfortunately it wasn’t a winner.

Walcott (6): As always looked dangerous with the ball. Some of his crosses were excellent but no one met them while on other occasions he was wasteful. Wasn’t released much either.

Subs:

Song (6) looked alright and did his part. Did give away the late free kick though. Arshavin (6) was lively and delivered in a couple of good crosses and even backtracked. Bendtner (5) didn’t add much.


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.


West Brom vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 19, 2011

I had taken some time off from football after what happened last Saturday. The negativity, however, that has followed ever since Arsenal’s exit from three competitions has been immense and highly uncalled for. No doubt the departures have been frustrating and disappointing but to completely overlook what the team has achieved this season on the basis of two weeks result is not logical. No doubt we have our liabilities and I do agree with some of the points that have been raised but the way people have gone about it is not right. And also now isn’t the time to be discussing the weaknesses of the team. When the season is over, there will be plenty to talk about. What we need to do right now is to get behind the team because the media will always find reasons to ridicule us. No doubt, everyone is entitled to their own views but we as fans would do better if we stick to supporting the team.

Coming on to today’s game, it is against West Brom at their home and after what happened the last time we faced them, this won’t be a  walk in the park. The game had plenty of goals the last time and if I am not wrong, Almunia didn’t have a good day. Ironically he is making his return in the League against the same oppositions and after his brilliant display against Barcelona and Manchester United, I am gunning for another good performance.

Today I also feel there won’t be many goals. One reason is that West Brom are under Hodgson and the second because we will also approach the game a bit more cautiously. And with plenty of our regular starters missing, we will have difficulty in the opening them up, as we witnessed the last time.

We will have to be disciplined in the middle of the park and move the ball around with precision and pace and only then we will be able to open them up. Much will depend on how our regulars play. No doubt to win the whole team will have to perform but Nasri and company will have to produce some magical moments that will lead to goals.

At the back too, Squillaci and Koscielny will have to stay alert. These two have had their weaknesses exploited when playing besides each other and with Almunia also not playing regularly with them, the problems can be compounded. Communication among them will be key and the midfield will have to do their job if we are not to concede. And please Arsenal no half hearted attempts in defense and middle of the park, like we witnessed against Manchester United last Saturday. Fight for every ball and close down opposition players early so that they don’t create goal scoring opportunities.

Upfront, we will have to ensure that we don’t waste chances. I don’t want another opposing keeper getting the man of the match.

For the starting eleven, we don’t have many good options as there are a few injuries in important positions. Arsene Wenger again will have to make some bold decisions.

In goal it has been confirmed that Almunia will start. The back line picks it up itself with Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy and Sagna.

In the middle, Wilshere and Nasri are the easy picks. However, with no Song and Diaby, we have Ramsey and Denilson to choose from for the third spot. To be honest, the more I wish for not seeing Denilson in the starting lineup, the more likely it is that he will start. As it will be today because Ramsey I fear isn’t yet ready to start a game.

Upfront too Van Persie and Arshavin are easy picks. On the right we have the options to start with Rosicky, Bendtner and Eboue. Eboue doesn’t add much while Bendtner also doesn’t impress when he starts on wings. And although Rosicky has also been poor, I will start with him on the right because he will help us keep the ball better (if he plays well).

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Denilson, Rosicky, RVP, Arshavin

If everything goes according to plan we will be level on points with Manu by five o clock and hopefully top of the table (if Manu lose their game). We have only the league to focus on and after a weeks break I want to see a good display from our team. Please Arsenal give your best, show that you want the title by winning today and rest of the remaining games. We all are behind you or else it will be hard not only for you but also for us to keep believing in you. 

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the game where ever you are. Tonight we start the final lap of the season which hopefully will end with the League title in May (after which we can start sorting out the weaknesses of the team).