Arsenal vs Swansea: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 10, 2011

So after a draw, two losses, countless red cards and injuries, frantic last two days in the transfer window and the ever boring international break, we are here, almost a month later since the inception of the season for a fresh start. We are up against Swansea at home and I am already feeling the excitement of today’s game.

International breaks are never a welcome thing, however, this one did came at the right time for us. We needed a break after the thrashing at Old Trafford and our new signings needed time to get acquainted with the team. How will they gel in with the team on the field particularly and the English football in general will be somewhat answered today.  Most of our players (old and new) had some great international games, scoring lots of goals though. Hopefully, they will repeat that today against Swansea.

On the injury front, we have not made much progress though. We have Gibbs back from his injury (hopefully he won’t go out injured today). Otherwise, we have lost Vermaelen for a month, Wilshere for up to two or may be more, Squillaci is still having a calf injury and Diaby is as usual enjoying time on the side lines. Miyaichi and Rosicky have joined them for short durations and will hopefully return in midweek.

I am glad though that Frimpong is back and that we were able to sign five players in the final two days. Otherwise we would still be stretched in the middle and at the back. With Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Santos and Park, we have plenty of options to start with today.

We do need a win (for a change) but if we do it by a margin, it will really set the right tone to our miserable start. However, we shouldn’t be complacent under any circumstances. We have a perfect opportunity to bounce back from the awful start, so, let’s take it with a bang. I know we will have a few new bodies out there, but I am expecting them to give a great performance to send the right message out to the masses.  

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Wenger opts to start with. Based on the team news, it is quite obvious that we will see a backline of Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs. Andre Santos is in the squad but lacking match fitness and knowing Wenger, he won’t start with him. We might though see him later in the game. As for Mertesacker, I am really looking forward to see how he partners with Koscielny.

In the middle, Frimpong will have to start in the holding role behind Arteta and Ramsey. I won’t be surprised if Benayoun deputizes for Ramsey but I have a feeling Wenger won’t start with him today.

Robin van Persie is sure to start up front flanked by Walcott and Arshavin. I am tempted to start with Benayoun in Arshavin place though. Park is another option to start with but I am not sure how he will respond to playing on the wings. Seeing his international goals, he does get into some good scoring positions and is not afraid to have a shot on goal. To properly utilize Park we will need to change our formation and I am certain on one thing that it won’t happen today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Frimpong, Ramsey, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

With this team, we still will have a bench of Benayoun, Park, Chamberlain, Djourou, Santos, Fabianski and Chamakh with quite a few suspended and out injured. It does feel good to have options after failing to put out an experienced team in the opening three games. However, lots of work still needs to be done. We have got our numbers up and we have got some quality and experience in the team, but we will need to show it on the field by giving results.

As I said before, we have been given the best opprtunity and we need to give the perfect response.  

Here it is to a great win today, a first of many to follow. To all the Gooners who will be at The Emirates, be loud and vocal in your support, the team will need it today.

Enjoy the game and have a good day!

 


Manchester United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 28, 2011

Note: I am posting this from my iphone so apologies if things are a bit out of order.

Another difficult week for Arsenal is at an end but not before a trip to Old Trafford. From losing Nasri to an amazing win against Udinese and qualifying for the Champions League to having a bid for Cahill rejected and not getting a work permit for Campbell, everything has happened this week for us.

Today, however, we need more to concentrate on the game at hand. So, forget everything that has happened, is happening or is going to happen because we need to beat United! This is the last game of this month and the tough opening fixtures that we got. We haven’t started the season the way we would have liked. Still, we have done well in some games under the circumstances.

Today also won’t be easy. And more than the game, to pick the starting eleven will even more difficult. We are really short of options in the middle. Overall we are without Gervinho, Song, and Frimpong through suspension. Wilshere and Gibbs are injured (and if you all have forgotten, Diaby is still out).

There is some good news in the defensive department though. Koscielny had a positive test, Djourou is also available. There are some doubts over Vermaelen but I am hoping he will make it. Rosicky is also on hand in the middle.

With all this in mind, I will start with Koscielny and Vermaelen at the back flanked by Sagna and Traore. United will use the wings extensively and it is better that we start with players on their favorable positions.

Upfront, there isn’t much of a choice either. Van Persie will lead the line and he will be flanked by Arshavin and Walcott. Arshavin had a rest mid week so let’s hope he is all geared up for United because we will need that. Otherwise, I will give one of Chamberlain or Miyaichi a start.

The middle is where things get real tough. I am sure we will see Rosicky and Ramsey but who will start as defensive midfielder is one big piece of puzzle. Considering Wenger, I am certain we will see one of Djourou, Vermaelen or Koscielny in the role. And since Vermaelen and Koscielny have a great partnership as centre backs, Djourou will deputize for Song (Personally, I prefer Koscielny in this role). However, this all depends if Vermaelen makes it. Otherwise we have Coquelin or Lansbury to come in the middle.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Traore, Djourou, Rosicky, Ramsey, Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin.

As far as the game is concerned, United definitely have the advantage today. They know our weaknesses and will exploit them using the wings and speed. Nani is in good form and he will be continuously changing wings to force his way. Crosses will be flowing in right and left. Sagna and Traore will have to play intelligently and Ramsey and whosoever starts as defensive midfielder will need to give their support.

Rooney is going to act as their linchpin. He can distribute the ball quickly to the wings and then rush forward to receive the cross. Our midfield will have to be continuously on their toes to counter this. Don’t give Rooney space and he will be forced to play the ball sideways or back.

United do have problems of their own at the back. Their new keeper is certainly not class and down with confidence at the moment. They are also missing players in defense. So if we play this intelligently, we can surprise them. Testing their keeper continuously might do the trick today.  

The only thing is we will ne need to be a bit creative. United know how to defend against us so we will need to mix things up. Arshavin, Walcott, Ramsey and Rosicky will all have to step their games up if we are to get away with points here. We will have to fight for the ball today and hold our ground because United won’t hold back. Another loss for us is not going to go down well with anyone.

This brings me to the result. As was the case with Liverpool, I will take a draw at Old Trafford under the circumstances we are in. However, a win will be massive and make the coming weeks easier. I have my fingers crossed for we will surprise everyone with a win today, hopefully!

Have a good day and enjoy the game. Let’s hope we end this month with a high!

p.s. I was busy this week with work, travelling and also survived a bad flu and fever so wasn’t able to update the blog. Things will return to normal this week.


 


[Guest Post] Match Preview: Manchester United vs Arsenal

March 12, 2011

Note: This guest post is written by Hamza, a friend of mine, who is a Manchester United fan through and through. Here is how he sees today’s FA Cup game against us.

 

It’s that time of the year again where the best of English football comes into action. Within the span of three weeks, Manchester United finds themselves against another top rival. The last two encounters have certainly not gone according to the plan resulting in media blackout. So definitely, the Red Devils would be eager to end their losing streak after a breathtaking start to the season.

Today promises to be a fighting encounter as the FA Cup is at stake here. With Chelsea and Liverpool out already, today’s winner would be heavy favorites to lift the cup (though Man City might be favoring their chances as well).  Going by the records, Man United have still won their last eight games at home and have not lost to Arsenal at Old Trafford since 2006. The last encounter between the sides saw Manchester United prevail 1-0 at home courtesy Ji-Sung Park strike.

Coming into the match, Manchester United would surely be a little low but the gunners aren’t well off either. Although they have played quite an attractive football of any season, their recent blows in Carling Cup and Champions League states that they have failed to come to terms in the off-league games. Arsenal’s captain (Cesc Fabregas) is out which means Rob Van Persie would lead the side. Arsenal would also be without its first choice of keeper, Szczesny, leaving Almunia to wear the gloves. He has not had much of a game practice this season, playing hardly 10 games altogether. Theo Walcott and Alex Song are also on the injured list. Not that I am much concerned about them, but its (rival worries) always an added advantage one should keep in mind.

Manchester United comes into this match following an unconvincing 1-0 win over Crawley Town.  It was another forgettable encounter with the Red Devils failing to show their dominance over a non-league side. Injuries further add to the agony of the team with Nani tearing a tendon on his left leg in the game versus Liverpool. Ji-Sung Park still remains on the bench but on the positive side Antonio Valencia is back in the side after almost 6 months and is likely to get a nod today. Captain Nemanja Vidic would also be back after the suspension period, Darren Fletcher is expected to return to the side and Rio Ferdinand is also on the comeback trail, though it might still be too early to play him against Gunners. All these rejoining would be a huge boost to Sir Alex Ferguson, who might play it a little cautious considering the upcoming second leg against Marseille in Champion League, having settled for a nil-nil draw previously.  So don’t be surprised if some unexpected members get a go today.

Following the injuries, Manchester united are likely to come up with a different set of formation and if Antonio Valencia is kept back for later stages of the game, we might find Darren Fletcher playing the role of right-hand side midfielder. As Arsenal is keen to play on the wings, John’O Shea and Patrick Evra would most likely be retained at the back. The central midfield would probably be occupied by Michael Carrick and Darren Gibson as Anderson’s inclusion remains a question mark following a knee injury. Upfront we might see Javier Hernandez in place of Rooney after scoring the only United goal against Liverpool.

The game is also being viewed as a curtain raiser to the Premier League title race with both teams marginally separated. Hopefully for Man United, this is a glorious chance to shrug off their poor form and overturn the plunge. Along with the home advantage and decent record we are surely the favorites to nail this one. And if we play as per the start of the season, take our chances and make the most of Arsenal’s negligence, then there is no doubt we’d emerge victorious. Good luck Reds, here is hoping you bring the trophy home.


Manchester United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 12, 2011

I am over with the disappointment of not qualifying for the next round in Champions League as we travel to Old Trafford today for the important FA Cup quarter final clash. To be honest, I wasn’t that much bothered by the elimination, yet, I wanted to see Barcelona beaten. Barcelona got through; we failed, fairly or as some are pointing out through unfair means. The result is what matters at the end of the day and it won’t do us any good in blaming others. We have to move on from it and I hope the players will have moved on because today we need a response.

We are already out from two trophies; we cannot go out from FA Cup today as it will be detrimental to our morale. Please Arsenal, no more mistakes and no more half hearted attempts. If all the players believe so much while they talk off the pitch, it’s time now to do the talking and showing the belief on the pitch. Stuff like saying this game will define our season won’t help us much if we don’t perform. It is time to prove and I would be more than happy if the players give their all today.

Coming to the game, whose result  is vital to the rest of our remaining season. A win today and I see us taking the double. A loss, I still see us taking the Championship, although it will be very close and we will need to show massive character. However, we cannot think of anything but a win today.

Manchester will approach this game as they always do against us. They will flood the midfield and play a lone striker upfront. They will try to catch us on the counter, using the flanks and by delivering in crosses. They don’t have Nani, but they have players who can damage us very quickly. We will have to ensure that we don’t give them any chance.

The last time we played them at Old Trafford in December; we failed to impose ourselves on the game and eventually lost. In that game we failed to bring the ball out from defense and thus failed to create chances and United, despite playing poorly went on to win the game. I thought that we gave too much respect to United in that game and today I don’t want to see the same. If we control the midfield, they will have problems and with their defense not as good as it was in recent years, we can open them up. Nonetheless, everyone will have to put in a good shift.

Defensively we will get to deal with lots of crosses. After seeing us perform remarkably in defense against Barcelona, I believe that if we want to, we can deal with crosses too. We did well if I remember the last time.  Again alertness of the back four and support from midfield will be essential. And I hope we don’t miss Szczesny and Almunia has an excellent game. 

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, Arsene Wenger has said that he will put the strongest team.  So I expect only a couple changes from the Barcelona game.

Almunia of course will be in goal with the back four remaining same as they were against Barcelona.

In the middle we don’t have Fabregas and Song. I would have started with Wilshere in the free role but then the defensive role will go to Denilson, whom I don’t want to see start. We have the option of Ramsey but it will be too much to ask from him in such a game and in such a position. Nasri can play the free role, so can Diaby, so can Rosicky. However, considering all the option, I will start Wilshere, Diaby and Nasri, with Wilshere staying deep. And I hope Diaby has a good game today.

Upfront Van Persie will start along with Arshavin, who was missed dearly against Barcelona. On the right we have the option of starting with Rosicky, Eboue and Bendtner. I am thinking about putting Ramsey on right. If things aren’t going our way, we can shift Nasri to the right, Diaby in the free role with Ramsey taking his place. I know it’s not a game to check such a lineup and too much to ask from Ramsey but I believe he will be more than geared up to show that he is ready to start in big games.  And this can also be the perfect game for him to make his return. Otherwise, put in Bendtner on the right.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby, Ramsey, RVP, Arshavin

So that’s it. We can win today’s game but so can United. It will be a race as to who puts up good show and take the initiative. I am gunning for Arsenal and as always expect us to win.

Keep the faith and keep your fingers crossed. Tonight we will get a clear picture of what’s left of this season.


A quick recap of our season so far

December 27, 2010

Almost half of the season is over and despite all the disappointing losses we are still up there and in all competitions. The losses have been really frustrating to say the least. I still believe that had we maintained our focus in the matches lost, we would have been running away with the title right now and in the Champions League we would have topped our group. Still all is not lost yet. More than half the season is yet to be played and if we play our best football, there can be no stopping us. Before heading forward here is a look at what we have done so far.

Premier league:

We started of the season by snatching an away draw against Liverpool. We followed it by some good away results including the win against Man City. In between, however, we lost frustratingly at home the games we would have won any other day. With a loss at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge we are currently second in the league behind Manu. Man Utd are top with five points (they have won their match against Sunderland).

Played: 17, Won: 10, Lost: 5, Draw: 2, League position: 2

Champions league:

After winning the opening three games we went onto lose the next two and finished second in our group with a win in the final group match. We have been drawn against Barcelona in the next round.

Carling cup:

We are to face Ipswich Town in the semi final after overcoming Tottenham, Newcastle and Wigan.

And we are where we are despite having plenty of injuries. Slowly and gradually our injured players are returning and we can only hope we don’t suffer more injuries.

Now I am in no way saying that what we have done is enough or we don’t need to improve. There are some problems that we have to get right. The thing that is of concern is that the reason behind some of the losses has been some poor team defending at times. We have given away silly goals and at the other end we also haven’t been clinical at times. Sometimes complacency has been the reason. However, we still have scored plenty of goals and only four teams have conceded fewer goals than us in the league.  

The other thing is that our home form hasn’t been at par with our away record domestically. It is the opposite in Europe but I won’t go into that as we have a more realistic chance of winning trophies domestically (I am not writing us off against Barcelona). As Wenger said that our domestic form is going to be vital to our success in Europe.

What we need is to build on our positive performances from the first half, solve our problems and end the season with something worthwhile. And also our home form needs to improve exponentially. We have the opportunity to do it and it starts with tomorrow’s game against Chelski. This game can be the catalyst to our season. Deliver tomorrow and we can forget what has happened in the past and look with certainty towards the future. Fail to deliver and we go back to where we started.

A loss won’t end our title aspirations but it may deal a severe blow to our confidence. We have to get this label off of us that we can’t deliver against big teams. If we do it tomorrow i have no doubt that this season is going to be ours.

Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment. We have the team and the belief, we just need to deliver.


Man Utd vs Arsenal Preview: We just have to give our best + starting line up

December 13, 2010

So the big match is upon us.  This match won’t decide the title but it will certainly give a clear picture of things to come. The League at the moment is very unpredictable with none of the teams consistent including us. We can make our statement with getting the maximum points tonight as a win for either team will put them in the driving seat.

The buildup to this match has already seen an individual to open his mouth without thinking. As far as I am concerned we need to do our talking on the pitch as it is the best way for shutting  mouths.

As far as the team is concerned, there is news that Fabianski might be injured and as a result Szczesny may get a start. Either way, I believe both are capable to keep in this match. The focus would be the key. Decision on Fabregas’ inclusion till now has not been confirmed. I believe he should not be risked even if he passes a late medical test. We have Rosicky available and he can play very well in the playmaker role.

Keeping this in mind the starting lineup would play a big role in today’s game. However, whatever Wenger picks he would need to get it right as there are plenty of options available. Based on performances so far this season the team that I would like to see is:

Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Rosicky, Wilshere, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin.

Szczesny will start if Fabianski is injured. With Djourou coming back from injury, I see him as a sure starter. He has been impressive whenever he has appeared and his aerial presence will be required today. To partner him I would go with Squillaci. Although, the last few matches he hasn’t been spectacular but we can use his experience. He would need to be aggressive and lead the back line well. Sagna and Clichy, our best fullbacks, are to flank them.

In the middle, Rosicky to start in the playmaker role. Song and Wilshere to partner him. They have been our best midfield trio in the absence of Fabregas and I believe they all will start. Song would have to sit back though and keep it tight.

Upfront Chamakh to start in the striker role as Van Persie isn’t yet ready to start in such a match. Nasri and Arshavin to start on wings. Arshavin wasn’t good in the last match but he certainly raises his game against the big teams and I am sure he won’t disappoint today. Nasri has been spectacular and he needs to carry on with it.

Van Persie and Walcott can be brought on as substitutes to mix things up.

As far as the match is concerned, we can certainly win this if we play the way we are capable of. Our team defending is the major problem but I do hope it will not be a factor here if we keep our focus and don’t panic if things are not going our way. As Wenger has said we just have to give our best.

This brings me to the point that we have to be patient and when the chances arrive we have to be clinical. In the last few matches against them we have seen that we dominate the opening period. The only drawbacks were that we failed to take our chances and then go on to concede on the counter. This would lead to us panicking and conceding more goals with disappointing defeats as results.

Today I see a similar approach by Man Utd. They will let us play and look for the counter. If we can avoid getting opened up on the counters, we can get the maximum points. For this to happen our whole team needs to play their part in defence.

Let’s hope the team does perform their best and we win it. And that the  result doesn’t go down to individual or team mistakes or us gifting them goals as happened against Tottenham.

Fingers crossed! Go GUNNERSSSSS!!