Arsenal vs Bolton: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 24, 2011

The win against Shrewsbury Town in midweek was a welcome change. It wasn’t unexpected but we did have few scares and I am glad that we came out with a win, no matter how unconvincing we were through some of the patches.

Fast forward and here we are up against Bolton at the Emirates. While we haven’t yet lost in other competitions, the start to the Premier League for us has been nothing short of a disaster. The league table is not a good sight at the moment for us; losing three games of the first five, conceding 14 goals in the process and sitting just outside the relegation zone. However, the important thing is we have to recover from here as we can’t let it get any worse. Today, we have another opportunity to get our momentum going. Hopefully, we will have a good response from the team.

Bolton like us hasn’t had a good start to this season. Winning just one of their first five games, they sit two places below us at 19. It isn’t a good place to sit and we can be down there ourselves if we don’t win today’s game against them (It does feel odd just to be one place out of the relegation zone) Anyways, Bolton won’t be pushovers as Wenger mentioned in his press conference. They are a good side; know how to play and how to mix things up. We will have to fight hard to get a result.

We have got some mixed injury news ahead of the game. While Sagna, Ramsey and Rosicky have made it into the squad, Benayoun is going to be missed for a week. The biggest blow, however, is the news of Wilshere to undergo a surgery this Monday which is going to rule him out for at least three months. Which means, he won’t be playing this year! Well, who saw that coming? Hands up if you did!

Anyhow, Wilshere was already out for this clash and we can’t really do anything about what’s happened. For today, we need to go out there and get a result. Nothing short of a win will be a disaster, if nothing else.

We made eleven changes in the game against Shrewsbury, so I expect another eleven changes to the team. I will go with another 4-4-2 formation. The backline will see the likes of Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna and Santos return. Wenger may start with Gibbs but I would prefer Santos over him because we need to get our first choice backline sorted.

In the middle, I would go with Arteta and Song flanked by Ramsey and Arshavin.

Upfront I will start with Walcott just in front of van Persie, in the central role, just as he has been asking Wenger to do all this year.

Szczesny will of course return in goal.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Santos, Ramsey. Arteta, Song, Arshavin, Walcott, RVP. (4-4-2)

If we, however, go with 4-3-3, replace Walcott with Gervinho and bring Walcott on later. At some point, I would also like ot see Chamberlain involved as he was on fire against Shrewsbury.

We need to take today’s game by the scruff. We have already crossed the limit of making mistakes and any more will blow us apart completely. The Blackburn game saw us having a good first half where our team looked liked finally stepping up. We were, however, brought down very quickly in the second half. We need to avoid that today. A game is played for 90 minutes and we need to give our best for the 90 minutes today.

I am worried about our defense though as we have not yet found the right solution to our problems back there. Even against Shrewsbury, we had some very scary moments. Today we need to really step up our game in defense in particular and all the other areas in general. Hopefully, the team won’t disappoint.

A win is a must as I said before or we are going to end up in the relegation zone by the end of this weekend.

While the manager has been talking about going for all trophies, for me it will be an achievement if we make it in the top four this season and end up wining any of the domestic cups. We are only going to make it there if we win our games. We cannot any more live on excuses.

What Wenger is saying here has really disappointed me. We still are making excuses for our start when in the first place it has been our own fault.

“I still believe we paid a very heavy price for the Udinese game, where we didn’t get any credit at all. Today, they are top of the league.

“We had to give absolutely everything at Dortmund and in the second half at Blackburn you could see that. Our start of the season was disturbed by the transfers and by the fact that we had to qualify for the Champions League. We lost a lot of energy in these games.”

Any ways, we need to concentrate on the game and not think too much about what should have happened. Enjoy the game form where ever you watch and keep your fingers crossed. We will hopefully win today!

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Blackburn vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 17, 2011

Last weekend we won our first league game of the season. A week later, that included travelling to Germany and back, we are here this Saturday away at Blackburn and considering the past games, Ewood Park is a very difficult to place to go and get results. Even without Sam Alardyce, we can be sure of one thing that it will be a tough game and entirely different from what we faced against Dortmund.

The timing of the game is, however, perfect. Blackburn, like us, is going through a very bad patch of results having won no game in the last four. They will be low on confidence but at the same time desperate to get points. We can exploit this to our advantage. While the past Blackburn sides have relied more heavily on long balls and the typical English football style, this side has added quick attacking football that relies more on technical skills to their game too. They still have a very strong defense and when the need arises can mount very fast counter attacks.

It won’t be an easy game, but I do expect us to get the maximum points. The timing of the game is also great as we have an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table with Liverpool playing against Spurs and Man United up against Chelsea. Wenger knows this as he spoke to the official Arsenal site that big games will have an impact on the title race.

“Of course, they will have an impact at the end of the season. Both teams are lucky because they play against someone who has also played in the Champions League. I believe Chelsea have a little advantage having 24 hours more rest but Manchester United have such a big squad now.”

These game will benefit those who take the initiative and today we have one such chance.

In terms of injuries, we have nothing new from the Dortmund game, if I am not wrong. Ramsey has a chance to return to the team but I am not holding my breath over it. Song and Gervinho will return to the Premier League after sitting out the last three games due to suspension. They were really missed in those games as it was evident from their performance during midweek. I am not sure what has happened to Rosicky’s knee injury though as he was supposed to be back by last game.

I don’t see many changes from the team that was out against Dortmund on Tuesday. The backline is most likely to remain same. This back line has given us a win, a draw and one clean sheet already and it does look good. We still have a few problems but I hope they will be solved in time. It would be a surprise for me if Wenger starts with Santos in place of Gibbs though.

In the middle too, I will put up the same trio because these are the games where we need the team to integrate both in attack and defense. I also won’t start with Frimpong because that will be too defensive and today is a game that we can only win by being on the attack. Also Benayoun will have his use while we go on the offensive.

Upfront, however, I will bring in Arshavin in place of Theo Walcott as he had a rest in midweek to partner Gervinho and van Persie. Arshavin had a great game last weekend and I am hoping for a similar performance from him. Walcott despite producing a good assist is not making full use of his pace while starting, and therefore, he will be more of an asset when brought late on today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Benayoun, Arteta, Song, Gervinho, RVP, Arshavin

For me, today, one of the important players is Mertesacker for his height and positioning. If Blackburn decide to use the aerial route and set pieces, his height will come in handy. To counter the pace of Blackburn, we will have to use Koscielny’s ability to close down players. For this to work, communication among both the centre backs will be vital. Gibbs will have to make sure that he doesn’t leave his flank exposed. His decisions will have to be spot on as when to make a run forward and when to hold the line.

Alex Song as usual will be vital to our play. He will have to stay close to the defense when we are under attack. While moving forward, he has the ability to pick out a delightful pass and this can come in useful today in opening the Blackburn backline.

To win this game, goals will have to be scored. Last two games we have scored a goal each. Today we will need more than a goal. We will certainly get more time on the ball today and it will have to be properly utilized to create chances. Arteta, Benayoun and Arshavin will have to work out some creative moves to break down Blackburn as they have a very sound defense. They only need to land the ball at van Persie and Gervinho’s feet in scoring positions; the rest will be done by them.

As far as the result is concerned, I am looking forward to a win which is the only good result for today. A draw for me is not acceptable and I cannot take another loss to be frank. I know it will be a tough game, but we have the team that can get a win against them. Anything less will be disappointing for me. We need to build a momentum now and these games can be the springboard for us before we face Spurs and the men in blue.   

That is all for now, enjoy the game and keep your fingers crossed. Have a good day!


Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 13, 2011

I really like it when there is football every two-three days. You always have something to look forward to and it also means that Champions League is back. Champions League football officially kicks off today with the group stages and we start our campaign away at Dortmund. Last season, we started off the Champions League brilliantly with three wins and in the process notching up 13 (or was it 14!) goals. What happened after that is not a good memory and I don’t want to go over it. And I don’t expect the same amount of goals this time; I would, however, be content with topping the group. Before that, we have to play six games though, with the first one today.

Our opponents are the defending Bundesliga champions, who themselves are going through a not-so-good patch. Having recorded only two wins in five games this season, including a loss to a newly promoted side, they might be low on confidence. However, they shouldn’t be taken lightly under any circumstance because when they play, they mean business. They are an attacking side who are not afraid to pass the ball around and go for goal. They are also great at defending having only conceded 22 goals last season, lowest in their league. So, whatever they are going through right now, we will have to be at our best to get the three points.

Their star player and main creator is Mario Gotze, who has both trickery and pace. Being on the radar of top team at the age of 19 is proof enough that he is quality. Our defenders will have to be on their toes to stop him. Wenger knows this as he spoke about him in his press conference.

“He is the provider. He is the one who had the best assists in Germany and is the most dangerous player. He links well with his strikers and is the player we have to keep quiet. The best way to keep him quiet is for us to attack.”

Attacking is one option. But we will have to do some exceptional defending against him. Mertesacker can be an advantage here having played against him before. However, I believe Koscielny is the key as he is great at closing down opponents. Even Song can make a difference in the middle of the park but he will have to be careful in not giving too many free kicks.

If we can keep the ball effectively, we will keep them on the back foot and in the process get chances to score. Arteta had a decent start at the weekend and I am sure he will be more at home today. He has the ability to create openings, only our forward line has to make sure when the chances arrive, we take them. We can always use the flanks and with Gervinho back, van Persie will have the added support. Lately, we haven’t been scoring many goals but that might be due to the pressure and having won the game on weekend, I feel there will be goals from us today.

Coming to the team news, we are going to be without Ramsey, the latest to join the injured list, and Rosicky, failing to recover in time from his knee injury. Nobody has joined us from the injured players but we have Song and Gervinho returning after missing the game against Swansea through suspension.

Considering this, I expect the same backline that was out against Swansea. In the middle, I would go with Song, Arteta and Benayoun and bring on Frimpong in the second half, if need arises. As a team, we look more balanced with Song in the defensive role due to his work rate and passing. I do have a feeling that Wenger will start with Frimpong in the defensive role with Song shifted ahead of him and Benayoun on the bench.  

Upfront, I would go with van Persie flanked by Walcott and Gervinho.  I would have started with Arshavin but I don’t think he would be there physically having played a good game on the weekend.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Benayoun, Arteta, Song, Walcott, RVP, Gervinho

It won’t be an easy game of that I am certain. However, I do expect a good performance form our team. A win would be great but I won’t mind a draw as they seem the toughest opponent in our group. I don’t expect clean sheets on either side because both play attacking football and there will be goals today. We will have to make sure that we score as many or one better.

Having won the game against Swansea, the team will have some of the pressure lifted. If we can follow it with a win away from home, it will really give us a boost for the EPL games coming up. Wenger was right when he said this on Monday (we do need to build up our confidence!)

“It would create a certainty that we have a good chance to go through. For us to get a positive result tomorrow night would be a big lift. It’s a good opportunity for us to get positive vibes and we need a bit of that. Every team, no matter how good they are, needs confidence and I believe my team needs that at the moment.”

Whatever the result, we can be sure of one thing though, it will be an exciting game. So, from wherever you watch, enjoy it.

Have a good day!


Cesc, Nasri, defending and Wenger: A look into the summer that has passed and what comes next!?

August 12, 2011

Here we are, almost three months after we ended the last season in dismal fashion, at the start of the next. A summer that was promised to be different has so far been the same.

Although a lot has happened since I last posted on the blog but considering what we needed and what was required to be done hasn’t been done yet.

Yes, we bought Gervinho, who looks impressive and give us a direct approach for a change, and we bought Oxlade Chamberlain, who will be a star in the next three years and Jerkinson, who also is one for the future. They all are welcome additions to our squad and in future they will turn out to be great players for us for sure. But in terms of preparing for the next season, we have  been where we ended last season. In fact, if you ask me, we are considerably weaker than before. And before everyone jumps at me, I am not being negative, it is the reality.

The Fabregas saga, the Nasri situation, the way our defense performed in the pre-season, these are proof enough that we have stood still in terms of improving as a team.  

I am not fussed about Fabregas or even Nasri leaving, heck I am because you seldom find a Fabregas. It is just that if they wanted to go, they should have been shown the door at the start of the window. Their replacements should have been bought to gel in with the team. We are less than 24 hours away from the start of our first game of the season and we still haven’t figured out what’s up with both of them. Even now is not too late, sell them and buy the replacements, that is, if we do want to replace them.

I am convinced for sure that we will lose both of them before the window closes, what I am dreading is that we don’t bring in the proper substitutes.

I know most will say that we have Wilshere and Ramsey and I don’t disagree. These two are going to be great players and one day they will be world class. Nonetheless, they still have a lot to prove and for this season they certainly are not the answer to the void that will be left by Fabregas’ departure.

Personally, I don’t blame Fabregas for leaving and don’t have anything against him. I would have liked him to stay. He has given us close to eight years of delightful football. His skill, vision and ability to change games won’t be forgotten and I will always remember him as one of our great players. And I believe we will never truly replace him with any kind of player.

I, however, don’t have many sympathies for Nasri. I know he is a good player and likely go on to be a big player. Still after having one good season where he was close to consistent doesn’t justify his attitude. If he were loyal to this club, he would have signed the contract back in May. He isn’t and he never will be. The best thing is to sell him and get done with it. He isn’t worth more time than what he has already wasted for us.

As far as defense is concerned, I was always on the edge of my seat whenever the opposition was attacking in the preseason games. No matter what people say, we just have forgotten how to defend or just don’t want to.  I know that when we want to defend, we can, the game against Barcelona last season is proof enough. Why don’t we do it consistently is a question only Wenger can answer.

Why haven’t we improved our defense or why haven’t we bought any defender is also beyond me. Squillaci clearly doesn’t know defending, Djourou and Koscielny are known to make the stupidest mistakes, Vermaelen is returning after a year and I hope he starts from where he ended, when he was injured. On the left, the situation is even worse. I know this has turned into a cliché but Gibbs is not ready. I have said before, he is not a defender at all. He can be a good winger and that is all. And his injury record is also not great. Traore is stable but he is not better than Clichy right now and we all know Clichy had his flaws. So why haven’t we got a replacement for Clichy yet? For me this is  relying too much on hope!

The irony is that, at the moment, I myself am desperately hoping for Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou to have a great season without injuries. I am also hoping for Traore and Gibbs to pull off performances worth player of the season awards. And, I know I am getting too far, but I am hoping Wenger will buy a defender and a left back.  

I am also off the opinion that the way we defend can only be improved if we change the way we practice. Right now, I am not convinced that what we are doing in training is helping. Is something wrong with our back room staff or is it just that we don’t give too much attention to it? Whatever it is, we need to solve the problem. And considering, we haven’t done it in the last two years, I know it will be much of the same this season, the pre-season showed that clearly. Still I am not giving up, there is always hope!

The thing that I am most pissed off on is that Wenger hasn’t kept true to his word. He said at the start of this summer that he will try to keep the best players and improve the team in places where it requires. He hasn’t done that yet. We have the same disastrous defense, we are about to lose Fabregas and Nasri, we have already lost Clichy. (I am grateful that we won’t be going to see Denilson this season though.)

Also If you remember, back in January Wenger said something about not buying a defender as we have too many of them already or something similar. Considering what we have bought this summer, doesn’t it seem ironic that he has brought in two wingers, when we already have a surplus amount of them but not a single defender which we need the most? And I am not complaining here. We do need them because we still don’t have enough depth in any position. We have many youngsters but they cannot be relied upon for the whole season. He also bought a right back but then went onto selling a left back and we are still stuck with Eboue.

He said that he will only buy players who will improve the team. As we don’t see any defender right now, does that mean there are no defenders out there that are better than what we have? Also except Gervinho, we can’t even be sure that chamberlain and Jerkinson will make it to the next level. I hope they will, but what is the guarantee that they will stay with us then. Nasri hasn’t committed yet after it took three years to develop him. Seriously! Sometimes I get really frustrated the way Wenger gives his justifications for not buying

Why the rant? Because I have to get these thoughts out of my mind. I know all is not bad. I don’t like the way we have dealt with the Fabregas and Nasri situation. I don’t like that we haven’t bought a defender and Left back. I don’t like that we are still stuck with Eboue (or not! a move to Galatasaray is on the cards)  and to some extent Diaby. I am willing to give Chamakh a chance. If I had my way, I would have sold him and played Bendtner in the middle, as there have been no buyers for him.

Despite all this, there are some great things to look forward to. I am delighted by Gervinho’s addition. He is the most direct player that we have bought in recent years after Arshavin. I just hope that he stays that way. He is quick on his feet, he can dribble and he has an eye for goal. He has adjusted nicely into the team and his partnership with Van Persie will be something to look forward to. Ryo Miyaichi has shown that he can play and he certainly has pace. He also got the work permit which is one of better news this summer. Frimpong is another one who impressed during pre-season. He certainly is going to be a great asset in the future. Jerkinson was also impressive and one day can be a replacement for Sagna. The partnership of Wilshere and Ramsey is what really excited me. Wilshere is certainly developing fast and his vision is improving. Ramsey too is doing great but he needs to take more responsibility. Both of them still need time though and they will get it this season. Van Persie is still on his goal spree and hopefully he will remain injury free. Szczesny is doing well in goal and no doubt he is going to get better. We have Fabianski and Mannone after him which leaves our goal keeping in good hands.

There are many other positives from the pre-season. However, for us to challenge for the top, we still are short on players in a couple of positions and if Fabregas and Nasri leave, we will need to add more. I just wish that before the window closes we will get the players we require and hopefully go on to have a great season and come out on top.

This season, the start for us is going to be what sets the tone to our season. With Newcastle, Manchester United, Liverpool and Champions league qualifiers in the next 15 days, we won’t have time to take a breather. We have to start on top from the first game and maintain that throughout the season. If we can get through these games with our heads held up high, than I will be convinced that we are there to challenge for the title. If we don’t, then I don’t even want to speculate on what will happen. Hopefully we will have a great season (I know there are too many hopes in this post but this is the only thing that will see us through the season, if things remain the way they are!)

Before I conclude, it was on this day last year that I published my first post. It has been one whole year for me since then and it has been a great experience. Going through all the games was fun, the wins and the loss, the delight and anger, the ups and downs, the happiness and frustration, it was just amazing. A big thanks to all who have visited this blog and still do and have been a part of it.

I have been busy for the last three, four months due to lots of reasons. However, I will try my best to posting regularly.  I love Arsenal and will continue writing about it. Thank you all once again! I have my fingers crossed for another great season, hopefully….


Sagna returns, Diaby not far away and Szczesny will start against Leeds as Fabianski has a setback

January 17, 2011

Arsene Wenger gave the latest update on the squad ahead of the Leeds game while speaking to Arsenal TV online.

With Sagna returning from his three match suspension and no new injuries from the weekend’s game, Wenger said that things look alright. Wenger revealed that the situation hasn’t deteriorated as Ramsey is also available and Diaby is not far away from returning.

Regarding Diaby, Wenger said that he will be the first one to return from injury but Wigan and Ipswich games will be too early for him.

Fabianski is also out with his shoulder injury and with Almunia already out, Szczesny is the only keeper fit to start and Wenger said that he will remain in goal for the coming matches.

Regarding Fabianski, Wenger said that he has a setback and it will take time to recover. He will also be returning after the Ipswich game.

As for Squillaci, Wenger said that he could be available in two weeks.

Arsene Wenger said:

“We look alright. We have of course Ramsey available again and Diaby is not far away. So overall the situation has not deteriorated and we hope to get Diaby back soon.
 
Wigan will be too early [for Diaby], even I believe Ipswich will be too early, but the game after he should be available. He should be the first one who will be back.
 
We still have Fabianski out with a shoulder injury, we still have Almunia out and therefore Wojciech will continue to play.
 
Fabianski had a little setback, it doesn’t improve as quickly as we thought and like Diaby he will not be available for Wigan or Ipswich but after. Squillaci could be available in two weeks.”


Ipswich Town vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

January 11, 2011

After barely surviving in the FA Cup on Saturday, we are up against Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup semifinal tomorrow.

I don’t know much about Ipswich’s team. Only that their dismal performance in the Championship has led to the sacking of their coach Roy Keane and since then they have been thrashed by Chelsea in the FA Cup. But as this is the semifinal of the Carling Cup, they will be a changed team and this can be tricky match. They will no doubt fancy their chances over two legs and try and get something from their home game.

Still, as always, I expect us to win this without much fuss, provided we don’t play like we did against Leeds.

The starting eleven for tomorrow is again going to be a hard decision for Wenger. With three games in seven days coming up, rotation will be a key part of it. And as the semifinal is spread over two legs, I believe a team similar to what we saw against Leeds will be put out.

With Squillaci joining the injured players and Vermaelen yet to return, the choice for centre backs is very limited. Koscielny for me is a sure starter. Djouroru I feel won’t be risked as there is a League match at the weekend. However, we can play Song back there and also give Ignasi Miquel a chance. I will prefer Song. On the flanks Eboue and Gibbs are going to start as Sagna is still suspended and Gibbs needs a run of games.

Szczesny is a sure starter with Wenger already confirming it.

In middle I will go with Denilson and hopefully he will keep it simple and not disappoint. Rosicky should start again and Wilshere to partner him.

Up front it’s time that Wenger picks either Chamakh or Bendtner to start because both of them starting together haven’t helped us or either of them. For tomorrow, I will go with Chamakh. Arshavin hasn’t been performing well and has been highly criticized for his past few performances. Still, I would start with him so that he can get his confidence back. On the right I will start with Walcott or if he is rested then Vela will be the next best option.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Song, Gibbs, Denilson, Rosicky, Wilshere, Walcott, Chamakh, Arshavin

Hopefully we will not have many problems tomorrow and maybe give Ramsey some playing time as he also needs to up his match fitness.

As far as the result is concerned, a win will be ideal. However, a draw or a draw plus away goal(s) won’t be bad.

Hopefully it won’t come to away goals and we will win both the fixtures and eventually the Carling Cup. Keep your fingers crossed!!


No loan for Ramsey and Fabregas on today’s game

November 10, 2010

A week back there were reports that Ramsey is to go out on loan to get some playing time before he can play for us. It has been revealed today by Wenger that Ramsey is not going out on loan as it is important that he plays with us. Ramsey is making good progress and it is expected that at the end of this month he will be playing in the reserves. Wenger added that there is no talk of a loan move for Ramsey at the moment. Read the rest of this entry »