Arsene Wenger’s injury update and Van Persie’s inclusion in the squad

March 8, 2011

Van Persie and Fabregas were part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Barcelona on Monday morning with Alex Song left behind.

Arsene Wenger, while speaking on Monday morning confirmed that Fabregas will travel with the squad with him being 90 percent fit as the manger added that his presence for the squad is vital with him being the captain and also the focal point of the attack.

While, Alex Song failed his test on Sunday and is ruled out, the manager confirmed that all the other players that were in the squad on Saturday are fit along with Wilshere, who also made a recovery from his injuries from Sunderland game.

Meanwhile, the surprise was of Robin Van Persie travelling with the squad, whose injury had him ruled out for at least three weeks.

Regarding Van Persie’s inclusion at the UEFA press-conference, the manager explained how he wasn’t fit enough to travel but added that he made a quick recovery in the last three days and that his test on Monday morning was very positive after which it was decided that he will be travelling with the squad.

However, Wenger made it clear that his inclusion will be decided on Tuesday morning and no gambles will be taken as he added that he will play only if he is hundred percent fit.

Arsene Wenger on Monday morning said:

“Fabregas will have a final test today. It is 90 per cent he will travel and be fit. It is vital for us because he is important in the transition between attacking and defending. He is also the leader of the team so we want him there. Alex Song is completely out. He had a test on Sunday morning and it was negative. Wilshere will be fit. Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available.”

Arsene Wenger, regarding Van Persie on Monday Evening, said:

“He is here as a player. He will have a possible test tomorrow. We are 19 here in the squad. Whether Van Persie will be included has not been decided yet. He has made quick progress in the last three days. When I spoke [with him] this [Monday] morning he was really unlikely to travel. [But] he wanted to have a go. We made a test and it was quite positive. We will see how he responds to that and I will make a decision tomorrow [Tuesday] morning. We will not take a gamble in a game of that importance. So he will have to be fit or not fit.

I am very bad at mind games. Whole truth is what I have given you here. We’ll see tomorrow morning. The medical team will assess him and I would like him to play. But I will only play him if he is 100 per cent fit. OK, I will consider 99.5.”

The 19-man squad that travelled is as follows which will be reduced to 18 after final decision on Van Persie’s inclusion on Tuesday:

Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Robin van Persie


Player Ratings: Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona

February 17, 2011

The joy of wining last night was out of this world; it was an amazing feeling as we did what most have failed to do, beating Barcelona at their game.

The belief, determination, spirit, effort and brilliant team work were the key to this result. We never looked awed by their good play and possession in the first half and continued with our game plan in the second half which eventually worked in our favor.

While Barcelona were mesmerizing as usual, we weren’t behind. We defended, we pressed, we passed, we created and we finally scored. The defence was amazing as they bravely played a high line and played the offside trap really well. Once we were caught up which led to a goal but you can expect that with Barcelona playing so well. Overall it was a phenomenal performance.

Coming to the player ratings:

Szczesny (8.5): Confident and brilliant as he made a couple of excellent saves that kept us in the game. His decision making along with distribution was excellent. Cannot be faulted for the goal.

Eboue (7): Defensively did well throughout the match. Upfront wasn’t that good in the first half as he was losing the ball very cheaply and falling over time and again. Improved his game in the second half and made some good runs.

Koscielny (9.5): He was just magnificent. He was strong, quick and intelligent in his play. Made his usual important interceptions and tackles and I don’t remember he did anything wrong. Didn’t give space to any of the Barcelona players. Was early to every ball and covered up well for Clichy and Djourou. Simply phenomenal!!

Djourou (7.5): He too was excellent but made some errors by misplacing some of his passes but thankfully we weren’t punished for it. Otherwise he was solid and partnered well with Koscielny. Covered up well for Eboue.

Clichy: He was decent at the back but the Barcelona players exploited his flank throughout match. Was caught on the wrong side of the offside-line as Villa scored the opener. Made some important interceptions in the second half as he did well to cope with the situation. His pass to Van Persie that led to the equalizer was perfect.

Wilshere (9.5): Wilshere has certainly grown in the last couple of weeks. Last Night he was magnificently outstanding (if it makes sense). The way he dueled in the middle of the park with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets was amazing. He didn’t look intimidated by any of them as he played his game, looked confident, showed good work rate and linked up the play brilliantly. He also did well in breaking the play of Barcelona.

Fabregas (7.5): He wasn’t at his best yesterday yet he produced some amazing balls. His through ball that led to the second goal and his pass to Van Persie in the opening minutes was a delight to watch.  Combined really well with Wilshere, Nasri and Van Persie.

Song (7): He got booked early on in the game but still didn’t stay back and played his game. His work rate was good as he broke up Barcelona’s  play many times and distributed the ball around nicely.

Walcott (7.5): A continuous threat on the right as Barcelona players would always surround him whenever he would get the ball.

Van Persie (8.5): That goal he scored was one of its kinds. Forget that he missed a couple of good chances as he got the goal at the right time which matters the most. His movement was excellent and did his defensive duties well.

Nasri (8): His start was slow as he was returning from injury. Yet he was a threat and in the second half he was excellent. The way he coolly created the goal for Arshavin was impressive. His passing and movement was excellent and did his part in defense by helping Clichy on the right flank.

Subs:

Arshavin (8): He is getting back to his best as he made that goal look so simple. Looked confident and helped in defending when required. He made a mistake near the end but again thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Bendtner (7): Did his job and looked good. He just needs to be quick in making his decisions.

To conclude, the whole team deserves a standing ovation for their efforts. And let’s continue with what we did last night in all the other competitions we are in. The second leg can wait for now….just enjoy this moment!!


Arsene wenger: Nasri and Rosicky are back in the squad

February 16, 2011

Tonight we face Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16’s first leg at the Emirates.  Last time we were beaten convincingly by them over two legs but not before giving them a scare by coming back from two nil down to lead three goals to two.  

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, gave the latest injury news ahead of todays match in his pre-match press conference.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online, Wenger confirmed the good news that Nasri is fit and back in the squad for tonight. Wenger went onto add that how it is good to have him back after recovering quicker than expected, but won’t take unnecessary risks with Nasri when deciding the team on Wednesday.

Wenger also revealed that Diaby is still out with a calf problem which he got while on duty with the French team. Rosicky, on the other hand, has recovered and is included in the squad.

The rest of the squad is going to remain the same as it was at the weekend. However, Sagna will not be included as he is suspended.

Wenger said:

“Samir is in the squad. But the starting line-up will be decided tomorrow. He’s recovered quicker than expected. I said it will be 21 days but it will be only 17 days.

Everybody’s absolutely adamant that he’s completely medically available. It’s down to me to make the decision. I will take no medical risk but it’s good to have him in the squad.

Rosicky is available. He’s in the squad. But there’s no Diaby. He has a calf problem. He did it with the French national squad against Brazil.”


Arsenal vs Barcelona: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 16, 2011

Well, this is it! The match that we all have been waiting anxiously for the past two months is finally upon us. Barcelona, labeled by many as the best football team, gives us a visit at the Emirates tonight.

Now many have already sidelined us and yes we are the underdogs but believe me, we show our best when we are underdogs (remember Real Madrid and AC Milan). No doubt Barcelona is playing the best football but so are we. We have our weaknesses but so do them and if we play to our strengths Barcelona will never know what hit them. And the way we have been playing, I have no doubt that we will give them a lesson in football and we have more than enough quality to do that.

Coming to the starting eleven, Wenger for sure is going to put out the best team available.

Szczesny for sure is going to start and the backline will remain the same as at the weekend with only Eboue coming in for Sagna who is suspended.

In the middle we will see Cesc, Song and Wilshere and upfront Arshavin, Van Persie and Walcott will take their places.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

Nasri is fit and in the squad for tonight but what Wenger said yesterday, it is more than evident he won’t risk him. Last time we had risked Fabregas and Galas and it backfired very badly as we missed them for rest of that season. And also even without Nasri, we have enough players to give Barcelona a hard time.

I won’t go into the tactics. We know Barcelona is very good in possession and they also press very well as a team. They play football how it should be played but so do we. We know we have to give them no time on the ball, we know we have to give them no space, we know we have to keep possession, we know we have to press as a team, we know we have to defend as a team and we know we have to score goals. And we all know that if we play the way we have played the last few weeks, Chelsea, Birmingham, Wolves, to name a few , we will kill Barcelona, and that is what I expect today. It isn’t an easy task but achievable.

However, I am not that concerned with the result of this tie as I consider Champions League to be a bonus. This is a no pressure game as there is nothing to lose but everything to be gained.  We can beat them yes but if we don’t succeed there will be no regrets. We are in more than a good position to get a domestic treble and for me that is more of an achievement. Whatever the result, I will be behind this team and for me Arsenal is the best team in world.

To conclude, Le Grove has initiated a new song and with the help of many other Arsenal blogs and social websites asked the fans to sing it at the Emirates tonight to show Fabregas what he means to us and send a message to Barcelona that they can p*** off.  The song is:

“Hands off Cesc Fabregas” (to the regular tune of “We’ve got Cesc Fabregas”)

This is how we as fans can make an impact and it is my request to everyone going to the Emirates tonight, to sing this at the loudest.

Have a great day and enjoy the match from where ever you are watching. Tonight Barcelona will be the spectators!!


Champions League Draw: Arsenal to face Barcelona in the round of 16

December 17, 2010

Champions League: Round of 16 Draw

The draws for the round of 16 in the Champions League were conducted today. The 16 teams were placed in two pots.

Pot A: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk, Tottenham

Pot B: AC Milan, Arsenal, FC Copenhagen, Inter Milan, Lyon, Marseille, Roma, Valencia

The results of the draw are as follows:

  • Arsenal vs Barcelona
  • Olympique Marseille vs Manchester United
  • FC Copenhagen vs Chelsea
  • AC Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur
  • AS Roma vs FC Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Valencia vs FC Schalke 04
  • Internazionale Milano vs Bayern Munich
  • Olympique Lyonnais vs Real Madrid

So it’s Barcelona again for us. The first leg will be at our home and the second leg away.

Last time we were knocked out by them in the quarter finals. This season they are also in top form but as Wenger has said that things change pretty quickly in football. Two months is a lot of time and let’s hope we have our best team available and we can overcome them. But first we have to focus on the Premier League.

Update: The dates for the two-legged match are as follows:

First leg
Arsenal v Barcelona
Wednesday 16th February 2011
Kick Off: 19.45 (UK Time)
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
 
Second leg
Barcelona v Arsenal
Tuesday 8th March 2011
Kick Off: 19:45 (UK Time)
Venue: Nou Camp

Thoughts!


Wenger on the Round of 16 draw in the Champions League

December 16, 2010

The Champions League knockout stage (Round of 16) draw is set to be held tomorrow. The draw will start at around twelve hundred hours (CET) in Nyon, Switzerland. Sixteen teams from eight groups have qualified for the knockout stages. The winners and runners up will be in separate pots from each of the eight groups.

The draw will put each winner of a group against a runner up with the condition that both the teams are not from the same association and from the same group from last round. The runners up will play the first leg of the round of 16 tie at home on 15/16 and 22/23 February and the winners will play the second leg at home on 8/9 and 15/16 March.

For us the possibilities are Barcelona, Real Madrid, last year’s runner up, Bayern Munich and Schalke. Barcelona and Real Madrid are currently in top form and will provide the biggest challenge for us if we are drawn against them. With Bayern Munich currently not doing well in the Bundesliga and Schakle also struggling, both of them may provide lighter oppositions.

But as far as Wenger is concerned, he isn’t thinking much into it as a lot can change in football in two months. When asked about the draw, Wenger said that he is going to take the result of the draw as they are as he doesn’t want to put undue pressure on his team by making preferences.

There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The German teams are going to enjoy the winter break and return fresher in spring.  And as Robben is going to get better for  Bayern, they can be a changed team. The Spanish gianst on the other hand are dominating but things can change quickly. It will be all down to the draw for who we face as we will find out tomorrow.

“There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The Germans have a good break in the winter and are fresh in spring.

“The Spanish teams are a bit more favourites at the moment but that can change in two months.

“The difficulty might be more or less but it is part of the draw. We will have to consider what we get and we will see that tomorrow.

“We take the draw as it is and I do not want to put my team in a position where they feel they have had bad luck or would have preferred somebody else.”