Wenger’s injury update on Vermaelen, Walcott, Gervinho, Benayoun and Koscielny ahead of Tottenham

October 1, 2011

Arsene Wenger gave mixed injury news ahead of the North London derby on Sunday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager revealed Laurent Koscielny will definitely miss the Sunday game after failing to absorb any of the tests on Friday. While on Theo Walcott and Gervinho, the manager said a decision will be made either today or on Sunday with Walcott having more of a chance to be available. Arsene Wenger also confirmed Squillaci and Benayoun are completely fit and back with the squad with Squillaci short on match fitness only. 

On an update on Thomas Vermaelen, the manager revealed a delay in his recovery from the surgery. Vermaelen now will join the squad one or two weeks after the international break.

Meanwhile, with Arsenal short on defenders at the moment, Arsene Wenger said he is tempted to start with Alex Song in defence but hasn’t decided it yet with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also having a possibility to be in the team.

Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

[Laurent] Koscielny looks to be definitely out for Sunday, it looks short for him. He couldn’t absorb any test today [Friday]. For [Theo] Walcott and Gervinho a decision will be made on Saturday or Sunday. The most likely to be fit of the two looks to be Walcott. [Yossi] Benayoun and [Sebastien] Squillaci are completely fit. Squillaci lacks match fitness, Benayoun does not.

It will be a fraction longer than expected [before Thomas Vermaelen returns]. He will not be straight back [in the squad] after the international break. It will be one or two weeks later.

[Alex Song in defence?] Squillaci will not be fit enough to start the game. If I am tempted I can answer honestly ‘yes’. Will I do it? Honestly I don’t know yet.

[Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] He is a possibility to be in the squad, I haven’t picked the team yet.


Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 21, 2011

So, more of the same from Arsenal with a different result this weekend.

With a makeshift midfield and defense, we started this game very positively but then went into a nut shell. If was Liverpool who created the better ‘half chances’ as we drifted from one end to another, hardly having a shot on goal. Nasri did have a go at goal near the half hour mark, so did Frimpong. Otherwise both the teams lacked creativity. The second half was where things started happening. Kelly rattled the cross bar, Van Persie had a shot saved, Frimpong was then sent off, Suarez came on and tested Szczesny followed by Downing and then the unfortunate own goal, involving Miquel and Ramsey. From there it was always us chasing the game and Liverpool ended it with another goal, the final nail in our already full coffin.

There is nothing much to talk from the game so I will come straight to what I feel.

First off, this is type a result one is going to end up with by putting youngsters on the field, who hardly have any Premier League experience against a squad that surely means business. The youngster’s fighting spirits will give you hard earned draws and at times an odd win but you will never be sure.

What we saw today is prove enough that our young players have all the talent in the word but they need experienced players to guide them. They cannot on their own make us challenge for the title, they need support.  

And this is where I fear Wenger is wrong. To put so many burdens on players who have hardly played a full game in the League is asking too much and at one point it surely is going to spill over. Look what happened in the case of Fabregas.

And on top of that to come out and say that we need to keep patience is not going to go down well.

Result and obvious lack of investment aside, the players out there deserve plaudits for giving their all from the first ball to the last. The defense was solid and to have kept the scores level till the last quarter of the game against a fully fit Liverpool squad is proof that we are improving, at least in one area of the field.

As for the result, weren’t we expected to lose this one? Yet, we lost only after going a man down and that too by gifting a freak own goal and through some bad refereeing by the lines man. I know these will sound like excuses but it is the reality. Liverpool were ordinary. We had eight first team players missing against a squad that has spent a fortune on players since January, yet, they couldn’t do us any damage with 11 on 11. (There is sure hope!) And looking back, I have a regret that we could have even won this game had our first team played.

Yet, this is no reason for where we are or why we don’t have to buy. We had a whole summer to solve our problems and buy the players required. What we have been doing can only be answered by Arsene and company. To play Miquel and not Squillaci, to bring on Bendtner and not Chamakh shows indecisiveness on our manager’s part. With the season two games old, we haven’t decided who will we keep and who we won’t. I don’t mind though, because late is better than never and this show that Arsene has lost his confidence with Squillaci and Chamakh (or am I seeing too much into it?)

I don’t even want to go over the players that are out injured or suspended. The Udinese and Manchester game just got a lot tougher for us. Qualification for the Champions League must be, however, the priority. If we fail to qualify, I am afraid, we will have to find another coffin. More on the Udinese game when the time comes.

The bottom line is we still need to strengthen despite having many players out injured or suspended because we won’t survive the season playing like this.

Before I conclude, apologies are also in line for Nasri who showed he truly is a professional and his commitment is spot on. He was on fire and looked like he cared for the team.

Coming to player ratings

Szczesny: (8) He again was commanding and covered his area well. Made some great saves, one each from Carroll, Downing and Suarez. Not at fault for both the goals.

Sagna: (7) Shifted from right to left and didn’t put a foot wrong. Offensively didn’t contribute as he was not on his preferred side.

Vermaelen: (8.5) Well he surely is a beast. Got his head onto every ball and never gave Carroll or any Liverpool forward space. Led by example and later on tried to revive the team by some forward runs. Caught out of position on the second goal but we were already losing then.

Koscielny: (no rating) Unlucky, looked decent before he went off injured.

Jenkinson: (7) He looked solid on his preferred flank and he sure is the right cover for Sagna. His crossing was better but as always we had no one attacking them.

Frimpong: (7) He really impressed me bar his second tackle that earned him the second yellow. Not afraid to put a foot in and was extremely quick on his feet. Had Liverpool in check till the time he was on. Even had a go at goal from range. As for his temperament and discipline, he needs to keep that in check. Will learn with time surely but I liked what I saw from him today.

Ramsey: (4.5) He really disappointed me today. He was slow and didn’t have things going his way. Lost the ball on countless occasions and didn’t give the support I expected from him.

Nasri: (6.5) As mentioned above, he deserves some slack after his performance today. Sure he did fade away at the end but we were already stretched to the limits. Made a great run in the first half that ended in shot going just wide. Moved the ball around and even dropped down deep to get it.

Arshavin: (4.5) One word, unacceptable! He did try to change things around but nothing was going his way. Ironically, he created the only chance for us. Should have been substituted early in the second half.

Van Persie: (5.5) Was isolated and never got any support. Only got one chance and he hit it straight at Reina in the second half just before things started going from bad to worse for us.

Walcott: (4) He too was anonymous and below par. He was always surrounded whenever he got the ball though. Lost the ball on countless occasions and made runs that ended in nothing.

Subs:

Miquel: (7) He justified his picking ahead of Squillaci. Comfortable and calm on the ball and read the game well. His positioning was also good. Being involved in the own goal was unfortunate.

Lansbury and Bendtner: (no rating) Didn’t have much time to make impact and by that time we had faded. Lansbury had the time to get booked though but liked his attitude.


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

May 16, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[Video] Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal Highlights: An Important win for Arsenal!!

April 11, 2011

Arsenal overcame a determined Blackpool to record an important win after Diaby, Eboue and Van Persie scored vital goals. Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored the only goal for Blackpool.

Arsenal scored the first goal in the 17th minute after Diaby ended a brilliant move started by himself. Diaby won the ball in the middle of the park and passed it onto Fabregas, who found van Persie on the left with an inch-perfect pass. Van Persie controlled the ball and crossed it to Diaby, who had continued his run, and guided it into to the back of the net.

The second goal was scored three minutes later after some good work by Eboue and Wilshere. Eboue got the ball on the right and made a run into the danger area. He did a one-two with Wilshere before smashing the ball past the Blackpool keeper.

Blackpool came back into the game early on in the second half when Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored a goal after the referee played an advantage.

However, Arsenal scored the third goal 14 minutes from time to put the match beyond Blackpool. Van Persie scored the goal after some good work by Squillaci and Diaby at the back and Walcott’s excellent run.

You can watch the full match highlight by clicking on the link below.

http://jogabonito.co/video/arsenal-vs-blackpool-31


Blackpool vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 10, 2011

This past week has been too long for my liking and I have no doubt it will have been the same for many Gooners. I have missed most of what has happened in the football world in the last week due to my work. Nonetheless,  the team and the manager have come under lots of criticism from all quarters, which was bound to happen after so many bad results, and which has left me wondering what the players would have been going through with nothing but one game a week to look forward to. Arsene Wenger made it clear in his pre-match press conference on Friday the way he sees this season and I am sure that it will have further infuriated a lot of fans.

There a few other things worth discussion from the conference and the post conference talk (the transcript is here) which I will in one of my next posts. For now I will come to the game, which is a must must win if we want to keep some little hope of taking the league title. Blackpool is the only team that has impressed me the most with what they have done this season. They have had some very good results and some very close losses but most of all they have played good football. Their position in the league doesn’t justify how they have done and I will certainly not want them to be relegated.  

However, as this is a must win game for us, we will have to play our best football and make sure they don’t play their game because they can surprise any team. Every game is straight forward from now onwards, perform and win or else start preparing for next season. We don’t want another flat performance like the Blackburn game because if we play the same way, Blackpool will surely damage us more than we can sustain right now.

Their defense is vulnerable but we will need to be clinical in front of goal, which we have failed to do recently, if we want to win this one. Most of all, the team will have to show the desire that they really want to win it 

As for the starting team, Almunia is in goal and the players at the back are likely to remain the same as against Blackburn. As for Sagna’s knee problem, if he doesn’t pass the test, Eboue will come in for him.

In the middle of the park, with no Alex Song, Diaby will come in alongside Wilshere. Fabregas has also been declared fit and is more than likely to start.

Upfront, I will start with Nasri, van Persie and Arshavin. Walcott wasn’t hundred percent and is facing a late fitness test. If he makes it, I will start with him on the bench and bring him on in the second half.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Diaby, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin

Despite all the negativity, I expect a resounding win today and hopefully it will prove to be the catalyst for us. There is still a minor chance that we will win the league, but I have that in the back of my mind. All I want from the team right now is to win all of the remaining games and give their best shot. We are more than capable of doing it but the question remains will we?

I will be utterly disappointed if we don’t try and take the chance, which somehow we have failed to do in the past couple of months. Hopefully, today it will be different and maybe Manu will give us a favor when this season comes to an end. If not, I will know that we did try even if a bit too late.

As always I have my fingers crossed and I am gunning for a win. Have a good day!!


Arsenal vs Blackburn: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 2, 2011

The last two weeks have been really boring to say the least and I am really looking forward to the games this weekend. The international break might have been too long for my liking but it did came at the right time for our team and I really hope that it will have given them a much needed breather from the League and time to move on from the disastrous three weeks of football we witnessed before the break.

From now onwards it is as straight forward as it can get. Perform and win each game and therefore lift the trophy come May or else prepare for the worst. And there can be no more excuses regardless of the fact that we have no keeper and no centre backs to rely upon. We have everything in our control and it is up to us to seize the initiative which we have failed to do throughout the season. We have been given countless opportunities and we have failed on all occasions. Thankfully we are still in it and things are still in our hands.  Hopefully we won’t make the same errors because a mistake now will be too costly and unrecoverable from.

We play the first of our last nine games today and it is at home against Blackburn. Before the United game at home we have 5 games to play of which two are at home and three away, including games against Liverpool and Tottenham. If we can go on a winning streak till the Manu game, the momentum will be with us and hopefully we will go on unbeaten (wins) till the end of the season. I don’t want to think about what will happen if we lose or draw even one of these games.

Today’s game won’t be easy at all because Blackburn are only a point from the relegation zone and they will do everything in their power to get points. It will be up to us to step up our game and play the full ninety minutes with passion and intelligence to get the win.  Goals will matter and if we keep the ball and produce some good scoring opportunities, they will come. The defense and midfield will have to do their part and keep Blackburn at bay. As long as we keep it simple, the three points will be ours.

As far as today’s starting lineup is concerned, the whole team picks it up itself as we have many regulars returning from injury. Fabregas, Song and Walcott are back in the squad and it would be foolish to not start with them if they are hundred percent. The thing of concern is the defense and goal keeper. I am desperately hoping that there are no howlers today because as long as we don’t concede we will not lose the match and I believe that upfront we will find the goals with the likes of van Persie, Nasri and Walcott.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Almunia is in goal. At the back, Squillaci and Koscielny will start and they will be flanked by Clichy and Sagna for there are no better options than them.

In the middle of the park, with Song and Fabregas returning, they will surely start alongside Wilshere, who has been superb during the internationals.

Upfront too the players pick themselves up. Van Persie has been declared fit to start. Nasri will be there on the left and with Walcott also back, he will be on the right.

Probable Starting lineup: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Before I end this, I want to add that Manu are playing before us and by the time we start the game, their result will be known to us. As I said before with things being  in our hands, any result for Manu shouldn’t be of any concern to us because we know our job is crystal clear, which is to win every game from now onwards till the end. Manu dropping points will be an added advantage, no doubt, but we cannot rely on their results for long. So hopefully when the game starts today, the team will be focused on their task.  

And as fans, all we can do is get behind the team and give them the lift needed to perform. 

That is all for now. Have a good day and enjoy the match. Today we will find out if we are ready to take the initiative. Fingers crossed!!


Player Ratings: West Brom 2 – 2 Arsenal

March 20, 2011

Well, the game did play out to some of my expectations. I expected that the match wouldn’t be a walk in the park but I never expected a draw or drop of points.  I expected a bad performance from Denison but not a freak goal and mistake from Almunia and Squillaci. I expected any one of Arshavin, Van Persie and Nasri to produce a big moment but I never expected four goals to be scored. As it stands, we are now five points behind Manchester united with a game in hand.

As far as the performance is concerned, it was below par for like an hour and only when Arshavin scored the first goal out of nowhere, we became alive. The more alarming thing is that it took two goals for our players to wake. But that can be taken as an improvement because when we played them last time at the Emirates, it took three goals for us to realize that we were losing, and eventually we did lose that game.

The defense today was in shambles as everyone made mistakes after mistakes. No communication, no coordination, no positioning, everything was erratic to say the least. In the middle also we failed to create much. Our movement and passing wasn’t sharp enough. Upfront, we had very limited chances to score from.

And as for learning from our mistakes, that we will never do. We again had plenty of possession but we created very little opportunities. We again conceded by giving away an unnecessary corner, by a mistake of the keeper and defender and by not closing down the opposition or attacking the aerial balls.

West Brom on the other hand scored two goals with their two shots on goal and looked threatening every time they were in our half.

However, I am disgusted the most with Denilson’s performance and Almunia and Squillaci’s mix up which sums up our failings of the season very nicely. Denilson for me shall never start for Arsenal again. He has been given chance after chance and everytime he disappoints. It’s becoming unbearable to watch him trot at a snail’s pace and then give away the ball when under no pressure. Simply not acceptable if we want to win something.

Same goes for Almunia. He may produce a couple of good games but mistakes such as the one committed today are a telling us quite clearly that he never will be a good keeper and will always cost points. Squillaci too needs to step up exponentially or he will be joining them soon enough. He is just a step behind.

The only positive if it can be taken as a  positive is the way we came back. We could have even won it in the end. However, if we had started playing from the first minute it would never have come to that and I see this as two points dropped and not one point gained.

Coming to player ratings:

Almunia (1): I don’t know what he was thinking when he came out of goal like that. Horrible piece of keeping that spoilt the game. It is mistakes like these that he will never be a good keeper as I said before.

Sagna (5): He made a lot of uncharacteristic errors as his positioning was not good and left his side exposed a lot. The corner which led to West brom’s first goal should never have been conceded had Sagna not lost his man.

Koscielny (5): He also made plenty of uncharacteristic mistakes. Needs to improve his partnership with Squillaci or else we will be seeing more performances like these.

Squillaci (3): Horrible mistake for the second goal. Did produce a great block late in the game to deny West Brom a win. Needs lots of improvement.

Clichy (5.5): Upfront delivered in a few good crosses, one of which should have been a goal, had Ramsey done better. However, he did give away the ball on more than a few occasions which led to nervous moments at the back.

Wilshere (6): Nothing much from the youngster as he did well in the second half alongside Nasri in the middle of the park.

Denilson (2): My temper with him has crossed the boiling point.  He was in the lineup today as we have no other defensive midfielder. Showed again that he doesn’t want to play.

Nasri (6): Again nothing much from Nasri but similarly to Wilshere did well in the midfield in the second half.

Arshavin (7): Anonymous for like 75 percent of the game. However, produced a magical moment for the first goal and then crossed the ball which led to the second goal.

Van Persie (6.5): Tried his best even without support. Scored the vital second goal.

Ramsey (5.5): He isn’t ready to start games. Lost his man for the first goal and missed a simple tap in the first half. Not going to judge him much as he hasn’t played football at this level for a year.

Subs:

Chamakh (6) and Bendtner (6) provide good support to van Persie and increased our presence in the box. Bendtner provided the assist for the second goal.