Arsenal vs Udinese: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 16, 2011

With everything happening to Arsenal in the last four days, the only thing left was a Champions League play off! We are going to face Udinese, tonight, in the first leg of the qualifier with a much depleted squad.

Udinese are a decent side and they will offer us more than what Newcastle did on the weekend. These fixtures before haven’t caused us much trouble before. Therefore, failing to overcome Udinese over two legs is not only going to be disastrous, we will also have a hard time in attracting players to the club this season.

Just like us, Udinese have also lost their best players. However, they still have a team that will give us a hard time. With Di Natale, they have a striker that can cause us all sorts of trouble if we are not on top of our game. They will test us on a more continuous basis than what Newcastle did and they will surely look for an away goal. Being Italians, they will also have a sound defence and give us very little space. This also will prove advantageous for us if we utilize our pace effectively. Therefore, quick and accurate passing will do the trick and open them up.

Still, I am expeceting a tight game so our first priority must be to not concede a goal and then find the winner.

With Van Persie and Nasri suspended and Wilshere out injured, we are without three key figures. Rosicky, it is now confirmed, didn’t pass his late fitness test and suddenly we have very limited options to start with.

We were short of ideas going forward against Newcastle, now with no Van Persie and Rosicky; I am hoping that the others will rise to the occasion and make their mark.

I am caught between Chamakh and Bendtner to take the striker role. Chamakh didn’t have a very good pre-season while Bendtner was busy trying to move out. Still, with the future of Bendtner not clear, I will start with Chamakh and hope he shows he is a striker. Bendtner can come on later, if required.

To partner him, I will go with Arshavin and Gervinho.

In the middle I will start with Song and Frimpong behind Ramsey. Song has the ability to produce great passes, so I will want him to play a bit up field. Frimpong should stay behind tonight and shield the back four. Ramsey will have to take more responsibility and make sure he doesn’t give the ball away in dangerous positions.

The backline will pick itself up. Sagna and Gibbs on the flanks, Vermaelen and Koscielny to partner as centre backs. Szczesny will of course be in goal.

We can then bring on Walcott and Chamberlain for their pace. I am also hoping that Arshavin will take over as the creative outlet for us today. He can carve open defenses easily and tonight his skill will be more than needed.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Ramsey, Frimpong, Gervinho, Chamakh, Arshavin.

Udinese’s Manager, Francesco Guidolin, admitted that this is the most important game in their history. So,we won’t have it easy any minute of the game, over the two legs.  If we want to qualify for the group stages, every player will have to perform. His words were:

“Udinese also has a tradition of playing in Europe before, but for the charm of the match and for the opponent then this is probably the most important game in Udinese’s history. I would probably compare it to the match against Ajax in the UEFA Cup some years ago but because it is the Champions League this is probably more important.”

As Wenger said:

“We want to be in the Champions League, we want to qualify, that’s what we want to achieve.”

And that is what we would all like. Despite being short in number, I am confident the team will give a great response. It is our first home game of the season, by the way, so a win will be a an ideal result.

Have a good day and enjoy game. Hopefully in a fortnight, we will be in the group stages of the Champions League.

 

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Arsene Wenger on Jack Wilshere: ‘He can fight and play’

February 20, 2011

In the past few days Wilshere has been praised highly for his performances and rightly so. He was praised for his performance in the national colours against Denmark then for his display against Wolves, playing for his club. However, the most applaud that he got is for his superb performance against Barcelona, where he shown amongst players like Fabregas, Xavi and Iniesta on the pitch.

Manager, Arsene Wenger, has also come out and commended his ability as he compared him with players like Patrick Vieira and Manchester United’s Paul Scholes.

Speaking to the Arsenal TV Online, the manager said how Wilshere is an exceptional quality of player in having the ability to play strongly in both the offensive and defensive departments as most players are only strong in one part of the field.

For England, Wilshere played in the holding role recently, while for Arsenal you may see him play in a freer role.

Further elaborating his ability, the manager said how he has a committed side to his football in addition to his technical ability and aggression won’t be the right word in describing it as Wenger added that he likes the part of his character where he will fight for the cause without hiding.

Arsenal are up against Leyton Orient today  and Wilshere might be rested for it.

On Wilshere, Wenger said:

“He has the side of players like Scholes. He can fight and play. Jack has what you want from a midfielder, both parts of it. He is good in the defensive box and good in the offensive box. We are used to players being only strong on one side more than the other. He can have both.
 
More than aggression, I would say commitment. Aggression is something negative. He has a committed attitude and he needs to keep that. He doesn’t look like the sort of man who will back down in a fight, a bit like Patrick Vieira. That is what I like about him. You can go into a fight with him. Sometimes he can be a bit too much but I like the side of his character that is committed. You know he will not hide.”


Leyton Orient vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 20, 2011

After the remarkable win against Barcelona, it’s time now to move on to another contest that awaits us. I know most of us, inclding the players, will still have their thoughts on the Barcelona win, but if we are to continue with our impressive form, we need to put aside our win against Barcelona for the moment and deliver today against Leyton Orient in the best possible manner.

Arsene Wenger, in his pre-match conference, said that we need to show commitment levels against Leyton similar to those shown against Barcelona if we are to go the distance in the FA Cup and all other competitions we are in. In the coming 8 days, starting from today, we will be playing three games in three different competitions which is a chance to show everyone that we are ready and focussed. And a win in all three games is really going to ensure it.  

The bottom line is that we need to start with the right spirit and determination today and not take the opposition lightly.

For the starting eleven, Wenger has already said that he will rotate for this game, so hopefully those who start will get us a result.

In goal, I will keep Szczesny even though there is a strong possibility that Almunia will start this game. As for the centre backs, Squillaci for sure will start today and to partner him I will go with Djourou, if he is completely fit. Koscielny deserves a rest because I don’t remember the last time he wasn’t in the starting lineup. On the flanks, Clichy to be replaced by Gibbs and Eboue to keep his place.

In the middle of the park, Wilshere and Fabregas both need a day off. Rosicky and Denilson should come in for them. Song to keep his place for some added steel in the middle.

Upfront, Chamakh needs a start and he needs to deliver today after some not-so-good couple of months. Bendtner to start on the right and I will keep Nasri on the left, so that he can get some match fitness.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Denilson, Bendtner, Chamakh, Nasri.

If you would remember the game against Wigan after the Chelsea win, we had started with a team similar to above and dropped points by drawing that game. I hope nothing like that happens today because, one, we need  to avoid a replay, and two, we need to show the world that we are focused for every competition and ready to face any type of opponent.

Leyton Orient will no doubt try to give us a hard time, and considering it’s their home, they will be pumped up with the crowd behind them. However, if we play to our strengths and play like we have done recently, this game will be over by the hour mark and us through to the next round.

So enjoy the game and have a great day. We draw ever closer to the final at Wembley with a couple of hurdles on the way that need to be cleared without any damage to us.

Keep them crossed!!


Johan Djourou on facing Lionel Messi and the return leg against Barcelona

February 18, 2011

Arsenal’s centre back, Johan Djourou, labeled facing Lionel Messi an amazing experience as his team overcame Barcelona on Wednesday in the first leg of the round of 16 tie.

Speaking after the match, Djourou said how it was amazing to have his skills tested against Messi, who is considered the best player in the world and who can always make a difference.

Lionel Messi failed to score on the night despite getting chances as the defender added how it was down to constant pressure by them that made it hard for Messi. Djourou was also delighted with his team in making things difficult for Barcelona who always find solutions on the pitch.

As for the return leg, the defender said that they will take a lot confidence from stopping Messi but admitted that it will be a different game and they will have to remain focused to do the same all over again.

The defender concluded by saying how it will be tough game where they will have to focus on not only Messi but everyone as players like Pedro and Iniesta can also make a difference.

The return leg against Barcelona is going to be played on 8th March at the Nou Camp.

Johan Djourou, after the match, said:

“It was amazing [to play against him]. For a defender to test your skill against the best, to play against the kind of player that can make the difference, it was amazing. Barcelona always try to find solutions on the pitch so it is down to you to make it as hard as possible for them. I think we did that well tonight.

I think we made it hard for Messi. It’s not like he was always clear, one on one with the keeper. He always had somebody next to him, someone tackling him, and it’s always difficult when you have someone under pressure.

We will take confidence [from stopping Messi]. That’s a big boost to go away with. It will be a different game [in the Nou Camp] so we need to show the same focus and have good communication at the back like we did tonight.

But Barcelona have so many talented players who can make a difference so it will be a tough, tough game. It is not just going to be Lionel Messi, they have other players like Iniesta and Pedro who can make the difference. We have to be focused on everyone.”


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!!


Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona: Awesome result!!A great comeback as we were just brilliant

February 16, 2011

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! stuff by Arsenal as we came back from a goal down to beat Barcelona at the Emirates.

Goals by Van Persie, who scored from a very tight angle in the 78th minute and Arshavin, after a brilliant counter attack involving Nasri and Fabregas in the 83rd minute allowed us to finish the game on a high and take a slender lead in to the second leg.

Earlier, David villa had given the lead to Barcelona after he was released by Messi in the 26th minute.

However, despite Barcelona dominating the first half in possession and looking in control, we turned the match upside down in the second half. We were the better side in the second half as we stopped Barcelona from playing. We looked solid at the back, composed in the middle, and creative up front. It was the complete opposite of the first half where we had dominated the proceedings in the opening minutes.  

In the first, after Barcelona took the lead, they didn’t give us any space and dictated the play. However, we showed great resolve and excellent work rate as we stopped Barcelona from scoring more goals. Add to that some brilliant saves by Szczesny.

And this is where this win is remarkable and all the more sweeter. We won the match by playing better than them in the second half. It wasn’t that they had an off day and weren’t playing good. We kept our focus and we beat them at their own game and we never looked intimated. An excellent result and this had further increased my belief that this season we are going to change everything.

Hats off to the team for an excellent display of football and an awesome result. The second tie can wait for now as we savor this moment.


Blackburn vs Arsenal: Match Preview

August 27, 2010

So to the first real test of Arsenal this season, considering we haven’t won last seven of the away games to Big Sam’s team in the Premier League. Read the rest of this entry »