Blackburn 4 – 3 Arsenal: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 17, 2011

It is very hard to write something about a game that seems all too familiar now. Hours have passed since it ended and it is still painful and embarrassing. I thought I had the worst of it against Manu but this is in the same league.

What’s the count for us now in giving away leads after yet another farce? Starting from the season before last, it has now become a norm for us to give away leads. We are hardly over one loss when Arsenal ends up with yet another show of comedies.

I don’t have it in me to go over what happened in the game. In a nut shell, we scored, we conceded, we scored again, we scored (this time at our own end), we conceded, we scored at our own end again! (By this time we had scored 4 goals and were losing by two goals), and then we realized we have to score against the opposition, but it was all too late.

In between all his, we squandered a lot chances either through bad finishing or selfish play. We played the best first half that we have played all this season, despite some bad moments, yet we turned up in the second half as if Blackburn were going to give us the win gift wrapped. Why Why Why do we always do this?

Highlights of the game were we again showed how inept we are at defending and how leads can be squandered away by simply switching off after the half time break. We again showed how easy it is to make the same mistakes because it is quite difficult to correct them. We again showed that our problem is not individuals but the system we play. Although the individuals do amplify all the problems.

I know I am being too negative but tell me what the point of staying positive is when every other game we are going to witness is like this!? Yes, we had a great result against Dortmund, yes, we had a good first half today, but then you don’t have a one-game-season and you don’t have a football game with only one half. You have to fight for the whole season; you have to fight for the whole 90 minutes to have something at the end of it. One great result, one great half doesn’t make a difference in the long run.

The saddest bit is that we usually play like this at the end of the season, like we have done in the last couple of seasons. This time we are doing it from the start and if things are to continue like this, we are heading for a bottom half finish, forget the top four.

When will the team realize this is beyond me. As for Wenger, I am at a loss for words as to what has gone wrong with him. Why has he allowed the things to go wrong this much? Every defeat like this is going to be the final nails in his coffin. Or not!? Personally, I can’t seem to make up my mind on Wenger, one half of me wants him to stay and do well, and the other says his time is over. One thing is for sure, we need changes at the club, be it in the back room staff or the whole management, it should be done fast.

Looking ahead, I don’t see anything at the moment. It is going to take a season long time to finally get over this and that too if we end up in the top four.

I will now come to the player ratings:

Szczesny: (6) Made a couple of good saves but made a few school boy errors too like the one where he came forward in the first half and was caught in no man’s land. Wasn’t at fault for any of the goals, though, could have done better on the fourth.  

Sagna: (6) Going forward produced some good crosses. At the back was solid but did lose his man a couple of times. I hope the injury is not bad

Mertesacker:  (6) Can’t blame him for anything except for not putting the ball in the back of the net in injury time late on. We knew he was slow when we bought him! It is more of a fault with the way we defend.

Koscielny: (4) He produces a game like this every now and then which highlights the problems we face as a team. Nothing went for him today and he ended up with an own goal. Unlucky or incompetent you decide!

Santos: (5) Wasn’t the start I expected from him. If I had my way, I would not have started with him in this game. At fault for the first goal and not good with his positioning. Although his crosses late on in the game were great, defensive stability is what we need right now and he didn’t provide that today.

Ramsey: (6) Surprised to see him start today. Looked lively while going forward and was involved a lot. Produced a great assist for Arteta’s goal. Disappeared in the second half like most of our players did.

Arteta: (6) Opened his Arsenal account with a good finish. Was at the heart of every good thing in the first half. However, he needs to do much more as he was nowhere in the second half.

Song: (6) As I said in my preview that his ability to pick a pass can be useful. He proved it today with his assist on the first goal and started the move that led to the second. A great first half from him but in the second had the complete opposite. Was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he scored that own goal. Should have also done better on the fourth and rightly substituted later in the game.

Arshavin: (6) Looked lively and had a couple of good shots on goal. Created a few openings but it was his needless foul that led to the second Blackburn equalizer. Needs to do more in terms of creating opportunities and improve his finishing which has gone way off.

RVP: (6) He needs to be passed the ball if we want him to score. Had a couple of shots from tight positions late on that were saved and provided the assist for the third goal. Otherwise he wasn’t given the support required.

Gervinho: (6) Scored a good first goal and looked dangerous throughout the match. However, was frustrating at the same time with his selfishness and bad decision making. He needs to learn that the team is more important than individual goals. Needs to learn when to pass and when to go for goal.  Had he found van Persie late on in the first half, things might have been different.

Subs:

Djourou: (2.5) Don’t have anything to say about him as he has forgotten how to play football. Is it his entire fault!? Wenger will know the answer to this!

Walcott: (6) Produced some excellent crosses but then again we don’t attack the ball. Can’t blame him.

Chamakh: (6) It was a welcome change that he found the net with his head today. Should have scored another but really can’t blame him for the dropped points.

 

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Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 17, 2011

WOW! That was a massive win which is only going to improve the confidence of the team.

This is what happened; We started off positively, got the early goal, looked dangerous, Udinese replied with Di Natale hitting the cross bar, we tried again, were caught on the counter, Szczesny and Song came to the rescue, half ended with Gibbs getting off injured. We started again, Koscielny misplaced a pass, Djourou came to the rescue, got off injured, Jenkinson came on, Udinese were threatening our goal as our team went missing, Walcott missed a chance, we brought on Frimpong, Song rescued us again at the back, stoppage time started, Gervinho released Walcott again, their keeper produced an excellent save. The game ended with us having a goal advantage going into the second leg.

Overall, it was again a performance we can be proud of under the circumstances.  But we don’t have to get carried away. We were good in patches only and not entirely convincing. Our squad is, though, seriously lacking players. A presence of a quality midfielder was also felt as Rosicky and Ramsey are clearly not there yet. We didn’t build on the first goal and slowly went missing allowing Udinese chances to get into the game. It reminded me of the pre season games but thankfully we didn’t end up drawing or losing the game.

The first half was much better than the second for us. The second half rarely saw us having a shot on goal except near the end. Questions will be asked of the defense and midfield as we gave lots of room to Udinese and it won’t be wrong to assume, had the opponent been some better team, the outcome would have been different.

The positives from the game are many. We achieved our objectives which matters the most! We kept another clean sheet. Szczesny, for one, is going to be a great number one for us for years to come. The partnership of Vermaelen and Koscielny is improving every game. Frimpong is going to be a big player. Walcott is gaining his form and confidence back. Song is a beast in the middle.

The only negative from the game are the injuries to Gibbs and Djourou. I hope they recover quickly.

Before I move onto player ratings, I want to categorically add that we do need signings. This team is good, still, not enough to challenge for the title. With the right tools added, this team can be great and we can surprise many. I just hope Wenger gives this team what it deserves!

Coming to player ratings

Szczesny: (7) One word to describe his performance, splendid! Commanded his area with authority and produced great saves whenever called upon, especially the one-on-one in the first half was brilliant. His positioning on the first free kick from De Natale was disappointing but he will learn with time.

Sagna: (7) Defensively was great bar one horrible mistake in the first half that led to Szczesny and Song saving the day.

Koscielny and Vermaelen: (6.5/6.5) As said above, their partnership is improving game by game. They both complement each other. Koscielny really impressed me bar a couple of misplaced passes. The first half hour was where he was contributing all over the pitch. Always kept his man in check and his ability to close down players is very good. Vermaelen did his part and led the team well.

Gibbs: (6) Till the time he was on, did his job well. His defending though still needs lots of improvement, as one of his clearances in the first half was very poor. His injury is what concerns me. I hope he returns soon.

Song: (7.5) He was immense last night and I am afraid, he is going to be missed in the next 3 EPL games. He got us out of at least three goal conceding occasions.

Rosicky: (5.5) He gives his all in the centre but still is not enough. He disappeared again in the second half and was substituted at the right time as he looked tired. We need a creative midfielder ASAP!

Ramsey: (6) He is more comfortable while going forward and last night produced an assist for the first goal. Did give away the ball on a few occasions and he needs to overcome this habit of his. And as I said last time, needs to improve his work rate.

Walcott: (7.5) He was amazing. Got the goal, was a continuous threat and his movement with and without the ball was great. Missed one great chance in the second half though, when he scuffed his chip. Gutted he didn’t get the second goal.

Chamakh: (3.5) At one point in the game, I was furious at him for slowing our passing and game. He is seriously lacking confidence. Did well in defense and linking up play though. We need more in front of goal from him and needs to come out of the shell he has retreated into.

Gervinho: (5.5) Again he showed his pace and movement with the ball. However, still frustrating with his final ball.  Lost the ball on more than a few occasions. Managed to produce a great run in the second half and one great ball for Walcott, who was denied by the keeper.

Subs:

Djourou: (6.5) His partnership with Koscielny didn’t look as strong as Vermaelen/ Koscielny. In the time he was on, produced one vital block to deny Udinese an open goal. It is a shame that he got off injured.

Jenkinson: (6) Didn’t look comfortable on the left but kept things simple and did the job. Was beaten a couple of times but shouldn’t be judged on that.

Frimpong: (6) Did give a couple of free kicks in quick succession when he came on. Once settled, showed his ability. He has pace and isn’t afraid to make a tackle. Made an interesting run down the left using his pace, later in the second half, which got me out of my seat.


Arsenal vs Liverpool: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 17, 2011

Today we start our final push for the title. We host a resurgent Liverpool at the Emirates and no less than three points is what we require.

This is our title deciding week and I hope the team is ready to deal with it because it won’t be easy at all.

It has been a long time since we drew in the opening game of the season against Liverpool. With Liverpool going through many ups and down since then, with defeats against bottom placed teams to massive wins against top teams, they have been somewhat very unpredictable. However, under Dalglish they have been a changed side and make no mistake today’s game is going to be very difficult if we are to get the three points.

With their spending in the January window, they look more stable and have added two dimensions to their attack. With Andy Carroll, they can play the aerial route football and with Luis Suarez they can play the quick passing game. They will no doubt mix it up and it will be up to our defense to deal with them. With Dirk Kuyt always a threat, our team will have to stay alert at all times. Mistakes at the back will be costly today and I hope the whole team supports the defense when under attack.   

Upfront we will have to be clinical. Fabregas and company will no doubt create openings but it will up to our forward to finish them. Van Persie and Theo Walcott will have to be at the top of their game. The cost of missed chances will be more than a game today.

It isn’t easy to predict such a game as it can be either high scoring or one decided by a single goal. Both teams can win this, so we have to make sure we score the winning goals. Two years back we somewhat ended Liverpool’s title chances by a drawing against them at their home, Arshavin scored four goals back then, so, I hope Liverpool doesn’t return the favour today.

If things aren’t going our way, we will need someone to remind Liverpool that if they win, United will get the 19th title for sure. Now would Liverpool want that? Jokes aside, the title will be over for us if we don’t win any of the remaining games starting from today. Even a draw is fatal. I am gunning for a win and hoping that our team gives it their best shot and even if we lose or draw or end up without the title, we can hold our heads up.  

As far as the lineup is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Arsene opts to start with as many players are returning from injury and we do have three important games in 8 days to play.

Szczesny for me starts in goal after what Wenger said in his pre-match press conference. With no Sagna, Eboue will feature again on the right and the other flank will be taken up by Clichy. If and only if Djourou is hundred percent, I will start with him partnering Koscielny.

In the middle of the park Fabregas is the easy pick. Diaby for me stays in the lineup. I am caught up between Song and Wilshere. Again if Song isn’t hundred percent, I will start with Wilshere.

Upfront van Persie will be flanked by Nasri and Walcott. Arshavin is an asset in big games therefore he can be brought on at any time to change the game. However, I won’t mind if Arshavin starts this game at the expense of Walcott.

Probable Starting Eleven: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Before I conclude, below is what Arsene Wenger said about today’s game:

“When you are in the title race it is always like that. When we played the Carling Cup Final, Barcelona away and Manchester United three days later, we were out of three competitions.

Now Tottenham and Chelsea are out of the competitions. When you fight for big prizes in one week it can be gone. It makes Sunday’s game vital of course. If we do not beat Liverpool and Tottenham the season won’t be over but the title will be over for sure.

If we win all the games then yes, we will win the Premier League [as long as Manchester United] can draw somewhere. It’s not 100 per cent even if we win our games but we know what we have to do.”

I hope the players keep that in mind when they are out on the field.

That’s it. Have a good day and enjoy the match. Tonight we deal with the first of our seven remaining obstacles. Keep the faith and your fingers crossed!!


Arsene Wenger on Djourou and Szczesny’s start against Liverpool and Vermaelen’s return

April 15, 2011

Arsenal will face Liverpool on Sunday, where a win will take them to within four points of Manchester United. Arsene Wenger on Thursday gave the latest injury news ahead of the match.

While speaking to Arsenal TV Online, Arsene Wenger informed that there are no new injuries but there is a doubt on Sagna’s availability, who hasn’t yet recovered from his injury.

Meanwhile Djourou, Szczesny, Denilson and Song all have a chance to be available on Sunday. Wenger added that Djourou and Szczesny’s inclusion will be decided after how they perform in the training session because they have question marks on their fitness. 

The manager also gave good news on Vermaelen’s return as he confirmed that he has joined training. He added that we will need to show patience with Vermaelen as he has just joined the team and isn’t match fit yet.

On Thursday, Arsene Wenger said:

“We have no [new injuries] but we have a big doubt on Sagna. Djourou and Wojciech are question marks. Will they be fit? That all has still to be decided. We have two more days to find out. It could be a possibility that they could be available.

It’s difficult to say [what their chances are]. We have a test today [Thursday], we have a big test to see how they survive the training session. That will be very important. Denilson and Song have a chance to be available as well.

I am not reluctant [to use Vermaelen] but he is not match fit yet. He just joined the team this week so we have to be a bit patient with him.”


West Brom vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 19, 2011

I had taken some time off from football after what happened last Saturday. The negativity, however, that has followed ever since Arsenal’s exit from three competitions has been immense and highly uncalled for. No doubt the departures have been frustrating and disappointing but to completely overlook what the team has achieved this season on the basis of two weeks result is not logical. No doubt we have our liabilities and I do agree with some of the points that have been raised but the way people have gone about it is not right. And also now isn’t the time to be discussing the weaknesses of the team. When the season is over, there will be plenty to talk about. What we need to do right now is to get behind the team because the media will always find reasons to ridicule us. No doubt, everyone is entitled to their own views but we as fans would do better if we stick to supporting the team.

Coming on to today’s game, it is against West Brom at their home and after what happened the last time we faced them, this won’t be a  walk in the park. The game had plenty of goals the last time and if I am not wrong, Almunia didn’t have a good day. Ironically he is making his return in the League against the same oppositions and after his brilliant display against Barcelona and Manchester United, I am gunning for another good performance.

Today I also feel there won’t be many goals. One reason is that West Brom are under Hodgson and the second because we will also approach the game a bit more cautiously. And with plenty of our regular starters missing, we will have difficulty in the opening them up, as we witnessed the last time.

We will have to be disciplined in the middle of the park and move the ball around with precision and pace and only then we will be able to open them up. Much will depend on how our regulars play. No doubt to win the whole team will have to perform but Nasri and company will have to produce some magical moments that will lead to goals.

At the back too, Squillaci and Koscielny will have to stay alert. These two have had their weaknesses exploited when playing besides each other and with Almunia also not playing regularly with them, the problems can be compounded. Communication among them will be key and the midfield will have to do their job if we are not to concede. And please Arsenal no half hearted attempts in defense and middle of the park, like we witnessed against Manchester United last Saturday. Fight for every ball and close down opposition players early so that they don’t create goal scoring opportunities.

Upfront, we will have to ensure that we don’t waste chances. I don’t want another opposing keeper getting the man of the match.

For the starting eleven, we don’t have many good options as there are a few injuries in important positions. Arsene Wenger again will have to make some bold decisions.

In goal it has been confirmed that Almunia will start. The back line picks it up itself with Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy and Sagna.

In the middle, Wilshere and Nasri are the easy picks. However, with no Song and Diaby, we have Ramsey and Denilson to choose from for the third spot. To be honest, the more I wish for not seeing Denilson in the starting lineup, the more likely it is that he will start. As it will be today because Ramsey I fear isn’t yet ready to start a game.

Upfront too Van Persie and Arshavin are easy picks. On the right we have the options to start with Rosicky, Bendtner and Eboue. Eboue doesn’t add much while Bendtner also doesn’t impress when he starts on wings. And although Rosicky has also been poor, I will start with him on the right because he will help us keep the ball better (if he plays well).

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Denilson, Rosicky, RVP, Arshavin

If everything goes according to plan we will be level on points with Manu by five o clock and hopefully top of the table (if Manu lose their game). We have only the league to focus on and after a weeks break I want to see a good display from our team. Please Arsenal give your best, show that you want the title by winning today and rest of the remaining games. We all are behind you or else it will be hard not only for you but also for us to keep believing in you. 

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the game where ever you are. Tonight we start the final lap of the season which hopefully will end with the League title in May (after which we can start sorting out the weaknesses of the team).


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.


Player Ratings: West Ham 0 – 3 Arsenal

January 16, 2011

After the cup games, that was one very refreshing performance from Arsenal. There were a few hiccups at the back but upfront and in the middle we were just brilliant. The way we moved, passed the ball and created openings was a delight to watch. The whole team helped each other out and showed great understanding amongst each other.

The defense was a bit shaky yesterday but only the right side and it was mainly due to bad positioning of Eboue compounded by some bad decisions from Djourou. However, they both improved in the second half.

In middle, we passed the ball around well and kept a high tempo. We never gave space to West Ham and whenever they got the ball, Song and Wilshere would cut them off nicely.

Upfront, the movement was also very good. Everyone combined nicely and the finishing was excellent.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (6.5): An overall good game from him. Made some excellent saves and his distribution was also fine.

Clichy (7): Another one of his better games. Defensively was good and helped in attack by providing good width. His pass to Van Persie that led to the second goal was brilliant. However, needs to improve his crossing.

Koscielny (7): Brilliant game from the Frenchman. No usual mistakes and was always quick to close the opposition down and clear the ball. Made some vital tackles and clearances and aerially was also better.

Djourou (5.5): He was the guilty party in defense yesterday after committing a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. His decision making was very bad. However, he did improve in the second half. I hope it was just a one-off.

Eboue (5.5): He leaves his side very exposed and I feel it was the main reason for an uncharacteristic performance from Djourou. Was always caught out of position in the first half. Did improve in the second half and made a couple of good runs. However, he needs to be aware of what is happening around him as at times he looks aloof.

Wilshere (7.5): An excellent game from the young Englishman. Great in cutting off the west ham attack and he always found the right pass. Was never afraid to hold the ball and was involved in every move upfront. Could have also scored a goal. However, he needs to improve his touch and off the ball movement.

Song (8): Another dominating game from Song. Was a beast at the back and skillful while going forward. Broke up west ham’s play with ease and linked up play with the forwards nicely.

Fabregas (8): Another captain’s performance. It wasn’t anything flashy but a very effective game.  Didn’t get any assists but was at the heart of everything. Dropped back deep to bring the ball out, combined brilliantly with Nasri and Van Persie and showed good work rate.

Walcott (8.5): Had a slow start but went onto have a very influential game. Got an assist on the first goal, scored the second and won the penalty for the third. Enough said!!

Van Persie (9): This is what we have been missing. He really is a treat to watch. Linked up play nicely, created space and openings, scored goals, got an assist and played the full 90 minutes. He needs to stay fit for sure.

Nasri (7): Didn’t score goals or get any assists, but still he showed his brilliance. Combined really well with Fabregas and Van Persie. Made some good runs with and off the ball. And a great step over on the first goal.

Subs:

Denilson, Arshavin and Gibbs had too little time to make an impact. No ratings for them.

In the end I would just say that the result speaks for the performance itself, ‘Three goals and a clean sheet’. I only hope that we continue with this in all competitions and whoever starts for us in the coming games puts up similar displays.