Arsenal vs Liverpool: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 20, 2011

So, onto the second League game, the first at home for us and it’s against none other than the revitalzed Liverpool.

With no Gervinho, no Song, no Wilshere, no Gibbs, no Djourou, no Rosicky and no Diaby (when was the last time he played?!) you start thinking that this game is over before it even kicks off. However, no need to be alarmed, you may if it do you any good, as we have Miyaichi, Jenkinson, Frimpong and Nasri (might be his last game for us before he departs) available to replace all of the above.

While Liverpool may have Suarez, Carroll, Adam and Downing, they also have Carragher, Enrique and Flanagan.  The Scousers might be favorites to edge this one out but they won’t have it easy themselves, unless we make it for them.

This will surely be a game where one team exploits the others weaknesses and comes out on top. At the moment, we are losing the battle in terms to having more problems. However, games are not decided on paper and the team that best utilizes its resources on the field may get the maximum today.

For us, the biggest problem today will be to find the right starting eleven. With having so few options due to injuries and suspension, one wonders what Wenger will be going through right now!

Who will play in the centre? Who will be at left back? Who will start on the wings? Are just a few questions every Gooner will be thinking about.

If I have my way, I will go with Vermaelen, Koscielny, Sagna and Jenkinson at the back.

In the middle I will go with Frimpong to do the job of Song. He will be partnered by Ramsey. The central role I will give to Nasri. Playing Nasri might not go down well with some of you, I also don’t like it, but at the moment we need to use all our options. Nasri prefers the central position and I am more than certain he will give his best. Not because he will want to stay but because he would want to show the world he still can play. (And if he doesn’t perform, we will have more reason to hate him, when he does leave)  

Upfront, van Persie will of course lead the line and on the flanks I will go with Walcott and Arshavin. Bringing on Miyaichi and Oxlade Chamberlain later in the game to terrorize Liverpool’s fullbacks further.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Ramsey, Nasri, Frimpong, Walcott, Van Persie, Arshavin

What we have witnessed in the last two games is missing the creative spark in the middle. With Nasri we can solve some of the problem today. If he, Arshavin and van Persie can combine well, we will have some good openings. And with Walcott and Ramsey, I am confident we can have a game on our hands. We will need to exploit their full backs by using our pace on the wings as it is their week area too. With quick passing and movement we can catch them by surprise. Chances might be few for us, so, whatever comes up will need to be taken.

At the back, Jenkinson will need proper cover as he wasn’t comfortable back there against Udinese. And against Liverpool he is in for a much difficult time. To counter, I will keep Frimpong close to him and ask him not to venture forward unnecessarily. Vermaelen too will need to provide him support. The midfield will have to stay close to the defense when under attack.

Liverpool, we know, will use the pace and skill of Suarez, the height of Carroll and the intelligence of Adam in the midfield to expose our backline. We may have kept a clean sheet in our last two games but today will be the first real test of our defense, even though it is a makeshift one. So, we will need to put in more of the good stuff today.

As far as the result is concerned, a win will really make my day; however, I won’t mind a draw under the circumstances. A loss will be bad but not a disaster and it may prove a blessing a disguise, as it will surely make Wenger realize this squad needs players. ( I hope it doesn’t come to this)

Before I conclude, I want to add that if Nasri does start for us, we will have to keep our feelings towards him in check for the duration of the game as he will be out there to help us win the game. And unsettling him during the game will not help us much. Not an ideal situation but we will have to go with it.

Keep your fingers crossed and enjoy the game. Have a good day!

 


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.

 


Newcastle United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven with Injury Update

August 13, 2011

Finally, we are set to see some football after a summer full of speculations. We are up against Newcastle United away from home. If anything, this is going to be a tough opener for us. The last time we didn’t come back in good shape from there and went on a roller coaster ride backwards. I don’t want to talk about that but I do pray that this time it isn’t the case. 

Although, I don’t think we will see the same theatrics this time, it will be an exciting encounter. Newcastle is known to attack which also leaves them vulnerable at the back. They will definitely try to hold and see how we shape up first. They will use the aerial ball and utilize the flanks, and if I am not wrong, mostly the left. Their midfield will try to frustrate us with petty fouls.

We only have to keep focus and do our job. We have the same problem at the back but if we can maintain good communication and the midfield stays close to defence, we may yet come out with the maximum and start our season on a high. Every one has to do their job properly, it’s this simple. Gervinho and Walcott’s pace might do wonders for us today if they are fed regularly with the ball.

The last time we dominated them both at home and away. Somehow we never won any of the games. Whatever we do today, we don’t have to lose concentration, even if we are 100 goals up.

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, we are sure to miss Wilshere as he has still not recovered from his injury. Ryo Miyaichi also won’t be involved as he is Japan.

With no Fabregas and Nasri, the options are pretty simple. The injury update given by Wenger on friday was very encouraging. We will have Van Persie, Gibbs, Walcott and Vermaelen back in the squad. The only missing person except Wilshere is Diaby, who frankly is always out, so it doesn’t make a difference.

Arsene Wenger’s injury update:

“Basically we have Wilshere injured, hopefully in the short-term. Diaby is not back before the end of August or the beginning of September. Everybody else should be available. Van Persie and Gibbs should be available. They have a test today [Friday]. Walcott will be back in the squad and so will Vermaelen.”

With all this in mind, I am pretty sure to see Van Persie partnered with Gervinho and Walcott up front.

The middle will be taken up by Song, Rosicky and Ramsey.

The defense will be mastered by Vermaelen alongside Koscielny. Sagna will surely start and on the left I will go with Traore as he can do a better job in defense than Gibbs (at the moment). And last but not the least, Szczesny will be in goal.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Traore, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, Gervinho, Van Persie, Walcott

So, this is the first game and we need all our attention diverted to this. Transfer speculations will continue till the end of August but talking about them won’t help us much. These first 15 days are going to define our season. Wenger was right in saying in his press conference that he has to concentrate on players who can make a difference right now than to talk about players who won’t be involved.

“I believe the best thing for us, one day before the season starts, is not to focus on the possible transfers. What we want today is to focus on the players who play tomorrow and not the players who do not play.”

Let’s we hope we have everyone geared up and ready. Have a good day and enjoy the game. Hopefully we will start off with a bang.


Arsenal vs Manchester United: Preview and Starting Eleven

May 1, 2011

Approaching today’s game would have been so different and wonderful had we won the Carling Cup final and the last 6 Premier League games. Now, it is only a game where we need a win to at least finish third and in the process make the title race interesting for some more weeks. Sadly we won’t be involved! The game which should have been the title decider (in a way it still is if Manu wins) is now only a game to restore our pride.

If you take a look at the league table, Man city are in a very good position to finish third provided they win all their remaining games and we lose even one of ours. Not likely to happen but we can be in serious trouble if we don’t perform in any of our remaining games.

To be honest, my heart is saying that we will win this one because we always perform when there is nothing nagging us in the back of our minds. We might have looked short on confidence in the last few games, but today, I feel we will get the response from the team, which should have come after the Carling Cup final defeat.

Manchester United, on the other hand, are looking quite strong. They, for one, have a much better defense than the likes of Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland and are better equipped in attack. It will be difficult to score as well as difficult to defend. The devils approach will be simple. They will get bodies behind the ball and score on the counter using the speed of Nani and Rooney. And they do know how to finish clinically. They will have no problem in defending all day and score a poachers goal. They have done it before and they will do this again.

We will have to be intelligent in our play. Draw them out of their half and then exploit the gaps using Walcott’s pace. Keep things simple. Make sure that mistakes are’t made becaue United will be waiting to pounce on it. One thing is for sure, we will have to give a massive performance if we want to take the three points.

Arsenal! Remember how you beat  Chelsea, City and Barcelona and forget what has happened in the last month.

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, there is nothing much to choose from. The same team that featured against Bolton is on the cards again.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, RVP, Walcott.

I am tempted to start with Arshavin, if he can give a performance to remember and therefore shut the mouths of those who want him to be sold.

I hope Fabregas has his mind on the game as there have been reports of a break up between him and his girlfriend.

Arsene Wenger in his pre-match press conference talked about the frustrations and disappointments of this season and how the top four spot is not yet confirmed and how the focus is to win our games. He said: 

“We have to watch that. I am convinced that is not done. Even being in the top four is not done. We have to fight like mad. It is not a massive concern maybe because if Tottenham come up then Manchester City or Chelsea drop as they all play each other. But our focus has to be to win our games.” 

I hope the players focus on their game and finishing third or possibly second and not on what Tottenham and City and Chelsea are doing. 

That is all for now as there is nothing else to discuss. Enjoy the game and have a good time. Looking forward to a good game!!


Bolton vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 24, 2011

Are we still in the title race? Mathematically, yes! But considering the way we have played and failed to bolster our position in the last few games, we shouldn’t even be talking about the title. The objective now should be to finish the season on a high by winning all our remaining games and see where it ends for us. For me, right now the best way to approach games is to forget about the title and the past few weeks, forget what Manu and Chelsea are doing, forget that we have won only one game in the last six and forget what the media is saying. Arsenal! Play like you have nothing to lose and hopefully the wins will come, starting from today against Bolton.

With the negativity surrounding Arsenal at the moment, it is hard to concentrate. I have kept myself busy and away from football after the Tottenham draw. Most likely, I won’t be able to even watch today’s game due to work (I will try though). The best way to reply to all the negativity and questions being raised is as I mentioned above, play like there is nothing to lose.

Bolton are playing at their home today. They were battered in the FA Cup semifinal but it doesn’t justify the way they have played this season. Sitting at eighth position in the table they will offer more than a good resistance. They will play their game and won’t hesitate to attack. They can be physical too. It will be a difficult game but I believe we have enough quality to get the three points.

I don’t have much to say on our game. The problem in the last few games has been two fold. First of all we don’t seem to find goals but if we do, we concede the same amount in the process as well. How do you get over such a problem? By buying? By selling? By sacking the manager? No! This doesn’t mean we don’t need to buy in the summers. There are some players that need to be offloaded and we do need a few reinforcements. However, buying or selling won’t be the solution to the problem. We can only solve our problem by doing the basics of football right, which we seem to have forgotten lately. Keep things simple, keep the focus for the full 90 minutes and not switch off like we did against Tottenham and we will win games.

As far as the team is concerned, it will be straight forward to pick.

Except Diaby there are no injury concerns. To replace him Wilshere will come back into the middle alongside Song and Fabregas.

As far as the defense and forward line is concerned, it is going to remain the same as it was against Spurs.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, RVP, Walcott

To conclude, Arsene Wenger’s pre-match press conference comments regarding summer spendings have come under lots of scrutiny already. I will discuss that more in detail in later posts. However, I would like Wenger to stop explaining the world the mental strength of our team every time he talks to the media. It is doing us no good! Only performance on the field is going to help us.

That is all. Enjoy the game and have a good day!!


Tottenham vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 20, 2011

Manchester United has given us another lifeline after their stalemate against Newcastle. With us drawing against Liverpool on Sunday, it looked as if it was all over for us. However, the title race is back on and we have a slight hope. Even so, our hopes will be over soon if we fail to get the three points against the Spuds tonight. Even our top four spot will be in jeopardy if we fail to win the game.

After the Liverpool match, I said that it was very unlikely that Manchester will draw two games then lose to us before we take the title ourselves, by winning rest of our games. After last night, Manu have drawn one game and hopefully there will be more. The question still remains; will we win the rest our matches? (we will find out tonight) Man United have given us countless opportunities by slipping up on many occasions. Only that we haven’t been able to capitalize on them. We again have a chance now and I hope the team gives it their all tonight against Tottenham.

Coming to the game, Tottenham are playing at home and they will approach the game as if it is a Champions League final, they wouldn’t know the feeling though, what it is to be a in a CL final. Nonetheless, they will do their all to take the three points and they surely have a few players that can make things difficult for us. Their approach will be straight forward, deliver in as many crosses as they can and hope for Crouch to head in. With RVD Vaart and Modric they can also mix things up. So our backline will have to be alert and on their toes at all times. We have already made too many mistakes and it is time now that we deliver.

As for us, we will need to play our game and never slack-off, even for a second and even if we are winning by two goals. Chances will come to us and we will need to capitalize on them. Their keeper is prone to mistakes but at times he produces excellent saves and I don’t want their keeper to be the man of the match.

Upfront, the combination of Fabregas, Walcott and Van Persie will be the key. In the middle, Song and Diaby will have to play a massive game. We can’t afford to make any mistakes today and we can’t afford any more slip ups. And please Arsenal! don’t make things complicated. Keep possession, keep it simple and shoot whenever the opportunity arise and we will get the three points.

As for the starting lineup, Sagna will join the backline in place of Eboue as he has recovered form his injury. The rest of the defense will remain the same as it was against Liverpool.

Alex Song has also fully recovered from his injury, so I expect him to start alongside Fabregas and I will also keep Diaby for his strength and height. Wilshere for me will be on bench because he has already played a lot and Wenger hinted of rotation.

Up front. the trio will remain the same as it was against Liverpool. However, I won’t be surprised to see Arshavin in place of either Nasri or Walcott. Nasri is going through a quiet patch but considering how he played in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, I will start with him.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Diaby, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Similar to the Liverpool game, it is difficult to predict what the outcome of the game will be. We haven’t scored many goals in the last few games and we have been quite ordinary in the final third. Still, away from home, we have delivered. And considering Spurs, there will be goals today. Hopefully, we will score more and get the three points. Come on Arsenal!!

Have a nice day Gooners and enjoy the game while keeping your fingers crossed. Tonight, we will resurrect our title chances!!


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!!