Defending, Nasri and Bendtner | Injury news ahead of Villa | Wenger will strengthen the squad! |

May 14, 2011

“When are they going to learn …” this is what Ray Parlour, our former player, said that after the Stoke defeat and I feel no one but the team can answer this question and only when they play better. In my opinion not learning from our mistakes has cost us this season. I have not watched the last three Arsenal games and I regret only missing the Man United win. However, watching the highlights of the Stoke game has not been easy as once again we demonstrated our naivety in the basics of football.

Much has been already said about the Stoke defeat (it is my first post in two weeks!!) so I won’t discuss the game. Will something be done about the problems this summer? We will find out soon!! However, the thing that disappointed me was what Wenger said after the game. He said:

“We [have] conceded, I think, 21 from set-pieces and only 17 in open play. Less than anybody else in open play [but] we have been caught on set-pieces. Today, [Kenwyne] Jones didn’t even need to jump to head the ball in. That is something we have to correct. It is the easiest thing to correct in the game but you still must understand the flight of the ball and want to be first to the ball. I feel we are sometimes a bit naïve.”

The second goal that we conceded against Stoke was from open play and does anyone here think that it should have been conceded. If Wenger thinks that conceding such a goal is not a problem then I am afraid we are never going to improve. The numbers of goal doesn’t matter, the manner in which they are conceded matters. And what to say of the goals we have conceded on set pieces. Gibbs ducking at the last moment for the Stoke player to deflect the ball in for the first goal says it all. If Wenger is realizing that we have been naïve and need to correct our way of defending at the end of the season, then I am afraid we deserve where we are. Let’s hope, now that he has spotted the weakness, he corrects it for next season.   

Besides the reaction to the Stoke defeat, there has been lots of other news related to Arsenal but I haven’t had time to look at all of them. Mostly it has been speculations, possible transfers and what should be done to right the wrong. Many pundits have the same opinion that we need to buy to strengthen the squad. Yes! buying will help. We need players at certain positions and we need to let go of certain players who haven’t improved in the last three years. But with that we also need to address the attitude of the players. We have the talent, the players and we can beat any team if we want to. The problem is we don’t show up on plenty of occasions, which hurt the most, because we know that this team can perform. The Stoke game is the perfect example where we didn’t show up and there are countless others throughout the season. If we can’t change this, then I am afraid even buying players won’t help us much. Nonetheless, there is only one way to find out if we can improve by buying players and that is if we buy. And this is the only thing we haven’t done. So let’s hope that Wenger does buy quality for a change this summer

Also there were a couple of developments that I wanted to discuss. First was Samir Nasri’s agent comment regarding Nasri’s contract that went something like this:

“There is nothing going on with Juventus or Inter Milan. There are no problems with Arsenal, the opposite rather, as we are negotiating his contract extension.”

I hope this is the case because our first priority should be to improve and that can only be done by keeping our best players. Nasri was nothing short of phenomenal in the first half of the season and it will be a great loss if we don’t get him to sign the contract. That’s what I feel about Cesc Fabregas too. I know this hasn’t been his best season but he still has been one of our better players and we need to keep him at all cost. More on this when the time is right. Coming to Nasri, there was news on Arsenal.com where Wenger has said that he will do anything to keep him.  

“I will do anything possible to make him stay. We will do it at the end of the season.”

I personally feel that Nasri will stay and Wenger will do his best to keep him. However, it would have been so much better had the contract been signed in January. At least we would have avoided so many speculations. With no harm done as yet, we need to settle the contract as early as possible and before Nasri has a change of heart.

The other bit was about Bendtner who is looking forward to a talk with Wenger in the summer.

“I need to have a talk with him [Wenger] because I’m not satisfied with playing on the right wing, which I’ve done more or less all season long. I’m concentrating on getting our Champions League place and then we’ll do the evaluation at the end of the season. It’s certainly not the best thing for me but it’s not up to me and sometimes you have to adapt to what the manager says.”

I am not surprised here. Any one will be frustrated if he wasn’t playing in his favored position. If we want to keep him, Wenger needs to play him in the centre and not on the flanks. I don’t see it happening because of what Arsene has said recently:

“We are not specially buying on the flank. We have Walcott, we have Nasri, Arshavin and Bendtner.”

There you have it! Bendtner has been linked to a couple of clubs so it will be for the better if we let him go because here at Arsenal, Arsene will always play him on the flanks. At least it will create space for a winger and a new striker because right now Bendtner is occupying two places and not playing well at both positions (and sadly all is not his fault). The more thing that can be deduced from the above statement is that Arshavin, Nasri and Bendtner are all going to stay this summer. If this is the case, Wenger will be having a hard time in keeping Bendtner. 

Also Arsene Wenger had his usual pre-match press conference on Friday. The injury news ahead of the Aston Villa game looks positive. I am looking forward to Vermaelen’s return. Fabregas and Nasri may also be involved.

“We have lost Laurent Koscielny with a thigh strain from Sunday against Stoke. It opens the door for Vermaelen. I have not completely decided yet but there is a probability he will start. We have question marks against Fabregas and Nasri. They will be late decisions. During the week we lost Tomas Rosicky with a thigh strain. Diaby will be out but I believe that Clichy will be back.”

Apart from this, Wenger also said that he will look to strengthen the squad in every position.

“It is down to availability and quality. We don’t rule out any position and we don’t target any special position before the transfer market. We look to strengthen every year of course. But first we look not to weaken because we want to keep all our players, and then we try to strengthen. It’s not about the number [of players], it’s the quality. I don’t want to give out a number [we’ll go for]. I promise you that if we sign a player we will inform you and when we sell a player we will inform you as well. I would like to keep out of all the other speculation before that.”

I know it sounds more like ‘I won’t be buying’ but let’s hope this isn’t the case and we do get the players we need.

Tomorrow we play against Aston Villa.  Where we want to finish this season depends on how we play against them. We need at least four points from the last two games to finish above City and in third spot. Seeing the last three games, I don’t know what to expect from the team. Anything is possible. Maybe seeing Vermaelen return will put some extra energy into the players. And it won’t do any harm in finishing the season with a couple of wins.

The team that I expect to start is: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

I hope we get a good game to witness and we win. And as I was writing this, Man United have won the EPL title by drawing at Blackburn. Good for them and well done!!

That is all for now.


Arsene Wenger’s injury update on the squad including Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Koscielny

February 25, 2011

Arsenal are going to be without Cesc Fabregas in the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City  this Sunday.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online on Thursday, the manager confirmed the bad news by saying how it is a very small injury through which he will miss the game. On a question for his return, Arsene added that it is impossible to give a deadline for his return even after Sunday’s game .

Fabregas was withdrawn early on in the game against Stoke on Wednesday due to a hamstring concern.

The manger continued by saying how Fabregas is disappointed for being side lined from the final and added that the best way to help him  now is to win the Carling Cup for him for his contributions to the team in this competition.

Fabregas joins Theo Walcott on the list of players who will miss the final as Walcott was ruled out after the game against Stoke for his ankle injury.

The manager gave an update on his injury by saying how he has a classic ankle sprain which is going to rule him out for at least two weeks.  

Arsene Wenger also gave good news in the shape of Koscielny, Van Persie and Diaby’s return to the squad after recovering from their respective injuries as the manager added that everybody else form the Stoke game are alright.

On Fabregas, Walcott and the recovering players, Arsene Wenger said:

“It is a very small injury but certainly Cesc will be out for Sunday. For how long [beyond that] I don’t know but for Sunday he will be short. It is very difficult to give a deadline. It is impossible.

He is [disappointed]. We all feel sorry and sad for him. The only way we help him now is to win the Carling Cup as he contributed a lot in this competition.

I saw him [Theo Walcott] this morning. He has a classic ankle sprain. We don’t think there is any more damage to it. But it is still a sprain. We are sad for him too. He is out for Sunday and maybe one or two more weeks.

[Van Persie, Koscielny, Diaby] All the three will be available. That’s the good news. And everybody else is all right from the Stoke game too.”


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 0 Stoke City

February 24, 2011

Massive massive win for us as again we were left to play against not only Stoke but the referee, who made his intentions very clear when the second half started. I know no one is going to talk about the biased refereeing in this game because we won the game.  Still it was so evident that I was wondering whether the FA is blind or just incompetent. The ref did all he could to help stoke, except yes he didn’t get the chance to gift-wrap Stoke a goal but credit to Arsenal who kept it tight at the back through some brave defending. I also know most will not agree but as soon as the second half started, the attitude of the Stoke players and referee changed all together. Here again credit to Arsenal for not conceding a goal because had we conceded, the ref will have continued with his biased refereeing and our complaints would have meant nothing. For example, Carew’s foul on Djourou in the second half was late and I felt it was deliberate and IMO that was a red card and anyone not agreeing needs to see it again with open eyes. There were many others including fouls on Walcott, Nasri and Sagna where the ref did nothing. The commentary itself was unbelievable as they made the Stoke player look like angels. It was like no one wanted us to win match.

Anyways, I will come to the performance as this will end up somewhere else if I continue.

It was again a game where we dominated the possession but upfront we didn’t create much. In the middle we moved the ball around well but just couldn’t open Stoke up as they defended well at times. We also didn’t finish the few chances we created. Fabregas’ departure IMO opinion affected our game plan a lot.

The defenders did a great job out there as they held up against Stokes rugby. The midfield and the forwards played their part in it as well as we showed great character in the second half to thwart the tactics of Stoke and the help they were getting from the ref.

Coming to player ratings:

A solid 10 to all the players for being resolute till the very end and for getting another win against a side being helped blatantly by the referee.

Szczesny: Great keeping from the young man. He commanded his area well and made a couple of excellent saves. Was confident on the set pieces and throw ins. Made an error on one occasion but thankfully we weren’t punished for it.

Sagna: Excellent defensive display as he made several important tackles and blocks. Upfront provided the necessary width but didn’t influence much.

Djourou: Great game from him as he demonstrated again his aerial dominance and reading of the game. Was alert on the set pieces and showed good awareness.

Squillaci: He also had an excellent game. Defensively was superb with his positioning and showed good strength as he didn’t allow anyone to get past him easily. He also scored the important goal as again his positioning was very good on that occasion.

Clichy: Solid again. A couple of times was caught out of position but overall did well. He too provided the necessary width upfront but couldn’t influence the game much.

Wilshere: Another outstanding performance from the young Englishman. He is impressing with every game as he showed his defensive intelligence and how well he is in taking corners.  Moved the ball around well and didn’t give away possession and showed good work rate.

Song: Another typical Song performance, strong and full of energy. Did give away possession a few times but overall did his job. Upfront didn’t get things going.

Fabregas: I hope he makes it for the final on Sunday as he was substituted in the opening minutes. Still in that very less time, he delivered in some excellent balls. When he was on, we looked more threatening as a team as we went a bit flat after his departure

Nasri: Was impressive in bits and pieces as he failed to make much impact. However, kept the ball well especially in the final minutes when we were under a lot of pressure.

Bendtner: A great response by the Dane as he gave an improved performance from last time. Rather, yesterday he did show some end product for his talks off the pitch. His positioning was good and showed good strength against the Stoke defenders. His assist was both excellent and intelligent.

Walcott: As always was a continuous threat whenever he had the ball. Struck the post in the opening minutes but should have scored on Arshavin’s pass in the second half. However, his decision making was not good at times. As for his injury, he is going to miss the final but I hope he returns for the Barcelona match.

Subs:

Arshavin: The first of the forced substitutions made by Wenger. He did very well after coming on. Made a couple of very good runs and should have had an assist had Walcott scored on his pass. In the final minutes combined really well with Nasri in keeping the ball. He could have also gotten a goal had he been alert to Nasri’s pass in the final minute of the stoppage time.

Denilson: The second of the forced substitution and as usual he continued with his side ways passing. Not complaining much as it helped us keep the possession last night.

Chamakh: Provided defensive cover but had little time to make an impact upfront.

That’s it for now. Have a great day and keep the faith as this title race is going to have many twists and turns.


Arsenal vs Stoke City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 23, 2011

Stoke City are visiting us today ahead of the Carling Cup final and a win will take us closer to a point of Manchester United at the top in the Premier League.

It seems like ages ago when this fixture was postponed back in December, with the prospect of facing Barcelona getting more attention at that time. We have now come a long way from that. Snow and bad weather saved Stoke at that time, today however they are in line for a lesson in football. 

It isn’t difficult to predict how Stoke will approach this game. From the very onset they will be looking to unsettle us. They will use the long balls, free kicks and long throws to their advantage and their forwards will use any mean necessary to gain advantage over us in our danger area.  Their midfielders and defenders, no doubt, will use the ‘committed’ approach of the English game to their full benefit. So, expect a lot of fouls and very less cards for them and if I am not wrong the opposite for us.

Our game plan, as Wenger very rightly pointed out, will be to keep possession and control the game. If we play the game to our speed, Stoke will have no chance of getting into it. The midfield will have to play a very big role in this and with most of our regulars set to start, it shouldn’t be difficult.

We will have to score goals and with no Van Persie, whosoever starts in his place will have to be really creative and clinical in front of goal. Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott will have to lead by example.  

As for the starting eleven, Szczesny will return in goal along with Clichy at left back and Djourou at centre back. With Koscielny injured, Squillaci will keep his place and Sagna will remain on the right flank.

In the middle, Fabregas and Wilshere will return and Song will keep his place.

Upfront, I would have started with Walcott in the middle if it wasn’t Stoke, as we will require someone with strength up there today. With Chamakh under-performing, Bendtner is the most suitable option and I hope that today he performs well as he will be playing at his favored position. Nasri and Walcott will be on either side of him. 

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri.

This game can get difficult if Stoke score the first goal because they are much disciplined at the back. The first half, therefore, will be very important and the more quickly we get the game in control, the easier it will be.

As always, we need a win to keep the pressure on Man United. It will be a tight game but I expect nothing short of three points.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the match and have a great day.


Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Stoke City

February 23, 2011

Arsenal is going to be without Van Persie and Koscielny as we face Stoke City at home today.

While speaking to Arsenal TV Online on Tuesday, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Koscielny, Van Persie and Diaby are not available against Stoke while everyone else is fit.

Koscielny has a minor back problem, Van Persie is having a hamstring problem while Diaby, although suspended, has a calf injury.

However, Arsene added that the injuries to Van Persie and Koscielny are short term and they have a chance to be available for the Carling Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Djourou, on the other hand has recovered from his back injury as Wenger confirmed he will start today.

Today Arsenal play their 3rd game in as many competitions in just seven days as the Carling Cup final draws ever closer.

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, said:

 “We don’t have Van Persie, Diaby and Koscielny available. Everybody else is fit. Diaby is suspended. Van Persie has a hamstring problem and Koscielny a back problem. Both are short term and they have a chance for the game on Sunday.

Johan Djourou is better and will play”


Arsenal vs Stoke preview: To hell with Barcelona, it’s Stoke + starting eleven

December 18, 2010

Most of you will be thinking about the Barcelona tie. I say to hell with them, we have more important matters at hand and we must focus our attention towards that. Its Stoke tomorrow, the return of the thugs led, none other than, by Ryan ‘not that kind of a guy’ Shawcross.

Much has been said on the Ramsey incident already and I won’t go into that. As for what the crowd does to Shawcross, I don’t care. What I care about is that we win by scoring plenty of goals. And incidentally we will go top again, and if Chelsea does their job we will stay there.  

As it is Stoke, expect lots of long throws, long balls, pushing, shoving, kicking, tackles and everything you can imagine to try and put us on the back foot.

To counter it, we would need our midfielders to support the defense every time the ball is with Stoke. The second ball is what we need protection against and the midfielders will come into play a lot tomorrow. If we can shut them out in the middle by keeping possession, they won’t be much of a threat then. Provided we score on the chances we get and keep it disciplined at the back, we will get the result.

As for the team, Djourou needs to start tomorrow. He has been excellent in the air and we will need that. To partner him I would go with Squillaci. Clichy has come under a lot of fire for his performance against Manu. As Desigunner proves it here and I agree that it was the lack of support on his flank that led to that side being exploited. And since there is no word on Gibbs yet, Clichy is going to start. Sagna to occupy the other flank.

The latest on Fabianski is that he is to undergo tests, in other words he won’t start. As a result Szczesny will be in goal. He was impressive against United; showing confidence, making saves and catching whatever went down his way. We will need the same type of performance as there will be plenty of long balls tomorrow.

In the middle, Fabregas needs to start as the match with Chelsea is next and we need him to get some playing time. Song and Wilshere to support him. Both of them will need to be alert by providing cover for the defenders properly.

Upfront, I feel it’s time now to give Van Persie a start. We need him to get his form back as it is vital for our campaign. To partner him, Nasri is a certainty to start. This leaves only one place and I can’t decide between Arshavin and Rosicky (although Arshavin is edging it at the moment).  Rosicky will offer us cover at the back while contributing upfront also. Arshavin on the other hand is a game changer and despite not playing well in the last match, will always be a danger.

And I have not forgotten Walcott. I believe that he offers us more when he comes on as a substitute. He along with Chamakh to start on the bench.

So my starting XI would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin

No predictions for tomorrow. However, I would love to see plenty of goals and a clean sheet.

Come on Gooners!! Let’s show Stoke how proper football is played!!


Sam Allardyce – A Moron at His Best

September 18, 2010

Sam Allardyce has gone a step further to show that he is a complete moron and there is no one better at this than him. Read the rest of this entry »