Player Ratings: Barcelona 3 – 1 Arsenal

March 9, 2011

So, finally our Champions League campaign for this season has come to an end and in a fashion I certainly wouldn’t have wanted. To begin with, I would like to congratulate Barcelona for qualifying and showing why they are the best team in the world. They truly were remarkable and made us look like spectators and they truly desreved to go through. However, I also believe that they would have had to work much harder had it remained 11 vs 11. The referee’s decision completely ended the competition. They were dominating the game with 11 all but our defense was putting up a great show. With a man down the job was gigantic. Not blaming the ref for the loss but that decision did change the game and we can only wonder what would have happened had Van Persie remained on.  

Nonetheless, credit also to us for putting up an overall good effort and a good defensive performance. We held them for like 48 minutes and only a mistake by Fabregas led to their goal. In the second half again we held them till the time the numbers were equal. I won’t fault the defenders for the goals because they were down to some brilliant movement of Barcelona players and as well as individual mistakes by our players that allowed them to continuously attack us.

The players who shone yesterday were Almunia, Wilshere, Nasri, Koscielny and Djourou. They played with their hearts and looked like they really wanted to go ahead. Koscielny for me was massive as he played really well under pressure and even with a yellow card. Wilshere showed why he is in the starting eleven for Arsenal after yet another inspiring display of football. Nasri again showed that he is quality. If only Rosicky, Diaby and Fabregas had played with the same effort, as they were all poor, this game would have been different.

Tactically, I think we should have played to our strengths and going all defensive invited in too much pressure. However, I know one thing now that if we want to we can defend very well, which is one of the biggest positive from yesterdays defeat. Also our passing was poor as under pressure we gave away the ball as soon as we got it. But here credit to Barcelona as they pressed our players in threes and fours. I am though dissapointed with having no shots on goal. 

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (no rating): Was on for like 18 minutes during which didn’t have to do much. Made one save from a free kick which also led to his injury. I hope he comes back quickly.

Sagna (6): Did his job very well even though he wasn’t supported enough by Rosicky. Should have done better with the ball when he got it because gave it away very easily every time.

Djourou (7): Made some remarkable blocks and interceptions. Partnered well with Koscielny as both of them gave their best to keep us in the game.

Koscielny (7.5): He too was excellent with his tackling, interceptions and blocks. Did well the whole match as Barcelona created chance after chance. Gave away a penalty but otherwise his defensive performance was excellent.

Clichy (6): His side was exploited as he was at times caught out of position. At times drifted back from the off side line that allowed Alves to make a few diagonal runs. His decision making was also bad. However, credit still to him for restricting the Barcelona players most of the times.

Wilshere (7.5): Top performance defensively as well as the few times we went ahead. Played with his heart out as he demonstrated with a tackle made early in the game. Tried his best to take us forward every time he got the ball.  His pass to Bendtern in the dying minutes should have been a goal.

Fabregas (4): He had one of the worst games yesterday. Even he acknowledged it himself. His passing was off, didn’t provide anything in defense and made a colossal mistake that I didn’t expect from him, which opened the scores for Barcelona. Maybe he wasn’t fit but then he shouldn’t have started.

Diaby (4): Poor, as he was one of the weak links for me. Even looked lost at times as he would remain rooted to the spot. Didn’t give enough support in defense and whenever he got the ball he would lose possession. I was expecting much more from him.

Nasri (7): Another one who gave his heart out. Defensively was massive as he saved Clichy’s arse time after time. Looked lively whenever he got the ball and made a few good runs but was always triple teamed with no one in support. Earned us and delivered an excellent corner that led to the own goal after yet another strong run.

Van Persie (4): I don’t know what he was doing when he went for Alves rather than the ball. That first yellow was deserved but the second was just an incomprehensible decision. However, during the time he was on, should have done more to help the team. I am still of the view had he stayed on the game would have been different.

Rosicky (4): Poor again from him. Gave away possession every time he got the ball which led to continuous attacks from Barcelona. If he had played like Nasri did on the left, we could have created a few chances down the right side.

Subs:

Almunia (8): I must admit, wasn’t happy to see him come on. However, he demonstrated again that he is a good shot stopper as he made save after save to keep us in the game till the final minute. Massively excellent performance and I hope he gives the same in the match against Man United at the weekend.

Bendtner (no vote): Got the chance of his life and had he scored in the 87th minute, right now we will have been praising him. Didn’t do anything else as Barcelona played keep-ball later in the game and we didn’t get to create much.

Arshavin (no vote): Tried hard but couldn’t do much as we had very little possession. 

The best thing now is to move ahead and concentrate on the two domestic tournaments. There is still plenty left to play for and now I am more than certain we will win the League and hopefully end our trophy drought. However, we will need all to perform and please Arsenal, no dropping of points. This season has promised too much and we cannot stop now to end the season with nothing.

The final run in starts this weekend with the FA Cup quarter and if we beat United, we are in for the double.

Keep the faith!!


Arsene Wenger’s injury update and Van Persie’s inclusion in the squad

March 8, 2011

Van Persie and Fabregas were part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Barcelona on Monday morning with Alex Song left behind.

Arsene Wenger, while speaking on Monday morning confirmed that Fabregas will travel with the squad with him being 90 percent fit as the manger added that his presence for the squad is vital with him being the captain and also the focal point of the attack.

While, Alex Song failed his test on Sunday and is ruled out, the manager confirmed that all the other players that were in the squad on Saturday are fit along with Wilshere, who also made a recovery from his injuries from Sunderland game.

Meanwhile, the surprise was of Robin Van Persie travelling with the squad, whose injury had him ruled out for at least three weeks.

Regarding Van Persie’s inclusion at the UEFA press-conference, the manager explained how he wasn’t fit enough to travel but added that he made a quick recovery in the last three days and that his test on Monday morning was very positive after which it was decided that he will be travelling with the squad.

However, Wenger made it clear that his inclusion will be decided on Tuesday morning and no gambles will be taken as he added that he will play only if he is hundred percent fit.

Arsene Wenger on Monday morning said:

“Fabregas will have a final test today. It is 90 per cent he will travel and be fit. It is vital for us because he is important in the transition between attacking and defending. He is also the leader of the team so we want him there. Alex Song is completely out. He had a test on Sunday morning and it was negative. Wilshere will be fit. Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available.”

Arsene Wenger, regarding Van Persie on Monday Evening, said:

“He is here as a player. He will have a possible test tomorrow. We are 19 here in the squad. Whether Van Persie will be included has not been decided yet. He has made quick progress in the last three days. When I spoke [with him] this [Monday] morning he was really unlikely to travel. [But] he wanted to have a go. We made a test and it was quite positive. We will see how he responds to that and I will make a decision tomorrow [Tuesday] morning. We will not take a gamble in a game of that importance. So he will have to be fit or not fit.

I am very bad at mind games. Whole truth is what I have given you here. We’ll see tomorrow morning. The medical team will assess him and I would like him to play. But I will only play him if he is 100 per cent fit. OK, I will consider 99.5.”

The 19-man squad that travelled is as follows which will be reduced to 18 after final decision on Van Persie’s inclusion on Tuesday:

Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Robin van Persie


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham City

February 28, 2011

I won’t go into how the game played out or what we should have done or where it went wrong. It was just one of those days where we sadly didn’t take the initiative and suffered. Bad luck for us as it came in a final where we had a chance to end our six years wait for a trophy.

I will say one thing though that most of our players did felt the pressure of playing in the final and also playing under pressure of a lot of fans expectations. Although, it should never have been the case but they will have learnt a vital lesson. I just hope we bounce back from this.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (5): Made one excellent save and did well on most occasions. However, one wrong decision and one mix-up, not entirely his fault though, and two goals. Not what I was expecting from him. Experience does matter and this will be a great lesson for the youngster.

Sagna (5): Defensively wasn’t that commanding. Provided good support upfront as he delivered in a couple of good crosses.

Djourou (4): I think he felt the pressure of the final the most. Made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. Missed a few headers, misplaced a few passes, lost his man on the first goal. Need I say more? Also wasn’t expecting a performance like this from him.

Koscielny (5): He was much better than Djourou. He was solid on most occasion and made a lot of important interceptions but then went on to make a mistake he will never forget. What on earth was he thinking, I will never know and I will leave it at that.

Clichy (5.5): Did well on most occasions on the left side. Was good in the one-on-ones. Didn’t provide much support upfront.

Song (4): I guess he is tired after all. Wasn’t up to his best as he misplaced a lot of passes and never looked at ease in the middle.

Wilshere (7): One of our best players. He was great in the middle, gave his heart out. We needed more like him yesterday.

Rosicky (3): I don’t want to point fingers at any one but I feel he was the weak link for us. Was way too casual as if he was sure we will win. Misplaced a lot of passes in the first half as he failed to make an impact. Improved his game in the second but still not enough. He should have won it for us if he had been simple and not gone for a deft back heel near the end.

Nasri (7): He too was great out there. Took some time but he also gave his heart out. Made excellent runs, showed good close control, had shots on target. I guess it just wasn’t our day as there were very few playing like him.

Van Persie (7): Scored an excellent goal. But I guess luck always desert us in such time. Should never have gotten injured and should never have been substituted.  

Arshavin (6.5): Excellent assist for the goal and was one of the better players in the first half. Went missing in the second half as he was substituted.

Subs:

Bendtner (6) had a couple of good moments but still lacks that extra quality Van Persie has. Chamakh (6) defensively provided good support. Upfront produced a good chance for Bendtner and Rosicky but both of them failed to utilize.


Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham: Heartbroken! Yes, but we have to move on!!

February 27, 2011

We could have lost any other way but not like that, just not like that. I don’t know what to write or what I feel after what just happened. We had the game in control. That kick from Foster was going nowhere. How did the ball end up in the net, I just don’t want to know or want to think about what happened in those few seconds, I just want to forget it. I am heartbroken and I feel like I have been crushed just like every Gooner but we have to move on from here and get behind the team.

But the question is where do we go from here? Will it be the end of our season or will we be hungrier for success? What will the effect be on the players? We will know the answers to these questions in the next three games for sure. We can only hope the team doesn’t crumble after this.

What ever happened out there, well done to lads for the performance and let’s just hope for the best. There is still a lot to play for and this is not the end of the world…….

Will come up with the player ratings tomorrow.


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.


Will we get a new defender?!, Vela off to West Brom and Szczesny is our first choice keeper

January 29, 2011

With so many players linked over these past few weeks, and with us short at the centre back position, one would have been hundred percent sure that a defender would be signed in order to make up for the numbers at the back. As it stands the transfer window is almost over and there are no signs that a a new player will be coming.

During this transfer window, I haven’t talked much about the players linked because speculations always end up futile. The other reason being that I did an article back in December, where we were in a similar situation, and I had said that to avoid similar situations in the future we must sign a defender in the January transfer window. That article didn’t go down well with the readers. The timing of the post maybe wasn’t good but the problem was there and we still haven’t addressed it. We survived that period and thankfully we have survived it again this month, and I hope we won’t have a similar situation in the future. But we have an opportunity to solve it, yet we haven’t taken it.

We still have time but with Squillaci returning, Vermaelen on the way and Song also able to play at the back, there is only one percent probability that a defender will be signed.

Following is what Arsene Wenger said yesterday:

“I focus on my squad and I feel we have 22, 23 outfield players who can cope with what we need. Vermaelen looks to be making good progress, Squillaci is back available, so that was the only position we were short, at centre-backs. If I don’t make any signings it is because I have not identified a special player who could strengthen our squad at the moment.”

So that’s that. I won’t go more into this. Wenger knows more for sure and I hope he is right on this one and I hope we don’t have similar situations as we head into the final lap of the season and don’t rue this opportunity.

Coming onto other news, Vela is off on loan to West Bromwich. It’s about time that a move has been made because he deserves to play games and staying at Arsenal he was getting many. It’s a good opportunity for him to prove his worth and I wish him the best of luck.

Also Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Szczesny is Arsenal’s number one keeper.

“At the moment Wojciech is No 1. He’s done nothing for me to take him out. [As for Sunday], I can rotate the goalkeepers. In the Cups I sometimes play different ones. “

This has come at the right time as we have looked pretty solid with Szczesny in goal. He still has a lot to learn but with him, there is a feeling the the defenders are more confident. And with Fabianski also doing great, the goal keeper situation looks fine. As for Almunia, he will have to prove his worth but it’s quite clear that he will have a hard time in doing that.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow is yet another Cup match and this time the opposition is from League one. I don’t see anything but a win for us. Enjoy the game where ever you are and have a great day.