Arsenal vs Swansea: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 10, 2011

So after a draw, two losses, countless red cards and injuries, frantic last two days in the transfer window and the ever boring international break, we are here, almost a month later since the inception of the season for a fresh start. We are up against Swansea at home and I am already feeling the excitement of today’s game.

International breaks are never a welcome thing, however, this one did came at the right time for us. We needed a break after the thrashing at Old Trafford and our new signings needed time to get acquainted with the team. How will they gel in with the team on the field particularly and the English football in general will be somewhat answered today.  Most of our players (old and new) had some great international games, scoring lots of goals though. Hopefully, they will repeat that today against Swansea.

On the injury front, we have not made much progress though. We have Gibbs back from his injury (hopefully he won’t go out injured today). Otherwise, we have lost Vermaelen for a month, Wilshere for up to two or may be more, Squillaci is still having a calf injury and Diaby is as usual enjoying time on the side lines. Miyaichi and Rosicky have joined them for short durations and will hopefully return in midweek.

I am glad though that Frimpong is back and that we were able to sign five players in the final two days. Otherwise we would still be stretched in the middle and at the back. With Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Santos and Park, we have plenty of options to start with today.

We do need a win (for a change) but if we do it by a margin, it will really set the right tone to our miserable start. However, we shouldn’t be complacent under any circumstances. We have a perfect opportunity to bounce back from the awful start, so, let’s take it with a bang. I know we will have a few new bodies out there, but I am expecting them to give a great performance to send the right message out to the masses.  

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Wenger opts to start with. Based on the team news, it is quite obvious that we will see a backline of Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Gibbs. Andre Santos is in the squad but lacking match fitness and knowing Wenger, he won’t start with him. We might though see him later in the game. As for Mertesacker, I am really looking forward to see how he partners with Koscielny.

In the middle, Frimpong will have to start in the holding role behind Arteta and Ramsey. I won’t be surprised if Benayoun deputizes for Ramsey but I have a feeling Wenger won’t start with him today.

Robin van Persie is sure to start up front flanked by Walcott and Arshavin. I am tempted to start with Benayoun in Arshavin place though. Park is another option to start with but I am not sure how he will respond to playing on the wings. Seeing his international goals, he does get into some good scoring positions and is not afraid to have a shot on goal. To properly utilize Park we will need to change our formation and I am certain on one thing that it won’t happen today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Frimpong, Ramsey, Walcott, RVP, Arshavin

With this team, we still will have a bench of Benayoun, Park, Chamberlain, Djourou, Santos, Fabianski and Chamakh with quite a few suspended and out injured. It does feel good to have options after failing to put out an experienced team in the opening three games. However, lots of work still needs to be done. We have got our numbers up and we have got some quality and experience in the team, but we will need to show it on the field by giving results.

As I said before, we have been given the best opprtunity and we need to give the perfect response.  

Here it is to a great win today, a first of many to follow. To all the Gooners who will be at The Emirates, be loud and vocal in your support, the team will need it today.

Enjoy the game and have a good day!

 


It is quiet out there, Fabregas might stay after all, Clichy gone? Fixtures shouldn’t be a concern!

June 22, 2011

When I had last posted on my blog we were close in on Gervinho, Cahill, and Samba.  A week later, a week into my vacations, we are still nowhere (or somewhere that only Arsenal can tell). Many have reported that they are done deals and I am hoping this really is the case but the silence from the Emirates is deafening. I have been waiting for an official Statement but nothing has come out yet. Do they want to give us a surprise? Or are they waiting for 1st of July? I do hope it is a good surprise.

Even the tabloids have gotten bored with the stories and now many have started asking questions. I believe in one thing though that if we have reached an agreement on the above players than there can be no stopping them in moving here. If, however, it was all speculation, we can forget them. Expect to see only Gervinho arrive as he is from the French League. While keep everything crossed for Samba and Cahill as their value has gone up and Man City and Tottenham are all also getting involved. And with 8 days to 1st of July, a lot can happen as within football things change within a day.

By the way, what were they thinking when they linked us to Barton, Odemwinge and Taarabt. Eto sounds interesting but I know it will never happen.

Coming to other matters, there has been a positive development for us in the case of Fabregas. Sandro Rosell’s, Barcelona president, comment regarding Fabregas’ value going down clearly speaks that they don’t regard him much and won’t go all out to buy him. Sandro Rosell said

“What is the limit for signing him? We’ll need to see. First we need to know what his salary is and what are his conditions. Everything is in relation to the salary and the transfer fee but, if last year we offered 40 million [euros], a year has passed, it is clear that this year his value is less. Since then there has been wear and tear and now he’s worth less. In the case that we were interested our offer would be reasonable. We would not go overboard.”

And added

“I don’t think he will go to another Spanish club. Cesc is of Barça, and if I were the president of another club I wouldn’t sign a player who holds dear the colours of another team.”

It also seems that they want Fabregas to put in a transfer request so that he can be acquired for less money. Well Mr Sandro, you can forget about Fabregas for now and forever for one, you don’t have the money and two, Fabregas is happy here and he won’t give in a transfer request. And after your comment no sane man will as you don’t appreciate his quality. I hope Fabregas does realize that Barcelona don’t want him and that the best thing to do now would be forget about Barca and play like a true leader for Arsenal and guide us to trophies. And in return Rosell will get to know the true value of Fabregas.

There has also been progress on Clichy’s situation with Roma showing interest in him. The value that is being quoted is £7-8 million. Although this is better than what Liverpool were offering but still in my view it is less. And I am astonished that the value of our players is so less considering a certain striker went for £35 million who isn’t better than Bendtner IMO.

The replacement for Clichy is a bigger concern though. Gibbs is in no man’s land, Traore is not better than Clichy, Enrique, with whom we are being linked, seems fine, Leighton Baines might do well. The rest is up to Wenger as to who he has in his mind. Else force Clichy to extend his contract as I have been saying all along.

Nasri’s situation has also gone quiet. And I still haven’t figured out what the real issue is. Is it money or trophies or is it his position? A month has passed since we played our last game of the season and still we haven’t sorted out one of our best player’s issue. And I can’t help it but ask what the hell are the people at Arsenal doing? We haven’t bought anyone! we haven’t been able to sell anyone! what really are we doing? Maybe I am getting impatient but seriously by now a decision on Nasri’s contract should have been taken!

Meanwhile, the fixtures have also been released for Arsenal for the next season and I had a smile when I went through the list. I was smiling because we have all the difficult fixtures in the first half of the season. No doubt the month of August is difficult but we always have a good start to a season and I am hoping we will be having another good start. However, it is a long way to go and  it shouldn’t be a concern as a season doesn’t depend on the fixtures, it depends on how you play. Before that we need to address the issue of our players and our team. Just over three weeks to our first game of pre-season before which we need to sign players so that they can gel-in and adjust with our style.

Before I end, WTTGT is reporting that Clichy has been sold to Paris St. Germain for £10 million. This seems bizarre to me. For now we can only wait and see what happens in the next couple of days. Have a good day!


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 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.”


Arsenal vs Sunderland: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 5, 2011

We are back in action today in the Premier League with Sunderland coming to our home. I know no one needs to be reminded but all the remaining fixtures from now on are of great importance and points dropped in any will be crucial in the end. And after Chelsea’s win, this game is where we just don’t have to drop points. The ball is in our court, it is up to us to take the initiative and capitalize on this opportunity to put pressure back on United, who travel to Liverpool on Sunday. We shouldn’t be looking too much ahead but if we win today’s game, we will only be a point behind United and hopefully top of the table by 20th of this month.

As far as today’s game is concerned, I expect a difficult match for us. Although, Sunderland haven’t been playing well recently but I believe them to up their game as they always do against top of the table teams. Now, most teams go for ‘park the bus’ approach against us at our home but today I don’t see Sunderland doing the same. They will go for the attack as they did earlier in the season against us (although it was after we went down to 10 men) and they certainly can cause damage with Asamoah Gyan upfront. They are also good in keeping things compact at the back and then cause damage on the counter as they did to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

However, it doesn’t matter how Sunderland approach the game because it all depends on how we play. If our start is good, Sunderland will certainly go on the defensive. On the contrary if it isn’t, Sunderland will grow in confidence and try and take their chances. So for us to get the maximum points, all our players will have to perform. Be it the defenders, the midfielders or the attackers, all of them will have to work hard for the 90 minutes. The other thing we have to ensure is that we don’t concede silly goals at the back. If Djourou and Koscielny start I don’t see many problems but our midfield will have to contribute a lot.

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, I expect all of our regulars to start after Arsene admitted that Premier League is the priority and all focus is on this game.

Szczesny along with Djourou, Clichy and Sagna will surely return. If Koscielny isn’t hundred percent only then Squillaci should be started and not because of Barcelona but because Koscielny will be required for the FA Cup Quarter final and any recurrence of his injury will leave us very depleted at the back. And I hope Szczesny and Koscielny have one hell of a good game.

In the middle with no Cesc and Song our possibilities are limited. I will go with Wilshere, Nasri and Diaby. In this setup, Wilshere will have to stay a lot deeper.   

Up front Arshavin will return. Bendtner deserves a start after his hat trick against Leyton and on the right I will keep Rosicky. Rosicky and Nasri can interchange if things are not going to plan.

Probable starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby, Rosicky, Bendtner, Arshavin

As I said before that this game won’t be easy but I expect the three points. We can win this but as easily we can drop points if we are not focussed – I am as always gunning for a big win.

Aaron Ramsey may also feature today and I am looking forward to it. I hope he comes on for a few minutes after all this time being on the sidelines but it will only be possible if we have the game in control.

Have a great day Gooners and enjoy the match. Barcelona can wait for now as today we reduce the gap to one point from Manu. Go Arsenal go!!


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 vs Everton: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 1, 2011

After a hard fought victory against Huddersfield Town just two days back, we are back in action tonight at the Emirates against Everton.

Everton are enjoying a very decent spell at the moment and after holding Chelsea to a draw at the weekend, they will certainly be looking for at least a point tonight. Last season they gave us a very hard time in this fixture and only Rosicky’s goal in injury time got us a point. So expect a very difficult game.  

As for us, we have given some very dominating and some very frustrating performances in the past few games. If we are to get the maximum points tonight and keep pace with United at the top, we will need another dominating performance from our team.

As for the starting eleven, I am expecting only Koscielny and Arshavin to keep their places from the last game.

Szczesny will return in goal as well as Djourou at the centre back position. On the flanks we will see our best fullbacks, Sagna and Clichy, to return as tonight we cannot take risks.

In the middle too, our most lethal trio of Fabregas, Wilshere and Song will be back.

As for the forwards, with Nasri out, I would prefer Arsahvin to start in his place with Van Persie and Walcott completing the team.

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

As for the game, I have said before that it won’t be easy, so we will need the right attitude from the start. Possession will be vital along with finishing our chances. We will need to make sure that we aren’t caught on the counter as Everton are very good at it. An early goal for us will make the game easier. However, if they score first, things will become more difficult.

Considering the fact that our first team will be starting, I am expecting a win but still we will need a top performance from them as we cannot drop more points in the Premier League. Another three goals plus a clean sheet will be amazing but I will be content with a win no matter how we get it. And I hope no one else gets injured.

Keep your fingers crossed!! This game will be exciting to the very end.