Wenger’s injury update on Vermaelen, Walcott, Gervinho, Benayoun and Koscielny ahead of Tottenham

October 1, 2011

Arsene Wenger gave mixed injury news ahead of the North London derby on Sunday.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager revealed Laurent Koscielny will definitely miss the Sunday game after failing to absorb any of the tests on Friday. While on Theo Walcott and Gervinho, the manager said a decision will be made either today or on Sunday with Walcott having more of a chance to be available. Arsene Wenger also confirmed Squillaci and Benayoun are completely fit and back with the squad with Squillaci short on match fitness only. 

On an update on Thomas Vermaelen, the manager revealed a delay in his recovery from the surgery. Vermaelen now will join the squad one or two weeks after the international break.

Meanwhile, with Arsenal short on defenders at the moment, Arsene Wenger said he is tempted to start with Alex Song in defence but hasn’t decided it yet with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also having a possibility to be in the team.

Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

[Laurent] Koscielny looks to be definitely out for Sunday, it looks short for him. He couldn’t absorb any test today [Friday]. For [Theo] Walcott and Gervinho a decision will be made on Saturday or Sunday. The most likely to be fit of the two looks to be Walcott. [Yossi] Benayoun and [Sebastien] Squillaci are completely fit. Squillaci lacks match fitness, Benayoun does not.

It will be a fraction longer than expected [before Thomas Vermaelen returns]. He will not be straight back [in the squad] after the international break. It will be one or two weeks later.

[Alex Song in defence?] Squillaci will not be fit enough to start the game. If I am tempted I can answer honestly ‘yes’. Will I do it? Honestly I don’t know yet.

[Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] He is a possibility to be in the squad, I haven’t picked the team yet.


Blackburn vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

September 17, 2011

Last weekend we won our first league game of the season. A week later, that included travelling to Germany and back, we are here this Saturday away at Blackburn and considering the past games, Ewood Park is a very difficult to place to go and get results. Even without Sam Alardyce, we can be sure of one thing that it will be a tough game and entirely different from what we faced against Dortmund.

The timing of the game is, however, perfect. Blackburn, like us, is going through a very bad patch of results having won no game in the last four. They will be low on confidence but at the same time desperate to get points. We can exploit this to our advantage. While the past Blackburn sides have relied more heavily on long balls and the typical English football style, this side has added quick attacking football that relies more on technical skills to their game too. They still have a very strong defense and when the need arises can mount very fast counter attacks.

It won’t be an easy game, but I do expect us to get the maximum points. The timing of the game is also great as we have an opportunity to cut the gap at the top of the table with Liverpool playing against Spurs and Man United up against Chelsea. Wenger knows this as he spoke to the official Arsenal site that big games will have an impact on the title race.

“Of course, they will have an impact at the end of the season. Both teams are lucky because they play against someone who has also played in the Champions League. I believe Chelsea have a little advantage having 24 hours more rest but Manchester United have such a big squad now.”

These game will benefit those who take the initiative and today we have one such chance.

In terms of injuries, we have nothing new from the Dortmund game, if I am not wrong. Ramsey has a chance to return to the team but I am not holding my breath over it. Song and Gervinho will return to the Premier League after sitting out the last three games due to suspension. They were really missed in those games as it was evident from their performance during midweek. I am not sure what has happened to Rosicky’s knee injury though as he was supposed to be back by last game.

I don’t see many changes from the team that was out against Dortmund on Tuesday. The backline is most likely to remain same. This back line has given us a win, a draw and one clean sheet already and it does look good. We still have a few problems but I hope they will be solved in time. It would be a surprise for me if Wenger starts with Santos in place of Gibbs though.

In the middle too, I will put up the same trio because these are the games where we need the team to integrate both in attack and defense. I also won’t start with Frimpong because that will be too defensive and today is a game that we can only win by being on the attack. Also Benayoun will have his use while we go on the offensive.

Upfront, however, I will bring in Arshavin in place of Theo Walcott as he had a rest in midweek to partner Gervinho and van Persie. Arshavin had a great game last weekend and I am hoping for a similar performance from him. Walcott despite producing a good assist is not making full use of his pace while starting, and therefore, he will be more of an asset when brought late on today.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Benayoun, Arteta, Song, Gervinho, RVP, Arshavin

For me, today, one of the important players is Mertesacker for his height and positioning. If Blackburn decide to use the aerial route and set pieces, his height will come in handy. To counter the pace of Blackburn, we will have to use Koscielny’s ability to close down players. For this to work, communication among both the centre backs will be vital. Gibbs will have to make sure that he doesn’t leave his flank exposed. His decisions will have to be spot on as when to make a run forward and when to hold the line.

Alex Song as usual will be vital to our play. He will have to stay close to the defense when we are under attack. While moving forward, he has the ability to pick out a delightful pass and this can come in useful today in opening the Blackburn backline.

To win this game, goals will have to be scored. Last two games we have scored a goal each. Today we will need more than a goal. We will certainly get more time on the ball today and it will have to be properly utilized to create chances. Arteta, Benayoun and Arshavin will have to work out some creative moves to break down Blackburn as they have a very sound defense. They only need to land the ball at van Persie and Gervinho’s feet in scoring positions; the rest will be done by them.

As far as the result is concerned, I am looking forward to a win which is the only good result for today. A draw for me is not acceptable and I cannot take another loss to be frank. I know it will be a tough game, but we have the team that can get a win against them. Anything less will be disappointing for me. We need to build a momentum now and these games can be the springboard for us before we face Spurs and the men in blue.   

That is all for now, enjoy the game and keep your fingers crossed. Have a good day!


Arsenal 1 – 0 Swansea: Thoughts and Player Ratings

September 11, 2011

So after a bad start to the season, we finally recorded our first win of the season, albeit some luck, a top class strike by Arshavin and some good keeping by Szczesny. As for the rest, it was a so and so performance.

We started off very brightly with Arteta creating the first opportunity in the opening minutes for Ramsey to miss the target. Soon after wards, Szczesny produced a great save to keep the score level. Arshavin then created an opportunity for Walcott only for the Swans to keep the ball form crossing the line after some good defending and keeping. The goal for us came in an unexpected fashion, when lady luck for the first time sided with us. It was a mistake by Vorm, Swans keeper that allowed us to take the lead. It was a great first time finish form the Russian from a very tight angle. In between all this, there wasn’t anything of worth created by both teams.

The second half was where we again faded as we have been doing lately. Except a solo effort by van Persie and a header by Chamakh late on, I don’t remember any decent shots on goal by us. Swansea on the other hand had a good second half. They did create a few openings but due to lack of quality upfront couldn’t score. They managed to hit the cross bar from a free kick. They also came close to scoring in the dying minutes of the game when Szczesny made a mistake only for the Swan’s player to miss the target.  Overall, the final 15-20 minutes were the worst for us. We didn’t concede though and the three points were secured, which matters the most. I will take three points any day over a good performance. However, we do need to improve our play if we want to seriously challenge for a top four finish.

As far the performance was concerned, I was always expecting a win, however, wasn’t expecting that we will go through the same scenario that we have witnessed in almost all the final games last season. I was rather hoping for a win with some margin. And that is why we need lots of improvement to really secure our place in the top four this season. It is also safe to say that had this been any other team, the score would have been different. It is going to be a very tough battle this season but we have taken the first stepsin the right direction and we can only go forward form here.

We need to take encouragement from the positives. Against Swansea we kept a clean sheet and ended with three points and 11 men on the pitch, something which we haven’t done till yesterday this season in the league. However we must not turn a blind eye on the weaknesses.

The problem, at the moment, is that we seem to have lost our creativity upfront. Is it our style of play or our formation or the fault lies with our players? I don’t know the answer but something needs to be done ASAP. How will it be solved is one tough question that Wenger needs to answer and rectify and he must do it quickly.

Much has been talked about changing the formation and even though I am a big supporter of the formation we are playing now, I am coming to the conclusion that it’s time now to change back to 4-4-2,  just to mix things up a bit. Van Persie does look isolated upfront and another striker will really help his game to prosper.

We also need to increase the pace of our passing because right now we are slow in releasing the ball. Our decision making in the final third is also not good. Our final ball lacks intent, pace and accuracy and so the opposition doesn’t have a hard time defending against us.

As for the new signings, they all had a decent debut for us. Arteta certainly looked at home with his passing and movement. However, all of them need to increase their pace. It is too early to say how much Arteta and Benayoun will help us in getting what Fabregas and Nasri could do but I am encouraged by the signs. As it was their first game, I hope they will gel in with our style of play quickly.

In conclusion, we got what we wanted. Performance will surely come in time as we have a few players out injured and the new players need time to adjust to our play. Technically we are in the building up process again, so we will have to be patient and make do with the points secured which are going to matter in the end.

This game is done and dusted and now the focus must turn to Tuesday, where a more formidable force awaits us.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny: (7) Made an excellent save early on in the game and commanded his box excellently throughout. Brought into action late on where he missed a ball only for the Swan player to miss the target from a few yards out.

Sagna: (6) Nothing special from the Frenchman. Kept things simple at the back, however, didn’t contribute much in attack.

Mertesacker: (6.5) He was calm, composed and kept things simple. Made a couple of great tackles and his positioning was also good. Does need to increase his pace though.

Koscielny: (7) Solid game from him. Made some good interceptions especially one at the end of the first half.

Gibbs: (6) The usual performance from him. Bad positioning and decision making at the back. He did make a few good tackles but he needs to improve a lot. Upfront he was great as he showed with his cross to Chamakh in the final minutes of the game.

Frimpong: (5) Nothing fancy from the youngster. Misplaced lots of passes but did provide decent support to defense. Still a long way to go for him.

Arteta: (6.5) Good debut for him. Started well and produced some excellent through balls. His passing, movement and distribution of the ball was good but he too needs to increase his pace. Disappeared somewhat in the second half as most of our team does. It was his first game for Arsenal so I am not going to be too judgmental.

Ramsey: (5.5) A decent performance from the Welshman after a weak start. Missed a good opportunity in the opening minutes and he was involved in the move that led to Chamakh’s header. He does give an aura of being lazy at times with his passing and movement. I have been saying after every game that he needs to take more responsibility and he needs to come out of the shell when he plays for us.  

Arshavin: (7.5) Great game! Looked lively, made some great runs and was always involved in the game. A great finish scoring the only goal of the game too. Back tracked a lot (by his standards) too.  Need more of this every weekend from him.

RVP: (6) Had one excellent shot on goal after some trickery where the side bar denied him the goal. Otherwise it was quiet for him as he looked isolated.

Walcott: (5) Besides having a couple of shots on goal, it was not a good game for him. His final ball was very poor and didn’t give the right support on the flanks.

Subs:

Benayoun (5), Coquelin (5) and Chamakh (no rating) didn’t make much impact. Chamakh did get a header on target though.


Wenger’s latest team update: Walcott, Gibbs and Frimpong back, Miyaichi and Rosicky out!

September 10, 2011

With the international break over, it is back to club football and Arsenal is up against Swansea today. Arsene Wenger on Friday gave the latest team news ahead of the game.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the manager gave a mixed update on the squad. While Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs were confirmed to be available, Rosicky will miss the game due to a knee injury picked up on international duty. He has a chance for Tuesday night  

Jack Wilshere and Abu Diaby are, however, out for longer durations.

Wilshere has an inflamed bone and he will be in a boot for a month after which it will be further examined. Vermaelen is also out for a month due to his surgery.

Our new signing, Andre Santos, is in the squad but is lacking match fitness. On Ryo Miyaichi, Wenger revealed that he is injured at the moment and will join the squad on either Monday or Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Alex Song and Gervinho will sit out their last games due to suspension and Jenkinson will miss the game due to the two yellow cards picked up at Old Trafford. Frimpong is available after missing the game against Manchester United through suspension. Squillaci will also miss the game due to a calf injury.

Arsene Wenger, ahead of the Swansea game, said:

“[Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott] are available for Saturday. [Tomas Rosicky] has a chance to be available for Tuesday night, he has a knee injury. He got a kick during the internationals.

[Andre Santos] is not completely match fit, but is in the squad. [Ryo Miyaichi] will very quickly knock at the door. At the moment he is injured and is just coming back – he should join in again on Monday or Tuesday.

We have the players with long-term injuries out like [Jack] Wilshere and [Abou] Diaby of course; then we have players suspended like Gervinho, [Alex] Song and [Carl] Jenkinson as well; we have an injury from the internationals in [Tomas] Rosicky and finally [Thomas] Vermaelen, who had surgery on Monday and will be out for a month.”


Theo Walcott on possible arrivals, Udinese game and taking more responsibility

August 18, 2011

With players leaving Arsenal left and right, Arsenal’s winger, Theo Walcott is ready to take more responsibility and is confident Arsene wenger will bring in new payers to replace the ones leaving.

Following the win against Udinese, Walcott admitted he was satisfied by the win and the clean sheet against a very dangerous counter attacking team. Praising the young player, he added they did well for their part against a technically strong side.

Going into the second the leg, the winger added that the team is looking forward to the battle away from home as it will be a tough game and felt that the pressure will be more on them.

“I think 1-0 is very positive. The clean sheet was very important. A lot of young lads came on tonight and did very well. Udinese are a very good team – they are technically very strong, quick and at times I think they taught us a bit of a lesson. They are very strong in midfield but it is a good result.

We have players to come back as well and they are going to be under more pressure at their place because they have to come at us more. It is going to be tough but we are looking forward to the battle.

We didn’t want to commit too many bodies forward on Tuesday night because we know how dangerous they are counter-attacking teams. So we were very tight as a defence and that is a positive – two clean sheets in two games is great.”

On his performance, the winger said that he likes it out there and hopefully that will make the manager play him in the striker’s role. He did add that it is not a demand and only wants to give Wenger options.

Walcott scored the only goal of the game; morover, he did go close with another despite scuffing a couple of shots.

“I just like to put it out there. The boss has always promised me in time I will get a chance to play up front. It’s been six years so hopefully if I keep scoring I can get a chance up front with Robin van Persie maybe. That’s only out in the open – I am not demanding anything. I am just giving the boss something to think about!”

On possible transfers, the English man added that he is confident the boss has players lined up to arrive.

“Well, I am smiling right now so I am very positive. Tuesday’s result was very positive and hopefully it will help the fans as well. I am sure the boss has got players coming – I don’t know – but if you sell one of your best players I am sure he has got options coming in.

But the mood is very good. We got a very good result at Newcastle I thought, especially going down to ten men. A clean sheet was very good and we had young players come on and gain experience in the Champions League. We have another very tough game at the weekend and then head out to Italy.”

Arsenal was missing key players for the game against Udinese. Walcott, however, stood up and played an important role in the win and later admitted he is not afraid to take more responsibility.

“I was the oldest player on the table for dinner at Newcastle at 22 years old [he recalled]. It was quite funny but I’ll do anything I can do to help the young players coming through. I have been around for a long time so I know what it’s all about and if I can help anyone out I will happily do that.

This team has always been known for being so young but we cannot use that excuse anymore. We need to win something and that’s the most important thing.

It is important to have a mixture of experience and young players but the boss knows what he is doing. He has some great players that he has picked up and we didn’t know where they came from. Only time will tell what the boss will do.”

 


Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese: Thoughts and Player Ratings

August 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to player ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subs:

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

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

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


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.