Tottenham vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 20, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Arsenal vs Liverpool: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 17, 2011

Today we start our final push for the title. We host a resurgent Liverpool at the Emirates and no less than three points is what we require.

This is our title deciding week and I hope the team is ready to deal with it because it won’t be easy at all.

It has been a long time since we drew in the opening game of the season against Liverpool. With Liverpool going through many ups and down since then, with defeats against bottom placed teams to massive wins against top teams, they have been somewhat very unpredictable. However, under Dalglish they have been a changed side and make no mistake today’s game is going to be very difficult if we are to get the three points.

With their spending in the January window, they look more stable and have added two dimensions to their attack. With Andy Carroll, they can play the aerial route football and with Luis Suarez they can play the quick passing game. They will no doubt mix it up and it will be up to our defense to deal with them. With Dirk Kuyt always a threat, our team will have to stay alert at all times. Mistakes at the back will be costly today and I hope the whole team supports the defense when under attack.   

Upfront we will have to be clinical. Fabregas and company will no doubt create openings but it will up to our forward to finish them. Van Persie and Theo Walcott will have to be at the top of their game. The cost of missed chances will be more than a game today.

It isn’t easy to predict such a game as it can be either high scoring or one decided by a single goal. Both teams can win this, so we have to make sure we score the winning goals. Two years back we somewhat ended Liverpool’s title chances by a drawing against them at their home, Arshavin scored four goals back then, so, I hope Liverpool doesn’t return the favour today.

If things aren’t going our way, we will need someone to remind Liverpool that if they win, United will get the 19th title for sure. Now would Liverpool want that? Jokes aside, the title will be over for us if we don’t win any of the remaining games starting from today. Even a draw is fatal. I am gunning for a win and hoping that our team gives it their best shot and even if we lose or draw or end up without the title, we can hold our heads up.  

As far as the lineup is concerned, it will be interesting to see who Arsene opts to start with as many players are returning from injury and we do have three important games in 8 days to play.

Szczesny for me starts in goal after what Wenger said in his pre-match press conference. With no Sagna, Eboue will feature again on the right and the other flank will be taken up by Clichy. If and only if Djourou is hundred percent, I will start with him partnering Koscielny.

In the middle of the park Fabregas is the easy pick. Diaby for me stays in the lineup. I am caught up between Song and Wilshere. Again if Song isn’t hundred percent, I will start with Wilshere.

Upfront van Persie will be flanked by Nasri and Walcott. Arshavin is an asset in big games therefore he can be brought on at any time to change the game. However, I won’t mind if Arshavin starts this game at the expense of Walcott.

Probable Starting Eleven: Szczesny, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Before I conclude, below is what Arsene Wenger said about today’s game:

“When you are in the title race it is always like that. When we played the Carling Cup Final, Barcelona away and Manchester United three days later, we were out of three competitions.

Now Tottenham and Chelsea are out of the competitions. When you fight for big prizes in one week it can be gone. It makes Sunday’s game vital of course. If we do not beat Liverpool and Tottenham the season won’t be over but the title will be over for sure.

If we win all the games then yes, we will win the Premier League [as long as Manchester United] can draw somewhere. It’s not 100 per cent even if we win our games but we know what we have to do.”

I hope the players keep that in mind when they are out on the field.

That’s it. Have a good day and enjoy the match. Tonight we deal with the first of our seven remaining obstacles. Keep the faith and your fingers crossed!!


[Video] Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal Highlights: An Important win for Arsenal!!

April 11, 2011

Arsenal overcame a determined Blackpool to record an important win after Diaby, Eboue and Van Persie scored vital goals. Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored the only goal for Blackpool.

Arsenal scored the first goal in the 17th minute after Diaby ended a brilliant move started by himself. Diaby won the ball in the middle of the park and passed it onto Fabregas, who found van Persie on the left with an inch-perfect pass. Van Persie controlled the ball and crossed it to Diaby, who had continued his run, and guided it into to the back of the net.

The second goal was scored three minutes later after some good work by Eboue and Wilshere. Eboue got the ball on the right and made a run into the danger area. He did a one-two with Wilshere before smashing the ball past the Blackpool keeper.

Blackpool came back into the game early on in the second half when Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored a goal after the referee played an advantage.

However, Arsenal scored the third goal 14 minutes from time to put the match beyond Blackpool. Van Persie scored the goal after some good work by Squillaci and Diaby at the back and Walcott’s excellent run.

You can watch the full match highlight by clicking on the link below.

http://jogabonito.co/video/arsenal-vs-blackpool-31


Player Ratings: Blackpool 1 – 3 Arsenal

April 10, 2011

That was one good win even if it wasn’t convincing at times. We put ourselves in a spot of bother on more than a few occasions but overall it was a win we deserved and what we needed after so many draws.

To start off with, it was good to see Lehmann in goal and it seems that he is ready after all. He didn’t have much to do in the first half but made one massive save in the second half that helped us stay in the game. To be honest, I was happy that Blackpool scored the goal or else Lehmann would have been shown a red and we would have been down to 10 with no keeper to replace him.

We did score three goals but we should have had at least 8 if not more. I am not being negative but we need to change our habit of taking 5 chances to score one goal, we will need this against Manchester.

At the back too we need to improve our positioning or else we will be having difficult times in the coming games. The way Blackpool got through on a few occasions was alarming and resulted in some nervous moments for us.

Despite all that I am relieved that we got the win and as I said in my preview, hopefully this will prove to be a catalyst for us and we will go on a winning streak from now till the end. At the moment we are still unbeaten in 2011 in the league, so that is saying something.

I would also like to point out that we were lucky today with a couple of decisions that should/could have been penalties. Where I stand, I would say that after plenty of decisions going against us throughout the season; it is a nice change that we got some going our way. But that doesn’t take away the fact that Blackpool had at least one clear penalty not given. Blackpool has been at the end of many wrong decisions going against them this season and imagine what their fans will be feeling right now. Most likely similar to what we were feeling with wrong decisions going against us. And as I said in my preview, I hope they are not relegated.

As for Diaby’s yellow, that was deserved and it will be good if someone tells him to show some common sense when we are winning. He needs to be reminded about the Newcastle draw if he has forgotten it.

Coming to player ratings:

Lehmann (7.5):  An overall good game from Lehmann. His decision making was awesome and made one massive save as mentioned before. It was good to see that he was communicating with the defenders.

Eboue (7): Offers us more while going forward but at the back he is still lacking discipline. Scored a very well taken goal after a good one two with Wilshere and always provided good width on the flanks.  He needs to improve his positioning at the back and his decision making though.

Squillaci (7): Played one of his better games today. Looked composed and made some good tackles especially in the 76th minute which then led to our third and vital goal. He needs to continue with such performances.

Koscielny (6): We were lucky today that some of his clumsy challenges didn’t result in penalties against us. Besides that, he did well.

Clichy (5.5): Clichy did leave his side exposed a lot today but dealt with the dangers nicely. He provided good support upfront too. However, as always, he made one stupid error which could have resulted in a goal. Thanks to Lehmann, we weren’t punished for it. Was also partially at fault for the first goal.

Diaby (7): Opened up our account after he finished a good move involving Fabregas and Van Persie and which was started by him. Initially he failed to make his presence felt but improved as the game went on. As for his booking, stupidity is the word that comes to my mind. Diaby needs to be reminded what happened the last time he acted like that.

Wilshere (6): Good work rate from the young man. Was all over the pitch and combined well with Fabregas. Tried his luck with a good chip that was saved by the keeper. Did get an assist for the second goal.

Fabregas (7): It was good to see him back today with his delightful passing. His vision is just out of this world and the way he coolly executed the passes was awesome. Should have had 4 assist to his name today had our forwards been clinical. And still he is a long way from his best.

Arshavin (5): Was anonymous for the entire time he was on the field. Nothing went for him today but we all know he can produce something out of nothing. Hopefully, next time.

Van Persie (7.5): Was good to see him finally getting on the score sheet after he possibly missed three open chances. Got an assist on the first goal too.  My only gripe, he needs to be more clinical, despite his 12 goals this year.  

Nasri (6): I was disappointed that he didn’t score today. Otherwise, he had a normal game.

Subs:

Walcott (6.5): Brought pace to our attack and made a good run to assist for the third and vital goal that secured the win for us.

Ramsey and Gibbs had very little time to make an impact. No ratings for them.


Blackpool vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 10, 2011

This past week has been too long for my liking and I have no doubt it will have been the same for many Gooners. I have missed most of what has happened in the football world in the last week due to my work. Nonetheless,  the team and the manager have come under lots of criticism from all quarters, which was bound to happen after so many bad results, and which has left me wondering what the players would have been going through with nothing but one game a week to look forward to. Arsene Wenger made it clear in his pre-match press conference on Friday the way he sees this season and I am sure that it will have further infuriated a lot of fans.

There a few other things worth discussion from the conference and the post conference talk (the transcript is here) which I will in one of my next posts. For now I will come to the game, which is a must must win if we want to keep some little hope of taking the league title. Blackpool is the only team that has impressed me the most with what they have done this season. They have had some very good results and some very close losses but most of all they have played good football. Their position in the league doesn’t justify how they have done and I will certainly not want them to be relegated.  

However, as this is a must win game for us, we will have to play our best football and make sure they don’t play their game because they can surprise any team. Every game is straight forward from now onwards, perform and win or else start preparing for next season. We don’t want another flat performance like the Blackburn game because if we play the same way, Blackpool will surely damage us more than we can sustain right now.

Their defense is vulnerable but we will need to be clinical in front of goal, which we have failed to do recently, if we want to win this one. Most of all, the team will have to show the desire that they really want to win it 

As for the starting team, Almunia is in goal and the players at the back are likely to remain the same as against Blackburn. As for Sagna’s knee problem, if he doesn’t pass the test, Eboue will come in for him.

In the middle of the park, with no Alex Song, Diaby will come in alongside Wilshere. Fabregas has also been declared fit and is more than likely to start.

Upfront, I will start with Nasri, van Persie and Arshavin. Walcott wasn’t hundred percent and is facing a late fitness test. If he makes it, I will start with him on the bench and bring him on in the second half.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Diaby, Fabregas, Wilshere, Nasri, van Persie, Arshavin

Despite all the negativity, I expect a resounding win today and hopefully it will prove to be the catalyst for us. There is still a minor chance that we will win the league, but I have that in the back of my mind. All I want from the team right now is to win all of the remaining games and give their best shot. We are more than capable of doing it but the question remains will we?

I will be utterly disappointed if we don’t try and take the chance, which somehow we have failed to do in the past couple of months. Hopefully, today it will be different and maybe Manu will give us a favor when this season comes to an end. If not, I will know that we did try even if a bit too late.

As always I have my fingers crossed and I am gunning for a win. Have a good day!!


Arsene Wenger’s injury news ahead of Blackpool including updates on Djourou, Vermaelen and Szczesny

April 9, 2011

Cesc Fabregas has been declared fit to start the game against Blackpool but Alex Song will not be available.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Arsene Wenger confirmed that Cesc Fabregas is fit to start the game this Sunday after recovering fully from his hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Alex song has been sidelined with a knee injury for this weekend but will be available for next. Bacary Sagna is a doubt due to his knee problem and will have a scan. Theo Walcott is also a doubt due to his ankle as the manager said that his inclusion in the squad will be decided after a late fitness test.

The manager also gave good news on the long term absentees during his pre-match interview with Arsenal TV Online on Friday. Arsene Wenger said that Johan Djourou and Thomas Vermaelen are doing well in recovering from their respective injuries and will back in the squad soon enough. Djourou and Szczesny will be back next week against Liverpool while Vermaelen will join training in two weeks’ time. Aaron Ramsey, however, could feature this weekend after missing the game against Blackburn last weekend due to a groin injury.

On Friday, the manager said:

“Cesc is fit to start. We have some problems with Sagna and with Song, who will be out [with a knee injury], and Walcott as well.

Song definitely won’t play but he should be available for next week. There is a big doubt about Walcott, it’s his ankle again. He will have a late fitness test. Sagna has a knee problem and has a scan today [Friday]. Everybody else should be available.

[Aaron Ramsey] is fit. Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou are doing very well, both of them will be in the squad very soon. Johan Djourou next week and Wojciech Szczesny next week and Vermaelen maybe in two weeks.


Player Ratings: Arsenal 0 – 0 Blackburn

April 3, 2011

Well, our season is going from worse to oblivion. It seems a distant memory when we were in four competitions and now it is more than certain that we will end this season without a trophy. Has the Carling Cup final defeat really caused more damage than it seems? It has all gone wrong since then. Every performance since then can be summed up by one word, pathetic! Only one win and that too against lower league outfit. Unbelievable!

Anyhow what’s done is done. Where we stand now is all up to our own mistakes and negligence of the basics of football. You can never win a football match by not scoring goals, by not showing urgency or desire and by not fighting for the win. And with the amount of talent we have, I am still at a loss as to how we couldn’t find one goal against a team that is just two points from relegation zone.  

Realistically it is over for us because I don’t see Man United dropping points even if we win all our games. And even if they do, I cannot honestly say that we will win rest of our games. If we can’t get a result against 10 men Blackburn, when Man United got a result by being down to 10 men themselves, says it all where the title is going this season. And here I will add that I will be glad to rue my own words if somehow we do win the title. Results matter in football, good play and off the pitch talk doesn’t. We can all come up with words that we have grown up and moved on but as long as we don’t perform, we will always be chasing shadows.

Yesterday’s game was the best example of what our season has been. We started positively, the opening 10 to 15 minutes, but then we all went into our nutshells. After which we never really tested the keeper, never showed any desire, or any urgency. Movement and passing was not incisive and it seemed we were waiting for Blackburn to score an own goal. Almunia tried his best to give all the three points to Blackburn but thankfully we escaped another embarrassment. The final 10 minutes were somewhat better but you cannot win a match by playing for only 20 minutes. You have to give your best for the whole 90 minutes. Whatever happened, we are ourselves to blame and no one else.

Coming to the player ratings:

Almunia (3): What can I say about him? Tried his best to do what he does best. Enough said

Sagna (5): One of his worst games. His positioning was not good and didn’t defend well at all. Upfront his crosses were either too long or too short and never once it went to our player in the danger area.

Squillaci and Koscielny (6): Had a better than normal game as there were no noteworthy mistakes. Koscielny made his usual interceptions and clearance and did get a header on target.

Clichy (6.5): He was better than Sagna in defense as well as attack on the left. Looked lively and tried to create things. It wasn’t enough in the end.

Wilshere (5.5): Was really disappointed when he missed a sitter and on another occasion went for a pass when he should have buried the ball into the back of the net. Was decent in middle of the park but needs to improve his game in front of goal.

Song (5.5): Showed good work rate but not yet back to his best as he failed to make his presence felt in the middle of the park.

Nasri (6.5): Made a couple of very good runs and showed great creativity. Went missing on a few occasions as well. I don’t know how much the knock to his head had played a part in it.

Walcott (6.5): Looked dangerous whenever he had the ball and in the first half was one of our better players. Also went anonymous in the second half before he was substituted.

RVP (5.5): Didn’t get the support required as he had to come back to get the ball. Had a couple of shots on goal, one near the end when his header went over the bar, but never really threatened the Blackburn goal.

Arshavin (7): He was our best player out there. Created most of the chances and looked dangerous whenever he had the ball. Even backtracked and helped in defense. Was astonished to see him get substituted but I think it was more down to him getting tired.

Subs:

Fabregas (5.5) failed to make much impact as he looked rusty. Bendtner (5.5) and Chamakh (5.5) did their part and both of them went close to scoring but not close enough.