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.


Arsene Wenger on why Fabregas started on the bench and Samir Nasri’s injury

April 3, 2011

Arsenal’s title hopes were dealt a major blow after yet another lackluster performance which left Arsene Wenger disappointed and frustrated.

Speaking after the drawn game against Blackburn, Arsene Wenger admitted that it was a frustrating performance which lacked energy and sharpness and how it’s a major concern to see the team perform as such. The manager added that it is difficult to find one reason for such a display as he conceded that part of it was down to Blackburn’s good defending and more of it down to the poor offensive performance from the team.

When asked about why Fabregas started on the bench, the manager revealed how the decision was a difficult one and down to the concerns of Fabregas as in the past he has been troubled by his hamstring when returning from injury. Arsene Wenger explained that with the number of setbacks Fabregas has had this season, it is only logical that things are done step by step in order to avoid a recurrence of the injury.

Regarding Nasri’s head injury which was suffered early on in the game, the manager gave good news by saying how he is alright and will be available for next weekend.

After the game, Arsene Wenger said:

“It was a frustrating performance because we had no pace in our game. Overall it was a flat performance with a lack of energy level, a lack of sharpness. It was quite a big concern to see what we have seen today.

It is difficult to identify one special thing. I felt we started OK and after our game became flat. Very few players looked to have the resources to put the pace up in the game. Part of it is down to the fact that Blackburn defended well but I don’t put the majority of reasons down to that. I feel it is more down to our poor offensive performance today.

It was a difficult decision but you could see that he still has some concern. I believe he is over his injury. He got a little setback at the Nou Camp, but before the game he was fit. Today he was fit, but there was some still reluctance in his head, so I decided not to start him. He has had a few setbacks of course so he did not know completely if he could play 90 minutes. It takes step-by-step to get completely back and be free in his head and not concerned about the injury. He was concerned about having a recurrence.

[Samir Nasri] is all right.”


Arsenal vs Blackburn: Preview and Starting Eleven

April 2, 2011

The last two weeks have been really boring to say the least and I am really looking forward to the games this weekend. The international break might have been too long for my liking but it did came at the right time for our team and I really hope that it will have given them a much needed breather from the League and time to move on from the disastrous three weeks of football we witnessed before the break.

From now onwards it is as straight forward as it can get. Perform and win each game and therefore lift the trophy come May or else prepare for the worst. And there can be no more excuses regardless of the fact that we have no keeper and no centre backs to rely upon. We have everything in our control and it is up to us to seize the initiative which we have failed to do throughout the season. We have been given countless opportunities and we have failed on all occasions. Thankfully we are still in it and things are still in our hands.  Hopefully we won’t make the same errors because a mistake now will be too costly and unrecoverable from.

We play the first of our last nine games today and it is at home against Blackburn. Before the United game at home we have 5 games to play of which two are at home and three away, including games against Liverpool and Tottenham. If we can go on a winning streak till the Manu game, the momentum will be with us and hopefully we will go on unbeaten (wins) till the end of the season. I don’t want to think about what will happen if we lose or draw even one of these games.

Today’s game won’t be easy at all because Blackburn are only a point from the relegation zone and they will do everything in their power to get points. It will be up to us to step up our game and play the full ninety minutes with passion and intelligence to get the win.  Goals will matter and if we keep the ball and produce some good scoring opportunities, they will come. The defense and midfield will have to do their part and keep Blackburn at bay. As long as we keep it simple, the three points will be ours.

As far as today’s starting lineup is concerned, the whole team picks it up itself as we have many regulars returning from injury. Fabregas, Song and Walcott are back in the squad and it would be foolish to not start with them if they are hundred percent. The thing of concern is the defense and goal keeper. I am desperately hoping that there are no howlers today because as long as we don’t concede we will not lose the match and I believe that upfront we will find the goals with the likes of van Persie, Nasri and Walcott.

Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Almunia is in goal. At the back, Squillaci and Koscielny will start and they will be flanked by Clichy and Sagna for there are no better options than them.

In the middle of the park, with Song and Fabregas returning, they will surely start alongside Wilshere, who has been superb during the internationals.

Upfront too the players pick themselves up. Van Persie has been declared fit to start. Nasri will be there on the left and with Walcott also back, he will be on the right.

Probable Starting lineup: Almunia, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Wilshere, Walcott, RVP, Nasri

Before I end this, I want to add that Manu are playing before us and by the time we start the game, their result will be known to us. As I said before with things being  in our hands, any result for Manu shouldn’t be of any concern to us because we know our job is crystal clear, which is to win every game from now onwards till the end. Manu dropping points will be an added advantage, no doubt, but we cannot rely on their results for long. So hopefully when the game starts today, the team will be focused on their task.  

And as fans, all we can do is get behind the team and give them the lift needed to perform. 

That is all for now. Have a good day and enjoy the match. Today we will find out if we are ready to take the initiative. Fingers crossed!!


Arsene Wenger confirms Manuel Almunia’s start in goal against Blackburn

April 2, 2011

Manuel Almunia will start in goal when Arsenal resumes their Premier League challenge this weekend.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Arsene Wenger put an end to all speculations as he confirmed that Manuel Almunia will be in goal against Blackburn today. The manager revealed how both the keepers are looking sharp in training and how Lehmann has given good competition to Almunia. Arsene insisted that Lehmann is getting better every day but still needs time to be ready for the Premier league.  

During the International break, Lehmann did feature for the Arsenal Reserves against Wigan.

On who will start in goal, Arsene Wenger on Friday said:

“He [Almunia] will play tomorrow. I can announce that today, he will be in goal. He looks in good shape in training and Jens gives him good competition. The best thing [for Almunia to do] is put in a good performance in the next game.

Jens comes back to being very sharp, he is looking better every day. You do not stop at his age for seven months and you are straight away back but he’s getting better every day. They both look good in training.”


Do we need to sign a new keeper this summer?? | Robin van Persie injured, I hope not!!

March 30, 2011

It has been a week since the last time I updated my blog as my final year project and catching up on university work has kept me busy. During this time much has happened in the football world and I can’t make up my mind on what to talk first.

Anyhow, I will be quick and short over here. To start off with, the thing that I feared the most to occur in this International beak, I am afraid, has come to pass, which is an injured Robin van Persie returning to Arsenal. Van Persie got injured in the 5-3 win against Hungary on Tuesday after scoring the opener. He got a knee to his thigh and was substituted before half time. However, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk believes that van Persie could be back for the weekend to play for Arsenal. He said:

“Robin got a knee to his thigh. With luck he could play for Arsenal this weekend.”

I really hope he does make it and that it isn’t a serious injury because without Van Persie, our chances of challenging for the title will surely be over. We are already in chaos at the back and if we lose our top goal scorer, I can imagine what the results will be in the final games. Last season when van Persie got injured on International duty, which ruled him out for half the season, similar things were said only to be revealed that it was a more serious injury. I hope this time it is not like that and he starts against blackburn.

The other bit is related to the goal keepers getting linked with us. Talks of Ajax keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg and Juventus keeper, Gianluigi Buffon to Arsenal have erupted after what happened in the Arsenal’s game against West Brom. Now, I am not sure if Stekelenburg is as good as he is rated. Although, I haven’t seen him play much except during the Football World Cup where frankly speaking he didn’t impress me much. He wasn’t the only one with Hugo Lloris also a high profile keeper who didn’t impress.   However, these are Stekelenburg’s words regarding a move to Arsenal:

“If Arsenal make an offer, I will leave Holland.”

Will we make an offer for him? I think that is a big NO! And I will leave the matter as it is.

Similarly, Gianluigi Buffon’s agent has also not ruled out Buffon’s move to Arsenal at the end of this season, although, we haven’t yet contacted him. I would have really liked to see Buffon come in as number at the start of this season and even right now when we need a keeper. However, after seeing Szczesny’s performance this season, I am not sure. The question that needs to be asked is that do we need to sign Buffon or any other keeper this summer? No doubt, Buffon is a top class keeper and he is an asset for any team, I feel a move to sign him or any other keeper will hamper Szczesny’s progress. We also have Fabianski, who has done well and we have Mannone in line and they will all be back next season. And hopefully next season we will not be in a similar situation, with three keepers injured, as we are now. Bringing Buffon or any keeper in for a high price I believe will be a waste of money when we can always spend that money to sign players in position we do need to reinforce, defense and defensive midfield to be precise.

The thing about which we should be concerned right now is that we have Almunia in goal and Lehman I feel isn’t yet ready to replace him, after his outing in the reserve game against Wigan. Sadly we cannot do anything but only hope we don’t suffer much because from now on till the end of the season, each game is a must win and if more goals are let in like the one Almunia conceded, it will bring an end to yet another season of ours which promised so much.

In other news, there was talk of Barcelona not having enough money for Fabregas or something similar and Xavi opening his mouth again to show how smelly it is. I won’t link to both the news. There is also talk of Clichy’s contract and him leaving us this summer, I hope he doesn’t because, Gibbs, I feel is not ready to take over. Also Arsenal has decided not to appeal Wenger and Nasri’s ban, a good decision and one I was hoping for. Also, we are going to have Fabregas, Song, Diaby and Walcott back for the Blackburn game. Szczesny and Djourou may yet feature for us before the season comes to an end. The international break is over (almost) and as of now we only have a doubt on van Persie. So, all is not lost yet. A winning streak from now till the end of the season and we will lift the trophy, fingers crossed!!

Have a good day.