Transfer Window thoughts, Wilshere’s injury, Arsene banned for two games, Vermaelen to be sidelined for two months?

September 5, 2011

So, it’s been almost five days since the end of the transfer window and the excitement of the dead line day. My one week leave are also over with today being the first day back at work (heck! I could have used another week).

The last four days, I spent the time with family and friends away from football, the reason for no updates on the blog. And considering that the International break is underway, I don’t have missed much.

Today, it is going to be a bit of everything that has happened in the last few days.

First off, the final two days of the transfer window were the best that I remember in terms of signings for us in recent times. Five players having experience and quality were signed, a rare thing at Arsenal, which did somewhat make up for the summer of inactivity. The thrashing at United, however, still hurts and this does lead to the question why weren’t players signed earlier? Also one wonders had United not defeated us the way they did, would these signings be made then? I know these and many other questions have been discussed a lot already. However, one cannot help why were we led into such a situation by the board and management considering we had three months to sort out all our problems?

Anyways what’s done is done and cannot be reversed. Sanity was restored to the Arsenal board and management team after the humbling at old Trafford. I do wish now that this had happened earlier (on second thoughts, no I wish it had never happened, to painful and humiliating!)

The players that we have signed do bring something extra to the squad and certainly add enough quality and numbers to make us challenge for the top four. Benayoun and Arteta are both Premier League experienced and will greatly improve our midfield. Santos is also experienced and Mertesacker will add height and stability to our defense. Park, considering where he comes from will give nothing short of 100 percent. And all of these signings are winners having won trophies in different capacities (if I am not wrong!) All have a number of caps for their national teams and they certainly will bring stability to our team and the young player will learn a lot.

As for what can be achieved with the squad we have, we can challenge for the top four now and maybe end our trophy drought with the cups. If we can pull something extra, we might also be involved in the title race. However, for that, I feel, we will need to maintain a good run till January where we would at least need a couple of special signings. I am hearing that Hazard, Cahill and Yann M’Vila are still our priority. If we can manage that in January, I am certain we are in for an exciting finish to the season.

We, however, should not get ahead of ourselves.  A lot of work needs to be done still. We need to get back to winning ways and close the gap with the leaders. We certainly have made a start in the right direction with these signings and with time we can add more quality to bring the glory days back to Arsenal (we still need to replace Nasri and Fabregas by the way)

Moving on, I am glad we did get to sell or loan out the dead weights at the club. I still, though, hope we get Henri Lansbury back, because considering such loan moves, mostly the players don’t return. As for Bendtner, I am happy for him to have finally moved on, even on a loan. He was being wasted here by being used in the wrong position. What he said recently of not returning to Arsenal is justified in the sense that he wasn’t properly utilized. However, in terms of quality, we are better off without him. I feel he will be a success at Sunderland which will in return prove beneficial to both him and in return to us, as we can get a better value for him in time. If we could have only rid ourselves of Almunia, Squillaci, Diaby and to an extent Chamakh, this summer would have been close to perfect.

Life, however, isn’t that kind, always playing its joke when you least expect it. And in our case they are always the cruelest. After having a great first season, we are now going to miss our most talented player, Jack Wilshere for at least another two to three months due to injury. What started out as a rumor has been confirmed by Wilshere himself. Jack Wilshere tweeted this yesterday on twitter.

I can confirm I will be out for around 2-3 months! I am working hard in the gym to stay fit and I am gutted but I will be back stronger!

I don’t know whether to blame lady luck, the Manager or our medical staff. This is certainly the result of playing a player over his limits which is completely avoidable. And then we ask why it is that our best players suffer long term injuries? And this has happened so many times now I am starting to believe it is more than bad luck.

It was Vermaelen the season before last. Excellent first season, injury in the next, out for a year. I just hope Wilshere doesn’t suffer the same because voices raised now will surely have to be answered then.  

In other news, UEFA again showed that they are a bunch of oafs. They do this every now and then just to make sure people don’t forget. Anyways, Arsene Wenger’s appeal against the two match ban has been dismissed by UEFA. The two matches ban was given to Wenger for supposedly breaking a rule that every other manger has broken in the world of football. I guess, I don’t need to go over the rule and when it was broken. Wenger is now going to miss the Champions League group games against Borussia Dortmund, away, and Olympiacos at home. Our officials are also fined 10000 Euros for improper conduct. Below is the UEFA stamen that is available on Arsenal.com

“The UEFA Appeals Body has rejected the appeal lodged by Arsenal FC and Arsène Wenger against the two-match suspension handed to the manager in the wake of the English club’s UEFA Champions League play-off first leg against Udinese Calcio on 16 August.
 
“Wenger will now be suspended from carrying out his duties at Arsenal’s next two UEFA competition matches – the UEFA Champions League group stage games against Borussia Dortmund and Olympiacos FC on 13 and 28 September – in accordance with the decision taken by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body on 22 August.

“The manager was awarded this suspension for not abiding by an earlier decision of the Control and Disciplinary Body during the Udinese home game – in which Wenger was serving a one-match ban imposed following Arsenal’s final UEFA Champions League game of last season.
 
“The Control and Disciplinary Body also fined Arsenal €10,000 for improper conduct by their officials during the match against the Italian team in north London.”

As for the International break, it continues in all its boredom. There have, however, been plenty of goals for our players. Van Persie bagged four, Park has had a hat-trick, Ramsey and Lansbury also ended up with goals. Chamberlain also impressed greatly. Possibly a sign of good things to come!

That is all for now. Swansea game is not far now and it will great to see how we line up against them. Good times ahead for sure!

p.s. While writing this, news about Vermaelen’s ankle surgery are circulating that can rule him out for possibly two months. It is not yet officially confirmed but twitter is abuzz at the moment with this news. More on this to follow!

 


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 vs Udinese: Preview and Starting Eleven

August 16, 2011

With everything happening to Arsenal in the last four days, the only thing left was a Champions League play off! We are going to face Udinese, tonight, in the first leg of the qualifier with a much depleted squad.

Udinese are a decent side and they will offer us more than what Newcastle did on the weekend. These fixtures before haven’t caused us much trouble before. Therefore, failing to overcome Udinese over two legs is not only going to be disastrous, we will also have a hard time in attracting players to the club this season.

Just like us, Udinese have also lost their best players. However, they still have a team that will give us a hard time. With Di Natale, they have a striker that can cause us all sorts of trouble if we are not on top of our game. They will test us on a more continuous basis than what Newcastle did and they will surely look for an away goal. Being Italians, they will also have a sound defence and give us very little space. This also will prove advantageous for us if we utilize our pace effectively. Therefore, quick and accurate passing will do the trick and open them up.

Still, I am expeceting a tight game so our first priority must be to not concede a goal and then find the winner.

With Van Persie and Nasri suspended and Wilshere out injured, we are without three key figures. Rosicky, it is now confirmed, didn’t pass his late fitness test and suddenly we have very limited options to start with.

We were short of ideas going forward against Newcastle, now with no Van Persie and Rosicky; I am hoping that the others will rise to the occasion and make their mark.

I am caught between Chamakh and Bendtner to take the striker role. Chamakh didn’t have a very good pre-season while Bendtner was busy trying to move out. Still, with the future of Bendtner not clear, I will start with Chamakh and hope he shows he is a striker. Bendtner can come on later, if required.

To partner him, I will go with Arshavin and Gervinho.

In the middle I will start with Song and Frimpong behind Ramsey. Song has the ability to produce great passes, so I will want him to play a bit up field. Frimpong should stay behind tonight and shield the back four. Ramsey will have to take more responsibility and make sure he doesn’t give the ball away in dangerous positions.

The backline will pick itself up. Sagna and Gibbs on the flanks, Vermaelen and Koscielny to partner as centre backs. Szczesny will of course be in goal.

We can then bring on Walcott and Chamberlain for their pace. I am also hoping that Arshavin will take over as the creative outlet for us today. He can carve open defenses easily and tonight his skill will be more than needed.

Probable starting eleven: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Ramsey, Frimpong, Gervinho, Chamakh, Arshavin.

Udinese’s Manager, Francesco Guidolin, admitted that this is the most important game in their history. So,we won’t have it easy any minute of the game, over the two legs.  If we want to qualify for the group stages, every player will have to perform. His words were:

“Udinese also has a tradition of playing in Europe before, but for the charm of the match and for the opponent then this is probably the most important game in Udinese’s history. I would probably compare it to the match against Ajax in the UEFA Cup some years ago but because it is the Champions League this is probably more important.”

As Wenger said:

“We want to be in the Champions League, we want to qualify, that’s what we want to achieve.”

And that is what we would all like. Despite being short in number, I am confident the team will give a great response. It is our first home game of the season, by the way, so a win will be a an ideal result.

Have a good day and enjoy game. Hopefully in a fortnight, we will be in the group stages of the Champions League.

 


Arsene wenger: Nasri and Rosicky are back in the squad

February 16, 2011

Tonight we face Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16’s first leg at the Emirates.  Last time we were beaten convincingly by them over two legs but not before giving them a scare by coming back from two nil down to lead three goals to two.  

Arsene Wenger, on Tuesday, gave the latest injury news ahead of todays match in his pre-match press conference.

Speaking to Arsenal TV online, Wenger confirmed the good news that Nasri is fit and back in the squad for tonight. Wenger went onto add that how it is good to have him back after recovering quicker than expected, but won’t take unnecessary risks with Nasri when deciding the team on Wednesday.

Wenger also revealed that Diaby is still out with a calf problem which he got while on duty with the French team. Rosicky, on the other hand, has recovered and is included in the squad.

The rest of the squad is going to remain the same as it was at the weekend. However, Sagna will not be included as he is suspended.

Wenger said:

“Samir is in the squad. But the starting line-up will be decided tomorrow. He’s recovered quicker than expected. I said it will be 21 days but it will be only 17 days.

Everybody’s absolutely adamant that he’s completely medically available. It’s down to me to make the decision. I will take no medical risk but it’s good to have him in the squad.

Rosicky is available. He’s in the squad. But there’s no Diaby. He has a calf problem. He did it with the French national squad against Brazil.”


A quick recap of our season so far

December 27, 2010

Almost half of the season is over and despite all the disappointing losses we are still up there and in all competitions. The losses have been really frustrating to say the least. I still believe that had we maintained our focus in the matches lost, we would have been running away with the title right now and in the Champions League we would have topped our group. Still all is not lost yet. More than half the season is yet to be played and if we play our best football, there can be no stopping us. Before heading forward here is a look at what we have done so far.

Premier league:

We started of the season by snatching an away draw against Liverpool. We followed it by some good away results including the win against Man City. In between, however, we lost frustratingly at home the games we would have won any other day. With a loss at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge we are currently second in the league behind Manu. Man Utd are top with five points (they have won their match against Sunderland).

Played: 17, Won: 10, Lost: 5, Draw: 2, League position: 2

Champions league:

After winning the opening three games we went onto lose the next two and finished second in our group with a win in the final group match. We have been drawn against Barcelona in the next round.

Carling cup:

We are to face Ipswich Town in the semi final after overcoming Tottenham, Newcastle and Wigan.

And we are where we are despite having plenty of injuries. Slowly and gradually our injured players are returning and we can only hope we don’t suffer more injuries.

Now I am in no way saying that what we have done is enough or we don’t need to improve. There are some problems that we have to get right. The thing that is of concern is that the reason behind some of the losses has been some poor team defending at times. We have given away silly goals and at the other end we also haven’t been clinical at times. Sometimes complacency has been the reason. However, we still have scored plenty of goals and only four teams have conceded fewer goals than us in the league.  

The other thing is that our home form hasn’t been at par with our away record domestically. It is the opposite in Europe but I won’t go into that as we have a more realistic chance of winning trophies domestically (I am not writing us off against Barcelona). As Wenger said that our domestic form is going to be vital to our success in Europe.

What we need is to build on our positive performances from the first half, solve our problems and end the season with something worthwhile. And also our home form needs to improve exponentially. We have the opportunity to do it and it starts with tomorrow’s game against Chelski. This game can be the catalyst to our season. Deliver tomorrow and we can forget what has happened in the past and look with certainty towards the future. Fail to deliver and we go back to where we started.

A loss won’t end our title aspirations but it may deal a severe blow to our confidence. We have to get this label off of us that we can’t deliver against big teams. If we do it tomorrow i have no doubt that this season is going to be ours.

Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment. We have the team and the belief, we just need to deliver.


Arsene Wenger on drawing Barcelona in Champions League

December 18, 2010

Wenger nonchalantly predicted that we would get Barcelona in the round of 16; and we did get them. Most will be dreading the outcome, but in terms of football, it will be a masterpiece. We certainly will be the underdogs but let’s not forget we can beat anyone on our day. We have always been written off in such matches, remember AC Milan and Real Madrid, and we have always surprised the world. Let’s hope we put up a great show when the time comes as Wenger puts it very nicely that it will be difficult but possible.

All teams are difficult to play at this stage and Wenger wasn’t hoping for any particular team.  Although Schalke would have been an easier opposition in comparison to Barcelona, who, certainly are the favorites to win the Champions League.   

“My reaction is very simple – difficult but possible.

I didn’t want anybody really, in that all teams would have been difficult. You could have said that Schalke – a team with less history in the Champions League – would have been easier maybe. But the advantage is that we will be on our toes and we’ll be ready.

Barcelona are certainly the favourites [for the competition] and a famous team but, on their side, they did not want us either because they know they will get a game.”

With almost two months to the tie, Wenger said that he can’t say much on the match and how they will approach it. As far as the team is concerned they will be ready to face Barcelona when the time comes. At the moment Stoke is the priority for Wenger. Wenger although doesn’t have revenge on his minds as he only wants to qualify by knocking Barca out.

We have a realistic chance too as most of our injured players will be back to playing their best by then and we have done improvements in most areas from last year.

Wenger feels that the best possible way to beat them will be to build up confidence by doing well in the Premier League, Carling Cup and FA cup.

“Revenge is not on my mind. We want to qualify and we want to knock them out. So is it difficult? Yes. Is it possible? Yes.

I think we are better than last year and we have a good opportunity to show that. I won’t come out on [how we will make it a different game]. What is on my mind right now is Stoke tomorrow more than Barcelona.

We are in the middle of December and we play at the end of February. So there is a long way to go.

It is too early to speak about this game concretely. You can just speak about the draw. The whole context might be completely different in two months. We don’t know what we will do and how we will feel.

But the best way of going into that game with confidence is down to what we do from today until then. If we do well in the League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup that will give us the best chance of knocking them out.”


Wenger on the Round of 16 draw in the Champions League

December 16, 2010

The Champions League knockout stage (Round of 16) draw is set to be held tomorrow. The draw will start at around twelve hundred hours (CET) in Nyon, Switzerland. Sixteen teams from eight groups have qualified for the knockout stages. The winners and runners up will be in separate pots from each of the eight groups.

The draw will put each winner of a group against a runner up with the condition that both the teams are not from the same association and from the same group from last round. The runners up will play the first leg of the round of 16 tie at home on 15/16 and 22/23 February and the winners will play the second leg at home on 8/9 and 15/16 March.

For us the possibilities are Barcelona, Real Madrid, last year’s runner up, Bayern Munich and Schalke. Barcelona and Real Madrid are currently in top form and will provide the biggest challenge for us if we are drawn against them. With Bayern Munich currently not doing well in the Bundesliga and Schakle also struggling, both of them may provide lighter oppositions.

But as far as Wenger is concerned, he isn’t thinking much into it as a lot can change in football in two months. When asked about the draw, Wenger said that he is going to take the result of the draw as they are as he doesn’t want to put undue pressure on his team by making preferences.

There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The German teams are going to enjoy the winter break and return fresher in spring.  And as Robben is going to get better for  Bayern, they can be a changed team. The Spanish gianst on the other hand are dominating but things can change quickly. It will be all down to the draw for who we face as we will find out tomorrow.

“There are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The Germans have a good break in the winter and are fresh in spring.

“The Spanish teams are a bit more favourites at the moment but that can change in two months.

“The difficulty might be more or less but it is part of the draw. We will have to consider what we get and we will see that tomorrow.

“We take the draw as it is and I do not want to put my team in a position where they feel they have had bad luck or would have preferred somebody else.”