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.

 

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Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool

April 17, 2011

Well, the game ended in heartache for me as it would have done for all Gooners around the world. To be winning a game one minute and then to draw it in the fashion it happened is frustrating to the very core of existence. Liverpool returned the favour that we did them two years back, the title is out of our reach now. Didn’t anyone tell Liverpool that Manchester United now is in line to get the 19th title!! If not, someone should have.

To start off with, that penalty to Liverpool was never a penalty. It was a dive by Lucas which conned the referee into giving it. Eboue was at fault not for the penalty but for getting close to Lucas, who took full advantage of it. The ball was going away towards the corner, there was no danger, it was 4 minutes beyond the stoppage time then why the hell would you put yourself in a position where the opposition can take advantage. Lucas played it intelligently and the referee fell for it. It did make one thing clear, ‘LUCAS, YOU ARE A CHEAT!!’

Coming to the free kick conceded in the 98th minutes, that was our own fault. Szczesny had the ball with him and he should have passed it on to his own player, the way he did all game. Only when it was needed most he tossed into the air, the ball came back towards our goal and bam a free kick, which later turned into a penalty. This is where experience comes in. We only needed to defend for a minute and we couldn’t do that. We shouldn’t have relaxed at all after scoring the goal which now has cost us the chance for a title.

However, the penalty and free kick incident shouldn’t have taken place at all if the referee had blown the whistle when the time was over by 98 minutes. Or even if he has given the free kick after 98 minutes, he should have blown the whistle as soon as the ball hit the wall. It was 102 minutes on the clock and the ref is still playing on. THAT WAS PLAIN RIDICULOUS!!

As for the rest of the game, it was all Arsenal with a bit of Liverpool in the second half. Liverpool defended well for major parts. However, I am surprised that with the amount of talent we have we couldn’t open up Liverpool easily who had teenagers in their backline. We were wasteful with our possession and never created anything of worth. Van Persie missed one glorious opportunity which should have been a goal, Koscielny hit the bar once, other than that it was all possession by us with no penetration and only defending by Liverpool.

I would also like to add here that we sure have our problems but most of the points that have been dropped this season have been stolen from us. Bad decisions have cost us too many games. Should I blame the players for always being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the referees, whose job is to make sure the game is played fairly? I will leave it for you to answer.

As it stands, the title is well beyond our hands now but the season is still not finished. Chelsea is right behind us and we need to at least finish second. Heck we may, may, may, win the league only if we win all our games and Man United draw at least two. I know that is too much to ask for!!

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (6.5): A good performance returning from injury. Didn’t have much to do but when called upon, he did well. Made a good save on a Suarez shot in the second half. Only one gripe, as I said before he should have passed the ball to our player in the 98th minute as he had done all game and not lobbed it into the air.  Experience matters on such occasions!!

Eboue (6): Well, what can I say?! As always provided good support upfront and had a decent game at the back. He did his usual theatrics which was frustrating to see. I won’t blame him for the penalty as explained above but he should have kept his distance from Lucas. Cost us more than points today.

Djourou and Koscielny (7): Decent game from both the defenders. Had a couple of odd moments but thankfully we weren’t harmed. Other than that cleared whatever danger came their way. Koscielny also hit the bar in the first half.

Clichy (6): Nothing much to do at the back and provided good support up front.

Wilshere (5.5): Moved the ball around well and made a number of good interceptions. Didn’t add much in final third though.

Fabregas (6.5): Didn’t produce the amount of delightful balls as he did against Blackpool. He did drop deep to get the ball and most of our openings were created through him. And of course, it was his run that won us the penalty, unfortunately not the game.

Diaby (6): Made good use of his strength in the middle of the park. Made good interceptions but again on occasions kept the ball with him for too long.

Nasri (6): He has lost his touch in front goal but makes it up with his brilliant runs with the ball. However, he didn’t create much today. Did misplace a few of his passes as well.

Robin van Persie (6.5): His movement was good but didn’t get enough deliveries to find the goal. Did miss a chance that should have won it for us. Scored an excellent penalty but unfortunately it wasn’t a winner.

Walcott (6): As always looked dangerous with the ball. Some of his crosses were excellent but no one met them while on other occasions he was wasteful. Wasn’t released much either.

Subs:

Song (6) looked alright and did his part. Did give away the late free kick though. Arshavin (6) was lively and delivered in a couple of good crosses and even backtracked. Bendtner (5) didn’t add much.


Alisher Usmanov will not sell his stake, Szczesny and Djourou back in training and some other news

April 13, 2011

The big news in the past couple of days has been the proposition of Stan Kroenke’s complete takeover of Arsenal. Stan Kroenke increased his Arsenal stake to 62.89 percent by buying the shares of Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith and Danny Fiszman. As a result, Kroenke has the control of the club and he was forced to make a complete takeover bid. If he can reach 90 percent, he can compulsory buy the rest of the club shares.

However, it seems now that it won’t come to pass due to a new development. Alisher Usmanov, whose RED and White Holdings own 27 percent of the Arsenal shares, has declined to sell his stake to Kroenke by saying that he loves Arsenal and that is the reason he is a shareholder. This is what he said:

“I’m not going to sell my stake. I love Arsenal, that’s why I’m a shareholder”

Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) has welcomed the decision made by Usmanov and have also declined to sell their shares. AST, however, is not against Kroenke’s takeover as long as the fans have a say in the ownership of the club. An AST statement said:

“AST welcomes Red and White Holdings’ commitment to Arsenal and calls on all shareholders to work together. Their priorities should firstly be making Arsenal a successful football team, secondly placing no leveraged debt on the club or taking dividends and management fees out of the club, and thirdly helping supporters be directly involved in the club’s shareholding. Arsenal is too important to be owned by any one man.” 

I don’t know what will happen next but one thing is for sure that Arsenal will not be in the hands of a single owner, which is good news. I don’t want Arsenal to turn into a plaything for one individual. As long as the fans hold some part of the club, Arsenal will remain the club it is.

All I want is that whatever happens next, it doesn’t disturb the way the club is being run. As long as we have the money to sustain the team and buy players, ownership issues won’t matter much. I will also add that the best thing is to wait it out and see how things turn up, and hopefully it will be for the best.

Coming to matters concerning injuries, there have been reports that Szczesny and Djourou have both returned to training ahead of the Liverpool match and both will be available for selection in the squad. The reports confirm what Arsene said in his post-Blackpool comments that Szczesny is not far from returning. So if all goes well, we will have our first choice keeper and  Djourou available for the crunch final run in.

Yesterday there were also reports of a row between van Persie and Diaby at half time during the Blackpool game, concerning the way Diaby reacted before he was booked in the first half. I don’t know if it is true, although, if it is then it is good because it shows that the senior players are taking responsibility to put the wrong things right. It will be better for Diaby to realize that the way he reacted is only going to harm him and Arsenal and no one else. However, I would want that whatever happens inside dressing rooms should remain there because media will always find ways to exploit such incidents.

In other news, Wilshere has slammed the news of a possible move to Manchester City in the summer by saying this on his official twitter:

“People asking if I’m going city? I don’t kiss the Arsenal badge then leave – this club in my heart!”

Denilson is here talking about Shakhtar Donetsk’s Willian and wants him to come to Arsenal.

Champions League quarter finals are also under way and sadly we are having no part in it. Last night Man United and Barcelona qualified for the semi finals at the expense of Chelsea and Shakhtar respectively. Tonight we will find out who the other two teams are, although by now it’s pretty clear which teams will make it.

Till later…


Arsene Wenger on Bendtner’s hat-trick and importance of Chamakh scoring

March 3, 2011

Arsene Wenger was delighted with both Bendtner and Chamakh ending up on the score sheet against Leyton Orient. Bendtner got a hat-trick and Chamakh opened the scores for Arsenal as they beat Leyton Orient comfortably.

Speaking after the match, the manager admitted the importance of Chamakh and Bendtner rising to the occasion and scoring after Van Persie’s injury as he added how confidence of both the players will be needed to be successful in the big games coming up.

Wenger was pleased with Bendtner in taking his chances yesterday as he said how it now puts Bendtner in contention to start in the vital game against Sunderland and added that all the focus is now on beating Sunderland as it will put Arsenal in a strong position.

Regarding Chamakh, Arsene added that he too will be required in the games coming up as he explained how fatigue caused his good start to the season to be disrupted and how he is now coming back to his best and how scoring will improve his confidence.

Arsenal will play Sunderland this Saturday before they head to Nou Camp for the 2nd leg against Barcelona on Tuesday.

After the match, Arsene said:

“We have lost Van Persie so for Bendtner and Chamakh to score is very important, they now have a level of confidence that we need to be successful in the big games.

You need your strikers to take any chance and tonight Bendtner did that very well. It puts him in contention to play against Sunderland. That for us, is a vital game. We have to make our decisions game by game, if we beat Sunderland we are in a great position so all our focus is on that game.

We need Chamakh with the games we have in front of us. He had a great start to the season until the end of November and after he had a little bit of burn-out. Now he looks, even in training, to be coming back. For a while he looked very tired but now it is good for him he has scored”


Player Ratings: Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham City

February 28, 2011

I won’t go into how the game played out or what we should have done or where it went wrong. It was just one of those days where we sadly didn’t take the initiative and suffered. Bad luck for us as it came in a final where we had a chance to end our six years wait for a trophy.

I will say one thing though that most of our players did felt the pressure of playing in the final and also playing under pressure of a lot of fans expectations. Although, it should never have been the case but they will have learnt a vital lesson. I just hope we bounce back from this.

Coming to player ratings:

Szczesny (5): Made one excellent save and did well on most occasions. However, one wrong decision and one mix-up, not entirely his fault though, and two goals. Not what I was expecting from him. Experience does matter and this will be a great lesson for the youngster.

Sagna (5): Defensively wasn’t that commanding. Provided good support upfront as he delivered in a couple of good crosses.

Djourou (4): I think he felt the pressure of the final the most. Made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. Missed a few headers, misplaced a few passes, lost his man on the first goal. Need I say more? Also wasn’t expecting a performance like this from him.

Koscielny (5): He was much better than Djourou. He was solid on most occasion and made a lot of important interceptions but then went on to make a mistake he will never forget. What on earth was he thinking, I will never know and I will leave it at that.

Clichy (5.5): Did well on most occasions on the left side. Was good in the one-on-ones. Didn’t provide much support upfront.

Song (4): I guess he is tired after all. Wasn’t up to his best as he misplaced a lot of passes and never looked at ease in the middle.

Wilshere (7): One of our best players. He was great in the middle, gave his heart out. We needed more like him yesterday.

Rosicky (3): I don’t want to point fingers at any one but I feel he was the weak link for us. Was way too casual as if he was sure we will win. Misplaced a lot of passes in the first half as he failed to make an impact. Improved his game in the second but still not enough. He should have won it for us if he had been simple and not gone for a deft back heel near the end.

Nasri (7): He too was great out there. Took some time but he also gave his heart out. Made excellent runs, showed good close control, had shots on target. I guess it just wasn’t our day as there were very few playing like him.

Van Persie (7): Scored an excellent goal. But I guess luck always desert us in such time. Should never have gotten injured and should never have been substituted.  

Arshavin (6.5): Excellent assist for the goal and was one of the better players in the first half. Went missing in the second half as he was substituted.

Subs:

Bendtner (6) had a couple of good moments but still lacks that extra quality Van Persie has. Chamakh (6) defensively provided good support. Upfront produced a good chance for Bendtner and Rosicky but both of them failed to utilize.


Arsenal 1 – 2 Birmingham: Heartbroken! Yes, but we have to move on!!

February 27, 2011

We could have lost any other way but not like that, just not like that. I don’t know what to write or what I feel after what just happened. We had the game in control. That kick from Foster was going nowhere. How did the ball end up in the net, I just don’t want to know or want to think about what happened in those few seconds, I just want to forget it. I am heartbroken and I feel like I have been crushed just like every Gooner but we have to move on from here and get behind the team.

But the question is where do we go from here? Will it be the end of our season or will we be hungrier for success? What will the effect be on the players? We will know the answers to these questions in the next three games for sure. We can only hope the team doesn’t crumble after this.

What ever happened out there, well done to lads for the performance and let’s just hope for the best. There is still a lot to play for and this is not the end of the world…….

Will come up with the player ratings tomorrow.


Arsenal vs Birmingham City: Preview and Starting Eleven

February 27, 2011

So, the day that we all have been waiting for has finally arrived, the day which hopefully will be the start of a new era, the day which hopefully will be start of many great things to come and the day where we will hopefully end our almost six years wait for a trophy.

I know, it sounds all dramatic but still you cannot deny the importance of today’s game. It won’t be wrong in saying that this game will define the rest of our season. Everyone including the players are pumped up for this. We have done all the hard work and today is the day to get the reward for it. This is the final hurdle in this competition that we have to cross and hopefully all our hard work will bear fruit in the shape of a trophy and more will follow when this season comes to an end. 

On paper this looks like a game that we will win easily and hopefully we will after what we did to them in the New Year. However, it is a Cup final and Birmingham surely won’t go down without a fight. They themselves will be looking for a trophy of their own and you can expect a very tight game and a match that will go till the very end.

Birmingham’s tactics will be clear. They will hold their lines and try to frustrate us as they know they can’t win by playing football against us. They will rely much on set pieces and counters. They have players that can play dirty and we will have to be wary of them.

As for us, we will have to start with a high tempo and look for an early goal or two. If we play the way we approached the game against them in January, this game will be easy. Possession again will be the key as we will have to remain focused and resilient through the 90 minutes. Our team will have to defend well because a goal for them is going to increase their confidence.

As for the starting eleven, Wenger will need to select the best possible options because today there is no room for mistakes.   

The backline and the keeper for me all pick themselves up.

It however becomes tricky in the middle. Will Diaby be a wise enough choice to start with? Who will play the Fabregas role? I have been thinking about two line ups. One consists of Wilshere in the play making role with Song and Diaby, if he is 100 percent fit, behind him. The second option is to play Nasri in the Fabregas role and with Song and Wilshere in support. Wilshere and Song are the key to our midfield today and we will need both of them to play their best games. I prefer to start with Song, Diaby and Wilshere in the middle.

Nasri to start on the right and Arshavin on the left with Van Persie to lead the attack and also the team.

If, however, Nasri starts in the Fabregas role; I will then bring in Rosicky on the right. Many will prefer Bendtner due to his performance against Stoke but I have my doubts about him on the flanks. He plays better in the lone striker role.

So my starting XI would be: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Arshavin

And please Arsene just don’t start with Denilson and Almunia.

I won’t make any predictions for a fear of jinxing it.  A win by any means is necessary today because anything but a win today is going to be critical for us. I just don’t want to think about anything else.

My everything is telling me that we will win this for sure so I have everything crossed for this one. Do so yourself and have a great day and hopefully we will all have a night to remember. Go Arsenal, we are all behind you!!

p.s. I hope the referee doesn’t spoil the game with incompetent or biased refereeing. With Mike Dean you can expect the worst.